Gender Presentation or Gender Expression is an aspect of gender referring to how an individual's appearance and behavior is categorized by society in relation to the genders recognized in that culture.
Gender presentation is typically described using adjectives that correspond with the associated gender identity, such as masculine, feminine, androgynous, neutrality, and more. Masculine and feminine presentations are bases of specific looks, behavior, or clothing which are traditionally associated with men or with women respectively. What is considered masculine and feminine presentation can change over time and from culture to culture. Androgynous presentation typically involves simultaneously presenting with traits culturally associated with men and women. Gender neutral presentation typically involves presenting in a way that is not strongly associated with men or women. For example, in modern Western culture, dresses and skirts are strongly associated with women, and therefore an example of feminine gender expression. Pants are commonly worn by both men and women so are therefore considered gender neutral.
The traits typically considered when describing one's gender presentation often include:
- Hair length and/or style,
- Style of clothes,
- Presence and/or style of accessories such as jewelry, scarves, and bags,
- Presence of makeup and/or nail polish,
- Presence of facial hair and/or body hair,
- Having certain personality traits, or interests,
- Having certain professions,
- Using certain pronouns,
- Using certain names.
There are many terms used within the LGBT+ community to describe gender presentation such as butch, femme, bear, and twink. Non-binary individuals may use the pallet presentation system or the floral system.
While gender presentation is often thought of as being an indication of one's gender identity, that is not always the case. For example, a woman may present androgynously or masculinely, or a non-binary individual may present masculinely or femininely. This incongruence between one's gender identity and presentation is commonly referred to as gender non-conforming, or GNC for short. Gender non-conforming is not exclusive to cisgender individuals, and has been practiced in a non-queer manner for decades, including the act of cross-dressing. It is considered that most individuals have at least some qualities that do not match their gender identity, but it is not considered gender non-conforming unless an individual is intentionally subverting gender norms.
Reasons as to why one may be gender non-conforming include:
- Identity (wanting to express oneself as a specific gender or gender quality, but still holding a differing internal perception of one's gender identity),
- Personal skills and interests (such as a woman with a masculine role such as engineering because they are skilled in that field, or interested in the profession),
- Personality and psychology (such as a man with feminine personality traits such as being caring, sensitive, or motherly),
- Personal tastes and aesthetics (such as a man who may wear nail polish because they perceive it to look good on their person).
Some individuals may present as another gender for reasons not inherently linked to any gender quality or role. These reasons may include:
- Physical comfort (such as benefiting from the temperature regulation of skirts, or having shorter hair as to not obscure one's eyes),
- Financial (such as having shorter hair, or not shaving, in order to reduce living costs),
- Avoidance of possible stereotyping discrimination against their gender identity by presenting as another gender (such as a woman in the army presenting as a man)
Since many individuals will assume the gender identity of strangers based on external appearance, gender non-conforming individuals (especially those who are transgender) may sometimes be misgendered.
Other variations of non-conforming include name and pronoun non-conforming (also known as NNC and PNC respectively), where one uses a name or set of pronouns that is not typically associated with their gender identity. Name non-conforming was formally established as a term by Tumblr user jawsome274 on the 31st of January, 2023, but it may have been established earlier. Pronoun non-conforming was formally established as a term by Tumblr user oltiel on the 25th of August, 2018, but it may have been established earlier.
Cross-dressing (sometimes referred to as transvestism) is the act of wearing clothes designed for the opposite gender or sex, and was initially used in the early 19th century. Unlike gender non-conforming, cross-dressing is usually limited to the expression of one's clothing or attire. Gender non-conforming is also considered to be an aspect of one's identity and their gender, whereas cross-dressing is describing the act of dressing differently. The most popular example of cross-dressing are performed by drag queens or drag kings, who often present as the other gender/sex as a form of entertainment.
Reasons as to why one may cross-dress includes:
- Sexualisation or Fetishisizing (dressing up as the opposite gender/sex for sexual gratification),
- Entertainment (wanting to be perceived as a different gender as a form of entertainment).
HistoryContent Warning: Criminalization
Flags and Symbols
It is unknown who created the most popular gender non-conforming flag, but it has been used since 2017.
The name non-conforming flag was created by jawsome274 on the 31st of January 2021. The pink stripe represents femininity, blue representing masculinity, red representing androgyny, yellow representing completely different names not associated with genders, and the black representing names with zero connection to anything whatsoever and are completely fictitious.
In addition, the stripes also represent one's gender identity. The pink stripe represents women, women-aligned individuals, and feminine-aligned individuals, blue representing men, men-aligned individuals, and masculine-aligned individuals, red representing androgynous individuals, yellow representing individuals with other genders such as maverique, outherine, or xenogenders, and black representing individuals with no genders whatsoever.The pronoun non-conforming flag was created by beyond-mogai-pride-flags on the 9th of November 2018. Another gender non-conforming flag was created by mixter_unknown on the 28th of November 2023. The black stripes represent rejecting gender norms, blue representing AMAB individuals, light blue representing masculinity, purple representing androgyny and intersex individuals, light pink representing femininity, and dark pink representing AFAB individuals.
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