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Dimensions of Gender

This section of the guidance exists to bring awareness of how gender is understood on an individual basis, that is to say, how we live our gender identities and what factors can influence this.

Our gender is innately personal to each of us, this is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. Whilst some aspects of our gender may be shared with others, the way that we perceive our own identity and the influencing factors on this is unique. It is also important to note that whilst gender is important to take into consideration, it is only one part of us, and we might also strongly identify with our race, ethnicity, faith, sense of geographic place, family history, sexuality etc.

There are three dimensions of gender: body, identity and social.


This includes:

      • Our own body.
      • How society genders bodies.
      • How others interact with us based on our body.


This includes:

      • The term we use to convey our gender identity based on our own sense of self.
        • As discussed in the language section of this guidance, gender identities can be binary (man/woman), non-binary (genderqueer etc.) and ungendered (agender etc.).
        • The meaning of any identity may differ from individual to individual.
      • Gender identity can change over time as words change and develop, and as an individual discovers more possibilities.
        • History shows us that many societies have seen, and continue to see, gender as a spectrum.

Gender identity can correspond to, or differ from, the gender an individual is assigned at birth.


This includes:

      • How we present our gender to the world.
        • Gender expression: how we communicate our gender through aspects of our expression such as clothing, hair, accessories and mannerisms. We cannot assume someone's gender identity from their gender expression.
      • How individuals, society, culture and community perceive, interact with, and try to shape our gender.
      • Gender roles and expression.
        • These are often so entrenched in culture and society that it is hard to imagine things another way - this is also how norms become subtly enforced.
      • How society uses these roles and expectations to enforce gender norms.


Congruence is when the body, identity and social elements align with each other and allow a sense of comfort in our body as it relates to gender. Finding congruence is an ongoing process for all of us.

Congruence measures include:

      • Naming our gender in such a way that it adequately corresponds with our internal sense of who we are.
      • Expressing ourselves through clothing, mannerisms, interests and activities.
      • Being consistently seen by others as we see ourselves.
      • Using the set (or sets) of pronouns which correspond with our internal sense of who we are.
      • For some, the use of medical interventions such as hormone therapy and/or surgery to alter physical characteristics.
      • Changing identification documents such as one’s birth certificate, drivers license or passport.