Gender Identity

Frog on a rock

When we start to think about who we are, some of us will question the gender assigned to us at birth.

Gender is most often assumed based on our sexual organs, but sometimes this assigned gender isn’t always the one that fits our internal experience of who we are. Gender identity can be a concern for some individuals, at times due to confusion, difficulties expressing gender or with seeking help, relating to one's own body or due to other people's reactions/transphobia and heteronormativity.

The Gender Unicorn is an important tool for understanding the concepts of gender identity, gender expression, sex, physical attraction, and romantic attraction.

Understanding Gender

  • Our gender identity, governed by the brain, can be anything from female, male, or any other gender(s).
  • Our gender expression is how we present our gender to the world and can be masculine, feminine or something else.
  • The sex assigned to us at birth, based on the configuration of our reproductive organs, is a spectrum from female to male, with variations between (which may be labelled 'intersex' or 'other').
  • Who we are attracted to physically, governed by the heart, can range from men, women, or any other gender.
  • Who we are attracted to emotionally, again governed by the heart, can also range from men, women, or any other gender.

View the Gender Unicorn diagram

Blocks

Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can make our gender journey difficult.

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  • I don't know how to describe my experience of gender

    This can take some time, and is particularly tricky for those of us who sit somewhere in between the socially accepted binaries of male and female which can create pressure to "pass" as a particular gender. There can also be problems seeking help and telling others, but it is important to find the right people to talk to in order to avoid becoming isolated which can increase mental health risks. Others that might be going through similar circumstances can point us in the direction of safe practitioners and good resources.

     

    agender flag (horizontal stripes: black, grey, white, green, white, grey, black)

    Agender

    bigender flag (horizontal stripes: dark pink, light pink, lavender, white, lavender, light blue, dark blue)

    Bigender

    demiboy flag (horizontal stripes: dark grey, light grey, light blue, white, light blue, light grey, dark grey)

    Demiboy

    demigirl flag (horizontal stripes: dark grey, light grey, pink, white, pink, light grey, dark grey)

    Demigirl

    femboy flag (horizontal stripes, light lilac to dark lilac, dark orange to salmon pink)

    Femboy

    gender fluid flag (horizontal stripes: pink, white, purple, black, blue)

    Gender fluid

    transgender flag (horizontal stripes: blue, pink, white, pink, blue)

    Transgender

    trans bi flag (horizontal stripes: light pink, dark pink, wine, white, wine, mauve, light blue)

    Transgender bisexual

    gender queer flag (horizontal stripes: mauve, white, green)

    Gender queer

    non binary flag (horizontal stripes: yellow, white, purple, black)

    Non-binary

    neutrois flag (horiztonal stripes: white, green, black)

    Neutrois

    Rainbow flag (horizontal stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet)

    rainbow flag

  • My family won't understand this

    That can be true. Usually we have a reasonable grasp of where our family might sit with this information. Nevertheless, some of us will be surprised. Family, partners and friends can get a little overwhelmed and may not know what they can say without causing offence. Friends and family can also confuse gender expression and think your sexuality is changing, even though it may not change at all. Basically, there can be a lot of confusion and it can feel like the gender-diverse person has to take on an education role. It is important to look after yourself, because ultimately it is not your responsibility to educate others. 

    Good information for allies of gender diverse people include:

    • Glaad.org - tips for becoming a better ally to transgender people
    • transequality.org - understanding, being respectful and supportive to non-binary people
  • I can't get my appearance to be exactly how I want

    If we become distressed by our appearance in a way that is affecting our functioning in life then this may be a sign of gender dysphoria. Working with an appropriate health professional can help to address our concerns and help us feel OK with the progress we are making to express our gender either socially, medically or both.

Boosters

Below are three things you can do to boost success.

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  • Connect with people who understand

    Finding people who validate our gender and support us is very important. Consider contacting services online or use phone lines (e.g. Q Life), or even have counselling using a false name if that is a concern for you. It can also help to have some people you can go out with safely. Check out your local town/city and see if there are any groups supporting gender diverse people. For example, an organisation such as Black Rainbow.

  • Acknowledge the journey

    Think of the journey to express gender as something to savour rather than be fixated on an ideal image at the end. This way you can get some satisfaction from the steps you take.

  • Establish good relationships with health professionals

    It makes the journey a lot easier if you have health professionals with appropriate knowledge and compassion for gender diverse issues. It is a good idea to hunt around until you find the right people for you. Online forums, recommendations from other people who might have experience with health professionals and the list of services at the bottom of this page can be a good place to start.

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