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What Is Your Gender Identity?

Tell us how you’ve come to understand your gender identity, and what it means to you.

what is my gender identity essay

By Katherine Schulten

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Note to teachers and students: To prepare to answer these questions, you might visit our recent lesson plan on transgender athletes that began with the definitions of some relevant terms as well as a “temperature check” exercise with questions about talking about gender in general.

Have you ever considered your gender identity? How comfortable do you feel talking about it? What does that identity mean to you? How do you express it?

Do you, like a growing number of teenagers, identify with a nontraditional gender label, or do you know someone who does? A 2019 article about nonbinary teenage fashion explained:

The word “nonbinary” became something people asked the internet about around 2014, making a steady upward climb to present day. Gender identity has become an international conversation, especially among teenagers. In 2017, a University of California, Los Angeles study found that 27 percent (796,000) of California youth between the ages of 12-17 believed they were seen by others as gender nonconforming. More teenagers overall are identifying with nontraditional gender labels, according to a March 2018 study published in the journal Pediatrics . Some progressive synagogues and Jewish communities are holding nonbinary mitzvahs . Nonbinary teenagers are choosing non-gendered for driver’s licenses . “When we’re looking at trends that we might see in the community of youth who are identifying as nonbinary, what we really are seeing is a community of people who are just accepting the diversity of gender expression,” said Jeremy Wernick, a clinical assistant professor in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at N.Y.U. Langone. Mr. Wernick’s work focuses on gender-expansive children and adolescents. “Yes, nonbinary kiddos are sort of leading the way in pushing the boundaries of those binary stereotypes,” Mr. Wernick said. “But what they’re really doing is modeling for other young people and adults the reality that gender expression can inevitably have an impact on the rest of the world if things are accepted and celebrated.”

This week, the Times Opinion section published an essay about gender exploration during the pandemic, in which a transgender-nonbinary writer, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich writer, asks, “ How Do I Define My Gender if No One Is Watching Me? ”:

When the world went into lockdown five months after I started taking testosterone, I thought it would be easier not to see people for a while. Maybe they wouldn’t hear my voice go scratchy or see up close the hormonal acne splattered across my face. Alone in my apartment, I imagined that all my difficulties in being seen and recognized as transgender-nonbinary would evaporate. No one would gender me except myself; my pronouns would be right there in the text box on my Zoom screen. So I was surprised by how much my gender instead seemed to almost evaporate. No longer on the alert for how to signal a restaurant’s waitstaff that neither “he” nor “she” applied to me, or for whether colleagues and neighbors would use the right language — devoid of anyone to signal my gender to — I felt, suddenly, amorphous and undefined. It was as though when I had swapped my Oxford shoes and neckties for fuzzy slippers and soft sweatpants, I, too, had lost my sharply tailored definition. After I podded with two trans friends, the only people I saw from closer than six feet were also nonbinary, neither men nor women. Among us, not only the once ubiquitous binary, but also any gender expectations, had vanished. Where did my own gender reside, then, if not in sending signals of difference? My friends and I had long joked, “Gender is a social construct!” every time one of us needed shoring up after a messy encounter with the expectations of the gender-conforming heterosexual world. But without that world, we now added a rueful punchline: “Too bad there’s no more ‘social’!”

The essay continues:

Wanting to understand how others were adjusting to the pandemic change, I reached out to Rebecca Minor, a licensed clinical social worker who works with trans youth. “What’s really struck me,” she told me, “is that removing the peer gaze has allowed for more gender experimentation.” Ms. Minor is in private practice and estimates that 85 percent of her clients are transgender. She works with teenagers, who are at an age when they spend endless hours watching and being watched. Thanks to Zoom school, she told me, “the peer gaze isn’t entirely gone” — but now it can be controlled. “It removes that feeling that someone sitting in the row behind me might be snickering or looking at what I’m wearing,” she said. It removes, in other words, the policing of gender. To be sure, Ms. Minor’s clients, who are predominantly white, have resources that have protected them in the pandemic. They have supportive families, health care and economic stability. I, too, am white and thus privileged. Like them, I live in the liberal Northeast. For them, as for me, the time at home has been something of a reprieve. Ms. Minor told me about the change in one client, a young, white, trans girl who had been struggling in school both socially and academically before the pandemic. “What we’re seeing is someone who finally isn’t having all of their space in their head taken up by worrying about their safety, worrying about other people’s perceptions of them,” Ms. Minor said. In her place was now a star student who had been missing.

Students, read one or both articles , then tell us:

How much have you thought about your gender identity? How have you come to understand that identity? How comfortable are you in talking about that with others? What questions about gender and gender expression do you have?

How has the world — including your parents, teachers and friends, as well as strangers like waiters in a restaurant — tended to interpret your presentation of gender? Do people understand you differently than you would like to be understood?

How do you express your gender identity? For example, the article on nonbinary teen fashion described how some young people are exploring via unisex clothes, or fashion that plays with notions of masculinity and femininity. Have you ever experimented with expressing gender? How?

What do you like about being the gender you are? What do you dislike? Why?

How much do the communities you are a part of discuss gender and gender-related issues? To what extent are the young people you know “pushing the boundaries of those binary stereotypes”? Do you feel as if there is a general acceptance of diversity of expression in these communities, or does it feel more like a “policing of gender”?

The Opinion essay focuses on how the pandemic gave some people time and space to question their identities. Has it been your experience this year that being away from school, and thus mostly removed from the “peer gaze,” has allowed you to be more yourself, whether in terms of gender expression or anything else? If so, how?

What do you think older generations should know or better understand about gender and gender expression?

Some of these questions were developed with the help of Connie Noyes, a 17-year-old from New York City who identifies as a trans girl.

About Student Opinion

• Find all of our Student Opinion questions in this column . • Have an idea for a Student Opinion question? Tell us about it . • Learn more about how to use our free daily writing prompts for remote learning .

Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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Pride Month

A guide to gender identity terms.

Laurel Wamsley at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., November 7, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley)

Laurel Wamsley

what is my gender identity essay

"Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It's how someone refers to you in conversation," says Mary Emily O'Hara, a communications officer at GLAAD. "And when you're speaking to people, it's a really simple way to affirm their identity." Kaz Fantone for NPR hide caption

"Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It's how someone refers to you in conversation," says Mary Emily O'Hara, a communications officer at GLAAD. "And when you're speaking to people, it's a really simple way to affirm their identity."

Issues of equality and acceptance of transgender and nonbinary people — along with challenges to their rights — have become a major topic in the headlines. These issues can involve words and ideas and identities that are new to some.

That's why we've put together a glossary of terms relating to gender identity. Our goal is to help people communicate accurately and respectfully with one another.

Proper use of gender identity terms, including pronouns, is a crucial way to signal courtesy and acceptance. Alex Schmider , associate director of transgender representation at GLAAD, compares using someone's correct pronouns to pronouncing their name correctly – "a way of respecting them and referring to them in a way that's consistent and true to who they are."

Glossary of gender identity terms

This guide was created with help from GLAAD . We also referenced resources from the National Center for Transgender Equality , the Trans Journalists Association , NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists , Human Rights Campaign , InterAct and the American Psychological Association . This guide is not exhaustive, and is Western and U.S.-centric. Other cultures may use different labels and have other conceptions of gender.

One thing to note: Language changes. Some of the terms now in common usage are different from those used in the past to describe similar ideas, identities and experiences. Some people may continue to use terms that are less commonly used now to describe themselves, and some people may use different terms entirely. What's important is recognizing and respecting people as individuals.

Jump to a term: Sex, gender , gender identity , gender expression , cisgender , transgender , nonbinary , agender , gender-expansive , gender transition , gender dysphoria , sexual orientation , intersex

Jump to Pronouns : questions and answers

Sex refers to a person's biological status and is typically assigned at birth, usually on the basis of external anatomy. Sex is typically categorized as male, female or intersex.

Gender is often defined as a social construct of norms, behaviors and roles that varies between societies and over time. Gender is often categorized as male, female or nonbinary.

Gender identity is one's own internal sense of self and their gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not outwardly visible to others.

For most people, gender identity aligns with the sex assigned at birth, the American Psychological Association notes. For transgender people, gender identity differs in varying degrees from the sex assigned at birth.

Gender expression is how a person presents gender outwardly, through behavior, clothing, voice or other perceived characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine or feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture.

Cisgender, or simply cis , is an adjective that describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Transgender, or simply trans, is an adjective used to describe someone whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth. A transgender man, for example, is someone who was listed as female at birth but whose gender identity is male.

Cisgender and transgender have their origins in Latin-derived prefixes of "cis" and "trans" — cis, meaning "on this side of" and trans, meaning "across from" or "on the other side of." Both adjectives are used to describe experiences of someone's gender identity.

Nonbinary is a term that can be used by people who do not describe themselves or their genders as fitting into the categories of man or woman. A range of terms are used to refer to these experiences; nonbinary and genderqueer are among the terms that are sometimes used.

Agender is an adjective that can describe a person who does not identify as any gender.

Gender-expansive is an adjective that can describe someone with a more flexible gender identity than might be associated with a typical gender binary.

Gender transition is a process a person may take to bring themselves and/or their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. It's not just one step. Transitioning can include any, none or all of the following: telling one's friends, family and co-workers; changing one's name and pronouns; updating legal documents; medical interventions such as hormone therapy; or surgical intervention, often called gender confirmation surgery.

Gender dysphoria refers to psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one's sex assigned at birth and one's gender identity. Not all trans people experience dysphoria, and those who do may experience it at varying levels of intensity.

Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some argue that such a diagnosis inappropriately pathologizes gender incongruence, while others contend that a diagnosis makes it easier for transgender people to access necessary medical treatment.

Sexual orientation refers to the enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or other genders, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight orientations.

People don't need to have had specific sexual experiences to know their own sexual orientation. They need not have had any sexual experience at all. They need not be in a relationship, dating or partnered with anyone for their sexual orientation to be validated. For example, if a bisexual woman is partnered with a man, that does not mean she is not still bisexual.

Sexual orientation is separate from gender identity. As GLAAD notes , "Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a straight woman. A person who transitions from female to male and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a gay man."

Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe people with differences in reproductive anatomy, chromosomes or hormones that don't fit typical definitions of male and female.

Intersex can refer to a number of natural variations, some of them laid out by InterAct . Being intersex is not the same as being nonbinary or transgender, which are terms typically related to gender identity.

Nonbinary Photographer Documents Gender Dysphoria Through A Queer Lens

The Picture Show

Nonbinary photographer documents gender dysphoria through a queer lens, pronouns: questions and answers.

What is the role of pronouns in acknowledging someone's gender identity?

Everyone has pronouns that are used when referring to them – and getting those pronouns right is not exclusively a transgender issue.

"Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It's how someone refers to you in conversation," says Mary Emily O'Hara , a communications officer at GLAAD. "And when you're speaking to people, it's a really simple way to affirm their identity."

"So, for example, using the correct pronouns for trans and nonbinary youth is a way to let them know that you see them, you affirm them, you accept them and to let them know that they're loved during a time when they're really being targeted by so many discriminatory anti-trans state laws and policies," O'Hara says.

"It's really just about letting someone know that you accept their identity. And it's as simple as that."

what is my gender identity essay

Getting the words right is about respect and accuracy, says Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Kaz Fantone for NPR hide caption

Getting the words right is about respect and accuracy, says Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

What's the right way to find out a person's pronouns?

Start by giving your own – for example, "My pronouns are she/her."

"If I was introducing myself to someone, I would say, 'I'm Rodrigo. I use him pronouns. What about you?' " says Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen , deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

O'Hara says, "It may feel awkward at first, but eventually it just becomes another one of those get-to-know-you questions."

Should people be asking everyone their pronouns? Or does it depend on the setting?

Knowing each other's pronouns helps you be sure you have accurate information about another person.

How a person appears in terms of gender expression "doesn't indicate anything about what their gender identity is," GLAAD's Schmider says. By sharing pronouns, "you're going to get to know someone a little better."

And while it can be awkward at first, it can quickly become routine.

Heng-Lehtinen notes that the practice of stating one's pronouns at the bottom of an email or during introductions at a meeting can also relieve some headaches for people whose first names are less common or gender ambiguous.

"Sometimes Americans look at a name and are like, 'I have no idea if I'm supposed to say he or she for this name' — not because the person's trans, but just because the name is of a culture that you don't recognize and you genuinely do not know. So having the pronouns listed saves everyone the headache," Heng-Lehtinen says. "It can be really, really quick once you make a habit of it. And I think it saves a lot of embarrassment for everybody."

Might some people be uncomfortable sharing their pronouns in a public setting?

Schmider says for cisgender people, sharing their pronouns is generally pretty easy – so long as they recognize that they have pronouns and know what they are. For others, it could be more difficult to share their pronouns in places where they don't know people.

But there are still benefits in sharing pronouns, he says. "It's an indication that they understand that gender expression does not equal gender identity, that you're not judging people just based on the way they look and making assumptions about their gender beyond what you actually know about them."

How is "they" used as a singular pronoun?

"They" is already commonly used as a singular pronoun when we are talking about someone, and we don't know who they are, O'Hara notes. Using they/them pronouns for someone you do know simply represents "just a little bit of a switch."

"You're just asking someone to not act as if they don't know you, but to remove gendered language from their vocabulary when they're talking about you," O'Hara says.

"I identify as nonbinary myself and I appear feminine. People often assume that my pronouns are she/her. So they will use those. And I'll just gently correct them and say, hey, you know what, my pronouns are they/them just FYI, for future reference or something like that," they say.

O'Hara says their family and friends still struggle with getting the pronouns right — and sometimes O'Hara struggles to remember others' pronouns, too.

"In my community, in the queer community, with a lot of trans and nonbinary people, we all frequently remind each other or remind ourselves. It's a sort of constant mindfulness where you are always catching up a little bit," they say.

"You might know someone for 10 years, and then they let you know their pronouns have changed. It's going to take you a little while to adjust, and that's fine. It's OK to make those mistakes and correct yourself, and it's OK to gently correct someone else."

What if I make a mistake and misgender someone, or use the wrong words?

Simply apologize and move on.

"I think it's perfectly natural to not know the right words to use at first. We're only human. It takes any of us some time to get to know a new concept," Heng-Lehtinen says. "The important thing is to just be interested in continuing to learn. So if you mess up some language, you just say, 'Oh, I'm so sorry,' correct yourself and move forward. No need to make it any more complicated than that. Doing that really simple gesture of apologizing quickly and moving on shows the other person that you care. And that makes a really big difference."

Why are pronouns typically given in the format "she/her" or "they/them" rather than just "she" or "they"?

The different iterations reflect that pronouns change based on how they're used in a sentence. And the "he/him" format is actually shorter than the previously common "he/him/his" format.

"People used to say all three and then it got down to two," Heng-Lehtinen laughs. He says staff at his organization was recently wondering if the custom will eventually shorten to just one pronoun. "There's no real rule about it. It's absolutely just been habit," he says.

Amid Wave Of Anti-Trans Bills, Trans Reporters Say 'Telling Our Own Stories' Is Vital

Amid Wave Of Anti-Trans Bills, Trans Reporters Say 'Telling Our Own Stories' Is Vital

But he notes a benefit of using he/him and she/her: He and she rhyme. "If somebody just says he or she, I could very easily mishear that and then still get it wrong."

What does it mean if a person uses the pronouns "he/they" or "she/they"?

"That means that the person uses both pronouns, and you can alternate between those when referring to them. So either pronoun would be fine — and ideally mix it up, use both. It just means that they use both pronouns that they're listing," Heng-Lehtinen says.

Schmider says it depends on the person: "For some people, they don't mind those pronouns being interchanged for them. And for some people, they are using one specific pronoun in one context and another set of pronouns in another, dependent on maybe safety or comfortability."

The best approach, Schmider says, is to listen to how people refer to themselves.

Why might someone's name be different than what's listed on their ID?

Heng-Lehtinen notes that there's a perception when a person comes out as transgender, they change their name and that's that. But the reality is a lot more complicated and expensive when it comes to updating your name on government documents.

"It is not the same process as changing your last name when you get married. There is bizarrely a separate set of rules for when you are changing your name in marriage versus changing your name for any other reason. And it's more difficult in the latter," he says.

"When you're transgender, you might not be able to update all of your government IDs, even though you want to," he says. "I've been out for over a decade. I still have not been able to update all of my documents because the policies are so onerous. I've been able to update my driver's license, Social Security card and passport, but I cannot update my birth certificate."

"Just because a transgender person doesn't have their authentic name on their ID doesn't mean it's not the name that they really use every day," he advises. "So just be mindful to refer to people by the name they really use regardless of their driver's license."

NPR's Danielle Nett contributed to this report.

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Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of The Anxiety Workbook and founder of the website About Social Anxiety. She has a Master's degree in clinical psychology.

what is my gender identity essay

Margaret Seide, MS, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of depression, addiction, and eating disorders. 

what is my gender identity essay

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List of Gender Identities

History of gender identity, gender identity and mental health, resources and support.

Gender is separate from sex. Although genetic factors usually define a person's biological sex, people determine their own gender identity.

Explore what gender identity is and find out the definitions of several unique gender identities. Discover where individuals can find support if they experience gender dysphoria.

What Is Gender Identity? 

Because a person's sex and gender identity are separate, it's essential to know the difference between them. 

A person’s sex is often based on biological factors, such as their sex chromosomes, reproductive organs, and hormones.

Sex is determined by more than Xs and Ys

  • chromosomal pattern (XX vs. XY)
  • nature of gonads (ovary vs. testes)
  • predominance of circulating sex hormones (estrogen vs. androgen)
  • anatomy of genitalia and secondary sexual characters

Sex is typically assigned at birth depending on the appearance of external genitalia. However, it isn't always black and white, and the sex assigned at birth may need to be changed.

Someone can have the XX or XY chromosomes that people associate with typical males and females, but their reproductive organs, genitals, or both can look and function differently.

Others do not have the standard XX or XY, and can be missing an X or have an extra X or extra Y. All of these are known as "differences of sex development (DSD)." People may also refer to this as intersex, ambiguous sex, or hermaphrodite .

Typically, people will identify with the terms “male,” “female,” or “intersex” regarding a person’s sex. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) perceives gender as a social construct that people typically describe as femininity and masculinity. This includes stereotypical gender norms, behaviors, roles, and expectations.

In many Western cultures, people have binary categories for gender and associate femininity with women and masculinity with men, but this social construct varies from society to society.

Gender Identity

Gender identity is someone's internal experience of gender and how they choose to express themselves externally. We cannot assume someone's gender identity based on their chromosomes, genitalia, clothing, roles, or otherwise. Gender identity may evolve and change over time.

There are two overarching categories of gender identity:

  • Cisgender: Someone who is cisgender identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a cisgender woman identifies with being a female, the sex assigned at birth.  
  • Transgender: An umbrella term encompassing everyone who experiences and identifies with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. The word also encompasses those who identify as a gender other than man or woman, including nonbinary and genderfluid.  

Gender expression has two overarching categories as well:

  • Conforming: the individual's behavior, clothing, and appearance are consistent with what is expected by society.
  • Non-conforming: the individual veers away from the norms of society when it comes to the way they express their gender. Both cis- and transgender people can be gender non-conforming. For example, cisgender women do not necessarily conform to all feminine constructs in terms of roles, activities, domestic responsibilities, clothing preferences, hairstyles, etc.

People can use different pronouns, and modify their name, their appearance, clothing style, and behaviors in accordance to the gender(s) they identify with, and with the ways they choose to express their gender.

For those who have an incongruent experience between their sex assigned at birth and their experience of gender, there are many different gender identities that may resonate better, including gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none, or a combination of these.

The following list explains a few of them:

  • Agender: Someone who doesn't identify with one particular gender and may consider themselves to be gender neutral or doesn't have a dominant gender at all. They may be flexible, open, and not worried about gender norms and labels.
  • Androgyne: Sometimes referred to as androgynous, this is someone whose gender is blended with both feminine and masculine characteristics. 
  • Bigender : Someone who identifies as bigender has the experience of two genders, but not strictly male and female genders. They often display some degree of both culturally feminine and masculine roles. 
  • Butch: Women, particularly lesbians, tend to use this term to describe how they express masculinity or what society defines as masculinity. However, the LGBTQIA Resource Center notes that "butch" can also be used as a gender identity in itself.
  • Demigender: This term is used to describe someone who partially identifies with a particular gender, but not necessarily the sex they were assigned at birth. They may label themselves as demiboy or demigirl.
  • Gender expansive: The LGBTQIA Resource Center defines this as an umbrella term used for those who expand their culture's commonly held interpretations of gender. This includes expectations for the way gender is expressed, identities, roles, and perceived gender norms. Gender-expansive people include those who are trans, non-binary, and those whose gender broadens society's notion of what gender is.  
  • Genderfluid: Someone who identifies as gender-fluid has a presentation and gender identity that shifts between genders, and may shift and evolve over time. They may also experience gender in a way that is outside of society's expectations of gender. 
  • Gender outlaw: Someone who refuses to allow society's definition of "female" or "male" to define what they are. 
  • Genderqueer : Somebody who identifies as genderqueer has a gender identity that does not fit neatly into male or female gender identity, or masculine versus feminine expressions. They may feel they are neither, or both, or a combination of various gender identities including male, female, and non-binary.
  • Masculine of center: This term is typically used by lesbians and trans people, who lean more towards masculine expressions and experiences of gender.   One can also be feminine of center, which would be the opposite.
  • Nonbinary : Someone who is nonbinary doesn't experience gender within the gender binary of male and female. They may also experience overlap with a variety of gender expressions, such as being gender non-conforming. 
  • Omnigender: Someone who experiences and possesses all genders.  
  • Polygender and pangender: Someone who experiences and displays aspects of multiple genders. 
  • Trans: This term is more inclusive because it includes those who identify as nonbinary and genderless, according to the LGBTQIA Resource Center.  
  • Two-Spirit : An umbrella term that encompasses a variety of sexualities and genders in Indigenous Native American communities. There are various definitions of Two-Spirit, and Indigenous Native American people may or may not use it to describe their experiences and feelings of masculinity and femininity. It's a cultural term that's reserved for those who identify as Indigenous Native Americans.  

Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same things, but there can be some overlap. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual identities have been present in various ways throughout history. All cultures have included, with different degrees of acceptance, those who practice same-sex relations and those whose gender identity, and gender expression test current norms. 

And more recently, issues of sexuality and gender have been highly politicized. The last fifty years have witnessed a rise in political activism surrounding the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity, largely influenced by opposing political parties and religious communities. There is a constant push-pull toward laws and policies that either move toward or away from acceptance, equality, affirmation, and support.   In some societies, this can be a matter of life and death.

People who are gender diverse or those who don't identify with the gender they were assigned at birth may have a variety of stressful experiences that contribute to an increased risk of mental health issues, such as: 

  • Gender Dysphoria
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideations

However, it’s essential to note that gender diversity, on its own, is not a mental health disorder. The diagnosis of "gender identity disorder" was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 2013. It has been replaced by "gender dysphoria" which describes the distress that someone may experience when their gender identity does not match their sex.

Society's Perception of Various Genders

Some everyday experiences that can increase someone's vulnerability to developing mental health difficulties are: 

  • Feelings of distress because your gender identity does not match your assigned sex at birth.
  • Feeling uncomfortable with your primary and secondary sex characteristics that do not match your identity, and desiring to have the opposite sex characteristics or no sex characteristics at all
  • Feeling "different" or separate from people around you
  • Being bullied because of your gender identity and expression
  • Feeling pressured to dismiss your feelings concerning your gender identity
  • Fear or worry about your gender identity being accepted by your loved ones, alongside the chance of being rejected or isolated
  • Feeling unsupported or misunderstood by loved ones
  • Feeling stressed and concerned about the pressure to conform to your biological sex.

These pressures can be very stressful, especially when combined with other issues in your life, such as managing school, finding a job, forming relationships, and making sense of who you are and your place in the world.

If you're struggling to come to terms with your gender identity or are being bullied or feeling isolated or depressed, there are many resources available that can provide the support and care that you deserve:

  • The Trevor Project, which is an LGBTQ+ organization that provides resources, education, and support
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality , an organization that provides support for transgender people
  • PFLAG, an organization that provides assistance, education, and aid throughout the United States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico
  • Trans Youth Family Allies, a website that offers resources and education to family members, friends, and allies of gender variant, gender questioning, and transgender people
  • Gender Spectrum , a resource and education site.
  • World Professional Association for Transgender Health,  a website with a directory of healthcare providers for transgender people.

A Word From Verywell

Not everyone accepts people with diverse gender identities, which can harm a person's mental health. However, there are multiple organizations that people can turn to for support. No matter your gender, you are deserving of love, equality, support, and care.

World Health Organization. Gender .

LGBTQIA Resource Center. LGBTQIA Resource Center Glossary .

American Psychological Association. History of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender social movements .

By Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of The Anxiety Workbook and founder of the website About Social Anxiety. She has a Master's degree in clinical psychology.

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Gender can either be something you never think about or something that consumes you and seeps into everything you do. How is gender identity so prominent in some of our lives while others take it for granted? How can one word be so polarizing and personal? To get some of these answers, we need to start at the beginning—your beginning. 

When most people are born, they’re given a label of either male or female based on their genitals. That label is then used to define both their sex and gender. 

Medical professionals typically assign sex based on the appearance of a person’s genitals because they are most visible. The full picture of your sex, though, can’t be seen without more exploration. Sex is a combination of your anatomy, reproductive organs, and chromosomes. It’s not uncommon for sex to be more than simply male or female.

Intersex people are those whose internal organs, chromosomes, or genitals do not fit neatly into male or female boxes. Some people know they are intersex growing up, and others find out later in life.

Gender identity is different from sex or gender assigned at birth. Gender identity is how we see ourselves in terms of being male, female, neither, both, or something in between. Despite being given an assigned gender, we may realize the label just doesn’t fit. 

As we grow up and get to know ourselves, each of us tends to develop a personal sense of our gender identity. Research shows that most of us have a strong sense of our gender by the time we are three or four years old. When your gender identity matches your gender assigned at birth, you may refer to yourself as cisgender. When your identity does not match your gender assigned at birth, you may identify as transgender.

Most people—whether they identify as transgender or cisgender—fall into a binary gender category (male or female), while others are somewhere in between (nonbinary) or don’t feel connected to either gender (agender). 

Whether or not you are ready to talk to someone about your relationship with your gender identity, know that you deserve to be seen as your authentic gender. Coming out as a gender different than the one you were assigned at birth can be scary, but you are among many amazing people who also identify as transgender or nonbinary. You can—and will—find the resources and people you need to live a full and happy life. 

Gender identity is our internal concept of our gender, but gender expression is how we present our gender identity through our appearance—including what we wear, how we style our hair, and if and how we wear makeup. It can also be in the names and pronouns we choose for ourselves. How we express our gender may or may not conform to what our families, friends, or society associates with our sex or gender identity, but we all have the right to express our gender in ways that feel authentic and give us joy.

Pronouns are the words we use for ourselves—and would like others to use—when referring to us. Some examples of pronouns include:

  • She/her/hers
  • They/them/theirs
  • Xe/xem/xeirs

Sometimes it feels right to use more than one pronoun (“she/they,” for example) which means either pronoun set feels OK. You may also choose to use multiple pronouns for a period of time to see what feels best. There can be a lot of exploration involved in figuring out what gender means to you, and sometimes it takes hearing other people refer to you with certain pronouns to know what hits right. 

Your gender identity isn’t the same as your sexual orientation. Gender identity is about who you are, and sexual orientation is about attraction and who you might want to form relationships with. 

Both gender identity and sexual orientation are spectrums and can change over time. It’s important to understand that your gender identity doesn’t dictate your sexual orientation. People of any gender can have any sexual orientation.

It can feel intimidating to explore something as complicated as your gender, but it can also be exciting and affirming to find the identity that feels right to you, even if it takes a little time. There is no “right” age to explore and understand your gender identity. Some people understand their identities early in life, and others come to their identities later.

If you or someone you know is struggling with challenges related to gender identity—or struggling to get others in their life to accept their identity—it’s important to reach out for support. Try contacting The Trevor Project , a leading national organization providing crisis-intervention services for LGBTQIA+ youth, by texting START to 678-678 or calling 1-866-488-7386.

If you or someone you love needs help right now:

  • Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org .
  • Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
  • If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.

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What Is It like to Have a Gender Identity?

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Florence Ashley, What Is It like to Have a Gender Identity?, Mind , Volume 132, Issue 528, October 2023, Pages 1053–1073, https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzac071

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By attending to how people speak about their gender, we can find diverse answers to the question of what it is like to have a gender identity. To some, it is little more than having a body whereas others may report it as more attitudinal or dispositional—seemingly contradictory views. In this paper, I seek to reconcile these disparate answers by developing a theory of how individual gender identity comes about. In the simplest possible terms, I propose that gender identity is how we make sense of our gender subjectivity, the totality of our gendered experiences of ourselves. Gender identity is constituted by gender subjectivity, but this constitutive relationship is underdetermined. While gender subjectivity may narrow the range of inhabitable gender identities, it is always compatible with more than one. To arrive at a gender identity, we arrange gender subjectivity like building materials. My theory helps us understand how different people offer seemingly incompatible accounts of their gender identity without questioning their authenticity or validity. They simply arrange similar building materials differently.

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Home — Essay Samples — Sociology — Sociology of Gender — Gender Identity

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Essays on Gender Identity

In an era where conversations about gender identity have moved to the forefront of social discourse, understanding the complexities of how individuals experience and express their gender has never been more important. At GradesFixer, we offer a rich collection of essay samples on gender identity that delve into the nuanced exploration of this vital aspect of human experience. These essays serve as a critical resource for students, educators, and anyone keen on deepening their understanding of gender identity.

A Multifaceted Exploration through Essays

Our collection spans a broad spectrum of topics related to gender identity, including but not limited to the distinction between gender and sex, the role of society in shaping gender norms , and the experiences of transgender and non-binary individuals. By presenting a variety of perspectives, we aim to illuminate the diverse ways in which people understand, negotiate, and articulate their gender identities.

Support for Academic and Personal Inquiry

For students tasked with writing a gender identity essay, our samples provide an invaluable foundation of ideas, analytical frameworks, and narrative approaches. These essays exemplify how to critically and empathetically engage with stories of gender exploration and the impact of societal norms on individual identity formation. Drawing from our collection, students can craft essays that are both informative and reflective, contributing meaningful insights to the ongoing conversation on gender identity.

Encouraging Inclusive and Informed Dialogue

Beyond serving as an academic resource, our gender identity essay samples play a role in fostering a more inclusive and informed dialogue on gender issues. They encourage readers to question assumptions, recognize the diversity of gender experiences, and appreciate the importance of supporting all individuals in their journey toward self-understanding and acceptance.

Join Our Engaged Community of Learners and Thinkers

At GradesFixer, we're committed to promoting a deeper understanding of gender identity through scholarly exploration and personal reflection. We invite you to explore our collection of gender identity essay samples, draw inspiration and knowledge for your own writing, and join the critical discussions that shape our perceptions of gender in the modern world.

The discourse on gender identity is dynamic and continually evolving, reflecting the complexities of human identity in a changing world. With our curated collection of essay samples, you're well-equipped to engage with this discourse, offering fresh perspectives and enriching the academic and social understanding of gender identity. Explore our collection today to support your research, writing, and exploration of gender identity.

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what is my gender identity essay

Jonathan D. Raskin, Ph.D.

Understanding Gender, Sex, and Gender Identity

It's more important than ever to use this terminology correctly..

Posted February 27, 2021 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina

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Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene hung a sign outside her Capitol office door that said “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE. ‘Trust the Science!’” There are many reasons to question hanging such a sign, but given that Rep. Taylor Greene invoked science in making her assertion, I thought it might be helpful to clarify by citing some actual science. Put simply, from a scientific standpoint, Rep. Taylor Greene’s statement is patently wrong. It perpetuates a common error by conflating gender with sex . Allow me to explain how psychologists scientifically operationalize these terms.


According to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2012), sex is rooted in biology. A person’s sex is determined using observable biological criteria such as sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia (APA, 2012). Most people are classified as being either biologically male or female, although the term intersex is reserved for those with atypical combinations of biological features (APA, 2012).

Gender is related to but distinctly different from sex; it is rooted in culture, not biology. The APA (2012) defines gender as “the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex” (p. 11). Gender conformity occurs when people abide by culturally-derived gender roles (APA, 2012). Resisting gender roles (i.e., gender nonconformity ) can have significant social consequences—pro and con, depending on circumstances.

Gender identity refers to how one understands and experiences one’s own gender. It involves a person’s psychological sense of being male, female, or neither (APA, 2012). Those who identify as transgender feel that their gender identity doesn’t match their biological sex or the gender they were assigned at birth; in some cases they don’t feel they fit into into either the male or female gender categories (APA, 2012; Moleiro & Pinto, 2015). How people live out their gender identities in everyday life (in terms of how they dress, behave, and express themselves) constitutes their gender expression (APA, 2012; Drescher, 2014).

“Male” and “female” are the most common gender identities in Western culture; they form a dualistic way of thinking about gender that often informs the identity options that people feel are available to them (Prentice & Carranza, 2002). Anyone, regardless of biological sex, can closely adhere to culturally-constructed notions of “maleness” or “femaleness” by dressing, talking, and taking interest in activities stereotypically associated with traditional male or female gender identities. However, many people think “outside the box” when it comes to gender, constructing identities for themselves that move beyond the male-female binary. For examples, explore lists of famous “gender benders” from Oxygen , Vogue , More , and The Cut (not to mention Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head , whose evolving gender identities made headlines this week).

Whether society approves of these identities or not, the science on whether there are more than two genders is clear; there are as many possible gender identities as there are people psychologically forming identities. Rep. Taylor Greene’s insistence that there are just two genders merely reflects Western culture’s longstanding tradition of only recognizing “male” and “female” gender identities as “normal.” However, if we are to “trust the science” (as Rep. Taylor Greene’s recommends), then the first thing we need to do is stop mixing up biological sex and gender identity. The former may be constrained by biology, but the latter is only constrained by our imaginations.

American Psychological Association. (2012). Guidelines for psychological practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients. American Psychologist , 67 (1), 10-42. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024659

Drescher, J. (2014). Treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients. In R. E. Hales, S. C. Yudofsky, & L. W. Roberts (Eds.), The American Psychiatric Publishing textbook of psychiatry (6th ed., pp. 1293-1318). American Psychiatric Publishing.

Moleiro, C., & Pinto, N. (2015). Sexual orientation and gender identity: Review of concepts, controversies and their relation to psychopathology classification systems. Frontiers in Psychology , 6 .

Prentice, D. A., & Carranza, E. (2002). What women should be, shouldn't be, are allowed to be, and don't have to be: The contents of prescriptive gender stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly , 26 (4), 269-281. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-6402.t01-1-00066

Jonathan D. Raskin, Ph.D.

Jonathan D. Raskin, Ph.D. , is a professor of psychology and counselor education at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

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Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Essay


This essay will delve into the complexities of gender identity and sexual orientation. It will examine the spectrum of identities and orientations, societal perceptions, and the importance of understanding and acceptance in modern society. PapersOwl showcases more free essays that are examples of Gender.

How it works

Gender identity is how someone feels inside, which could be expressed in many ways, for example, by clothing, appearance, and behavior. There are a few gender identities other than the common two, female and male. When it comes to both terms, people tend to confuse the two, and although they may seem similar, it is two completely different things like being a masculine female or a feminine male, transgender and gender fluid. Some may not feel female or male and feel like they don’t identify themselves as any gender.

Usually, around 2 to 3, people start to feel like their gender isn’t the same as the one they were born with very early in life[1].

Sexual orientation is what people are attracted to and want to have a relationship with romantically, emotionally, and sexually. While many people only grew up knowing and learning at least three sexualities, many identities go under sexual orientation. For example, the three that are commonly known or heard more often are heterosexual, meaning being attracted towards a different gender, male or female. The few that aren’t often heard of or spoken about are being pansexual, which is when someone is attracted to everyone regardless of their sex or gender. When someone doesn’t feel any attraction towards anybody, they may find people physically attractive but don’t desire to do anything sexually. But some don’t like having a label or think that none of the sexualities mentioned describes who they are. It all just depends on who the person is– Sexual Orientation).

There has been research that when it comes to someone’s sexual orientation, it isn’t something a person chooses, and it’s said that it starts before birth. Although some may know what their sexual orientation is at a very young age before puberty even hits, it can change throughout their life, or it can take years for someone to know or be comfortable with their orientation finally. The saying that you can turn or change someone in a specific direction by treatment, therapy, or persuading them is false. It isn’t a phase, either. Research and scientists have believed that when it comes to someone being ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ and if it was placed on a scale of being ‘straight’ on one end and being ‘gay’ on the other end, many people would be somewhere in the middle of both. Research has found that 11% of adults acknowledge that they have been attracted to the same sex, 8.2% have at least been involved in same-sex behavior, and only 3.5% have identified themselves as gay, lesbian, and or bisexual[2].

Research was done about people’s health regarding their sexual orientation and gender identity. Researchers have concluded (that was made by collecting data) that gay and bisexual men have a higher chance of going through depression and being suicidal. Lesbians and bisexual women have the same rate as heterosexual women of getting cervical cancer. Bisexual men and women have a higher possibility of having mental health issues and smoking habits. Transgender people, mostly women of color have the most number of them becoming victims of hate violence. Transgender men and women have a higher rate of attempting suicide[3]. There are many reasons why LGBTQ people have experienced health disparities, from the stress of trying to hide or cope with their sexual orientation and gender identity to internalized homophobia, which can cause health issues.

A survey was done with 301 people asking them to answer questions that asked about their sexual orientation and gender. Out of those 301, only 47 were transgender. About nine people did not complete the study. 55% identified themselves as ‘straight’ or ‘heterosexual,’ and only 25% said they were ‘gay,’ ‘lesbian,’ or ‘homosexual.’ The survey was done to know if people would be open about their gender and orientation. To see if it’s important to ask certain questions, about 3 in 4 answered that it was important for forms to contain questions about their gender and sexual orientation[4].

Many people are constantly placed in particular groups when they are young. Based on someone’s gender, they should be and act a certain way, and someone’s orientation should only be a specific one. Like specific colors and clothing only belong to a certain female or male, and people’s behavior automatically shows their orientation. But recently when it comes to someone’s gender identity and sexual orientation, it’s seemed to have changed throughout the years. More people are being open about what they identify as and who they are as a person. I think that whether people agree with it or not, a person can identify themselves as more than just the two common genders, and a person can have a different orientation than what the majority of other people are. I also think nobody can have a say on what a person should be, and more people should start being more open-minded. Even when it comes to someone’s health I think that society needs to consider that they are people too, just like everyone else, no matter what they identify as. Someone knowing their gender identity and sexual orientation can be crucial in who they are and help them understand a little more about themselves.


  • Do Tell: High Levels of Acceptability by Patients of Routine Collection of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data in Four Diverse American Community Health Centers. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0107104
  • Parenthood, P. (n.d.). What causes sexual orientation? Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sexual-orientation-gender/sexual-orientation/what-causes-sexual-orientation


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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Essay

Cultural factors play an important role in a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, yet such influences may have a negative effect. For instance, many people tend to classify others as either female or male depending on their birth gender and treat them accordingly throughout their lives (Spielman et al., 2020). However, the cases such as that of David Reimer demonstrate that an individual’s gender identity and sexual orientation are more complicated than traditional binary views. David Reimer was an intersex person who was born as a boy, but his testicles were removed soon after he was born due to health problems (Spielman et al., 2020). The parents tried to raise the baby as a girl, yet it was difficult for the child to identify as a female (Spielman et al., 2020). Eventually, David realized that he was a male and wished to continue living as one (Spielman et al., 2020). Consequently, David Reimer’s story suggests that such cultural factors as how gender is perceived and treated in a community cannot define an individual’s identity but can rather force them to hide who they are.

Furthermore, a person who is intersexed has to deal with several cultural and emotional issues. First, despite many people being intersexed, they are quite frequently neglected by society or discriminated against when noticed (TEDx Talks, 2019). For example, intersex babies are likely to be operated on without consent and with no medical need because of cultures that recognize individuals only as male or female (TEDx Talks, 2019). Second, intersex individuals are typically told to keep their identity secret, which may cause them to feel ashamed of who they are (TEDx Talks, 2019). Moreover, society often reinforces a certain gender on intersex people to accept a personality that does not correspond with theirs (TEDx Talks, 2019). Accordingly, a person who is intersexed is usually put in a box of cultural prejudices, which cause negative emotions.

Spielman, R. M., Jenkins, W. J., & Lovett, M. D. (2020). Psychology . OpenStax.

TEDx Talks. (2019). A different kind of superpower: what it means to be intersex [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2023, December 5). Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity/

"Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity." IvyPanda , 5 Dec. 2023, ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity/.

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IvyPanda . 2023. "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity." December 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity/.

1. IvyPanda . "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity." December 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity/.


IvyPanda . "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity." December 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity/.

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    Gender identity is an individual's sense of their own gender (e.g., as a male, female, transgender, nonbinary). Gender expression is how an individual presents their gender to others through physical appearance and behavior—this may include, but is not limited to, dress, voice, or movement. Gender diverse is a term that addresses the ...

  11. Essays on Gender Identity

    1 page / 534 words. Aaron H. Devor's essay "Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender" is a thought-provoking and insightful exploration of the complex ways in which gender identity is constructed and performed within society. Devor, a renowned scholar and expert in the field of transgender...

  12. Understanding Gender, Sex, and Gender Identity

    Resisting gender roles (i.e., gender nonconformity) can have significant social consequences—pro and con, depending on circumstances. Gender identity refers to how one understands and ...


    To my mom, my brother David, and my sister Cheryl for their continued curiosity and openness about what it is that I do as a gender therapist, educator and advocate. To Joan Hood, Julie Norris, Emily Carney, Twyla Gabbard, Rhonda Strouse, Dr. Alan DeSantis, Dr.

  14. Gender Identity

    30 essay samples found. Gender identity refers to a person's deeply-felt understanding of their gender, which may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Essays could delve into the social, psychological, or biological aspects of gender identity, the experiences of transgender or non-binary individuals, or the societal and ...

  15. Gender identity

    gender identity, an individual's self-conception as a man or woman or as a boy or girl or as some combination of man/boy and woman/girl or as someone fluctuating between man/boy and woman/girl or as someone outside those categories altogether. It is distinguished from actual biological sex—i.e., male or female.

  16. Exploring gender and gender identity

    The concept of 'gender awareness' reminds us that we all need to be aware of issues such as the following: Gender is of key importance in defining the power, privilege and possibilities that some people have and some people do not have in a given society. It affects progress towards equality and freedom from discrimination.

  17. Gender Experience and Identity in the Social Context Essay

    Introduction. The concept of gender has never been a topic that is particularly easy to discuss. Over the past few decades, gender studies have stretched the concept of gender and gender identity (Asante et al. 31), questioning the established norm. Among the recent changes in viewpoints, society as a factor that shapes one's gender identity ...

  18. Transgender identities: a series of invited essays

    Essays published so far: Vic Valentine: " Self-declaration would bring Britain into line with international best practice ". Debbie Hayton: " Gender identity needs to be based on objective ...

  19. Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Essay

    Gender identity is how someone feels inside, which could be expressed in many ways, for example, by clothing, appearance, and behavior. There are a few gender identities other than the common two, female and male. When it comes to both terms, people tend to confuse the two, and although they may seem similar, it is two completely different ...

  20. Free Gender Studies Essay Examples & Topic Ideas

    Free Gender Studies Essay Examples & Topics. A gender studies essay should concentrate on the interaction between gender and other unique identifying features. Along with gender identity and representation, the given field explores race, sexuality, religion, disability, and nationality. Gender is a basic social characteristic that often goes ...

  21. My Gender Identity Essay

    My Gender Identity Essay. 1262 Words6 Pages. When parents first find out the gender of their baby, they automatically start to characterize the objects they buy based on that gender. They start to decorate the nursery in certain colors and a common theme they believe matches the sex of the baby. The most common representation for girls is pink ...

  22. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Essay

    Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Essay. Cultural factors play an important role in a person's sexual orientation and gender identity, yet such influences may have a negative effect. For instance, many people tend to classify others as either female or male depending on their birth gender and treat them accordingly throughout their lives ...