Gender Identity (T+)
What is Gender?
Your gender identity is the gender that you identify with, the gender that you know and feel yourself to be, and it is part of your internal sense of self. Our gender identity can be very important to who we are as a person.
Often confused, gender (or sex) assigned at birth and gender identity are two separate things. When we are born most of us are given, or assigned, a gender. Often, the first thing ever said about us is “it’s a boy!” or “it’s a girl!”. Gender is usually assigned by looking at our genitals. Of course, you can’t really tell the gender identity of a person just by looking at their genitals and not everyone’s gender identity ends up matching the gender they were assigned at birth.
Your gender is not determined by your body parts and you can’t tell another person’s gender identity just by looking at them. The only person who can really know your gender is you.
At What Age Do People Become Aware of Their Gender Identity?
How is Gender Identity Different to Gender Expression?
Gender identity and gender expression are related but different concepts. Your gender identity is how you feel and what you think about your own gender, your sense of self. Some people identify as women, some identify as men, some in another way and some feel they do not have a gender at all. Your gender expression is how you display your gender to others – this could be through the way you act, dress, interact with other people, etc. Some people are more feminine, others more masculine and some sit between the two.
Be aware, a person’s gender identity is not always indicative of their gender expression, and conversely, a person’s gender expression is not always indicative of their gender identity.
The Genderbread Person is a useful tool to help you explore these concepts and your own identity:
Describing a Person’s Gender Identity
There are many ways people describe their gender identity, and as people feel more able to explore their own identity the language continues to evolve. Young people should not be put under any pressure to assign themselves a “label”. However, over time, if the young person in your care feels safe and able to do so, they will share with you how they are feeling.
Although no one should be pressured to use this language to describe themselves, it is important that this language is shared with young people so they can use it to describe themselves, if they wish. Using inclusive language can also make young people aware that trans and non-binary identities exist, and that if there are any trans and/or non-binary young people in your care they know there is nothing wrong with how they are feeling and that there is a community of others who feel the same way they do.
Below are some of the more common and visible terms that can be used to describe gender identity that you may want to explore with your young people. Click on each of the boxes to reveal a definition.
Some of these definitions may be difficult for primary school aged young people to understand; books such as Alien Nation explore this terminology in an age-appropriate, accessible way.
To explore some of the other ways people describe their gender identity, you can explore the Gender Identity (T+) webpage designed for ages 14+ by clicking here.
How Can I Support a Young Person Who is Exploring their Gender Identity?
You can find out more about how to support a trans young person with transitioning here.
You can find out more about how to support LGBT+ young people in the section on LGBT+ Inclusion.
There are many myths and misconceptions that surround the trans community and here we aim to unpick these myths.
If you’d like to find out more about sexuality and the words people use to describe their sexual orientation, click here.