Some commonly used terms related to gender identity
Sometimes there is the misunderstanding that gender identity and sexual orientation are linked. To avoid this, we have tried to keep all terms here related to gender identity.
Please note: different people find different terms acceptable and offensive, for example queer, FTM/MTF, transvestite. You should always ask a person what terms they prefer you to use when talking to them/referring to them.
Additionally, there can often be a difference in what different terms mean to people, therefore, when asking someone what terms are acceptable, you could ask them ‘what does that mean for you?’
A legal term used in the Gender Recognition Act 2004. It refers to the gender that a person who is applying for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) has lived for two years and intends to continue living in. Affirmed gender may be used when a person has transitioned but has decided not to apply for a GRC.
Agender is literally translated as ‘without gender’ (having no gender) but, like many other terms, it can mean different things to different people. Some use agender because there is currently no gender descriptive that matches their identity whereas others may feel gender is indefinable.
A (typically) straight and/or cis person who supports members of the LGBT community.
CISGENDER OR CIS
Someone whose gender identity is typically aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people.
CISSEXISM / CISNORMATIVITY
The assumption that everyone is cisgender, and that being cisgender is superior. An emphasis on cisgender being ‘the norm’ and a valued position in society. The media often reinforces cisnormativity through images used or the way characters are portrayed.
When a person first tells someone/others about their identity within the LGBT+ umbrella.
A person who dresses in clothes typically associated with another gender. Many cross-dressers do not identify as transgender; they dress in clothes not typically associated with their gender, but may not identify with a different gender.
Calling someone by the name they were given at birth after they have changed their name. This term is usually associated with trans people who have changed their name as part of their transition.
Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity. This concept of gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed to align typically with sex assigned at birth.
The idea that there are only two genders – man and woman. (This is inaccurate and excludes other gender identities.)
Used to describe when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth.
How a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender. A person who does not confirm to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans.
A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else (see agender and non-binary for example), which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.
A person whose gender is not static and changes throughout their life. This could be on a daily/weekly/monthly basis and will be different for everyone.
A person whose gender identity is neither male or female, is between or beyond genders, or is a combination of genders.
Another way of describing a person’s transition. To undergo gender reassignment usually means to undergo some sort of medical intervention, but it can also mean social transition, such as, changing names, pronouns, dressing differently and living in their self-identified gender. Gender reassignment is a characteristic that is protected by the Equality Act 2010, and it is further interpreted in the Equality Act 2010 approved code of practice. It is a term of much contention and is one that Stonewall’s Trans Advisory Group feels should be reviewed.
GENDER RECOGNITION CERTIFICATE (GRC)
This enables some trans people to be legally recognised in their affirmed gender and to be issued with a new birth certificate. Not all trans people are able, or want to, apply for a GRC. You currently have to be over 18 to apply and it is only possible to change your gender marker from male to female, or female to male. Non-binary is not currently acknowledged as a gender on a GRC.
You do not need a GRC to change your gender markers at work or to legally change your gender on other documents such as your passport. It is never appropriate to ask a trans person for a GRC and regarded as unlawful because it breaches their right to privacy. Once a person has obtained a GRC their gender history can only be disclosed where there are explicit exceptions in law
GENDER VARIANCE (or GENDER NON-CONFORMITY
Behaviour or gender expression which is different from that which society expects of a person based on the gender assigned to them at birth. This is often used in relation to children or young people.
A term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female.
Intersex people may identify as male, female or non-binary.
A person’s ‘legal’ sex is determined by their sex on their birth certificate and the assumption made at birth is that their gender status (male/female) matches. In universities, there are times when a person’s legal sex may need to be recorded.
An acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning or queer. There is also sometimes an A for asexual/aromantic, an I for intersex, a P for pansexual/panromantic, and a plus sign representing other identities.
Using the wrong pronouns or other gender-specific words when referring to or speaking to someone, usually associated with transgender people.
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.
OUT / COMING OUT
LGBT+ people living openly and telling people about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
This is a process; it is not something that just happens on one occasion. Some people will be out in some places and to some people, but not others.
OUTING / OUTED
When a lesbian, gay, bi or trans person’s (or someone with another identity within the LGBTQIAP+ umbrella) sexual or gender identity is disclosed to someone else without their consent.
‘Outing’ someone is offensive and can have serious implications for the individual and their safety.
Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’. Some people want others to refer to them in gender-specific language, others in gender-neutral language. Gender-neutral language can mean using pronouns such as ‘they’ or ‘ze/zir’. Some people do not want others to refer to them using any pronouns and want to be referred to by name instead. Do not assume a person’s pronouns based on their appearance or gender expression, always ask what pronouns (if any) they use.
In the past, a derogatory term for LGBT+ individuals. The term has now been reclaimed by many LGBT+ people, especially those who don’t identify with traditional categories around gender and sexual identity.
The process of exploring your own sexual and/or gender identity.
SEX ASSIGNED AT BIRTH
People are assigned a sex at birth, based on sex characteristics (genitalia). A person may be assigned ‘male’, ‘female’ or ‘intersex’. This does not necessarily reflect how a person will identify or feel about themselves.
An umbrella term to describe people whose gender does not typically align with, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) trans, transgender, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, two-spirit, bigender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.
A term used to describe someone who is assigned female at birth but identifies and lives as a man. This may be shortened to trans man, or FTM, an abbreviation for female-to-male.
A term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman. This may be shortened to trans woman, or MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female.
The steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition will involve different things. For some this involves medical intervention, such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not all trans people want or are able to access this. Transitioning also might involve social aspects, such as telling friends and family, dressing differently and changing official documents.
The fear or dislike of someone based on based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about trans people, including the denial/refusal to accept their gender identity. Transphobic bullying may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, trans.
This was used in the past as a more medical term (similarly to homosexual) to refer to someone who transitioned to live in the ‘opposite’ gender to the one assigned at birth.
This term is still used by some although many people prefer the term trans or transgender.
*These entries have been drawn from a variety of sources, including Stonewall, ECU, GLAAD, LGBT Foundation