If you are like many people, you identify as being either a man or a woman. However, there are many people in our country, and in the world, who see themselves very differently. In fact, there are many who believe that identifying as a man or woman is just a small part of gender identity and gender expression. First, let's start with physical anatomy. Most people are born with male or female sex organs. However, there are some people who are born with a mix of male/female parts which is also known as intersex. We won't get into the politics of that here, however if you're going to have a better understanding of gender identity, it's important to know that some people do experience this when they are born. When people get older, they begin to feel a certain way about their sexuality and how they choose to express themselves to the outside world. Again, there is a large spectrum in regards to this, and there is not enough room here to fully describe these experiences. However, there are some basic ideas that everyone in our society should be aware of:
Gender idenity: This term refers to how a person thinks of themselves in regards to their gender. For example, as a person who was born with female sex organs, I fully identify as a woman. I wholeheartedly feel female and think of myself as female. In contrast, there are some women who think of themselves as being more masculine. Although they have female sex organs, they feel masculine in the deepest parts of who they are. In addition, there is the type of person who doesn't feel as though they are either type of gender. This is known as being gender neutral.
Gender Expression: This term refers to how a person outwardly portrays themselves to others. For example, a man may feel more like he is female, but since he is not ready to share that with others, he outwardly presents himself as being male. In contrast, there are some individuals who are secure enough in their sexuality to express themselves however they see fit. As a result, you may see a woman who identifies as male, and portrays herself as male to the outside world.