Gendered identities and gender variance have become a regular subject of the discourse of the United Nations human rights protection mechanisms. This article explores the manner in which gender identities are discussed, constructed, and regulated by the international human rights law system. Through use of postcolonial and feminist theoretical lenses, it argues that the emergence of multiple gendered identities into the legal mainstream has required the United Nations human rights bodies to expand their concepts of gender and to develop a new vocabulary and jurisprudence of gender variance. The article examines the language used in the construction of gendered subjects and its relationship to dynamics of state and postcolonial power. It also introduces the concept of the ‘cisgender matrix’ to international human rights law, expressing the hierarchical social privilege given to binary, stable gendered identities over gender-variant ones.