Gender and transgender

Gender can mean different things. Usually it means the categories male and female, which are linked to biological characteristics, i.e. the genitals, meaning the penis, vagina, testicles and ovaries. From a purely biological perspective, there are more than just two genders.

Male and female are the two legal genders that exist in Sweden. A person's legal gender is the gender stated in Sweden's national civil register and in identity documents, and it is also indicated in every personal identity number. In certain countries, for instance Pakistan, Argentina, Germany and South Africa, there is a third legal gender.

Gender identity refers to a person’s perception of what gender they are, and that may be male, female, both or neither. All people have the right to decide their gender identity themselves, and it is something that can change over time.

Gender identity can be described as the way a person expresses gender through body language, clothes, hairstyle, accessories, voice etc.



Transgender refers to a person who breaches norms related to gender, gender identity and/or gender expression. Transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation, but is instead a matter of gender identity. A transgender person may be homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, asexual, queer or something else. Transgender may embrace transsexuals, intergender persons, intersexuals and transvestites. A person whose legal gender, biological gender, gender identity and gender expression all match is called cis. One example would be a person who is born with a penis, sees himself as a man and is registered as a male in the national civil register.


Transsexualism is a state where a person has a gender identity that does not match with that person’s legal gender as registered at birth. Transsexual people often have a desire to rectify their bodies in some way so as to fit in with the gender they perceive themselves as being. Transsexualism is a medical diagnosis.


Intergender means a person who identifies himself/herself as being something in between male or female, or as being neither. Such a person may feel like both a man and a woman or may feel like not belonging to any gender at all. Intergender is a matter of gender identity, not what the body looks like.


Intersex is a collective term for different medical diagnoses. In brief, intersex means a congenital condition where the chromosomes or the appearance and development of the genitals do not follow the expected division into male and female. In other words, when it is not biologically possible to categorise a person as either male or female in accordance with social gender norms. Approximately 1 person out of every 1,500 has some form of intersex syndrome.


Transvestite refers to a person who expresses gender in a way normally associated with the "opposite" sex, for instance by means of clothes, accessories, voice and body language.