Gender variance

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Gender variance is a term that refers to those expressions of gender (masculinity and femininity) that do not conform to the dominant gender norms of Western culture.


The term is used by scholars of psychology[1][2] and psychiatry,[3] anthropology,[4] and gender studies, as well as advocacy groups of gender variant people themselves.[5] It is deliberately broad, encompassing such specific terms as transsexual, butch, queen, sissy, travesti, hijra or tomboy. Terms with similar meanings to "gender variance" include "gender nonconformity" (see childhood gender nonconformity) and "gender atypical"[6] (see atypical gender role). The term transgender may be synonymous,[7] but often has a narrower meaning and somewhat different connotations, including a non-identification with the gender assigned at birth, and an association with a social movement that emerged from North America in the late 20th century (see LGBT social movements), which questions the validity of binary gender norms and pursues the political advancement of transgendered people.[8] "Transgender" is also sometimes used to contrast with, rather than encompass, the term "transsexual".

As replacement for transgender

In an attempt to reduce psychopathologisation of persons who identify or have gender expression which does not conform to atypical beliefs, WPATH has begun use of "gender variance" as an umbrella term.[9]

See also

Further reading


  1. Lynne Carroll, Paula J. Gilroy, Jo Ryan (2002), Counseling Transgendered, Transsexual, and Gender-Variant Clients, Journal of Counseling & Development, Volume 80, Number 2, Spring 2002, pp. 131 - 139
  2. Arlene Istar Lev, (2004) Transgender Emergence: Therapeutic Guidelines for Working With Gender-Variant People and Their Families. Haworth Press, ISBN 9780789007087
  3. Walter O. Bockting, Randall D. Ehrbar (2006), "Commentary: Gender Variance, Dissonance, or Identity Disorder? pp. 125 - 134 in "Sexual and Gender Diagnoses of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): A reevaluation edited by Dan Karasic and Jack Drescher, 2006, Haworth Press, ISBN 0789032147 NB: Several articles in this book use the term "gender variance".
  4. Serena Nanda (2000) Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc., 2000 ISBN 157766 0749 NB: Nanda uses the term "gender variance" to encompass gender phenomena in different cultures.
  5. "Gender Education and Advocacy (GEA) is a national [US] organization focused on the needs, issues and concerns of gender variant people in human society." Mission statement, available on the front page of the group's website:
  6. Douglas C. Halderman (2000), Gender Atypical Youth: Clinical and Social Issues. School Psychology Review, v29 n2 p192-200 2000
  7. After defining transgender as primarily "an umbrella term to describe those who defy societal expectations and assumptions regarding femaleness and maleness" including people who are transsexual, intersexual or genderqueer, as well as crossdressers, drag performers, masculine women and feminine men, Serano goes on to state: "I will also sometimes use the synonymous term gender-variant to describe all people who are considered by others to deviate from societal norms of femaleness and maleness". (p. 25), Serano, Julia (2007), Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Seal Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-58005-154-5, ISBN 1-58005-154-5
  8. See, for example, Press for Change, (1995) Mission Statement 1995 "...Press for Change is a political lobbying and educational organisation, which campaigns to achieve equal civil rights and liberties for all transsexual and transgender people in the U.K. through legislation and social change..." Press for Change. Retrieved on 2007-04-10.


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