This glossary is not a dictionary definition. It captures the current usage of the terms; but some of the terms are contested or in flux as the understanding of the complexity of gender increases.
Agender (from 'a-', meaning "without", and 'gender') people, also called genderless, genderfree, non-gendered, or ungendered people are those who identify as having no gender or being without any gender identity.
Androgyne is a non-binary gender identity. Androgynes may possess traits that are simultaneously feminine and masculine. Some androgynes adopted an androgynous psychological gender identity, while some may still be questioning their gender or live with the social gender identity assigned to them at birth. Western society currently recognizes no set gender roles for androgynes.
Because androgynes have a non-binary gender identity, they might also identify as genderqueer and/or transgender. Androgynes can be of any sexual or romantic orientation.
A cisgender person is one whose gender identity is congruent with their body.
Cisnormativity The pervasive expectation throughout the culture that everyone is and should be either male or female; that one’s gender is ascertainable at birth; and that gender never changes.
Every request for gender information which offers only ‘M’ or ‘F’ prescribes and reinscribes cisnormativity.
Cross dresser An individual whose gender identity matches their assigned sex, but who presents as a member of the “opposite” sex .
Someone who was assigned a female identity at birth, but now identifies on the male end of the spectrum.
Gender is the social practice of treating people as a member of “a” gender, usually either M or F.
Gendering practices include most notably the ubiquitous practice of requiring that people report their gender as either M or F.
In popular understanding ‘gender’ is conflated with ‘sex’.
The felt experience of having one’s physical body be a mis-match with one’s gender identity. The experience is one of severe distress, anxiety, and depression. This is a medical term and can be contested by trans* people who argue that gender diversity is a normal part of human experience.
Someone who is gender fluid has a gender that can change and switch, it may switch between male, female, agender, third gender, or any other genderqueer identity. can also switch to have combinations at the same time, such as male and female, or other mixes, such as male agender, and a third gender. Their gender can combine varying amounts of gender identities; three, four, or five, or many with which the individual identifies. It can also be many but not every gender and combination at once, a term known as polygender (other terms for which may include multigender, which may be considered derogatory by some).
One’s perceived sense of gender, whether or not it “matches” one’s genitals or other sex markers such as chromosomes.
Often used in relation to a cisgender person whose gender presentation does not match their gender identity – eg a butch woman, or a femme man
Non binary; has a gender identity which is not captured by either F or M.
Sometimes used to mean ‘non-cisgender’.
Genderqueer is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine - identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.
Genderqueer people may identify as one or more of the following:
- having an overlap of, or indefinite lines between, gender identity;
- having two or more genders (being bigender, trigender, or pangender);
- having no gender (being agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree, or neutrois);
- moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); or
- being third-gender or other-gendered, a category which includes those who do not place a name to their gender.
Intersex is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Such variation may involve genital ambiguity, and combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other than XY-male and XX-female. There are a variety of medical conditions grouped as ‘intersex’ some of which are detectable at birth, others at puberty, and some only accidentally.
Being intersex is a normal part of the range of sexes.
Someone who was assigned a male identity at birth, but now identifies on the feminine end of the spectrum.
A gender identity which is neither, or both, male and female. People can feel they are both, neither, or some mixture thereof. It might be easier to view gender as a 1-dimensional spectrum with male on one end, female on the other, and androgyne in the middle- but the reality is that gender is more complex, and 3-dimensional models with axes for male, female, and how strongly you feel attached to that gender identity have been suggested.
Medically, physical characteristics including genitals, chromosomes, hormones, and internal morphology.
Sex is the physical characteristics one has at birth.
Socially one is assigned a sex as either M or F based on a visual inspection. Occasionally intersex infants with ambiguous genitalia are surgically altered to be raised as either M or F.
An irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against people whose gendered identities, appearances, or behaviours deviate from societal norms. This includes transgender, transsexual, transitioned, trans and gender queer people, as well as some twospiritpeople. Transphobia exists within a context of cisnormativity. Transphobia includes acts and policies of misgendering, exclusion, discrimination, and violence.
Transphobia exists at an individual, institutional, and cultural level.
Transgender is an umbrella term.
Transgender is the state of one's gender identity or gender expression not matching one's assigned sex. Transgender is independent of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them. The definition of transgender includes:
- Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these.
- People who were assigned a sex, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves.
- Non-identification with, or non-presentation as, the sex (and assumed gender) one was assigned at birth.
- Transsexual people
A transgender individual may have characteristics that are normally associated with a particular gender and identify elsewhere on the traditional gender continuum, or exist outside of it as other, agender, gender-neutral, genderqueer, non-binary, third gender, etc. Transgender people may also identify as bigender, pangender, or along several places on either the traditional transgender continuum or the more encompassing continuums that have been developed in response to recent, significantly more detailed studies. Furthermore, many transgender people experience a period of identity development that includes better understanding one's self-image, self-reflection, and self-expression. More specifically, the degree to which individuals feel genuine, authentic, and comfortable within their external appearance and accept their genuine identity is referred to as transgender congruence.
Transsexual people are colloquially described as being ‘born in the wrong body’.
Transsexual people experience a gender identity inconsistent or not culturally associated with their assigned sex, i.e. in which a person's assigned sex at birth conflicts with their psychological gender. A medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria can be made if a person experiences discomfort as a result of a desire to be a member of the opposite sex, or if a person experiences impaired functioning or distress as a result of their gender identification.
Two-spirit people (also two spirit or twospirit) is a modern umbrella term used by some indigenous North Americans to describe or label gender-variant or gay and lesbian individuals in their communities.
Historically among many first nations, there was no distinction between people who were attracted to members of the “same” gender and people who were themselves of the “other” or another gender.
Prepared by barbara findlay QC April 20, 2015
Feel free to republish as long as:
- you include this disclaimer;
- these are not dictionary definitions;
- terms are contested or in flux as the understanding of the complexity of gender increases;
- you don’t charge money to distribute.