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.
Since many individuals will assume the gender identity of strangers based on external appearance, gender non-conforming individuals (especially those who are transgender) may be misgendered often.
Gender presentation is typically described using adjectives relating the presentation to the gender binary such as "masculine", "feminine", "androgynous," or "gender neutral". Masculine and feminine presentations are based 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. An individual's gender presentation is typically judged based on the culture they currently live in or the culture they grew up with. 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.
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.
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.