Understanding Gender Terms

A person's gender is one of the most basic parts of their identity. It is more than the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender is how a person feels and expresses themselves. It can influence, and be influenced, by many things. It can change over time.

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Defining Basic Gender Terms

The following terms and definitions are commonly used to differentiate between various aspects of gender identity:

  • Agender - When a person doesn't have a specific gender identity.
  • Bigender - When a person has two gender identities.
  • Cisgender - When a person's assigned sex at birth corresponds with their gender identity and expression.
  • Gender - The socially constructed roles and behaviors that a society typically associates with males and females.
  • Genderqueer - When a person identifies with both genders, no gender or a combination of the stereotypical male and female characteristics.
  • Gender confirmation surgery or sex reassignment surgery - A treatment for gender dysphoria which changes the physical appearance and function of a person's genitals to bring them into alignment with their gender identity.
  • Gender dysphoria - An emotional and psychological condition experienced when a person's gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Gender-expansive - When a person's identity or behavior is broader than the commonly held definitions of gender and gender expression in one or more aspects of their life. They may not identify with being either male or female, or may identify as a combination of both or they might express their gender in a different way.
  • Gender expression - How a person presents their gender to others through clothing, hairstyle, voice and mannerisms.
  • Gender-fluid - When a person has a flexible gender identity and expression that can fluctuate by the hour, day, or longer interval of time.
  • Gender identity - A person's internal sense of self, which can be male, female, both, neither or something else.
  • Gender nonconforming - When a person's gender expression does not correspond with the appearance or behaviors of a stereotypical male or female. Not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender, and not all transgender people are gender nonconforming.
  • Intersex - A general term covering a variety of conditions in which a person's sex characteristics - including chromosomes, gonads or genitals - are not distinct to either a male or female.
  • Sex - The classification of people as male or female, typically assigned at birth based on the appearance of external anatomy.
  • Transgender - An umbrella term describing when a person's gender identity is different than what society expects based on the person's sex assigned at birth.
  • Transgender man - A person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and expresses their gender as male. Sometimes shortened to trans man.
  • Transgender woman - A person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and expresses their gender as female. Sometimes shortened to trans woman.

Respecting Gender Diversity

Gender terms will continue to evolve. Communication about gender can be clearer if the various terms are understood and correctly used. Learning the correct usage shows support and respect for people of all gender identities. Embrace inclusivity further by using gender-neutral terms.

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