Everything you need to know about gender identity

Gender is something that goes way beyond just male or female. For many people the gender they identify with doesn’t match with the gender they were assumed to be at birth based on their physical and sexual characteristics. Check out our list below, which looks at definitions of gender and gender identities, and find out what to do if you’re being harassed because of your gender or how you identify.

What is gender?

'Gender' refers to your sense of who you are as a guy, girl or something else, as opposed to what your physical characteristics, genes and hormones indicate. Identifying your gender can be more diverse than simply seeing yourself as ‘male’ or ‘female’, and people express their gender in different ways.

If you find yourself asking ‘what gender am I?’

You're not alone if you feel as if you don’t fit your gender role and the stereotypes for your gender. Some people also feel that the sex of their body doesn’t fit right and that they would feel more comfortable as the opposite sex.

Take as long as you need to explore your gender identity

Many people identify with a gender that differs from their physical sex. Different ideas and feelings towards sex and gender are a natural part of human diversity.

Some other helpful definitions relating to gender identities

Everyone’s definition of gender is different and unique to them. There are many different words and labels that people use to describe their sex or gender characteristics and identities. Here are some of the most common ones.


A word used to describe people whose gender agrees with their body sex or assigned sex. For example, someone who was assigned female at birth and sees themself as being a woman is considered a cisgender person.

Trans and gender diverse

A general word for people whose gender is different from their physical sex, including transgender people. For example, someone who was assigned male at birth but identifies as female, or identifies with neither female or male, can be considered trans or gender diverse.


A person whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to that typically associated with their sex assigned at birth. To understand more about the experience of living as a young trans person, check out Chase’s story.


Any gender identity that sits within, outside of, across or between the spectrum of the male and female gender binary. A non-binary person might identify as gender fluid, trans masculine, trans feminine, agender, bigender etc.


A person born with reproductive organs, hormone levels and/or sex chromosomes that aren’t exclusively male or female. There are many different states of being intersex, and they’re not always obvious on the outside or even diagnosed.

There are many other words and terms used to describe sex and gender diversity (too many to go into here). You can find out more about the diversity of sex and gender by visiting some of the LGBTQI support services and groups.

Some other helpful definitions relating to the gender spectrum

It’s important to understand that everyone’s experience and understanding of gender can be different. The gender spectrum is still a relatively new concept to many people, so here’s a quick overview to help you get started.

Gender binary

The gender binary is the idea that there are only two genders, male and female, and that everyone will identify as either one or the other. Sometimes people think that a person’s gender is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth, but that’s not always true. It can be helpful to think of gender as a person’s internal sense of self that includes many other aspects of their identity beyond just their sex. This idea of self may also change over time.

Gender expression

Gender expression is how a person presents themselves in a way that is more true to how they feel and are seen by others. This can be expressed through their appearance, like their hair, clothes, and make-up as well as through their body language, voice and mannerisms. 

Gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria refers to the conflict between the sex a person is assigned at birth and the gender they identify with. Experiencing gender dysphoria can be distressing to some people but it’s important to know that you’re not alone and professional support can help you navigate this experience.

Commonly asked questions relating to gender identity

Why is asking someone’s gender pronouns important?

Asking about someone’s gender pronouns is a small way that you can show respect and care for people in your life. Being referred to as the wrong pronoun can sometimes make people feel invalidated, disrespected, dismissed or dysphoric, but by asking someone what their pronouns are, you can show them that you’re genuinely interested in honouring this part of their identity.

What does gender affirmation mean and what does it involve?

Gender affirmation is the process of expressing and experiencing your true gender identity and being recognised by society. It can involve medical and legal steps to help you match your internal sense of gender with your outward presentation, such as surgery or legally changing your name. It can also involve social affirmations like sharing your preferred pronouns, coming out, or wearing clothes and makeup that better reflect your gender identity.

Are there any celebrities that are gender diverse?

Yes! Gender diverse celebrities include Jonathan Van Ness who identifies as non-binary (they/he/she); Amandla Stenberg (they/them/she/her), Kehlani (she/they), Lachlan Watson (they/them), Nico Tortorella (they/them), Sam Smith (they/them) and Janelle Monae  (they/them/she/her), among others. 

Dealing with bullying or discrimination based on your gender

If you’re harassed, judged or made to feel less than normal by someone else because of your gender, then you're being discriminated against. It’s important to remember that the other person is in the wrong, not you. If people choose to ignore or reject you based on your gender, then they’re missing out on all of who you are.

Don’t hang around if someone’s attitude towards you is abusive – leave as soon as possible and seek support from a trusted friend or family member. If you’re still finding it hard to cope, seek outside support. This could be finding a new and safe group of friends, chatting anonymously with other young people via ReachOut’s Online Community or seeing a mental health professional.

Talking to someone your gender identity

In every state and territory in Australia, there are people who can listen to your concerns about gender, answer your questions and provide practical support. Find out about the various support services in your area.

It can be hard to know what’s the right support for you. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant and available support options based on what you want help with.

What can I do now?

  • Talk to an experienced peer worker using ReachOut PeerChat.

  • Learn more about sexuality.