Our ideas of “expression” and “identity” are entangled. They are often interpreted as the same concept when in fact, they are mutually exclusive. To put it simply, “identity” is our sense of self and “expression” is how we choose to exhibit our identity. Expression plays a key role in how we perceive gender identity. How we see gender expressed informs our sense of what someone’s gender identity is. For example, dresses are commonly understood as an expression of femininity and “womanhood.” But what informs that common understanding? Society.
Over centuries, society has deemed what should be accepted as “women’s expression” and “men’s expression.” We’ve assigned gendered attributes to everything from colors to colognes. But as we come to understand gender in less binary terms, we must also reevaluate our perceptions of gender expression.
No longer can we assume someone’s gender identity based off their gender expression. Because when we see past the social constructs, we come to realize that the modes we use to express ourselves (clothes, colors, hairstyles, makeup, etc.) are genderless to begin with!