Gender identity:

The word gender identity refers to the individual's own awareness and objective experience of their own gender. Their own sense of being a man or a woman (or not belonging to either). In individual experience there can be varying degrees of how much this gender identity corresponds with the socially assigned gender and gender roles.

Gender expression and social gender:

Society often has very fixed ideas on how gender should be expressed, based on ideas of feminity and masculinity. These ideas can differ from culture to culture and society to society. Individually, people can express their gender in many different ways which may not always be in line with cultural and social expectations. In Germany, even though there is an official "third option" in gender entries now, majority society still expects people to express their gender in a clear male and female way. This expectation is often a cause of discrimination for trans* people, intersex people and non-binary people.Gender expression and social gender

Gender roles:

Based on gender expression, society holds many expectations on how a man or woman should behave. For example, clothes, sports, professions, hobbies, colors, etc. are often seen as "typically male" or "typically female". This is often done according to the idea that there are only two sexes/gender. That means stress for all of us, because we are guided by norms, not by our actual needs.Gender roles:


The word "cisgender" refers to a person, whose gender identity corresponds to the gender assigned to them by society.  


The word transgender refers to people, whose own gender identity does not correspond to the gender assigned to them by society. A transgender person may or may not want to socially live in the role corresponding to their gender identity. They may or may not seek medical treatment (hormone therapy, surgery) to let their physical characteristics correspond better to the social expectations regarding their gender identity. They may or may not identify clearly as male, female, non-binary or other. Being transgender can be expressed in many different ways. One often finds the short form "trans*". The feeling of incompatibility between gender identity and socially assigned sex is called "Gender Dysphoria".


Internationally, the word "transsexual" has become less and less of use in recent years, the general term "transgender" is usually prefered. But in Germany the equivalent (transsexuell) is still prefered by many people. Transsexual people can be understood as a subset of transgender people. They have a clear sense of belonging to the binary gender opposit to the one assigned to them at birth and they usually seek out medical procedures to physically align their body with their gender identity.


The word dragqueen refers to a person assigned male at birth and usually also having a male gender identity in everyday life, but on stage they will perform an exagerrated femininity by way of using costumes, wigs, and makeup. Recently, dragqueens have become a part of mainstream media more frequently. The performer`s role on stage may have nothing to do with his gender identity or his gender role.

Culturally specific terms and identities:

In different cultural contexts we often find concepts and identities that are not common in Europe. In some Arabic countries, for example, the word "travesti" is used for people who were assigned male at birth but who present largely as female and who may use female hormones without undergoing full gender reassignment surgery. These people may think of themselves as having a very specific identity, different from our notions of "transgender".  In German there also exists the word "travestie" but it merely refers to a show act, not to any specific role or identity.

Last updated: 05/15/2020 - 12:38

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