Gender Identity: Gender Roles and Stereotypes
If you feel like your body does not match how you feel inside, then you should definitely talk to an adult you can trust. People who feel like their bodies do not match how they feel inside may identify as transgender or trans. You can get help figuring out how to have what you feel inside reflected on the outside with the help of trusted adults, like parents, counselors and doctors.
This assignment is usually based on what a doctor observes about a baby’s body. Babies born with penises are labeled male, and babies born with vulvas are labeled female. Babies whose bodies do not fit neatly into a male or female category are labeled intersex. Sex assigned at birth is about what someone observes about another person’s body, not how that person may feel internally about being male, female or another gender.
Gender identity is the feeling someone has inside about being male, female or something in between. Everyone has a gender identity. Sometimes people’s gender identity matches their bodies, and sometimes it does not. A person may be born with a penis and identify as a boy or born with a vagina and identify as a girl. This person may have a gender identity that is called “cisgender.” Or someone may be born with a penis and identify as a girl or born with a vagina and identify as a boy. This person may have a gender identity that is called “transgender.”
Terms like “genderqueer,” “gender nonbinary” or “gender expansive” may be used to refer to anyone who identifies as neither male nor xdating female, both male and female or a combination of different genders. “Genderfluid” is another identity that is similar to genderqueer. Some people experience their gender as fluid. This means they may feel like a mix of masculine and feminine qualities or feel more feminine sometimes and more masculine at other times. This is called gender fluidity, and it is not related to a person’s sex assigned at birth or biological sex.
People express a sense of masculinity, femininity or something in between through their daily choices about appearance. This is called “gender expression,” and it can be influenced by how someone feels inside, family expectations, society’s expectations and other influences. Sometimes people’s gender expression matches their gender identity, and sometimes it does not. Gender expression can also change throughout people’s lives as they learn more about themselves and what masculinity and femininity mean to them and how they choose to express themselves on any given day.
Gender identity and expression don’t tell us anything about who a person is attracted to. “Sexual orientation” refers to what genders we are attracted to.
Gender roles are the societal norms that dictate the types of behaviors that are generally considered appropriate for people based on their actual or perceived gender. As parents, guardians and other trusted adults, it is important that we recognize how harmful gender roles can be if we force them on young people. For example, insisting that a boy not cry when he is hurt or sad limits his ability to express a full range of human emotions and empathize with others. Gender roles can limit young people’s ability to be who they truly are when, for example, a girl who wants to play sports is instead encouraged to be “ladylike.” When children are encouraged in subtle-and not-so subtle-ways to adhere to strict gender roles, it can cause significant anxiety, insecurity, stress and low self-esteem for both boys and girls.