Gender expression

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Gender expression is the outward expression of a person’s gender identity, usually expressed (among other things) through clothing, behaviors, mannerisms, and chosen names. It is the external manifestation of a person’s inner gender identity.

It is a designation commonly seen in anti-discrimination and hate crimes law to cover gender expression that does not match with the expectations stereotypically associated with the birth gender of the individual in question. Gender expression that matches birth sex is rarely discriminated against.


The most common way of self expression is by means of clothing. Personal preferences and social convention (by way of local definition of gender roles) are both factors in influencing what is available to obtain, (where in certain styles of clothing are restricted to grey import) and what is worn. Cross dressing is the most often used way of "alternative" expression, and the most stereotyped as well. Many fears, mostly unfounded, are based on presumed gender identity. (or as is more often the case, the denial of the identity of the person being harassed)


Use of makeup is commonly tied in with clothing, but is not always done in practice. In the traditional gender roles of most societies, men who wear makeup are looked down upon, while women are expected to not leave without it. In practice, this isn't always the case. The use of makeup on television sets, theatre, and film making, is wide spread and often isn't thought much of in spite of the conflict with the ideas that society often imposes on people. Makeup is also used from time to time as part of social custom during an event, or recreational activity.

While the acceptance (or more likely, a lack of negative response) of androgyny in its various forms is moving at a very slow but steady rate; persons who identify as male or androgynous, who chose to express themselves solely by way of using makeup, still have an uphill battle for tolerance in most societies.


Another aspect of gender expression is in the way that one behaves, and is often tied with gender roles imposed by society. Behaviour is unique in that the intensity is as important as how it is expressed, as is the ways behaviour is interpreted. When expressions are viewed differently from a perceived norm, a common reaction is to attempt to stereotype or otherwise make presumptions about the person in question. (mostly sexual in nature, but can include status of mental health as well)

Use in Law

Legal protection for gender expression is commonly bundled with protections for gender identity, and is intended to try and prevent discrimination, namely in the workplace and housing.

However, when excluded from laws protecting gender identity, it becomes much easier to discriminate based on any number of reasons, mostly personal dislike for sexual orientation and/or behaviour related to the expression of gender identity.

External links

  • American Psychological Association's gender expression policy statement (.pdf) [[1]]


This page was originally authored by members of Susan's Place Wiki Staff.