Gender refers to a person's experience of their identity relative to the categories of masculinity and femininity and any other genders recognized by their society. Every person's gender is a complex and unique experience, and it can be difficult to express this gender to others. Some parts of the experience of gender include:
- Gender identity: How a person thinks of their own gender within themselves. In nearly all circumstances, this is what is meant when discussing 'gender'. Gender identity is a personal choice and cannot be dictated by others.
- Gender expression: The way a person chooses to present themselves to others in order to communicate their gender.
- Sex: The way the person's physical body reflects characteristics associated with gender. Sex and gender identity are often conflated, but in fact sex is completely separate from gender identity.
- Relationship to gender roles: The way a person views the roles that society expects them to play based on their gender.
- Dysphoria: Discomfort with any of the above, or a desire to change any aspects of one's gender (transition).
Gender is not related to sexual orientation, except in that societal gender roles might include the expectation of sexual attraction to a particular gender.
Gender is a social construct, and can only be interpreted within a given society's definition of masculine and feminine. Western society is based upon a gender binary which assumes that all people can be categorized via their sexual characteristics as either male or female. However, there are many people who do not identify with their assigned sex or consider their gender to be outside this binary.
Because gender is a personal experience which cannot be shared directly, it can be challenging to imagine that others experience gender differently to the way you do, which often leads to discrimination based on gender.