What is gender?

The Hawaiʻi Department of Health recognizes that transgender rights is a public health issue. Gender is different from sexual orientation. Someone who is gender nonconforming, for example, is not necessarily lesbian, gay, bisexual, or any other sexual minority identity. When learning about gender, it helps to understand the following 3 concepts:

Gender identity describes someone’s personal sense of their gender. What gender do they know themselves to be? This not only includes woman and man, but also middle, third, other, and no genders.

Sex assigned at birth is the perceived biological sex someone is labeled with at birth. This can be the same or different as someone’s gender identity.

  • Most people are assigned female or male at birth, although some people are born with ambiguous sex characteristics who are broadly referred to as intersex.
  • Someone who identifies with a gender that corresponds to their sex assigned at birth is cisgender.
  • Someone who identifies with a gender that does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth may consider themselves transgender or gender non-conforming.

Gender expression is how someone appears to align with a particular gender through speech, clothing, mannerisms, and behavior. This is dependent on cultural context, and it includes gender roles.