Terminology and definitions

Publication Date: 
June 17, 2016

A detailed discussion of terminology in the context of the great diversity of transgender and gender nonconforming people encountered across cultures and languages is beyond the scope of these Guidelines. Below are definitions for some commonly encountered terms, which will be used throughout these Guidelines as indicated.

  • Gender identity: A person's internal sense of self and how they fit into the world, from the perspective of gender.
  • Sex: Historically has referred to the sex assigned at birth, based on assessment of external genitalia, as well as chromosomes and gonads. In everyday language is often used interchangeably with gender, however there are differences, which become important in the context of transgender people.
  • Gender expression: The outward manner in which an individual expresses or displays their gender. This may include choices in clothing and hairstyle, or speech and mannerisms. Gender identity and gender expression may differ; for example a woman (transgender or non-transgender) may have an androgynous appearance, or a man (transgender or non-transgender) may have a feminine form of self-expression.
  • Transgender: A person whose gender identity differs from the sex that was assigned at birth. May be abbreviated to trans. A transgender man is someone with a male gender identity and a female birth assigned sex; a transgender woman is someone with a female gender identity and a male birth assigned sex. A non-transgender person may be referred to as cisgender (cis=same side in Latin).
  • Gender nonconforming: A person whose gender identity differs from that which was assigned at birth, but may be more complex, fluid, multifaceted, or otherwise less clearly defined than a transgender person. Genderqueer is another term used by some with this range of identities.
  • Nonbinary: transgender or gender nonconforming person who identifies as neither male nor female.
  • Trans-masculine/trans-feminine: Terms to describe gender nonconforming or nonbinary persons, based on the directionality of their gender identity. A trans-masculine person has a masculine spectrum gender identity, with the sex of female listed on their original birth certificate. A trans-feminine person has a feminine spectrum gender identity, the sex of male listed on their original birth certificate. In portions of these Guidelines, in the interest of brevity and clarity, transgender men/women are inclusive of gender non-conforming or nonbinary persons on the respective spectrae.
  • They/Them/Their: Neutral pronouns used by some who have a nonbinary or nonconforming gender identity.
  • Transsexual: A more clinical term which had historically been used to describe those transgender people who sought medical intervention (hormones, surgery) for gender affirmation. Term is less commonly used in present day, however some individuals and communities maintain a strong and affirmative connection to this term.
  • Cross dresser / drag queen / drag king: These terms generally refer to those who may wear the clothing of a gender that differs from the sex which they were assigned at birth for entertainment, self-expression, or sexual pleasure. Some cross dressers and people who dress in drag may exhibit an overlap with components of a transgender identity. The term transvestite is no longer used in the English language and is considered pejorative.
  • Sexual orientation: Describes sexual attraction only, and is not directly related to gender identity. The sexual orientation of transgender people should be defined by the individual. It is often described based on the lived gender; a transgender woman attracted to other women would be a lesbian, and a transgender man attracted to other men would be a gay man.

    For the purposes of clarity and simplicity, the term transgender will be used throughout these guidelines to refer to transgender, gender nonconforming, and genderqueer people as a set, unless otherwise indicated. Non-transgender people will be referred to as such.

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