Gender – What is it?

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What do we mean when we say the word Gender?

Gender can mean different things for different people, GOSHH provides a confidential and safe environment for people to explore their gender and the views of others.

For most people, their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth (cisgender). Others identify as being transgender or gender-diverse.

The World health organisation talks about Gender in the following way:

Gender is how society sees men and women, this includes gender norms and behaviours such as ‘men are breadwinners and women are homemakers’. It also includes the roles and relationships people have with each other. Some Gender norms vary from society to society and can be changed. Some people are born either male, female or intersex, they are then taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or other sexes within households, communities and work places.


When individuals or groups do not “fit” established gender norms they often face stigma, discriminatory practices or social exclusion – all of which adversely affect health. It is important to be sensitive to different identities that do not necessarily fit into binary male or female sex categories.

Gender norms, roles and relations influence people’s susceptibility to different health conditions and diseases and affect their enjoyment of good mental, physical health and wellbeing. They also have a bearing on people’s access to and uptake of health services and on the health outcomes they experience throughout the life-course.

Another way to look at this is:

Gender is used to describe the characteristics of women and men that are socially constructed, while sex refers to those that are biologically determined. People are born female or male, but learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men. This learned behaviour makes up gender identity and determines gender roles

Gender is individual to each person, we all have a view of our self that may not line up with societies expectations about how we should behave, it is important to recognise our own gender and how we express this to the outside world and to strive to be comfortable in our own skin and learn to live in a way that honours our feelings and sense of self.

Gender Expression

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A person’s gender is expressed outwardly through their name, preferred pronouns, clothing, haircut, behaviour, voice, or body characteristics.

Gender expression includes using facilities (like bathrooms and changing rooms) that are right for a person’s own sense of gender. Society thinks of these cues as masculine and feminine, although what‘s considered masculine and feminine changes over time and within different cultures.

Gender Identity

Gender identity means a person’s internal sense of whether they’re male or female, both, or neither. It’s a person’s internal, deeply-held sense of their own gender. Gender identity is not visible to others.

Gender identity may be the same as the sex they were assigned at birth (cisgender) or not (transgender). A transgender person’s internal gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Some people have a gender identity as a man (or boy) or a woman (or girl). Some people’s gender identity doesn’t fit into one of these genders. They may identify as a gender, which means they don’t identify with a gender at all.