Gender refers to how one relates to the gender categories within one's society and culture. One's gender is built from many different aspects, including gender identity, gender presentation, gender alignment, and gender modality.
All societies have a set of gender categories, each with their own cultural norms and expectations, which are typically based on a division of labor. In most societies--particularly Western societies--there is a gender binary, meaning two recognized genders (male/men and female/women), and those who exist outside these categories fall under the umbrella terms non-binary or genderqueer. Some societies have gender categories other than men and women, such as the hijras of South Asia. These are often referred to as third genders (and fourth genders, etc.).
Gender identity is a term referring to the way an individual experiences their identity in relation to societal and cultural norms and expectations regarding gender. This can include deeply-held inner feeling of whether one is female, male, both, or neither (including third genders, genderlessness, xenogender etc.) An individual's gender identity is an internally held identity and is not seen by others.
For most individuals, their gender identity matches their physical traits and assigned gender at birth, but it’s important to know that these concepts are independent and can be different for each individuals.
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.
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. Individuals whose gender presentations do not align with their actual gender are known as gender non-conforming. Some individuals may change their gender presentation from day to day or along with their gender identity.
Gender alignment is an aspect of gender referring to the way an individual's gender may intersect with the gender binary. This concept is often used by non-binary individuals who do not identify with the gender binary, but may also be used by binary individuals who experience an alignment with a gender that is not expressed by their gender identity.
Gender modality refers to the correspondence (or lack thereof) between one's assigned gender at birth and one's actual gender identity. The two primary and most well known gender modalities are cisgender and transgender. However, those are not the only possible modalities one can have.
Gender vs. Sex
Sex is a biological value, generally determined by genitalia, hormones, and/or chromosomes. Genitalia is typically the basis for one's assigned gender at birth. For example, a individual with a penis is generally assigned male at birth and is typically raised with the expectation that they will identify as male. If one's sex characteristics differ from male or female, it is known as intersex.
It is generally accepted that sex refers to one's physically characteristics, while gender identity refers to one's internal sense of identity and relation to the gender roles in one's society. Sex and gender do not have to align.
The concept of gender, in the modern sense, is a recent invention. The ancient world had no basis of understanding gender as it has been understood in the humanities and social sciences for the past few decades. In many societies there was no distinction between sex and gender, so "sex" was used to refer to both.
Sexologist John Money introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender, and coined the term "gender role," in 1955. He defined it as "all those things that a individual says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman." Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories. However, this meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the concept of a distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender.
In some contexts, the two words are still used interchangeably, such as with non-human animals. For instance, in 1993, the US FDA started to use gender instead of sex for animals. Later, in 2011, the FDA reversed its position and began using sex as the biological classification. In legal cases alleging discrimination, sex is usually preferred as the determining factor rather than gender, as it refers to biology rather than socially constructed norms which are more open to interpretation and dispute.
How Many Genders?
Gender is a infinitely large spectrum, with many positions and identities. A simplified way of looking at it is male, female, and everything in between (androgyne). For example, demiboys are slightly, but not fully men. An agender individual may experience a null gender. Androgyne individuals are in between or simultaneously men and women. However, this model is still flawed as it does not encompass the full range of potential gender experiences, such as abinary and atrinary genders (maveriques included).