Gender Presentation

(Redirected from Gender Expression)

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.[1][2][3]

Gender presentation is typically described using adjectives that correspond with the associated gender identity, such as masculine, feminine, androgynous, neutrality, and more.[4] 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.[3] 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.[5]

Some individuals may change their gender presentation from day to day, sometimes changing alongside their gender identity, often referred to as gender fluidity.[6]

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.

Gender Non-Conforming

Gender Non-Conforming
Gender Non-Conforming.png

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.[7] Gender non-conforming is not exclusive to cisgender individuals, and has been practiced for decades. For example, the act of cross-dressing is an intentional form of gender non-conformity that does not necessarily define a cross-dresser as queer.[8][9] 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.[3]

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)[10]

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.[11][12]

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.[13] 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.[14]


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.[15][16] 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.[17][18] 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.[19]

Reasons as to why one may cross-dress includes:

  • Sexualisation or Fetishisizing (dressing up as the opposite gender/sex for sexual gratification),[19][18]
  • Entertainment (wanting to be perceived as a different gender as a form of entertainment).[19][18]


Content Warning: Criminalization
Cross-dressing or gender non-conforming in public has been criminalized by various countries throughout history, sometimes as a result of anti-disguise laws. In 1848 and 1863, Ohio and San Francisco respectively adopted a law that would criminalize any individual in "dress not belonging to his or her sex".[20][21] Examples of anti-disguise laws include the 1845 New York legislature to bar individuals from appearing in public with a disguise designed to prevent identification, or the 1874 California legislature in response to gambling saloon dealers who were wearing disguises to avoid identification. In some cases, offenders were sent to psychiatric institutions for cross-dressing.[22][23] These laws were often challenged due to their ambiguity and denial of self-expression. In 1975, the Ohio Supreme Court concurred with the idea that cross-dressing laws were unconstitutionally vague, especially in conjunction with the 19th century feminism shifts that greatly altered the norms of gendered clothing.[24][23]

Flags and Symbols

It is unknown who created the most popular gender non-conforming flag, but it has been used since 2017.[25]

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.[13]

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.[13]

The pronoun non-conforming flag was created by beyond-mogai-pride-flags on the 9th of November 2018.[26] 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.[27]


  1. López, Quispe. "Explained: The difference between gender, gender expression, and sexuality". Business Insider, 14 Nov, 2020,
  2. "3. Gender identity and gender expression". Ontario Human Rights Commission, Accessed on 15 Nov, 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Ferguson, Sian. "What Does It Mean to Be Gender Nonconforming?". Healthline, 13 Jan, 2021,
  4. Zambon, Veronica. "What are some different types of gender identity?". Medical News Today, 3 Jan, 2023,
  5. Kovacs, Alexandra. "Why we need gender non-conforming clothing.". Medium, 13 Dec, 2019,
  6. Katz-Wise, Sabra L. "Gender fluidity: What it means and why support matters". Harvard Health Publishing, 3 Dec, 2020,
  7. White, Taneasha. "What Is Gender Nonconforming?". PsychCentral, 16 May, 2022,
  8. Belle, Elly. "Gender-Nonconforming Factsheet: Why Unlearning the Gender Binary Helps Us All". Greatist, 8 Dec, 2020,
  9. Garcia, Lucas. "Gender on Shakespeare’s Stage: A Brief History". Writers Theatre, 21 Nov, 2018,
  10. Harwood, Catherine. "Dressed for Success? Gendered Appearance Discrimination in the Workplace". NZLII, 2007,
  11. Upset_Reality5318. "Tips: GNC, passing, and being misgendered". Reddit, 18 Jun, 2023,
  12. Morgenroth, T., van der Toorn, J., Pliskin, R., & McMahon, C. E. (2023). Gender Nonconformity Leads to Identity Denial for Cisgender and Transgender Individuals. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 0(0).
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 jawsome274. "New term: NAME-NONCOMFIRMING!". Tumblr, 31 Jan, 2021, Archived on 27 Jan, 2022.
  14. oltiel. "NCL / PNC". Tumblr, 25 Aug, 2018,
  15. "cross-dressing". Merriam-Webster, Accessed on 15 Nov, 2023.
  16. "transvestism". Britannica, 26 Sep, 2023,
  17. Lmaohelpme. "Explaining the difference between cross-dressers and transgenders". The AVEN, 18 May, 2016,
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 AsparagusWooden3366. "Gender Nonconformity vs Cross-dressing". Reddit, 6 Aug, 2023,
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Carman, Colin Edward. "drag queen". Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Nov. 2023, Accessed 15 November 2023.
  20. Tagawa, Beth. "When cross-dressing was criminal: Book documents history of longtime San Francisco law". SF State News, Feb, 2015,
  21. News Desk. "Arresting dress: A timeline of anti-cross-dressing laws in the United States". PBS, 31 May, 2015,
  22. Javaid, Maham. "New anti-drag laws mirror cross-dressing bans from the 1800s: ‘Déjà vu’". The Washington Post, 30 Jun, 2023,
  23. 23.0 23.1 Sears, Clare. "This Isn’t the First Time Conservatives Have Banned Cross-Dressing in America". Jacobin, 15 Mar, 2023,
  24. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "When did women start wearing pants?". Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 Mar. 2019, Accessed 16 November 2023.
  25. Pride-Flags. "Gender Nonconforming". DeviantArt, 11 Mar, 2017,
  26. beyond-mogai-pride-flags. "Pronoun Non-conforming Pride Flag". Tumblr, 9 Nov, 2018,
  27. mixter_unknown. "Made a GNC flag for all of us folks who say fuck gender roles and conformity". Instagram, 28 Nov, 2023,