[page under construction, trying to include other lgbt+ related things and improve the intro]
These definitions are intended to provide an overview and are not a comprehensive discussion of the ideas involved. Many people’s experience will be different than what is given here, and acknowledgement of this is vital to effective education and discussion. No one is going to give an exact, clear-cut definition of the terms here, and attempting to promote one conception of a notion like “gender” above another generally just involves back-and-forth argumentation. What’s more important is listening and reflecting on the experiences of those who go against the society norms, and adapting our views and practices in light of such.
Gender refers to people’s internal perception and experience of maleness, femaleness, experiences that fall outside of these categories, and the social construction that allocates certain behaviours into male and female roles which vary across history, societies, cultures and classes. Gender is hence strongly linked to society’s expectations and is not exclusively a biological matter.
Usually about a person’s biological characteristics, covering a range of aspects such as gonads and genetic and hormonal make-up. ‘Biological Sex’ is not well defined as there are many aspects that make up Biological Sex and ‘Chromosomal Sex’ is also not binary and generally people may not know this information anyway.
A model which refers to the norms derived from the idea of a dichotomy of two mutually exclusive and biologically defined sexes to whom different roles and behaviour are traditionally ascribed. In modern western culture we are again seeing a resurgence of thought that this is too simplistic to describe the full range of human experiences and identities as has happened in many cultures across the world and across human history.
People whose gender is not or not wholly described by ‘male’ or ‘female’. Some identities which can be non-binary include androgyne, polygender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, dual-gendered, non-gender identifying, gender questioning, gender variant, gender fluid, butch, femme and cross-dressing & transvestite people.
A person’s inner sense of their own gender identity, which is independent of their gender expression, biological makeup and any gender that may be externally attributed to them by other people, including legally and socially.
Transgender (or trans)
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from that of their sex assigned at birth. Transgender people may or may not alter their bodies to better fit with their gender identity through means such as hormones or surgery. Some intersex people identify as transgender but the two are not the same. Should only be used as an adjective e.g. ‘transgender people’. The word “Transgendered” is used by some people but is not strictly grammatically correct and its use is therefore discouraged.
The antonym of transgender. Used to describe those whose gender identity is congruent with their sex assigned at birth. Should only be used as an adjective e.g. ‘cisgender people’.
Transsexual people are those who identify with the opposite binary gender to their sex assigned at birth and seek to live permanently in this gender role. This is often accompanied by with strong rejection of their physical primary and secondary sex characteristics and a wish to align their body with their preferred gender. Transsexual people might intend to undergo, be undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment treatment (which may or may not involve hormone therapy or surgery). Should only be used as an adjective.
Sex assigned at birth
Generally thought of as the sex announced when a person is born. This is usually one of male, female or intersex, though many intersex babies are then operated on to make them more closely resemble one of the binary sexes and then raised as that binary gender.
Female/male assigned at birth. Used to differentiate between which binary gender identity a trans* person was assigned at birth. These terms should only be used when describing distinct challenges the two groups face and should never be used to refer to an individual.
Gender dysphoria is a medical condition in which a person has been assigned one gender at birth but identifies as another gender, or does not conform to the gender role society ascribes to them. Gender dysphoria is not related to sexual orientation. Gender dysphoria has replaced gender identity disorder as the word disorder is seen as stigmatising.
A person with gender dysphoria can experience anxiety, uncertainty or persistently uncomfortable feelings about their gender assigned at birth. This dysphoria may lead to a fear of expressing their feelings or of rejection and in some cases deep anxiety or chronic depression. It is effectively treated using methods such as counselling, hormone replacement therapy, surgery or simply social transition.
Gender reassignment is a process undertaken under medical supervision to reassign a person’s gender by changing their physical sexual characteristics. Gender reassignment may involve someone or all of the following: hormone therapy; hair removal and possibly (although not always) chest and/or genital surgery.
Transitioning is the term used to describe someone taking up a gender role and/or presentation that is different from the one they were assigned at birth and may or may not involve medical intervention. Transition may include some or all of the following: social, legal and medical adjustments, telling one’s family, friends, and/or colleagues, changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents, voice therapy and changing one’s style of dress. See section 2 for a more detailed explanation.
Refers to something with does not have specific genders, e.g. gender-neutral toilet signage might include a WC or toilet symbol, but would not include any combination of the standard “male” and “female” figures.
This refers to those people who have genetic, hormonal and physical features that are neither exclusively male nor exclusively female, but are typical of both at once or not clearly defined as either. These features can manifest themselves within secondary sexual characteristics such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breasts and stature; primary sexual characteristics such as reproductive organs and genitalia, and/or in chromosomal structures and hormones. This term has replaced the term ‘hermaphrodite’ which was used extensively by medical practitioners during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but is now only used to refer to animals that display both male and female reproductive capability. Some intersex people may identify as transgender but it is incorrect to assume that these two terms are synonymous. Research suggests that approximately 1% of the population is intersex. For more info, check out isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex
Transphobia is an irrational fear of, and/or hostility towards, people who are or are perceived to be transgender or who otherwise transgress traditional gender norms.