←Back to the Mental Health Dictionary

Gender Identity

Ariana Moran

What is Gender Identity?

Gender Identity refers to the way you personally identify along the gender spectrum, or the way you see yourself. Your gender identity is internal and specific to you. Gender identity is not to be confused with gender expression, which is the outward appearance of gender (think: clothing, haircut, mannerisms). Gender identity may be the same or different from the sex you were assigned at birth. Cisgender means that your gender identity is the same as the sex you were assigned at birth, whereas transgender or gender non-binary means that your gender identity differs from the sex you were assigned at birth. Gender identity is different from your sexual and romantic identities, although there is a degree of overlap and intersectionality. The gender identity spectrum includes binary gender identities and non-binary gender identities.

Types of Gender Identities

Gender binary identities can include cis woman, trans woman, cis man, or trans man. Non-binary gender identities can include as gender non-binary, gender fluid, gender expansive, gender diverse, gender nonconforming, bi-gender, two spirit, demi boy, demi girl, masculine leaning, feminine leaning, gender creative, and more. You might also identify as agender, meaning without gender. Your gender identity is unique and personal to you!

Gender Identity in Childhood

Gender identity begins forming early in life around age 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Despite having an internal sense of gender, it might take many years for someone to be able to name and describe their internal experience of gender to themselves or others. Most children are exposed only to gender binary options and are unaware that gender identity exists along a continuum, or spectrum. Children may feel pressure to confirm with a gender expression that coincides with their birth assigned sex despite having a differing internal experience. Sometimes, children do not recognize their authentic internal experience of gender identity until around the time they hit puberty. This is changing with newer generations and a more widely spread expansive understanding of gender, but it doesn’t change the reality that many children are facing low levels of exposure to non-binary gender options and often high levels of gender-related stigma and lack of support.

Support Related to Your Gender Identity

If you are seeking therapy for questions or support related to gender identity, it’s possible that you are experiencing secondary symptoms related to your experience of your gender. These can include gender dysphoria (feelings of discomfort related to the incongruence between your gender identity and birth assigned sex), gender questioning (internal confusion regarding potentially conflicting experiences you are having related to gender), gender euphoria (the positive feelings associated with being affirmed in your gender identity), or gender-related stress (invalidation, discrimination, or negative social experiences related to your gender). If you identify as trans or non-binary, you may choose to participate in social or medication transition, or you may decide not to. It is common not to have an understanding of these terms or experiences as they are still making their way into the mainstream. Working with a therapist who specializes in gender identity can help you understand yourself in a much deeper way!

Looking to start therapy

Wanting to Start

Looking for a someone that specializes in

Looking for a someone that is located in

Looking for a someone that specializes in

Looking for a someone that accepts

Gender Identity


MyWellbeing matches you to the right provider that specializes in what matters most to you. Our match form takes less than 5 minutes to complete, and you'll immediately receive 3 provider recommendations that fit your needs. All of the providers on MyWellbeing offer a free phone consultation to assess fit and see if you two should work together. Click below to get matched!

Get Matched

About the Author

Ariana Moran (she, her) is a clinical psychologist specializing in gender identity and climate-aware therapy. She is licensed to practice in New York, Oregon, Maine, and Vermont. Ariana is passionate about clinical work that helps individuals embrace their authentic identities and build healthier relationships to self, so that everyone can engage in communal and collective healing together. You can view her website here.