Discussing gender identity can be uncomfortable for many, but these conversations are so very important both for those who are members of the LGBTQ community, their friends, family, and those with whom they interact. With discrimination and violence against the transgender community at an all-time high, we must continue to speak with each other and learn.

Part of the problem lies in the widespread misconceptions many have regarding the topic. As we all know, knowledge is power.  As such, we are sharing three things people often misunderstand regarding those who identify as transgender or nonbinary.

First, and one of the most important, the terms gender and sex are not interchangeable. In fact, they are very different.  In general, a person’s sex is identified by their physician when they are born, based on their genitalia. Seems simple, right?  Not really, a small percentage of people are what is known as intersex. According to Planned Parenthood, Intersex is a general term used for a variety of situations in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the boxes of ‘female’ or ‘male’.” When we talk about gender, however, biology is less important and the focus is on your own personal view. It is a person’s perception of themselves.

Second, identifying as transgender is not a phase. We hear it all the time, particularly when a younger person shares that their body does not match who they believe they are. Many people believe that this is a temporary state of mind, one that can be “grown out of”. This is not true. Gender identity is real and personal. Instead of encouraging those who identify as transgender to “give it time” and “move on”, we must focus on providing them the support (emotional, medical, and educational) that they need and deserve. Being transgender is not an illness that can be cured. Processes like conversation therapy are incredibly dangerous.

Finally, gender identity is different from sexual orientation. A person’s gender identity is who they are, not who they find attractive or love.  Thus, labeling a heterosexual woman who dates a transgender man as a lesbian would be incorrect.  The person she is dating identifies as a man. Those who identify as transgender can find a variety of people attractive.  

In short,  the most important thing we can do is to be open to learning and loving. Be accepting and non-judgmental. In the end, we are all humans with a desire to be respected, befriended, and loved. Be an ally to everyone in the LGBTQ community. Accept and celebrate people for who they are.

gender identity definition

The personal sense of one's own gender is referred to as gender identity. Gender identity can be the same as or different from a person's assigned sex at birth. Gender expression usually corresponds to a person's gender identity, but this isn't always the case.

how many gender identities are there?

Gender identity refers to how a person thinks about themselves and who they are when it comes to their gender. There are more than two genders, even though in our society the most well-known genders are male and female (known as the gender binary) and are usually determined by a person's anatomy (the genitals they were born with). Gender assignment is based on the assumption that a person's genitals correspond to their gender. Gender, on the other hand, isn't about a person's anatomy; it's about who they know themselves to be. Male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none, or a combination of these are examples of gender identities.