Gender perception is a term used to describe how individuals are classified as either male, female or transgendered. These types of perception are frequently dependent upon physical cues such as genitalia, facial hair and body structure. As a term, gender perception may be used to describe group perceptions about gender, as well as individual perceptions about one's own gender.
Throughout the world, gender perception is commonly used to classify people into two predominate categories — male or female. At birth, this determination is made upon observing the genitalia of a newborn and that particular gender classification tends to shape the way that child is raised and taught to view himself or herself. Societal norms, in particular, play a role in how a person views his or her own gender, as well as how his or her gender is perceived by others. For example, newborn girls and boys are dressed in different colors and styles of clothing, as well as offered different toys to play with as they begin to develop. Taught to look, behave and perceive one's self as male or female, this gender assignment is generally accepted by the child and others for life.
In a small number of cases, however, children are born with ambiguous genitalia. Others are born with definite external male or female characteristics, but are equipped with internal characteristics normally found in the opposite sex. For example, a child may appear outwardly male while possessing internal organs unique to females, such as ovaries. Identified as intersexed, the common markers used to define gender perception in others often do not apply to this group of people.
Some are born with internal and external anatomical features of one sex, but are compelled to change these features later in life. These changes may be implemented through surgery or by other means. An example of the latter may include an anatomical male who receives hormonal injections to facilitate breast growth, soften the skin and reduce facial hair. Individuals making such a choice are commonly identified as transgendered. Even without medical injections, a person may choose to change gender perception by wearing clothing, makeup and hairstyles commonly associated with another gender without actually altering the body.
Theories of perception are often studied in tandem with sexual orientation. Gender perception frequently conflicts with commonly assumed orientations. For example, a woman may be sexually attracted to men, women or both sexes. This same is true for men, as well as transgendered populations. Such leads many to conclude that gender perception is not always clear-cut, nor are common perceptions always reliable indicators of the gender roles people will engage in throughout a lifetime.
Researchers and parties with an interest in the psychology of perception frequently study gender perception, in particular. A special emphasis is often placed on how this type of perception relates to cultural norms throughout the world. Even among individuals who do not officially study theories of perception, strong conclusions about gender norms and how they relate to things like heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality are often formed based on perceptions.