Gender expression

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Spectra and binaries

Gender expression is the manner in which individuals perform their gender roles. That is to say, an individual may identify as a particular gender, but that individual may express that gender in various ways.

For instance, Chuck Norris and Michael Moore are both male, and to the best of anyone's knowledge, both unquestionably identify as male. However, both express this gender far differently from each other, although there are commonalities between the two. Again, both Norris and Moore express their gender in a much different way from a drag queen, even though all three identify as male.

Judith Butler, in their book Gender Trouble, stated "There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; ... identity is performatively constituted by the very "expressions" that are said to be its results."[1] This strongly suggests that what we perceive as gender has little direct attachment to the deeper gender identity of the individual. Many of our expressions of gender are culturally based performances, according to Butler, and while many take these for granted as part of the natural gender, in fact they are overlaid on gender and not truly connected.

An example of this cultural difference is the longstanding assumption in Western culture that males are better at math and hard sciences than the arts-oriented females. Neither is based very closely on actual test results, and are in fact cultural assumptions based on gender. Individuals may live up to these expectations precisely because they are part of the expected performance of their gender roles, rather than anything inherent in gender itself.

Persons who do not have a gender expression conforming with sex assigned at birth tend to receive copious amounts of discrimination. This can either be discrimination in its own right or transphobia, depending on whether the person has a cisgender gender identity or no.