When most people think of gender identity, they are really thinking about biological sex. Actually, sex and gender are very different things.
Intersex Support Groups
What is Sex?
When you describe your sex, what you are really describing is your "plumbing," so to speak. Do you have male genitalia or female genitalia? When determining your sex, you have only three options:
The vast majority of human beings are biologically either male or female. A few are intersex, meaning that they were born with some combination of male and female organs. (This condition was once known as hermaphroditism.)
Who am I?
What is Gender?
It's about to get a lot more complicated!
Unlike sex, which is biologically based, gender is largely a cultural construct. When asked to name the genders in most Western societies, most people would name two: male and female. However, in some traditional societies, there is considered to be a third sex. An example is the Samoan fa'afafine, who are typically biologically male but who dress and behave like women. In India and Pakistan, a similar identity called hijra exists. Hijra can be biologically male, female, or intersex, but are most commonly male. Like the fa'afafine, they usually dress and behave like women.
Other anthropologists have found fourth, fifth, and even sixth genders in some cultures.
As the role of biology and culture becomes better understood in Western cultures, a growing number of genders are being defined by the medical, psychological, and anthropological communities, and by gendered communities themselves. Because so many groups and methodologies are involved, there is frequent overlap between different types of gender identity.
In the West, gender identity is most commonly divided into two main categories:
- Cisgender: Cisgender is just a fancy name for somebody whose biological sex matches their gender identity. If you have a penis and consider yourself male, you are a cisgendered male. If you have a vagina and consider yourself female, you are a cisgendered female.
- Transgender: If your biological sex does not match your gender identity, then you are transgender. Transgender (also sometimes described as genderqueer or intergender, though neither term is completely synonymous) is an umbrella term that incorporates many different types of gender identities.
It's important to note that gender identity is fluid and often a matter of perception more than quantifiable differences in behavior. Being cisgendered does not mean that you must conform to all
of society's stereotypes and cultural expectations about your biological sex. For example, many self-described "tomboys" consider themselves cisgender, even though they do not
conform absolutely to cultural expectations about female behavior. Many others
consider themselves transgender. The difference is not necessarily of behavior, but of perception.
Likewise, being transgendered does not mean you must reject all society's stereotypes about your biological sex. In fact, many transgender individuals embrace aspects of both traditional gender identities.
Common Transgender Identities
Third Gender: As discussed above, some cultures do not share the binary gender system common in most Western cultures and individuals from these cultures who belong to a third gender may identify as Third Gender in Western society.
Transsexual: Transsexual people are individuals who identify with a different sex than the one they were born with. Most prefer to be referred to by the gender pronouns of their target sex, i.e. a biologically male trans person will generally prefer to be called "she." A trans man is a biological female who identifies as male; a trans woman is a biological male who identifies as female. Some transsexual people undergo sex reassignment therapy in order to become their target sex. Two Spirit, an American Indian/First Nations third gender, is commonly associated with the western concept of transsexual.
Androgyne: Androgynes do not identify fully with either traditional male or traditional female roles and often adopt elements of both in behavior, clothing, and mannerisms, so that it may be difficult to determine which sex the person is.
Pangender: Pangender is similar to androgyny in that pangender individuals take on aspects of both genders. However, where androgynes typically reject elements of both traditional genders; pangender individuals typically embrace both and may switch back and forth between male and female personas depending on circumstances. Sometimes called bigender or genderfluid, though the terms are not exact synonyms.
More Useful Terms
Transvestite: Transvestitism, also known as cross dressing, refers to a behavior, rather than a gender identity. Although it is commonly practiced by transsexual, androgynous, and other transgender individuals, not all transvestities are transgender.
Genderfuck: Genderfuck, like transvestite, refers to a behavior rather than an identity. Genderfuck uses parody and exaggeration to call attention to the inadequacy of the traditional gender binary. For example, a bearded man wearing a dress might be considered a genderfuck. Though most often associated with the transgender community, cisgendered individuals may also participate.
What about Sexuality?
Some of you may be surprised that I've barely mentioned the role of sexuality in gender identity. After all, aren't all trangender people homosexual?
Actually, the answer is no. Transgender individuals may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or paraphiliac, just like cisgender individuals.
For example, the well known British actor and comedian Eddie Izzard is famous for his transvestitism, but he is, in his own words, either a "straight transvestite" or a "male lesbian," attracted to women. He dresses in women's clothes and makeup neither for performance purposes nor to fulfill a sexual fetish, but simply because he likes them. "Women wear what they want," he has said, "and so do I." The majority of transvestites, actually, are heterosexual biological males, though the related term drag queen is most commonly used to refer to a homosexual man who dresses as a woman.
Homosexuals may also view themselves as either trans or cisgendered. Slang terms such as "butch" and "femme" are examples of the way in which sexuality and gender identities are combined in the LGBT community.
For more on this topic, please visit What is Your Sexuality?
Gender Identity Resources
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Scarlett\ sage on March 31, 2020:
I'm genderfluid, and was born a female and now i'm getting my hair cut to a boy style and my boy name is sage.
Anne on September 28, 2016:
I was born male but always knew inside I was a girl so from a screaming tot demanding a girls swimming costume to now - I live as a woman full time - I have not had surgery - but sometimes - I wish I had the courage to have it done - I am asexual so it is not for sexual relations
well good luck to everyone
Genderflux Demiboy on August 27, 2015:
A confused girl, it sounds like you could be what's called genderfluid, where one day you might feel like one gender, the next week like another.
GEM13 on June 05, 2015:
Interesting and informative! You have sparked many queries and given rise to many personal experiences. Thanks for the great read. ;)
Bobby on December 09, 2014:
I'm a sissified cross dresser that enjoys getting humiliated by others. The more you laugh at me the more I luv it.
So where do I fit in here?
Scaffy McBeans on October 13, 2014:
While being of the male sex, I don't have a "gender identity." Literate people know that "gender" refers to words in declined languages, spank thee very much.
ediann on July 26, 2013:
I am active in writing here on hubpages and I also have a blog on blogspot.com called A Father's Love My Son and Autism which I contribute to as often as I can. I have been going through so many emotional issues and have been hospitalized several times recently. I will share something here with you as I no longer feel ashamed and I knew since the age of 4 that something was very wrong with me but I had no one to talk to or share my "secret" with and I was afraid to tell my parents because they as loving as they were had their own problems so I didn't feel it was right to burden them with my unique but very difficult situation and so it became a lifetime struggle for me which is still affecting me in my current situation now. If you have not guessed it by now then I will now share it with you because the truth of the matter is that I am no longer afraid to be open about it anymore. It took me 50 years to get over this and accept myself but sadly it also was motivated by family tragedy and the loss of a close friend who was there for me all throughout my father's suicide and two years later after talking to me and helping me get through it I found myself at his funeral. He left behind a beautiful wife and a precious little baby girl at the tender age of 40. My dad was very special to me and when I learned he took his life by jumping in front of a speeding train and 20 years after losing my mother tragically to mental illness as she literally starved herself to death as she was between the psychiatric hospital and medical hospital hooked up to feeding tubes which she kept pulling out as she lost her will to live at the age of 50. My dad never recovered from this as it stayed with him those 20 years up until his tragic suicide. So now I share my own story. I am married to a wonderful woman and I have a son, 14 who is autistic. My struggle which I had known I would have to deal with from age 4 finally had to be addressed and after going to therapy much earlier in my life to discuss I found myself back in therapy because I could no longer his my struggle and pain. After all I knew since the age of 4. My struggle, which you probably have guessed by now is that I am a male to female transgender and I have lived knowing all my life trying desperately to live as a male which was the sex assigned me but I always knew I identified as female and carried this secret all throughout my life telling no one and the at age 51 I had no choice and had to make the hardest decision of my life which was to accept myself for who I was and I had to come out to my wife who I love dearly, my son, who is my pride and joy and my family, friends and employer. It was very painful and still is as I am currently out of work and trying to protect my family. I have also started my journey to become female and luckily have my family support and some really good friends and wonderful doctors helping me and working towards collecting disability which I am entitled. I am a male to female transgender and I have come to accept it finally after all these years. emily
A Confused girl on June 27, 2013:
I'm a hetro young teenager girl, but I came here because I don't feel like I'm a woman or a man. I feel comfortable to dress me as both gender. But sometimes I just wished I was a homosexual guy. But I still like to be a girl... so what the hell am I? // A Confused Girl
rjbatty from Irvine on April 16, 2013:
I was a late bloomer, so I was 20 before I had my first (heterosexual)experience. After all my fantasies about the act, I found it to be nearly hysterical. I had to suppress by laughter. I enjoyed it, but it struck me as very primitive -- two bodies slamming away at each other. It felt, well, bestial, primitive, but at the same time, amazingly powerful -- far, far beyond my capacity to break off the act (had there been any reason to). I think my sense of humor was also aroused by the awareness that this was something infinite (or nearly so), and I was no better than a trilobite copulating in an ancient sea.
miss barbara on February 21, 2013:
please educate those of us who don't understand when out husbands or boyfriends are seemingly fascinated by transgender people. It helps us understand and still treat people with respect for they are human too. I am a straight but believe that we have no control over what attracts us to other types of genders. We all need to understand them.
Bobby from Central Florida on February 07, 2013:
I'm a guy and always will be a generic guy. But I identify as a girl and always will because I've been sissified for 40+ yrs. I've live as a girl all my life. Everyone that know me sees me as a girl. And calls me as my girl name.
humayuniftikhar from Planet Earth on December 11, 2012:
It was so easy to read and understand. I think if everyone gets to know that gender is a social construct and not something assigned biologically, many of the problems faced by LGBTQ community will be automatically resolved.
Kristen78 on October 02, 2012:
I agree with you as well . I am a woman transsexual and to me putting on clothes is just that it's clothes and I do it every day and night not just here and there. I live my life as Kristen because that is who I am. and to classify me with other trans people under the umbrella is not correct I support any and all Tg's out there for the courage they posses ,but when it comes to someone asking me what gender I am I say female and that's it.
sagar on January 17, 2012:
im a hijra
Just Browsing on December 08, 2011:
Not to come across as elitist or anything but the term transgender was coined by a crossdresser. Likewise for cisgender. Thus, it is incorrect to lump transsexual men and women in with the umbrella, one size fits all group of TG's (CD's, TV's, Genderf**k, and so on). To call transsexualism a 'common transgender identity' is way off base because the two terms are distinctly different and cannot (should not) be used interchangibly. As a lifelong woman born transsexual, I have nothing in common with someone who plays dress up for a few hours on the sly, typically hiding that part of them away from the ones they love. To a CD, 'dressing' is what its all about. I've heard it many times before, 'Are you dressing tonight?' and so on.
To a true TS, or should I say, to me - I cannot speak for everyone, calling it dressing is sort of absurd. Of course I dress. Every day and every night I'm dressed, or get dressed but to me, its just clothing and nothing more. To a CD or TV? It's much more than just 'clothing' and dressing means something entirely different from what most of us think of when we hear that term.
That's not to say I'm any better, or worse than any one TG. Or vice versa. I'm only saying the two groups are not the same, they aren't. They are very different, that's all.
Its all good!
Batman305 from Miami,Florida on November 30, 2011:
Nicely done. (:
Baileybear on September 25, 2011:
pretty complicated subject. I've been reading about intersex and apparently it's rather common, but most people don't know they're intersex as they have typical anatomy and can produce offspring.
I am thinking of putting together a hub about intersex, but don't want to do into the gender thing much, so this would be good hub to link to.
naturalsolutions on September 12, 2011:
Before all i know is the male, female and bisexual. I can't believe that our sex, gender and sexuality has a different meaning and explanation. And each one is categorized smoothly. Well thanks for posting it can be a trending discussion on social media networks. For me it is a discovery. Really great post.
noxadari from Oklahoma on September 12, 2011:
@notlitx So what about a transgendered female after srs? Is she a female or male? Because after srs all documents are usually changed to reflect that they are now female, but used to be male physically. Or a transgendered male for the same example. Or an intersexed person, what about them? As for that I can't say anything because I don't know about it. Or a person that can't identify as either sex because of not having any reproductive organs? That view is a little too narrow considering all the differences in people.
Notlitx on September 12, 2011:
I don't separate gender from sex. I don't care what someone THINKS they are, they are either male or female..to me this is no different then race(Eminem for example..he identifies with the African-American community but he is still white)
Jenn on August 31, 2011:
I relate to Eddie Izzard but reversed, but in reverse. I don't dress particularly flamboyantly. (People sometimes thought I was a lesbian in school.) I always seemed to personally identify more with the male gender, but am attracted to males as well. My guy seemed moderately horrified a while back when I told him I felt like a gay guy in a chick's body. :P
noxadari from Oklahoma on August 30, 2011:
Very well written hub, it's things like this that hopefully will spread the education and understanding further. Though on the topic of sexuality and your poll, are you looking at it through the birth sex or identified gender? Because I am straight being physically male, but being a transgendered woman, I consider myself a lesbian
ZInga on November 23, 2010:
Also just looking through the comments Clarissa, Sir i can totally understand you're coming from. I've got used to people now asking if i'm a boy or girl. And Cookie Cutter i also understand you're point about sexuality. Even though i fluctuate between boy and girl i am drawn to boys. It's almost like i'm a gay guy. I like guys but want to be like them. So confused.
ZInga on November 23, 2010:
This is brilliant. It's hard for some people who have gender identity issues to figure out what they are. This has helped a lot though. I've realised finally that I'm somewhere between Androgyne and Pangender. I was born a Tomboy so i have always blurred the boundaries between male and female but since becoming a young adult i have realised that my perception of what i am will change quite a few times a month or week. For instance right now i currently see myself in my minds eye as a guy and therefore think and act like one to an extent while other times i will see myself as a girl and act feminine to an extent. But to be honest the majority of time i see myself leaning over more to the protective guy said (at least last couple of months) and it is really hard and infuriating because i know i can't click my fingers to turn my gender whenever i want. When i feel like a guy i can't express it because a girl acting like a guy would just be seen as unusual. :( But there are somedays when i want male genitals instead of female and days when i am happy i'm female.
Jonnie on November 19, 2010:
I used to think I was just a homosexual male, but I've never been sure. It never felt completely right inside. I'm not sure if I'm just homosexual or a trans woman. I'm pretty feminine, usually behaving and acting in a feminine manner, but I'm not sure if I'm just a flamboyant homosexual or a woman trapped in a man's body. I've gone so far as to yearn to be a woman, but I bet plenty of homosexual men do that...I just don't know. I hope to find the answer soon...
Vanessa on October 23, 2010:
I am a woman inside a man body.
pauls_boat on September 24, 2010:
hi if Heterosexual is meant to be "normal" as (issues veritas) wrote above then why is it that less then 50% of the replies state they are Heterosexual? it appears there are more people who are not Heterosexual than are, does that mean that Heterosexuals are not normal?
whatisthisidonteven on September 20, 2010:
...So is there any kind of support group for an an androgynous/pangender, asexual/pansexual man trapped in a woman's body?
Or should that just be counted as 'hopeless train wreck' as well?
oscillationatend from a recovering narcissist. on June 24, 2010:
Loved this, kerry. More people need to have an open mind. The idea that sex and gender are totally linked has long been an illusion.
And while I know that hormones play a role, you can't deny the cultural differences and generational gaps that come with gender expression, either.
Perfect article, thank you.
retrophoto on June 08, 2010:
I didn't see train wreck in there. That probably describes me best.
Clarissa, Sir on May 12, 2010:
I suppose I identify most with that I am a bisexual woman who's gender identity is that of an androgyne or pangender. Throughout my life -even when I was young- I never felt like a boy or a girl. As it stands to today, while I am 'female' there are times where I clearly feel that I am a boy although my body may not reflect that. ( Though, occasionally my clothes do! xD ) What I find very curious is -even though I have appendages that make it VERY clear that I'm a woman and long hair- occasionally people will ask me if I am a man or woman. Perhaps it is my behavior that confuses them or some innate part of a person? I read at one point that goats that are female but act like males are regarded by the rest as if they were male. Is this something similar or related?
Cookie Cutter on April 14, 2010:
Yup, gender is a confusing thing. When I was growing up, there were only two choices. Male and female. It was accepted that these were the ONLY choices and norm. however, I never felt normal. I always wanted to look pretty, with the long hair, clothing and accessories but boys aren't supposed to feel that way. I have always been attracted to women but want to look like one. Does that make me a lesbian trapped in a mans body? I know it sounds funny, however my life has lead me to a wife of 23 years, two wonderful kids and a long history of depression and inner turmoil. I cannot risk losing them so I walk around wearing the mask of "normal" It's really too bad that society hasn't evolved enough to look beyond the surface and see the people under everything else. I can assure you, if I wore feminine attire, ponytails and earrings, I would be the same person inside. But instead, I'll wear the T-shirt, blue jeans and steel toed boots till I'm in the ground. Too bad I don't believe in re-incarnation, it would be nice for mother nature to get it right next time round....
Pleasure Venues from South West US on February 18, 2010:
Education begins in all these small steps... by simply voicing an idea! Wonderful blog, it certainly gets a "rise" out of people. love it.
Hann on February 08, 2010:
Nice article! Especially nice that you put Asexual into your second poll! I'm a genderqueer thing that hasn't got the hang of this idea of gender, and though I was brought up as female, I can barely pass as it. Your poll really shows that the only people who look up this kind of stuff are people on the front line - no-where else would trans women be outnumbering everyone else!
Marie Christine on February 06, 2010:
VERY interesting article. I definitely feel like I'm 100% female, or a third gender or whatever. But I don't feel like my gender is male at all.
pauls_boat on November 26, 2009:
well said jimmy but why hide it from the world.
i am androgyne and pansexual i belive i am a male but i like to wear female clothing i do not try to pass as a female but as a male in female clothes i donot belive i am a female traped in a male body but i belive i should be able to dress and act as i want to people assume that i am a transexual and want to be a woman but that is so far from true.
i just like some of the clothes that women like and some of the things they do i can sew and knit and like to do both now which are associated with women, but i also love sailing and engineering and also radio controlled modeles which are associated with men i like to be both male and female in the way i act but i am hetresuxal in my relationships so i am not sure what it makes me
JimmyC20593 from Oklahoma City on November 10, 2009:
Well, I didn't fit into any of your categories. I am a totally straight man, married with children and I wear lingerie all the time and wear other ladies appearl when the opportunity presents itself. My wife know about the panties and hosery I wear but not the other articles of lingerie and clothing. I am not into the make-up and wig thing except for halloween and maybe 1 other time a year, so am I a man who wears lingerie?? So, you can pidgeon hole me in one of those categories, but when I am wearing my female attire, it feels wonderful and I am not hurting anyone.
Takinoxy on October 07, 2009:
Very nice hub, clear and informing.
Intersex (XXY), androgyne and pansexual for me, yay!
Diversity is the key and binary sex societies the hole.. (dark, full of hate, love-the-normborns and hypocrite)
Thanks for sharing!
lxxy from Beneath, Between, Beyond on September 07, 2009:
Love this, kerryg.
Very informative and very clear. =)
But....who asks these questions?
Unfortunately, not many of your species.
Life's A Stage from Center Stage on August 18, 2009:
This is a very well written hub. I love how you clearly described the differences in genders.
sequoiablessed from USA on August 03, 2009:
Well done! I really enjoyed reading your hub and am impressed with the accuracy of the information. It is only through education that understanding and tolerence for our diverse population be cultivated. Vast changes are occuring in our society and they are for the better! As I love to say, Life just gets better and better ;-) (to me that is evolution or is it inevitable, actually it is both)
Georgiakevin from Central Georgia on July 22, 2009:
Your hub is wonderful. You laid things out and explained in an easy to understand way. Life is extremely hard and full of tears for anyone who has has to deal with gender issues. Your hub is a welcome source of education and a welcome reassurance for those who really need reassurance.
photo store on May 10, 2009:
First time being here, it's really a great hub!
Choke Frantic from Newcastle, Australia on May 08, 2009:
Thanks for the info, a great hub.
shibashake on May 07, 2009:
Love this hub! Also love Eddy Izzard. Actually he called himself an "action transvestite". You missed that category :)
kerryg (author) from USA on May 07, 2009:
Thanks for your comments, folks!
Feline Prophet on May 06, 2009:
What an enlightening hub! Left me feeling completely confused about my gender identity, but that's another story! :P
Tatjana-Mihaela from Zadar, CROATIA on May 06, 2009:
He, he, I am male in female body: do not like to cook and wash dishes (from very recently, due to the various circumstances).
Great Hub, well done, thumbs up!
Ivorwen from Hither and Yonder on May 06, 2009:
100% woman, and proud of it!
goldentoad from Free and running.... on May 06, 2009:
I know I'm a dude.
kerryg (author) from USA on May 06, 2009:
issues veritas, homosexual and bisexual behavior is well documented in nature. In fact, it has been observed in over 1500 species, ranging from bonobos - the closest living genetic relative of human beings - to flatworms. So has gender bending behavior - many animal species even literally change their biological sex once or more in their lifetimes, while others act as females in some circumstances and males in others. (Check out this hub by Sunforged for a particularly bizarre example from the world of flatworms: https://hubpages.com/hub/The-Art-of-Penis-Fencing-...
I would say the binary understanding of gender is the oddity, not vice versa.
MindField from Portland, Oregon on May 06, 2009:
issues veritas - You could have seen in the first paragraphs that this wasn't a hub for you. But you went right on reading, didn't you? I believe some day it will be found that you and your like are the ones who are not normal. That there is a corrupt gene in your DNA that makes you hateful, xenophobic, and compelled to point out to all and sundry what's wrong with others while holding yourself up as righteous and godly. It's very sad and I'm sorry for you. I'll pray for a cure.
issues veritas on May 06, 2009:
Why is it that everyone wants to be accepted as normal.
This hub consists of wishes and it is based on brainwashing.
Put the traditional on the defense and make the case that the traditional just doesn't understand or they are racist, sexist, homophobes etc.
The fact of the matter, there are two sexes/genders and the rest are mistakes. Unlike the animal kingdom we don't use natural selection and the survival of the most fit. As a result our gene pool is corrupted and defects are passed from generation to generation. Unfortunately, it is more like a mutation in its results.
If this was the animal kingdom, the gays and defects of gender would die out because they couldn't propagate. Reproduction is the whole concept behind gender/sex.
You are what you are and they are what they are, the problem that I have is when I am told they are normal. They may be fine people and great friends and they may even make contributions to society, but they should not be included in the norm.
Once again, I am going to make my statement, that if people are going to be outlandish with their hub content, then I can be outlandish with my comments.
If these comments offend you, then realize that your hub content offends me. Until I read a hub, I can't determine if it is outlandish or not.
kerryg (author) from USA on May 06, 2009:
Thanks, Pam! I'm glad you found it easy to understand. It is a complicated subject - not least because some of these terms have as many different definitions as there are people who identify by them! I hope I at least managed not to screw up the basics too badly. :)
I should really link to your Female Drag Queens hub here now that I think about it - it is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about with the discussion of perception versus qualitative difference.
hot dorkage - yum, tamales!
hot dorkage from Oregon, USA on May 06, 2009:
There are three gender identities: Male, Female and Tamale. I like tamales.
pgrundy on May 06, 2009:
Ditto here! I don't feel like a man trapped in a woman's body or anything like that, but I don't identify very strongly with much that is traditionally associated with being female. I've always felt more adrogynous, even though I don't necessarily look that way. The older I get, the less I even care if I 'fit' any category. It just seems not to matter anymore.
You really laid this all out in a very clear way, which, considering the topic, is no small accomplishment!
kerryg (author) from USA on May 06, 2009:
Haha, I hear you! I have no interest in being male, and identify as cisgender, but I'm definitely on the tomboy end of the scale, and can't relate to girly girls at all. Or macho men, for that matter. My husband is definitely an alpha male personality in some regards, but he also likes quiche! And opera and all sorts of "sissy" stuff like that. Gender binaries - and the cultural expectations built around them - just don't work any way you look at them.
Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on May 06, 2009:
I might be Transmale because at times I can't stand the emotional acts of women (did I put that in writing?!).