Gender expression refers to how a person represents themselves to the world. It can be through dressing code, mannerisms, hairstyles, voice, body language, voice, and pronouns.
Though most people express their gender according to the gender they were assigned at birth, some express themselves differently from what is expected from them by society. For example, a person may have been born a man, but they express their gender as a woman and vice versa.
For decades, people have believed that sex and gender are binary, which means that there are only two genders: male or female. However, in recent years, there has been an increased understanding that gender expression may not match someone’s sex.
That being the case, there are still cultures worldwide that have a strong belief in what certain genders must express themselves through voices, hairstyles, dressing codes, among other things. Individuals belonging to these cultures who do not express their genders according to society’s expectations are subjected to bullying, harassment, discrimination, and isolation.
Difference Between Gender Expression and Gender Identity
Gender can be viewed in three dimensions. The first dimension is biological or physical; this refers to an individual’s anatomy or their assigned sex at birth. The second dimension is an individual’s identity that refers to one’s internal sense of gender. The last dimension is gender expression; this refers to how individuals express themselves and how they relate to cultural stereotypes about gender.
Gender identity refers to the inner sense of one’s gender. Some people are cisgender, meaning they align with the sex they were assigned at birth. On the other hand, some people are transgender, meaning that they do not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Therefore, someone’s gender does not always match their sex.
With this in mind, it’s evident that one’s gender identity cannot be assumed based on how one looks since gender and sex are two different things. Sex refers to one’s biological traits, while gender refers to an individual’s social and cultural traits associated with femininity, masculinity, and nonbinary identities.
Gender Expression and Sexual Identity
It’s important to understand that gender expression and sexual identity are different. Sexual identity refers to who an individual is sexually attracted to. Someone’s sexual identity can not be determined by how they express their gender. People who express their gender differently from how society expects of them are identified as LGBTQ+.
Types of Gender Expression
As earlier said, gender expression refers to how one expresses the aspect of either male or female. It may also entail traits that may be described as:
Remember that some of these gender expressions are influenced by societal and cultural stereotypes; hence they can change from time to time. The way that we dress, behave, and our body language is based on how society believes we should regarding someone’s sex. However, the way someone is expected to carry themselves can hinder people from expressing their gender according to how they really feel inside due to the fear of stigmatization.
Other people identify strongly with certain gender while others have mixed feelings. How someone feels from the inside regarding their gender may not match with their external gender expression. A particular person may be born male but identify themselves as female though they might continue behaving like a male.
Impacts of Gender Expression
People who behave or express their gender differently from what they are expected based on their assigned sex at birth are at high risk of facing bullying and other forms of stigmatization. In this case, trans people and gender-nonconforming are most likely to experience more discrimination.
Expressing gender through dressing, appearance, make-up, among other external behaviors, can help one have a better sense of belonging. However, due to fear of violence, discrimination, and victimization, most individuals do not express themselves as they would love to. This can lead to other health issues such as mental problems and general well-being.
Gender expression can also play a major role in the health care that people receive. Individuals whose gender expression does not match the sex they were assigned at birth are mostly discriminated against by health providers, which negatively impacts access to health care and quality of the same.
What to Do If You Are Struggling With Gender Expression
Most people struggle with gender expression issues. The following tips might help you on how to go about it.
Talk to a Professional
Talking to a gender-affirming mental health practitioner can help you develop ways to express your gender in a manner that will lower the chances of discrimination.
Come Up with Ways to Express Yourself
Though you might not be ready to express your gender in the way you would love to due to various reasons, you can begin by experimenting with things that you are comfortable with. You can start with a different hairstyle, wearing different clothes, among other things you are comfortable with.
Having people who understand you around you can help a lot. If family and friends are not supportive, look for support groups that match your requirements in your area.
How to Help People With Gender Expression Issues
If you know someone whose gender expression is different from what society expects, there are some things that you can do to ensure their safety. They include:
Be an Ally
Do not shy away from standing up for people with gender expression issues. If you hear any negative sentiments against them, advocate for them and help other people understand them.
Use Correct Pronouns
If you are unsure about the correct pronouns, it’s advisable to ask instead of assuming, only to offend them unintentionally.
Support is critical in these cases; it ensures that not everyone is against gender expression that does not match someone’s sex, and other people are understanding and supportive.