Terminology

Maybe you heard a new term in class, but didn't know what it meant. Maybe you overheard someone describe themself with a label that you've never heard of. Maybe you're just naturally curious! In any case, here's a list of some terminology that relates to gender and gender identities!

  • Agender - A non-binary identity, meaning without a gender or gender identity.
  • Aliagender - A gender experience which is “other”, or stands apart from existing gender constructs.
  • Ambigender - A non-binary identity related to androgyne, bigender, and/or genderfluid.
  • Androgens - Hormones such as testosterone, sometimes called “male sex hormones,” although people of any gender can have high androgen levels, and not all men have high androgen levels.
  • Androgyne - A non-binary identity, meaning a combination, blending, or in-between point between two genders (usually between male and female). Androgynes may or may not present androgynously, and may or may not experience multiple genders..
  • Androgynous - A gender presentation that is ambiguous between male and female, or which blends them, or lies in the middle between them. Androgyny can be defined in many ways; typically it is associated as a presentation of an ambiguous gender, or the feeling of being between “male” and “female”.
  • Assigned Sex (at birth) - The gender identity imposed on someone by their family and by society. This gender is usually decided at birth or in utero, and is usually based on genitalia. Almost all people are assigned male or female at birth, even if they are intersex.
  • Being Read - An alternative phrase to “passing” that shifts responsibility of correct gendering onto onlookers, instead of on the person who is read. A trans person who is read correctly is recognized as their correct gender.
  • Binder - In trans discussions, a garment used to minimize or alter the appearance of breasts. Binding is the practice of hiding or reshaping breasts, usually to achieve a more masculine or androgynous appearance.
  • Biological Sex (also: sex) - A social construct that categorizes human bodies as male or female based on chromosomes or genitalia. Contrary to popular belief, there are not two biological sexes, because people can be born with a wide variety of sexual characteristics, and many different combinations of sexual characteristics. Many trans and/or intersex people find the phrase or concept offensive, and prefer the phrase “assigned sex,” or “designated sex.”
  • Bottom Surgery - A colloquial term for surgery that corrects one’s genitalia to better match one’s preferred gender presentation.
  • Cisgender (also: cis, cissexual) - Refers to people whose sex assignment at birth corresponds to their gender identity and expression.
  • Cis Privilege -The benefits, opportunities and everyday courtesies that cisgender people are able to take for granted, and which trans and non-binary people may not be able to count on.
  • Cishet - A person who is cisgender, hetero-romantic and heterosexual.
  • Cissexism - The unjust social institution that validates cisgender identities more than trans identities, and which grants privileges to cis people while oppressing trans people.
  • Chromosomes -Gene sequences that determine how an organism’s body develops and reproduces. The human sex chromosomes, X and Y, usually determine whether a fetus develops typical egg-producing anatomy or typical sperm-producing anatomy. However, other factors can affect a person’s anatomical and psychological development, and the chromosomes do not necessarily reflect a person’s true gender.
  • Crossdresser - A person who chooses to wear clothing that does not match their gender identity or usual gender presentation. A controversial concept because clothing is not intrinsically gendered, and the wearer may define it as appropriate to their own gender regardless of social norms. This is a loaded term and should not be used without the permission of the person being referred to. Crossdressing - The act of wearing clothing that does not match one’s gender identity. A controversial concept because clothing is not intrinsically gendered, and the wearer may define it as appropriate to their own gender regardless of social norms. Trans people who wear the clothing of their assigned sex may consider themselves as crossdressing; when wearing clothing of their actual gender, they are not crossdressing, though they may appear that way to uninformed people.
  • Crossplay - To dress up as a fictional or historical character that is of a different gender than oneself. A controversial concept because clothing is not intrinsically gendered, and the wearer may define it as appropriate to their own gender regardless of social norms.
  • Dehumanization - A kind of stigma that lessens a person by making them seem less than human; often likening them to an animal, machine or monster. A common component of transphobia.
  • Demi- - Demiboy - See demiguy. Demienby - A gender that is partly one non-biinary gender, and partly another non-binary gender. Demigender - Umbrella term for demigirl, demiguy, demienby, demiboy, and similar genders. Demigirl - A gender that is partly female and partly non-binary. Can be AFAB or AMAB. Demiguy - A gender that is partly male and partly non-binary. Can be AMAB or AFAB.
  • Drag - Drag is done for a wide variety of reasons and purposes. People in drag may attempt to plausibly appear as their target gender, parody gender, exaggerate gender, or deconstruct gender. Some people who wear drag are trans and some are not. See "Crossdressing” for problematic elements of this concept. Drag King - A person who does not identify as male but dresses up to resemble one. Trans men are not drag kings, because they are men. However, some people who appear to be drag kings may later come to identify as trans men. See “Crossdressing” for problematic elements of this concept. Drag Queen - A person who does not identify as female but dresses up to resemble one. Trans women are not drag queens, because they are women. However, some people who appear to be drag queens may later come to identify as trans women. See “Crossdressing” for problematic elements of this concept.
  • Fluid - Changeable, not static. Some people have fluid sexual orientations or gender identities.
  • Gender - Refers to the differences in socially constructed roles and opportunities associated with being a man or a woman and the interactions and social relations between men and women. Gender determines what is expected, permitted and valued in a woman or a man in a determined context.
  • Gender Expression - Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, and other forms of presentation. Gender expression also works the other way as people assign gender to others based on their appearance, mannerisms, and other gendered characteristics. Sometimes, transgender people seek to match their physical expression with their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex. Gender expression should not be viewed as an indication of sexual orientation.
  • Gender Fluidity -Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Gender fluid children do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of girls or boys. In other words, a child may feel they are a girl some days and a boy on others, or possibly feel that neither term describes them accurately.
  • Gender Identity - One’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth. Individuals are conscious of this between the ages 18 months and 3 years. Most people develop a gender identity that matches their biological sex. For some, however, their gender identity is different from their biological or assigned sex. Some of these individuals choose to socially, hormonally and/or surgically change their sex to more fully match their gender identity.
  • Gender Neutral - Not specific or restricted to any particular gender. Gender Neutral Language - The use of nouns, titles and pronouns in such a way as to avoid specifying gender. This is useful for making environments and discussions more accessible to trans and non-binary people.
  • Gender Non-Conforming - Acting, speaking or dressing in a manner that is not traditionally encouraged for members of one’s gender.
  • Gender Presentation - The way that a person’s gender superficially appears to onlookers, which may be affected by anatomy, clothing, makeup, hairstyle, speech patterns and body language. May also include a person’s stated desire to be treated as a certain gender and referred to with certain pronouns.
  • Gender Roles - A set of expectations, standards, and cultural pressures associated with a particular gender. People may freely choose to follow or disregard gender roles. Conformity to gender roles does not reflect a person’s actual gender; cis people who violate gender roles do not become trans, nor do trans people need to follow traditional gender roles in order for their genders to be valid.
  • Genderqueer - An umbrella term that includes all gender identities other than strictly male or strictly female. Covers the same set of people as “non-binary,” but it has different social and political connotations, and is more strongly associated with “queering gender” and the queer political movement. Or, gender presentation that is not strictly male or female.
  • Gender-Variant - Behaving or presenting one’s gender in a way that does not fit traditional models of male or female. Also, an umbrella term, similar to non-binary and genderqueer.
  • Hermaphrodite - A creature with both male and female sexual characteristics. This term should not be applied to humans.
  • Heteronormativity (also: Heterosexism) - The cultural force that expects all people to be cisgender, heteroromantic and heterosexual. Major problem that affects all queer identities, including asexuals. Closely linked to homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and acephobia.
  • Hormone Blockers -Drugs used to negate or prevent the effects of hormones, particularly sex hormones. These include anti-androgens and anti-estrogens. Also called puberty blockers, puberty suppressors, puberty inhibitors, or hormone suppressors.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy - Therapy in which a person is given hormones that their body lacks, or does not have enough of. Many, but not all, trans people choose to use hormones to alter their gender presentation. Some cis people also undergo hormone replacement therapy for other purposes, e.g. estrogen replacement for postmenopausal women.
  • Intersex - Intersex (previously referred to as hermaphrodite) refers to a condition because of which an individual may have sex chromosomes, anatomy or physiology that are not socially considered standard for either male or female. Intersex conditions are often visible at birth, but some develop later during puberty. There is no single “intersex body;” intersex encompasses a wide variety of conditions that do not have anything in common other than that they are deemed “abnormal” by the medical establishment.
  • Passing - The state of being perceived as the gender one wishes to be seen as.
  • Preferred Pronouns - The pronouns that a person wished to be called by. Using a person’s preferred pronouns is a key part of respecting their gender. Also called “correct pronouns.”
  • Pronouns - Small words such as he, she, her, them, and us, which are used to refer to people. In English, there are four common third-person pronoun groups: he/his/him, she/hers/her, they/their/them, and it/its/it. Individual people may decide which of these pronouns they wish to be referred to as, or they may use pronouns that have been more recently coined.
  • Queer - An umbrella term for all people who are not heterosexual, heteroromantic and cisgender, and who self-identify as queer. A sensitive issue because of its history as a slur. Some trans and/or non-binary people identify as queer, and others do not.
  • Sexual Orientation - Term that refers to being romantically or sexually attracted to people of a specific gender. Our sexual orientation and our gender identity are separate, distinct parts of our overall identity. Although a child may not yet be aware of their sexual orientation, they usually have a strong sense of their gender identity.
  • Surgery (Gender Affirmation Surgery) - Surgery that alters a person’s appearance to better reflect their preferred gender presentation. Gender Confirmation Surgery - Surgery that alters a person’s appearance to better reflect their preferred gender presentation. Gender Reassignment Surgery - An older term for gender affirmation surgery or gender confirmation surgery. It is rather inaccurate because the surgery does not change the recipient’s gender, but alters the body to better reflect the gender.
  • Third Gender - A phrase used in anthropology for genders and gender roles that do not fit the Western constructs of “man” or “woman.” The phrase is problematic because of its colonialist or Eurocentric associations.
  • Transgender - Sometimes used as an umbrella to describe anyone whose identity or behavior falls outside of stereotypical gender norms. More narrowly defined, it refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match their assigned birth gender. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation (attraction to people of a specific gender.) Therefore, transgender people may additionally identify with a variety of other sexual identities as well.
  • Transmisogyny -  Transphobia and misogyny combined, forming an especially virulent form of oppression against trans women and other transfeminine people.
  • Transphobia - Prejudice, stigma, or discrimination against trans, non-binary and/or genderqueer people. Can occur as both an individual attitude and as a widespread social force.
  • Transsexual - A person who has changed, or wishes to change, their anatomy to better reflect their true gender. This is a loaded term and should not be used to refer to someone without their permission. Some transsexual people do not identify as transgender.
  • Two-Spirited - This is a identifier used by Native American person/s who embodies attributes of both masculine and feminine genders, have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with rituals. Their dress is usually mixture of male and female articles and they are seen as a separate or third gender.