Skip to content

What is gender?

Terms such as gender and sex may be used interchangeably, but they are actually quite different.

Sex refers to the physical differences between people’s bodies, and tends to be determined when someone is born, based upon if they have male or female genitals. There are other biological factors which also make up your sex, such as sex chromosomes, hormones and other reproductive organs (such as a woman’s uterus). While sex is most commonly divided into the categories of male and female, biological sex is actually more diverse in reality (e.g. some people are born intersex, with a different combination of genitals or hormones).

Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings and behaviours that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.  The society in which we live may have expectations on what it means to be a biologically assigned boy/man or girl/woman. These expectations could include ideas on what people wear, what toys or colours children tend to like, how people behave, their abilities, the jobs they can do, and the types of sex and relationships they should or shouldn’t have.

While these ideas can be very powerful, it’s important to remember that they vary between different countries and cultures, and also change over time. Expectations regarding what it means to be a woman today in Britain are very different from 100 years ago. It is also up to you what your gender means to you, and how you choose to express yourself. You have a right to feel comfortable in your own body and to be free to make the choices which feel right for you.

Transgender

The word transgender or ‘trans’ is often used as an umbrella term to describe people who feel their gender is, or has been, different from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Transgender describes someone’s gender identity rather than their sexuality.

Some trans people prefer to write trans*. The asterisk shows and makes special note to include all identities in the gender identity spectrum ensuring that everyone who identifies as transgender, transsexual or ‘non-binary’ is included.

Some people  may have felt like they are not the ‘right’ gender from a very young age. These feelings may have developed when they started going through puberty or even earlier on in life.  Some transgender people may have medical treatment, such as hormone treatment or surgery to bring their physical body or appearance more in line with their gender.

If you have any concerns about your gender identity, the first step is to talk to your GP. THT have specific guides for Trans-men  and Trans-women which give an overview of some of the issues, your options, and what the next steps may be.

There are also a number of other Trans organisations and groups which you may want to get in touch with for more support;

  • GIRES
  • Mermaids
  • Gendered Intelligence
  • Bristol Crossroads
  • Western Boys

Locate a confidential service

Find your local Pharmacy or Clinic and book a confidential appointment.


Order a testing kit

Worried about STIs or other sexual health problems? You can request a confidential free home testing kit.

Find out More

Please provide feedback on our website