Everyone goes through the unique process of discovering who they are or whom they want to be in life. We grapple with our values, dreams, goals, and why we think or act how we do. For some individuals, part of this process is exploring their gender identity, and it can happen whether the person is young or much older. Every aspect of one’s identity is worth exploring, especially when it brings clarity or helps someone grow into the person they’re meant to be. Deciding to explore your gender identity is a personal decision that can be full of highs and lows, questions and answers, and acceptance and rejection. While it may not be a simple, straightforward path, everyone should be encouraged to discover who they really are and feel supported doing so.
is one's own internal sense of self and their gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not outwardly visible to others.
Gender identity refers to a person's internal sense of self and gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. However, unlike gender expression, gender identity is not outwardly visible to others. There are dozens of gender identities an individual can have, and all are valid. Gender identity essentially describes how someone feels about their gender on the inside. It can have very little to do with how they look on the outside, although some people’s gender expression matches their gender identity.
Usually, gender identity develops very early in a person’s life. Someone’s gender identity might match their assigned sex at birth, or it may differ entirely. Sex is based on biological factors like reproductive organs, genes, and hormones. Gender, however, is a social construction that can vary across cultures. When someone’s sex and gender identity don’t align and they decide to transition, they’re known as transgender individuals. However, there are plenty of other identities a person can have, even if they don’t transition at all.
It’s important to recognize and affirm someone’s gender identity because it’s a big part of who they are. It can take a great deal of courage to step outside of society’s expectations, but it’s only by doing so that people can be who they are meant to be. Spreading awareness and education about gender identity are also vital, as more support is needed for the LGBTQ+ community, who tends to face higher rates of discrimination. Acceptance improves overall well-being for people of all gender expressions and identities.
There are many different kinds of gender identities. Some examples include male, female, transgender, non-binary, two-spirit, third gender, pangender, agender, androgynous, demiboy, femme, demigirl, neutrois, and more. Some of these terms are umbrella terms. For example, someone who is transgender doesn’t feel that their sex at birth correlates with the gender they feel they are on the inside. However, a trans person doesn’t have to feel they’re only a man or a woman. They could also be non-binary or genderfluid.
Gender identity and expression are two related terms that are important to understand; however, they mean different things. The difference between gender identity and gender expression is that gender expression (or identity expression) is how a person chooses to publicly display their gender. Gender identity, on the other hand, is how someone feels about themselves on the inside.
Someone’s gender identity may or may not match their assigned sex at birth. However, just because someone identifies as a certain gender doesn’t mean they will express it to the world or present themselves that way. For some, it takes time for their gender expression to match their gender identity. Others are content identifying as but not expressing their true gender. Others still do not have the resources to express their gender but may still identify a certain way.
Gender expressions can vary from person to person. Some examples of gender expression are clothing, hairstyle, grooming style, pronoun choices, and makeup. Other gender expression examples could include your chosen name, voice, body language, and body features.
If you’d like to help someone explore their gender identity, or you’re interested in doing so for yourself, here are some tips to get started:
Many different factors can affect a person’s gender identity. These could include things like life experiences, assigned sex at birth, societal expectations, personality traits, stereotypes, and interactions with one’s peers. It could also include other biological factors like hormones and temperament as well as environmental factors like language and social reinforcement.
Sometimes multiple factors can come into play, while other times one prominent factor has the most influence. It’s usually less important why someone identifies how they do and more important that they can ultimately come to accept how they feel on the inside.
When someone’s gender identity doesn’t match their sex assigned at birth, they may experience a variety of mental health issues as a result. These mental health problems are often related to the inner struggle happening inside them. However, their mental well-being can also be affected because they belong to the LGBTQ+ community. Since people in the LGBTQ+ community experience more disparities in the mental health care system, it’s often harder for them to get help when they need it. Common mental health challenges and disparities experienced by these individuals include:
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.
It’s normal to experience mental health challenges from time to time, but they shouldn’t be so difficult that it’s hard to function at school, work, or with friends and family. Sadly, because of the widespread disparities that exist, those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community often face debilitating mental illnesses. When they do seek treatment, it’s often harder to find and of lower quality.
While poverty, lack of resources, stigma, and discrimination all contribute to the disparities in the mental healthcare system, these are fortunately not unsolvable issues. Moving forward, it’s vital to address the systems that perpetuate discrimination and allow harassment of gender-questioning individuals.
Since it’s clear that the LGBTQ+ community faces higher rates of mental illness, it’s also important to ensure these individuals are receiving quality care. More representation is needed among healthcare professionals, including providers who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Providers also need more education and training so that they can understand the perspective and needs of those questioning their gender.
Educationally, it’s important that society learns more about how to support those in the LGBTQ+ community. To increase acceptance of the unique struggles faced by gender-questioning individuals, more awareness is needed overall. Change is possible, but it takes everyone working together and staying committed to the ultimate goal: allowing everyone to feel comfortable and accepted in their own skin.
You may have heard of self-care before but haven’t taken the time to explore what it really means. Self-care is a great way to help maintain more positive mental health, especially if you don’t have the resources to see a therapist yet. It’s also a great supplement to therapy and something you should aim to do each day. Here are some ways to practice self-care in a way that’s meaningful to you:
Self-care is all about you, so it doesn’t need to look a certain way. Building emotional resilience is essential as you come to terms with your gender identity and can help you feel surer of yourself. There are lots of ways to boost your self-esteem and confidence, but it’s up to you to discover what works best for you. Once you do, you can weather the trials of life with more tenacity, courage, and determination.
If you’re in the process of exploring your gender identity, it can be helpful to have a trusted person to talk through it with. Online therapy is growing in popularity because of its convenience, affordability, and simplicity. When you sign up on BetterHelp you’ll get matched with a mental health professional trained in the area you’re needing support in. Whether that’s your gender identity or anything else on your mind, speaking to someone about it can help you process your emotions and figure out how you’re really feeling.
BetterHelp gives you lots of options for connecting with your therapist. You can use a video call, phone call, or message them back and forth. You’ll have access to a chatroom that’s open 24/7 where you can send a message anytime. Your therapist will get back as soon as they can. As long as you have a smart device and a Wi-Fi connection, you can have your sessions anywhere you’d like, even from the comfort of your couch or bed. BetterHelp has made a difference in the lives of people just like you and could help you, too. When you’re ready to give it a try, be sure to reach out so that you can get matched with your therapist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the 3 gender identities?
Gender identity refers to a person’s sense of self as it relates to their gender. Someone’s gender identity may correlate with their assigned sex at birth or may differ greatly from it. Everyone person is different. The three most common gender identities are feminine, androgynous, and masculine. Feminine normally refers to someone who is female, while masculine describes a male. An androgynous individual has characteristics of both males and females. Gender identity can be complex since it’s an individual experience and happens internally.
What are the 11 gender identities?
There are many different gender identities someone can have. 11 of these are male, female, transgender, agender, gender fluid, non-binary, androgynous, two-spirit, pangender, cis, and bigender. However, there are many more gender identities an individual can hold.
How do you know your gender identity?
Learning about your unique gender identity can be a process. For some people, it takes a while to discover how you feel inside and how you want to choose to express yourself to the world. There are many ways to express yourself including how you dress, talk, behave, or groom yourself. Despite society’s expectations or assumptions, your gender identity is all about how you feel as an individual. It’s about being yourself and accepting yourself as you are, no matter how you might identify.
What are the factors that influence gender identity?
Gender identity can be influenced by biological factors, but also by hormones, assigned sex at birth, societal expectations, stereotypes, the media, life experiences, socialization, friends and family, and more. Almost anything can influence someone’s gender identity, which is why it can take some people lots of time to figure theirs out. Usually, it is a combination of factors that help someone discover how they’d like to identify.