How many genders are there? Identities, gender expression, etc.
Gender identity is your personal experience of your gender. We take a look at some of the many gender identity terms and what they mean.
Whatever words you use to describe your identity – cisgender, transgender, another sex or no sex – no two people are the same. Gender is a unique and personal experience, and many gender identity terms aim to represent some of those experiences.
Exploring new gender identities can lead to greater self-understanding, new forms of self-expression, and the sense of euphoria of finding the gender identity and community that resonates most with you.
Whether you’re exploring your own gender identity or looking to learn more about terms you’ve heard in passing, you can learn more about some common – and less common – gender identities here.
While many people equate sex with gender, the two are, in fact, different. There are also differences between your gender and your gender expression. Here are some common defined terms:
- Sex. This is the sex you were assigned at birth, determined by your genitals (male, female or intersex). A person born with a vagina is usually assigned female at birth (AFAB), and a person with a penis and testicles is usually assigned male at birth (AMAB).
- gender identity. Gender is the identity that represents how you feel about your own gender. Gender is a personal experience. Your sex may not match the sex you were assigned at birth.
- Gender expression or presentation: This is how you present yourself to the world and express your gender, for example through clothes, makeup and hairstyles. Your gender expression may be different from your gender identity. Also, others’ perception of your gender may not always match your gender identity.
It’s best to avoid making assumptions about someone’s gender identity based on their gender expression or your perception of their gender.
For example, a man can wear nail polish and heels without identifying as a transgender woman. A non-binary person may dress in a way generally considered masculine or feminine without necessarily identifying as male or female.
It is important to note that a person’s gender is not the same as their gender identity, meaning who they are attracted to (eg gay, straight, lesbian, queer, asexual). A person’s gender identity does not determine their sexuality.
Here are some (but not all) of the gender identities. People who align with some of the following identities may explain themselves a little differently, and that’s okay.
Cisgenderoften abbreviated as cis, means that you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth.
transgender, often abbreviated as trans, means “to move”. This gender identity denotes a shift from one gender to another. This includes people who identify as transgender or transgender and many non-binary or non-cisgender people.
transmasculine and transfeminine
The terms “transmasculine” and “transfeminine” may not represent a person’s entire gender identity, but they still denote a change from their assigned identity.
Some people use these terms in tandem with another identity, such as non-binary. For example, someone who was assigned female at birth but identifies with masculinity – but not as a man – may refer to themselves as a transmasculine non-binary person.
The two choices of male or female create a binary, and many don’t fit into those boxes. Some find themselves in the middle, floating in between, or completely outside. For some people, non binary fits the bill, but others may feel better about you.
There are a few differences between the following identities (and this list is not exhaustive), but all reject the idea of choosing between two options. This can feel like occupying both spaces traditionally considered feminine and masculine, or neither:
Understanding your gender identity also comes with how you would like to be referred. Some ask that their name be used instead of anything else. Using someone’s correct pronouns is just as important as using their correct name.
Pronoun options include:
- she she
- he she
- they they
Some ask that their name be used instead of anything else. For example, instead of saying, “She asked if we could start in five,” you could say, “Sarah asked if we could start in five.”
This may seem tricky if someone recently shared their pronouns with you or if you’re not used to using certain pronouns. The bottom line is that while it’s okay to feel new to using them, ignoring a part of someone’s identity can feel disrespectful and can have negative effects on both someone’s mental health and about your relationship.
Conversations around decisions as personal as your gender identity can feel isolating if you don’t know where to go for help. There are many resources specifically available for people of different gender identities and their mental health:
- The National Center for Transgender Equality has several help guides available on topics including legal services and health coverage.
- The Trevor Project has a 24/7 crisis helpline and resources tailored to people with different gender identities and their support systems.
- Planned parenthood provides health care and advocacy support to LGBTQ+ patients across the United States.
- The human rights campaign has a list of resources, including help for those who are deciding or are coming out.
- gender spectrum provides education to people alongside their family and friends.
- GLAADThe website has a host of resources, including links to state-specific advocacy organizations.
Gender identity is a person’s personal experience of their gender, is separate from gender expression and does not determine their sexuality. Gender identity may seem like a heavy topic, but there are plenty of resources available if you have questions or need help.
If you know someone with an identity that feels new to you, or if you are exploring your gender identity, a good place to start is to take the time to check out some resources to learn more.