Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of men and women, and has recently been a popular topic in public discourse.
Gender does not by definition relate exactly to biological sex; and someone who is male biologically could identify more closely with female characteristics and vice versa.
The World Health Organisation defines gender as:
“Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed.
"While most people are born either male or female, they are taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and work places.
"When individuals or groups do not “fit” established gender norms they often face stigma, discriminatory practices or social exclusion – all of which adversely affect health.
"It is important to be sensitive to different identities that do not necessarily fit into binary male or female sex categories.” (WHO, 2017)
Please note that the list below is not exhaustive.
Non-binary can be understood in opposition to the older 'binary' model for gender, in which everyone is either male or female.
It is the term for someone who does not feel they fit comfortably into either category at all times.
Non-binary people may identify as:
- having two or more genders (being bigender, trigender, or pangender);
- having no gender (being agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois);
- moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); or
- being third gender or other-gendered, a category that includes those who do not place a name to their gender.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
It is sometimes abbreviated to trans.
Experiencing a gender identity inconsistent or not culturally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Two-Spirited is a modern umbrella term used by some indigenous North Americans to describe gender-variant individuals in their communities, specifically people within indigenous communities who are seen as having both male and female spirits within them.
See also: Samoan fa’afafine
Intersex is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as biologically male or female.
Agender people, also called genderless, genderfree, non-gendered, or ungendered people are those who identify as having no gender or being without any gender identity.
This category includes a very broad range of identities which do not conform to traditional gender norms.
Gender Queer is an umbrella term for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.
Bigender is a gender identity where the person moves between feminine and masculine gender identities and behaviours, possibly depending on context.
Some bigender individuals express two distinct “female” and “male” personas, feminine and masculine respectively; others find that they identify as two genders simultaneously.
Gender variance, or gender nonconformity, is behavior or gender expression by an individual that does not match masculine and feminine gender norms.
People who exhibit gender variance may be called gender variant, gender non-conforming, gender diverse or gender atypical, and may be transgender, or otherwise variant in their gender expression.
Some intersex people may also exhibit gender variance.
Pangender people are those who feel they identify as all genders. The term has a great deal of overlap with gender queer.
Because of its all-encompassing nature, presentation and pronoun usage varies between different people who identify as pangender.