Gender is more than just boy or girl. Learn about gender identity and expression, and how gender is evolving around the world.

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Hi! I’m here to help you learn more about gender. This topic involves the core elements of gender identity (our sense of self) and gender expression (how we show up in the world). For some of us, it’s as easy as male or female, man or woman. But for many others, it’s far more complex. Our gender can involve a mix of masculine and feminine, or be something altogether different — what people refer to as non-binary. Let’s explore…

The Basics

Learn about the broad spectrum of gender identities and expressions.

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Gender expression

Gender expression is a big part of how we show up to the world.

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Gender identity

Gender identity is distinct from biological sex even though for most people the two correspond.

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Beyond masculine and feminine

There are countless ways for people to identify through gender.

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Understanding pronouns

Not everyone is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. Now our language is catching up.

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The spectrum goes mainstream

Gender used to be thought of as an either/or proposition: man or woman. But a growing number of people do not identify with those two choices, and America has noticed.

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A third option

Non-binary identities are transforming how we fill in the blanks.

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Pronouns: A Surprising History

Learn about the history of gender-neutral pronouns and how change is a constant when it comes to language.

Real people

There’s a lot of diversity in gender identities. But life isn’t easy for people who identify “beyond he or she.”

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The space between

Not everyone identifies as a man or woman. Watch this CBS News video to hear from people who identify "beyond he or she."

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An Olympic First

Timothy LeDuc is the first openly nonbinary athlete to have competed at the Winter Olympics.

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"I remember these awkward silences"

Listen as Kiyan Williams, who identifies as gender non-conforming, talks about what it was like coming of age feeling different from everyone else.

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"You taught me how to love"

Listen as Sissy and Vickie talk about their life together and the challenges Sissy faced as a cross-dressing man.

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A gender journey

Ari Agha's journey to identifying as gender nonbinary was decades long with many twists and turns along the way.

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We'wha, a Two-Spirit person of the Zuni tribe, was one of the most famous Native Americans of the 19th Century.

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Meet Elijah/Esther

Read how Elijah/Esther feels and identifies as a woman some days, a man other days, and some days as neither.

The social construction of gender

Learn about gender as a social construction and how it changes over time.

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Lessons in gender

Learn about the different ways we teach and reinforce gender in our world today.

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Change over time

Our approach to gender has changed over time and is still changing with our culture.

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The battle over gender in youth organizations

Growing legions of girls are joining Scouts BSA, formerly known as Boy Scouts of America. Find out what's happening on the fast-changing landscape of scouting in the U.S.

Around the world

Worldwide, the variety of gender identity and expression is nearly boundless. Many cultures have long recognized not just two genders, but 3, 4, 5, or even more.

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Gender-diverse cultures

Check out some of the gender-diverse cultures that have existed throughout the world.

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Two Spirit People

Learn about the Two Spirit People who have been part of Native American communities for countless generations.

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Across time and place

There's nothing new about gender identities beyond male and female--they've been around since ancient times.

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A Culture of Acceptance

Learn about a culture of acceptance between masculine and feminine.

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India's third gender

How did India accept a third gender? It was there all along.

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Gender diversity in ancient Rome

Ancient priests known as Galli are a case study of gender diversity in history.

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The meaning of Mahu

Embodiments of masculine and feminine: meet the Mahu of Hawaii.

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The evolution of drag

Did you know that the term "drag" has its origin in Shakespeare's plays and that the history of drag stretches back even further? Learn about the evolution of drag as art and self-expression.


Affirmed Gender

(Noun) A term used to describe a person's gender, based on their innate understanding of themselves -- as opposed to the gender they were assigned at birth. A person can affirm their gender socially (e.g. changing one's pronouns), legally (e.g. legal name change), and/or medically (e.g. gender-affirming surgery). Increasingly used in place of older terms, such as preferred gender or chosen gender. Learn More


(Verb) To wear clothes typically associated with persons of a different gender for fun, self-expression, relaxation, etc. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not indicative of being transgender; persons who cross-dress are usually comfortable with their gender identity and do not wish to change it. Cross-dressing is distinct from drag in that it is not performative. Cross-dressing is not necessarily tied to erotic activity and is not a reflection of sexual orientation. Learn More

Drag / Drag King / Drag Queen

(Noun) The theatrical performance of one or multiple genders via dressing in the clothing of a different gender, or in a manner different from how one would usually dress. Drag queens perform in distinctly feminine attire. Drag kings perform in distinctly masculine attire. Drag is a form of gender expression and is not an indication of gender identity. Individuals who dress in drag may or may not consider themselves to be transgender. They may identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight or some other sexual orientation. Learn More


(Noun) A slang term used for nonbinary. Enby is the phonetic pronunciation of “NB,” an abbreviation for nonbinary. Learn More

Gender Affirming Surgery

(Noun) Surgical procedures that allow persons to match their physical bodies to their gender identity. These procedures can include “top surgery” (e.g. reshaping a chest or providing breast augmentation) and/or “bottom surgery” (e.g. reshaping genitals). Also referred to as gender-confirming surgery, gender reassignment surgery or medical transition. Learn More

Gender expression

(Noun) The ways that a person communicates a gender identity to others such as dress, behavior, hairstyle, voice, and/or mannerisms. Learn More

Gender non-conforming

(Adj.) Describes a person who does not behave in a way that conforms to traditional expectations for their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category. Also known as gender variant. Learn More

Gender Spectrum

(Noun) The concept that gender exists along a continuum beyond man/masculine and woman/feminine. Some people may be more aligned with masculine or feminine aspects, some move fluidly along the spectrum, and some exist outside the spectrum entirely. Learn More

Gender variant

(Adj.) Describes a person who does not behave in a way that conforms to traditional expectations for their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category. Also known as gender non-conforming. Learn More


(Noun) A term used to describe exaggerated feminine qualities, behaviors and roles stereotypically associated with girls and women. Hyperfemininity is sometimes expected of transgender women in order be seen as “real” women. Learn More


(Noun) A term used to describe exaggerated masculine qualities, behaviors and roles stereotypically associated with boys and men. Hypermasculinity is sometimes expected of transgender men in order be seen as “real” men. Learn more


(Verb) Using pronouns or a form of address that does not align with an individual's gender identity. Misgendering may be unintentional or can be used intentionally to express bias. Learn More

Mixed Pronouns

(Noun) Refers to a situation in which a person uses multiple pronouns, such as she/they or they/he/she. Generally, mixed pronouns can be used interchangeably. However, the desired balance among different pronouns can be different for each person. Learn More


(Adj.) Describes a person who experiences romantic attraction towards multiple but not all genders. Learn More

Explore More Topics

Citations & Sources

Bakker, J. (2018) Brain structure and function in gender dysphoria. Endocrine Abstracts, 56(S 30.3).

Biswas, S. (2019, May 31). How Britain tried to 'erase' India's third gender. BBC News.

Bodkin, H. (2018, May 22). Transgender brain scans promised as study shows structural differences in people with gender dysphoria. Telegraph.

CBS News. (2017, March 23). Non-binary: The gender beyond he or she [Video]. YouTube.

Cocking, L. (2018, January 10). A brief history of Mexico’s third gender. The Omnivore.

Geiger, A.W., & Graf, N. (2019, September 5). About one-in-five U.S. adults know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun. Pew Research Center Fact Tank.

Graf, N. (2019, December 18). About four-in-ten U.S. adults say forms should offer more than two gender options. Pew Research Center Fact Tank.

Havas Global Comms. (2017, September 18). The future is FeMale. Havas Group.

Herman, J., Flores, A., Brown, T., Wilson, B., & Conron, K. (2017, January). Age of individuals who identify as transgender in the United States. Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.

India court recognises transgender people as third gender. (2014, April 15) BBC News.

Joel, D., Tarrasch, R., Berman, Z., Mukamel, M., & Ziv, E. (2013). Queering gender: Studying gender identity in ‘normative’ individuals. Psychology & Sexuality, 5(4), 291–321.

Kaur, H. (2019, October 16). Why it matters what pronouns you use to refer to people and what to do if you slip up. CNN.

Khaleeli, H. (2014, April 16). Hijra: India's third gender claims its place in law. Guardian.

Leguizamon, M., & Griggs, B. (2018, February 6). More US teens are rejecting 'boy' or 'girl' gender identities, a study finds. CNN.

Miller, C. (2015, October 30). Boys and girls, constrained by toys and costumes. New York Times.

Moskowitz, C. (2010, June 6). Kids learn gender stereotypes at home. Live Science.

Nambiar, S. (2017, January 1). A brief history of Hijra, India’s third gender. Culture Trip.

Nunberg, G. (2019, August). Opinion: Even a grammar geezer like me can get used to gender neutral pronouns. NPR.

A map of gender-diverse cultures. (2015, August 11). PBS.

Richards, C., Boumanam, W.P., Sealb, L., Barker, M. J., Niederd, T.O., & T'Sjoene, G. (2016). Non-binary or genderqueer genders [Abstract]. International Review of Psychiatry, 28(1), 95-102.

Rider, G.N., McMorris, B., Glower, A., Coleman, E., & Eisenberg, M. (2018). Health and care utilization of transgender and gender nonconforming youth: A population-based study. Pediatrics, 141(3).

Saturday Night Live. (2017, September 30). Levi’s wokes [Video]. YouTube.

Scobey-Thal, J. (2014, June 30). Third gender: A short history. Foreign Policy.

Silverman, H. (2019, August 1). 2 more states will offer a 3rd gender option on driver's licenses. CNN.

StoryCorps. (2014, December 17). Darnell Moore and Kiyan Williams [Audio podcast].

StoryCorps. (2016, June 3). StoryCorps 423: Sissy [Audio podcast].

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2012). Top health issues for LGBT populations information & resource kit. Rockville, MD: HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4684.

Suddath, C. (2019, April 17). Boy scouts are just scouts now, and that’s making girl scouts mad. Bloomberg Businessweek.

Synowiec, O. (2018, November 26). The third gender of southern Mexico. BBC Travel.

Trammell, K. (2019, September 18). Merriam-Webster adds the nonbinary pronoun 'they' to it's dictionary. CNN.

Wren, C. (2017, September 21). Five insights about gender and brands. Branding Strategy Insider.

Yuan, O. (2020, January 6). Gender means more than you think it does. Ipsos.

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