What you need to know

Today nearly half of Americans view gender as a spectrum rather than as a traditional binary model. While the majority continue to personally identify as male or female, many Americans are aware of and believe that a person’s gender can be a blend of or independent of these two mutually exclusive options. Regardless of how people identify or the pronouns they use, a person’s gender is an intimate and crucial aspect of who they are. It’s important that brands understand the gender spectrum paradigm and how it impacts the identity, self-expression and behavior of all consumers.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • An overview of the Gender Landscape in American, including how consumers consider and perceive gender as a concept

  • The prevalence of gender-expansive identity and expression among Americans today

  • The role of gender norms and stereotypes in society today and how they impact consumers and their behaviors

  • The impact of gender identity on consumer behaviour across categories, and how brands can support gender inclusivity both internally and externally


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions of gender identity and sexual orientation. For a full list of terminology included in Report, see Appendix:

  • Agender: Describes a person who does not identify with any gender identity.

  • Androgynous: Describes a person who identifies and/or presents as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine.

  • Binary gender system: A concept often perpetuated by society that gender identity is limited to two, mutually exclusive options (man or woman).

  • Cisgender: Describes a person whose gender identity (defined below) aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.

  • Gender: A set of social, physical, psychological and emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations, that classify an individual as feminine, masculine, androgynous or other. Words and qualities ascribed to these traits vary across cultures and can shift over time.

  • Genderqueer: Describes a person who rejects the notions of static categories of gender and instead embraces a fluidity of gender identity. A person who identifies as genderqueer may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male or female, or as falling completely outside these categories (see also: gender fluid/gender fluidity)

  • Gender identity: One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

  • Gender-bending: When a person disrupts or "bends" expected gender roles through their dress, adornment, or behavior. This can be a form of social activism to protest rigid gender norms and stereotypes, or it can be reflective of a person’s gender identity or expression.

  • Gender-expansive: Conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system.

  • Gender expression: External appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

  • Gender-fluid/fluidity: A person who does not identify with a single fixed gender and whose identification/ presentation may shift, whether within or outside of the male/female binary

  • Gender identity: One’s innermost feeling of maleness, femaleness, a blend of both or neither. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

  • Gender spectrum model: A framework that understands gender as an unfixed range of possibilities including between and outside of male or female, rather than the traditional binary.

  • Misgendered: To refer to someone in a way that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify, such as refusing to use a person’s pronouns or name. (Note: this can be accidental or intentional).

  • Non-binary: An umbrella term that refers to individuals who identify as neither man or woman, or as a combination of man or woman. Instead, non-binary people exhibit a boundless range of identities that can exist beyond a spectrum between male and female.

  • Sex or sex assigned at birth: The sex (male, female, or intersex) given to a child at birth, most often based on the child's external anatomy, but also chromosome and hormone markers.

  • Sexual minorities: Refers to groups of people whose sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual characteristics are different from the presumed majority of the population, which are male/men or female/women heterosexuals.

  • Transgender (abbreviated: trans): An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Source: Human Rights Campaign’s Glossary of terms, Teaching Tolerance’s The Acronym and Beyond

COVID-19: market context

This Report was written October 15-October 30, 2020. Consumer research was fielded in September 2020 and thus reflects consumer attitudes in the pandemic environment.

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic, and on March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in the US. 

Across the US, state-level stay-at-home orders rolled out throughout the months of March and April, and nonessential businesses and school districts across the nation closed or shifted to remote operations. At the time of writing, all 50 states have relaxed restrictions, allowing businesses to operate with varying levels of social distancing measures in place. However, a resurgence of COVID-19 infections has driven some states to slow down or reverse course on reopening plans.

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