Source: Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado.
What is gender expression?
“Gender expression” refers to the ways in which we each manifest masculinity or femininity. It is usually an extension of our “gender identity,” our innate sense of being male or female. Each of us expresses a particular gender every day – by the way we style our hair, select our clothing, or even the way we stand. Our appearance, speech, behavior, movement, and other factors signal that we feel – and wish to be understood – as masculine or feminine, or as a man or a woman.
For some of us, our gender expression may not match our biological sex. That is, while other people see us as being male or female, we may or may not fit their expectations of masculinity or femininity because of the way we look, act, or dress.
People whose gender expression is not what we might expect represent many different backgrounds – their age, sex, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation has no bearing on their gender expression.
Why do employees need our help?
Employees who express gender outside of societal stereotypes struggle with a number of conflicting decisions at work on a daily basis: which restroom to use, which uniform to wear, when, how, or even whether to inform employers that they are transgender. Additionally, they face verbal abuse, such as name-calling and taunting; denials of promotions; punishment for expressing a gender identity outside an employer’s expectation; requirements to wear the uniform of their non-preferred gender; and in rare cases, physical abuse by co-workers. Also, despite legislation in many states designed to protect employees from such harassment, only six of the thirty-one Employment Nondiscrimination Acts (ENDAs) currently in place include gender expression and a few ENDAs allow certain types of employer’s exemptions from the law.