June is LGBTQ+ pride month. Happy Pride Month! In support of LGBTQ+ persons, all blog posts this month will have an LGBTQ+ theme. Today, I’ll familiarize everyone with the differences between sex, gender identity, and gender expression.
We often conflate sex and gender, but they are different. Sex or “natal sex” is what is written on a person’s birth certificate. A person’s sex is based on physiological characteristics such as genitalia as well as chromosomes. Male, female, and intersex are examples of sex.
Gender or gender identity describe one’s inner perception of self such as male, female, something between, or something outside the male-female binary. When a person’s sex and gender align, they are considered cis-gender, when they do not align, they are transgender. Thus, non-binary persons are transgender by definition.
Gender expression is how someone chooses to express their gender identity. Examples of gender expression include names, pronouns, clothing, haircuts, behaviors, voice, body characteristics, and more. The process of aligning one’s gender expression to their gender identity is called a transition. Transgender individuals can transition using a combination of personal (name, pronouns, dress), legal (changing sex on legal documents, name change), or medical means (surgeries, hormone therapies). Transitions often help ease gender dysphoria, which is the clinically significant distress a person experiences when their natal sex does not align with their gender identity.
I hope this quick guide helps you understand the differences between sex, gender identity, and gender expression. May it help you be an ally for the transgender community!