Gender essentialism is the toxic ideology proposing that gender is an essentialist identity or property of an individual or group. In other words, gender is not a self-concept or a social construct under this theory, but instead an externally-measurable property of a person as determined by specific attributes. The essentialism that is applied to gender is done so in accordance with a person's birth assignment (i.e., the sexing of a newborn by the external appearance of their genitals). This practice itself, is an application of gender essentialism as genitalia are considered definitive characteristics of the two binary genders.
Gender essentialism is applied through socially constructed standards of binary gender, gender expression, sexuality, and is a key component of transmisogyny. Deviation from these standards often results in the violence that is a key component to oppression.
- The expectation that a newborn who has been assigned male will dress and behave according to societal standards of masculinity and will experience sexual and romantic attraction to women only.
- The expectation that a newborn who has been assigned female will dress and behave according to societal standards of femininity and will experience sexual and romantic attraction to men only.
As can be seen in these examples, no space is made for intersex newborns, transgender people, and all sexualities other than heterosexuality. Consequently, gender essentialism is a core tenet of the oppressive philosophies used against these people.