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Gender Identity

What is Gender?

You may think the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ mean the same thing, but they are actually two separate things. Sex refers to a person’s physical characteristics, that’s the sexual organs they have. Sex is more complex than either ‘male’ or ‘female’, some intersex people have characteristics that are both male and female.

Gender refers to how someone identifies, and there a a whole lot more gender identities than just male and female. Gender is not something we’re born with, it’s something we learn as we grow up. (Think of pink toys for girls and blue toys for boys)The gender someone identifies with might not necessarily match their sex, it may change over time, or they may not want to identify with any gender. It’s all up to you and no one can make you define your gender.

The gender binary (binary means two) refers to the way our society often talks about gender- that there are only two options, female or male. There are lots of people that don’t identify with either male or female, or identify with both. So it’s helpful to think of gender as being much broader than just male and female.

Here are some helpful definitions to help you talk about gender identity:

Cisgender

A person whose gender identity matches their sex.

Transgender

A person whose gender identity does not match their sex.

Trans*

This is an umbrella term that means anyone whose gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. (It’s also the T in LGBTQIA!)

Intersex

A person who was born with sexual characteristics that aren’t exclusively male or female.

Genderqueer

A this is an umbrella term that can mean a few different things, generally it’s a person that doesn’t identify as just male or female. They might identify as both, or as something else altogether.

Non-binary Gender

Someone who doesn’t identify with binary genders (male and female).

You can read more about gender diversity on Minus18’s website.

Your Gender Identity

If you feel like you don’t fit in to the gender identities of male or female, or that your gender identity doesn’t match the sex you were assigned at birth, that’s totally fine. Your gender identity is about what’s right for you and how you identify. There are people all around the world who identify with gender diverse identities.

Where can I get support?

If you’re figuring out your gender identity, it could really help to talk to someone about it. Talk to someone you trust like a friend, family member or school counselor. You can also call Kids Helpline or chat online with a mental health worker at eheadspace. You can find heaps of great stuff on gender and sexuality on Minus18’s website.