Gender

Gender is more than just boy or girl. Learn about gender identity and expression, and how gender is evolving around the world.

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Hi! I’m here to help you learn more about gender. This topic involves the core elements of gender identity (our sense of self) and gender expression (how we show up in the world). For some of us, it’s as easy as male or female, man or woman. But for many others, it’s far more complex. Our gender can involve a mix of masculine and feminine, or be something altogether different — what people refer to as non-binary. Let’s explore…

The Basics

Learn about the broad spectrum of gender identities and expressions.

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Gender expression

Gender expression is a big part of how we show up to the world.

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Gender identity

Gender identity is distinct from biological sex even though for most people the two correspond.

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Beyond masculine and feminine

There are countless ways for people to identify through gender.

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Understanding pronouns

Not everyone is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. Now our language is catching up.

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The spectrum goes mainstream

Gender used to be thought of as an either/or proposition: male or female. But a growing number of people do not identify with those two choices, and America has noticed.

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A third option

Non-binary identities are transforming how we fill in the blanks.

Real people

There’s a lot of diversity in gender identities. But life isn’t easy for people who identify “beyond he or she.”

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The space between

Not everyone identifies as a man or woman. Watch this CBS News video to hear from people who identify "beyond he or she."

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"I remember these awkward silences"

Listen as Kiyan Williams, who identifies as gender non-conforming, talks about what it was like coming of age feeling different from everyone else.

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"You taught me how to love"

Listen as Sissy and Vickie talk about their life together and what it has been like for Sissy, a cross-dressing man.

The social construction of gender

Learn about gender as a social construction and how it changes over time.

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Lessons in gender

Learn about the different ways we teach and reinforce gender in our world today.

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Change over time

Our approach to gender has changed over time and is still changing with our culture.

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The battle over gender in youth organizations

Growing legions of girls are joining Scouts BSA, formerly known as Boy Scouts of America. Find out what's happening on the fast-changing landscape of scouting in the U.S.

Around the world

Worldwide, the variety of gender identity and expression is nearly boundless. Unlike the U.S. and other western societies, many cultures have long recognized not just two genders, but 3, 4, 5, or even more.

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Gender-diverse cultures

Check out some of the gender-diverse cultures that have existed throughout the world.

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Across time and place

There's nothing new about gender identities beyond male and female--they've been around since ancient times.

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A Culture of Acceptance

Learn about a culture of acceptance between masculine and feminine.

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India's third gender

How did India accept a third gender? It was there all along.

The Stats

Population studies show that around the world, more people identify as non-binary than you might think.

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Non-traditional Gender Teenager Estimates

Learn about recent findings on gender identities of U.S. teenagers.

Glossary

Cross-dressing

(Verb) To wear clothes typically associated with people of a different gender for fun, self-expression, relaxation, etc. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not indicative of being transgender; persons who are cross-dressers are usually comfortable with their anatomy and do not wish to change it. Cross-dressing is not necessarily tied to erotic activity, and is not a reflection of sexual orientation. Learn More

Drag / Drag King / Drag Queen

(Noun) The theatrical performance of one or multiple genders via dressing in the clothing of a different gender, or in a manner different form how one would usually dress. For instance, drag queens perform in highly feminine attire. Drag kings perform in highly masculine attire. Drag often presents a stereotyped image. Individuals who dress in “drag” may or may not consider themselves to be transgender. They may also identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight or some other sexual orientation. Learn More

Gender expression

(Noun) The ways that a person communicates a gender identity to others such as dress, behavior, hairstyle, voice, and/or mannerisms. Learn More

Gender non-conforming

(Adj.) Describes a person who does not behave in a way that conforms to traditional expectations for their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category. Also known as gender variant. Learn More

Gender variant

(Adj.) Describes a person who does not behave in a way that conforms to traditional expectations for their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category. Also known as gender non-conforming. Learn More

Explore More Topics

Citations & Sources

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Biswas, S. (2019, May 31).How Britain tried to 'erase' India's third gender. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48442934

Bodkin, H. (2018, May 22). Transgender brain scans promised as study shows structural differences in people with gender dysphoria. Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/22/transgender-brain-scans-promised-study-shows-structural-differences/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_fb

CBS News. (2017, March 23). Non-binary: The gender beyond he or she [Video File]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0ahBHJbyCg

Cocking, L. (2018, January 10). A brief history of Mexico’s third gender. The Omnivore. https://medium.com/the-omnivore/a-brief-history-of-mexicos-third-gender-7d80451419e6

The Future is FeMale. (2017, September 18). Havas Group. https://download.havas.com/prosumer-reports/future-is-female/

Geiger, A.W., & Graf, N. (2019, September 5). About one-in-five U.S. adults know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun. Pew Research Center Fact Tank. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/05/gender-neutral-pronouns/

Graf, N. (2019, December 18). About four-in-ten U.S. adults say forms should offer more than two gender options. Pew Research Center Fact Tank. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/18/gender-options-on-forms-or-online-profiles/

Herman, J., Flores, A., Brown, T., Wilson, B., Conron, K. (2017, January). Age of Individuals Who Identify as Transgender in the United States. Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/age-trans-individuals-us/

India court recognises transgender people as third gender. (2014, April 15) BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-27031180

Joel, D., Tarrasch, R., Berman, Z., Mukamel, M., & Ziv, E. (2013). Queering gender: Studying gender identity in ‘normative’ individuals. Psychology & Sexuality, 5, 291–321. http://people.socsci.tau.ac.il/mu/daphnajoel/files/2014/11/Joel_gender_identity_2013.pdf

Kaur, H. (2019, October 16). Why it matters what pronouns you use to refer to people and what to do if you slip up. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/16/us/preferred-gender-pronouns-explainer-trnd/index.html

Khaleeli, H. (2014, April 16). Hijra: India's third gender claims its place in law. Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/16/india-third-gender-claims-place-in-law

Leguizamon, M., Griggs, B. (2018, February 6). More US teens are rejecting 'boy' or 'girl' gender identities, a study finds. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/06/health/teens-gender-nonconforming-study-trnd/index.html

Miller, C. (2015, October 30). Boys and girls, constrained by toys and costumes. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/upshot/boys-and-girls-constrained-by-toys-and-costumes.html?_r=1

Moskowitz, C. (2010, June 6). Kids learn gender stereotypes at home. Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/6621-kids-learn-gender-stereotypes-home.html

Nambiar, S. (2017, January 1). A brief history of Hijra, India’s third gender. Culture Trip. https://theculturetrip.com/asia/india/articles/a-brief-history-of-hijra-indias-third-gender/

Nunberg, G. (2019, August). Opinion: Even a grammar geezer like me can get used to gender neutral pronouns. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2019/08/06/744121321/even-a-grammar-geezer-like-me-can-get-used-to-gender-neutral-pronouns

A map of gender-diverse cultures. (2015, August 11). PBS. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/content/two-spirits_map-html/

Richards, C., Boumanam, W.P., Sealb, L., Barker, M. J., Niederd, T.O., & T'Sjoene, G. (2016). Non-binary or genderqueer genders [Abstract]. International Review of Psychiatry, 28(1), 95-102. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26753630/

Rider, G.N., McMorris, B., Glower, A., Coleman, E., Eisenberg, M. (2018). Health and care utilization of transgender and gender nonconforming youth: A population-based study. Pediatrics, 141 (3). http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/02/01/peds.2017-1683

Saturday Night Live. (2017, September 30). Introducing Wokes, sizeless, style-neutral, gender non-conforming denim for a generation that defies labels [Video File]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adPXDTvADD0

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Silverman, H. (2019, August 1). 2 more states will offer a 3rd gender option on driver's licenses. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/01/health/washington-pennsylvania-gender-x-id/index.html

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Suddath, C. (2019, April 17). Boy scouts are just scouts now, and that’s making girl scouts mad. Bloomberg Businessweek. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-04-17/boy-scouts-are-just-scouts-now-and-that-s-making-girl-scouts-mad

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Trammell, K. (2019, September 18). Merriam-Webster adds the nonbinary pronoun 'they' to it's dictionary. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/17/us/merriam-webster-nonbinary-pronoun-they-trnd/index.html

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Yuan, O. (2020, January 6). Gender means more than you think it does. Ipsos. https://future.ipsos.com/gender/gender-means-more-than-you-think-it-does