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What Is Gender Perception?

Laura M. Sands
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Gender perception is a term used to describe how individuals are classified as either male, female or transgendered. These types of perception are frequently dependent upon physical cues such as genitalia, facial hair and body structure. As a term, gender perception may be used to describe group perceptions about gender, as well as individual perceptions about one's own gender.

Throughout the world, gender perception is commonly used to classify people into two predominate categories — male or female. At birth, this determination is made upon observing the genitalia of a newborn and that particular gender classification tends to shape the way that child is raised and taught to view himself or herself. Societal norms, in particular, play a role in how a person views his or her own gender, as well as how his or her gender is perceived by others. For example, newborn girls and boys are dressed in different colors and styles of clothing, as well as offered different toys to play with as they begin to develop. Taught to look, behave and perceive one's self as male or female, this gender assignment is generally accepted by the child and others for life.

In a small number of cases, however, children are born with ambiguous genitalia. Others are born with definite external male or female characteristics, but are equipped with internal characteristics normally found in the opposite sex. For example, a child may appear outwardly male while possessing internal organs unique to females, such as ovaries. Identified as intersexed, the common markers used to define gender perception in others often do not apply to this group of people.

Some are born with internal and external anatomical features of one sex, but are compelled to change these features later in life. These changes may be implemented through surgery or by other means. An example of the latter may include an anatomical male who receives hormonal injections to facilitate breast growth, soften the skin and reduce facial hair. Individuals making such a choice are commonly identified as transgendered. Even without medical injections, a person may choose to change gender perception by wearing clothing, makeup and hairstyles commonly associated with another gender without actually altering the body.

Theories of perception are often studied in tandem with sexual orientation. Gender perception frequently conflicts with commonly assumed orientations. For example, a woman may be sexually attracted to men, women or both sexes. This same is true for men, as well as transgendered populations. Such leads many to conclude that gender perception is not always clear-cut, nor are common perceptions always reliable indicators of the gender roles people will engage in throughout a lifetime.

Researchers and parties with an interest in the psychology of perception frequently study gender perception, in particular. A special emphasis is often placed on how this type of perception relates to cultural norms throughout the world. Even among individuals who do not officially study theories of perception, strong conclusions about gender norms and how they relate to things like heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality are often formed based on perceptions.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On Jun 06, 2014

@umbra21 - The world would be a better place if we did more to make people open minded about gender. I mean, even the idea of being open to people changing their biological sex still doesn't take into account people who are intersex and happy to stay that way.

There have been a lot of children born in this world with what were considered ambiguous genitals who were essentially mutilated without their consent, because their parents wanted them to fit into a particular box. That's just wrong.

By umbra21 — On Jun 05, 2014

@Fa5t3r - The perception of gender is different for everyone and I think in some people it is much more important than in others. They have shown that there are biological differences between men and women's brains and that people identifying as transgender are much more likely to have brain characteristics of the gender they identify as. So it must really feel to them that they simply have the wrong body.

And maybe in a world where gender isn't seen as so completely black or white they could be more comfortable in their original skins, but as it is, I don't think it's at all strange that they should want to change how the world sees them and how they see themselves.

By Fa5t3r — On Jun 04, 2014

I have never been able to fully understand why some people felt the need to change their biological gender. I don't feel that attached to my own gender and it doesn't really do much to define who I am. I feel like, if I happened to hit a magic spell that changed me into the opposite gender, it wouldn't really bother me that much.

On the other hand, I can't see why people get so up in arms about it either. If a person wants to present as female, then who cares? Treat them as female. It just feels like it's only a big deal because people are idiots about it.

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
Learn more
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