Understanding Gender Identity for Teens

Understanding Gender Identity for Teens

Table of Contents


Your gender identity is how you see yourself, boy or girl, and everything in between. You may have been born as a boy or a girl, but some don’t feel like they fit into one of these genders. It’s okay to experiment with different parts of your expression to find what works best for you.

What is Gender Identity

What is gender identity

Your gender identity is how you see yourself, boy or girl and everything in between.

Often times we are taught that there are only two genders, boys and girls. While you may have been born as a boy or a girl, some people don’t feel like they fit into one of these gender categories, and that’s okay.

Sometimes your gender identity does not align with the physiological parts that you were born with (such as a penis or vagina). It is okay if your gender identity is a mix of feminine and masculine traits. It’s also okay if you don’t want to be labeled at all. What’s important is that you begin to understand your gender identity and feel safe to express who you are. 

How you see yourself may influence your gender expression, or how you present yourself in everyday life. P

art of your gender expression includes how you dress, the way you do your hair, the pitch of your voice, and other forms of self-expression, such as your body language.

Sometimes your gender identity and your gender expression are different. Maybe you feel like you are a boy, but are more comfortable expressing your gender in a feminine way. It’s okay to experiment with different parts of your expression to find what works best for you.

Your gender identity is not the same as your sexual orientation, which is who you are attracted to. For questions regarding sexual orientation, view Sexuality page.

Respecting Differences

Respecting Differences

Whether you agree with a person’s gender expression or identity, it is important to be respectful of their beliefs, how they see themselves, and how they wish to be addressed. Don’t make assumptions about a person’s gender identity based on how they look, dress, or act. When speaking to another person, asking what a person’s preferred pronouns are such as he/him, she/her, they/them, is a way of demonstrating respect.

Non-Binary and Androgyny

Nonbinary Nonbnon binary and androgynous flag

We don’t always fit into the traditional roles of society, and sometimes we don’t have traditional looks. Some people have characteristics that are considered androgynous, which means they have a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics.

Androgyny can be expressed in how a person physically looks, how they dress, and how they express their gender identity. This is also called non-binary. A person can also be considered gender fluid, which means they feel and express themselves as masculine and at other times, they feel and express themselves as feminine.

It all depends on an individual’s perception of themselves and how they want to express themselves to the world. 

Transgender or Trans

Transgender or Trans

The majority of the people you meet will be cisgender, which means that their biological sex is the same as their gender identity. Transgender refers to those of us who have a different biological sex and gender identity. For example, if you were born a male with a penis, but your gender identity is a girl, you may be considered transgender. 

Not everyone that is transgender wants to have surgery to change their biological sex organs to match their gender identity. A transgender boy or girl is more than just their biological sex and whether or not they have a penis or vagina does not matter. 

Why Do I Feel This Way?

Questioning Gender Identity

It is common to have questions about your gender identity.  Don’t feel pressured to be what you are not.  Gender identity can be influenced by your biology, family, the media, society.  It’s normal to have questions and to try to figure out who you are.  

If you or someone you know identifies with a different gender identity than their biological sex, just know that you’re not broken. Being non-binary is not a disease or a sickness. Your gender identity is a part of who you are. 

If you find yourself struggling with your gender identity and it’s causing you problems in your daily life, talk with your doctor or counselor. You may be struggling with gender dysphoria, which is when your assigned sex or gender at birth is causing you distress or discomfort.

Wellbeing Strategies

Wellbeing Strategies

Talk to a Mental Health Professional:  It can be difficult to address your emotions and thoughts, experiences, and life challenges. Reaching out to a counselor or therapist can help you feel better and less alone. Find a therapist near you here or try online therapy!

Talk to a trusted adult: Parents, mentors, school employees, and religious leaders can provide you with additional support and guidance to work through your life challenges.

Set Boundaries: You can create space from certain friends or family members that put you down. Instead of focusing on the negative things you may identify or hear from others, create daily messages to yourself that are positive and help you move away from negative self-talk. 

Take care of yourself: Exercise, sleep, and eating healthy can have a big impact on your overall mood and how you feel about yourself. You can also do something you enjoy, such as yoga, art, sports, writing, listening to music, playing an instrument, etc.  Finding time to do things that you enjoy can help you feel better.

Meditate, prayer, mindfulness: Connecting to your breathing and your abilities to calm yourself can help positively increase your mood. Spending time in nature can help improve your mood.

Exploration of your sexual orientation and acceptance: Actively seek information about your sexual orientation. Some may feel they need to deny this part of themselves for religious reasons or family norms or even confused by what they feel towards others. Eventually, being honest with yourself will lead to acceptance of your sexual orientation. 

Telling Others: Usually, after you have educated yourself more about your orientation and have begun to accept it, you may want to tell a close friend or family member. Choosing who to tell is very important in the beginning. The potential of being rejected is real and should be considered seriously before disclosing. 

Being with other gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals: Being with others can help to strengthen a positive sense of self and that you are not alone. This can also help with your own sexual identity formation.

Positive Self-Identification: Feeling good about yourself, your sexual orientation, having positive relationships, and feeling fulfilled. 

Integration and Acceptance: Your sexual orientation is only one part of you. Integrating your orientation with the other parts of you such as; being an athlete, a student, a son or daughter, music and movie tastes, and your purpose and goals in life. In other words, your sexual orientation matches how you feel inside and how you choose to express it.


Extend Your Mental Health Support Coverage

Oasis Helps K-12 And Higher Education Institutions Support Student, Faculty, And Staff Wellbeing With Access To Mental Health Professionals And Evidence-Based Content

Scroll to Top