A Gender Glossary
Excerpted here are definitions from a Yale University glossary of current terms to describe gender identity and sexual orientation. Since no glossary can encompass all human experience, and these terms continue to evolve, conversingwith individuals “remains a respectful way to learn and understand how one defines oneself,” says Yale’s Guide to Gender Identity & Affirmation in the Workplace.
Androgynous: A non-binary gender identity, having both male and female characteristics. Can be used to describe people’s appearances or clothing.
Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction. This term is a self-identity.
Assigned gender: The gender that is given to an infant at birth based on the infant’s external genitals. This may or may not match the person’s gender identity in adulthood.
Cisgender: A term used to describe an individual whose gender identity aligns with the one typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. This is a term that is preferable to “non-trans,” “biological,”or “natal” man or woman.
Cross-dresser: Someone who wears the clothes typically worn by another gender, sometimes only at home, or as part of sexual play, and sometimes at public functions. It can be a self-identity. This term is not interchangeable with transgender, and some people who cross dress may consider themselves to be partof the transgender community, while others do not. (This is a newer word for the older and less preferred term “transvestite.”)
Gender: A set of social, psychological, or emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations that classify an individual as either feminine or masculine.
Gender-affirming surgery: Surgical procedures that help people adjust their bodies in a way that more closely matches a desired gender identity. It is only one small part of a transition. Not every transgender person will desire or have resources for surgery. This should be used in place of the older and often offensive term “sex change.”
Gender binary: The concept that there are only two genders, male and female, and that everyone must be one or the other.
Gender Dysphoria (GD): Gender Dysphoria or GD is a psychological diagnosis recognized bythe American Psychiatric Association (APA) and American Medical Association (AMA). This dysphoria is marked by severe distress and discomfort caused by the conflict between one’s gender identity and one’s designated sex at birth. Not all transgender people experience gender dysphoria or are diagnosed with GD.
Gender nonconforming: A person who views their gender identity as one of many possible genders beyond strictly female or male.
Genderqueer: A term that is sometimes used to describe someone who defines their gender outside the constructs of male and female. This can include having no gender (agender), being androgynous, or having elements of multiple genders.
Homosexual: An outdated clinical term often considered derogatory and offensive, as opposed to the preferred terms, “gay” and “lesbian.”
Intersex: Describing a person whose biological sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations which make a person’s sex ambiguous (e.g., Klinefelter Syndrome, Adrenal Hyperplasia). Parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant’s body to that assignment. This practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults are speaking out against the practice, accusing doctors of genital mutilation.
Pansexual: A person whose emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction is to people of all gender identities and biological sexes. People who are pansexual need not have had any sexual experience; attraction determines orientation. Sometimes referred to as omnisexual.
Preferred gender pronouns (PGP): Refers to the set of pronouns that a person prefers (e.g., him, he, she, her, ze, hir, they). It is polite to ask for a person’s preferred gender pronoun when meeting them for the first time.
Queer: A term currently used by some people – particularly youth – to describe themselves and/ortheir community. Some value the term for its defiance, some like it because it can be inclusive of the entire community, and others find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities. “Queer” is disliked by some within the LGBTQ community who find it offensive. This word should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who self-identifies as queer.
Sex: Refers to biological, genetic, or physical characteristics that define males and females. These can include genitalia, hormone levels, genes, or secondary sex characteristics. Sex is often compared or interchanged with gender, which is thought of as more social and less biological, though there is some considerable overlap.
Transgender: A term that may be used to describe people whose gender expression does not conform to the cultural norms and/or whose gender identity is different from their sex assigned at birth. Transgender is also considered by some to be an “umbrella term” that encompasses a number of identities which transcend the conventional expectations of gender identity and expression, including transgender man, transgender woman, genderqueer, and gender expansive. People who identify as transgender may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity. Sometimes shortened to the term Trans.
Transition: Altering one’s assigned sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a period of time. Transition can include some or all of the following: social, cultural, legal and medical adjustments; telling one’s family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not necessarily) some form of surgical alteration.
Trans man: A transgender person who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a man.
Trans woman: A transgender person who was assigned male at birth and identifies as a woman.
Transsexual (also Transexual): An older term which originated in the medical and psychological communities. Many transgender people prefer the term “transgender” to “transsexual.” It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.