Gender identity is your inner sense of being male, female, both, neither, or some other gender. And for some people, gender identity can shift or be flexible. There are a variety of terms that people may use to describe their gender identity. For example, people whose gender identity expands beyond the categories of male or female may use the term "gender-diverse."
For some people, their gender identity doesn't match the sex they were assigned at birth. Many go through a process of coming to know, accept, and express their gender identity. This is called gender affirmation. There are many ways to affirm your gender. There are medical and nonmedical options.
Medical options for gender affirmation include:
- Hormone therapy. This is medicine to help increase or decrease sex characteristics. For example:
- You may take testosterone to develop more masculine physical traits. These include hair growth on the face and body.
- You may take estrogen to develop more feminine physical traits. These include breast development and a change in where body fat is stored. You may also take a medicine that blocks testosterone (anti-androgen) or a hormone called progestin.
- Puberty blockers. These are medicines that block the hormones that cause body changes during puberty. They can delay development of physical traits that don't match your gender identity.
- Surgery. There are different surgeries that can change the look and the function of your body. They can help your body match your gender identity.
Nonmedical options for gender affirmation include:
- Living as your gender identity. You choose how you feel most comfortable expressing your gender identity. Non-medical options include:
- Clothing, hairstyles, or makeup.
- Voice therapy or coaching.
- Hair removal.
- Breast binding or padding.
- Penis tucking or packing.
- Name and gender marker corrections on official documents.
- Counseling. This is professional guidance to help a person, family, or group of people. It can be done one-on-one or as a family or group.
- Getting support. It can be comforting and helpful to talk to people who know what you're going through. You can find these people through local or online groups. If you don't know where to find support, check with:
- Your doctor.
- Your school counselor or a trusted teacher.
- Websites and online organizations. Visit the LGBT National Help Center site at www.glnh.org to find a list of organizations.
What parents need to know about gender identity
Children form their gender identity early. Most children start to identify their gender around age 3. For some, their gender identity doesn't match the sex they were assigned at birth. Many transgender and gender-diverse adults remember feeling at a young age that there was a difference between their bodies and their gender identity. Others didn't feel this way until later in life.
Children and teens grow and develop quickly. Before and during puberty, they may feel more like one gender some of the time, and more like another gender at other times. That's why it's important to explore nonmedical or reversible options for those who are transgender or gender-diverse. One example is helping your child live as their identity. They may want to wear the clothes of their gender identity. Or they may want to use a different name or different pronouns.
You can also talk to your child's doctor. There are reversible hormone therapies that can help a transgender or gender-diverse child affirm their gender.