Gender Identity

Updated: AUGUST 10, 2020

The term gender identity describes a person's own individual experience of their gender. It is typically a person's private perception of what it means to be a man or a woman, and is not dependent on cultural expectations or norms. In most cases, a person's biological sex matches their gender identity. However, some cultures recognize a third gender category for anyone who does not identify with their biological sex. This category encompasses transgender and transsexual people, who may identity with the sex opposite to their biological sex, as well as people who identify with both or neither sex.

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Academics suggest that a person's gender identity is typically formed between 18 months and three years of age. Social interactions, parental influences, culture, and an individual's own perceptions help form their gender identity. Once established, gender identity does not typically change. However, it will become more developed over time. For example, a three-year-old will likely identify as either a boy or a girl, but not completely understand the implications of this until they are much older. A person's gender identity is typically strengthened through the hormonal changes that come with puberty.

Individuals may communicate their gender identity to others in a variety of ways, all of which fall under the banner of gender expression. The mannerisms people adopt, the clothes they wear, and the way they cut their hair are all examples of gender expression.


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