Gender is a social construct that refers to various characteristics associated with being a boy/man and a girl/woman. It may be used to describe ways of being, from the roles we perform to activities we participate in. These are often called gender roles and gender play or performance, respectively.
Gender is also a deeper dimension of identity, and gender identity exists on a spectrum. Some people may experience themselves as clearly man/male or woman/female, while others may find that an identity less all/nothing feels more true for them. Sometimes such people use terms such as “non-binary” or “gender queer”, among others, to describe their gender identity.
When someone identifies with a gender that matches the sex they were assigned at birth, they are known as Cis-gender, where “cis” essentially means “same”. There are people who realize that their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. There is a wide variety of ways in which this can express itself, and a wide variety of ways in which a person may identify themselves. One umbrella term that is often used to describe ‘non-cis-gender’ is “transgender” (though it is important to note that not all will choose this label to describe their identity).
Because the world we have all grown up in has been built on a predominantly binary foundation and a belief that our gender is determined at birth, those of us who come to understand our gender as not fitting these cultural expectations can struggle with finding self-acceptance and allowing ourselves to fully live as who we are — and experience mental health consequences as a result. Know that support is available and you are entitled to receive it. And if you are a cis-gendered person wanting help navigating your relationship with a transgender loved one, support is here for you, too.