Gender is social and cultural. It’s how your identity relates to society’s idea of what it means to be a woman, man, neither, or a mix of many genders.
For most people, their gender matches up with the cultural expectations of the sex they were assigned at birth. This means they’re cisgender. Others may self-identify as being transgender, agender, Two-Spirit, gender queer, non-binary, gender fluid or any number of terms (explained below).
Gender identity is your deeply-held inner feelings of whether you’re female or male, both, or neither. Your gender identity isn’t seen by others.
Gender identity may be the same as the sex you were assigned at birth (cisgender) or not (transgender).
Some people identify as a man (or a boy) or a woman (or a girl). And some have a gender identity that doesn’t fit into one of these genders.
Gender expression is how you choose to express your gender identity through your name, pronouns, clothing, hair style, behaviour, voice, or body features.
Gender expression includes using facilities (like washrooms and change rooms) that match up with your own sense of gender. Society often thinks of these cues as being male/masculine and female/feminine. But what‘s thought to be masculine and feminine changes over time and within different cultures.
LGBTQ2S+ is an acronym. It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual (or bi), transgender, queer/questioning and Two-Spirit (2S). You might sometimes see the symbols * or + after the acronym. This shows there are many more sexual orientations and gender identities than the ones listed in this acronym.
Sex is a category that people are assigned at birth based on the genitals they’re born with. Sex may also be on proof of identity documents. This most often includes female, male or X.
X is sometimes used by people who don’t identify as a female or male or who choose not to share their gender on identity documents.
You’ll sometimes see “sex” or “gender” on your identity documents. Some people change what’s listed as their gender and others don’t. You have the right to self-identify your gender.
Pansexual is when you’re emotionally or sexually attracted to people of any gender or sex.
Polyamory is when you have more than one sexual, loving relationship at the same time and all partners agree (consent) to this.
Intersex may be used when your reproductive, sexual, or genetic biology is not clear. Intersex isn’t fully male or female and doesn’t fit within the typical definitions of male or female.
You might also hear the word ally when people talk about sexual orientation. An ally is someone who advocates for (supports) the human rights of sexual- and gender-minority people by challenging discrimination and heterosexism.
If you have questions about your sexual orientation or gender identity, it can be comforting and helpful to talk to people who know what you’re going through.
You can find local and online support groups. If you don’t know where to find support:
The following organizations offer support:
Alberta Human Rights
Current as of: December 18, 2020
Author: Diversity and Inclusion, AHS
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.