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Gender expression refers to the aspects of person's behaviour, mannerisms, interests, and appearance that are associated with gender in a particular cultural context, specifically with the categories of femininity or masculinity. This also includes gender roles. These categories rely on stereotypes about gender.

Defining gender expression[]

Gender expression typically reflects a person's gender identity (their internal sense of their own gender), but this is not always the case.[1][2] Gender expression is separate and independent both from sexual orientation and gender assigned at birth. A type of gender expression that is considered atypical for a person's externally perceived gender may be described as gender non-conforming.

In men and boys, typical gender expression is often described as "manly", while atypical expression is known as effeminate. In girls, atypical expression is called tomboyish. In (especially queer) women, atypical and typical expression are known as butch and femme respectively. A mixture of typical and atypical expression may be described as androgynous. A type of expression that is perceived as neither typically feminine or masculine can be described as gender-neutral or undifferentiated.

The term gender expression is used in the Yogyakarta Principles. The Yogyakarta Principles concern the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.[3]

Evaluating gender expression[]

The Bem Sex-Role Inventory was designed to evaluate gender expression objectively (within a White American cultural context).


  1. Template:Cite book
  2. Template:Cite journal
  3. Yogyakarta Principles plus 10


  • Serano, Julia (2016). Whipping Girl: A transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity (2nd ed.), Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.