Sex and Gender Terms
The American Psychological Association (reference below) provides the following definitions:
“Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female or intersex. There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs and external genitalia.
“Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation typically have included attraction to members of one’s own sex (gay men or lesbians), attraction to members of the other sex (heterosexuals), and attraction to members of both sexes (bisexuals). Some people identify as pansexual or queer in terms of their sexual orientation, which means they define their sexual orientation outside of the gender binary of “male” and “female” only. While these categories continue to be widely used, research has suggested that sexual orientation does not always appear in such definable categories and instead occurs on a continuum. In addition, some research indicates that sexual orientation is fluid for some people; this may be especially true for women.
“Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender‐normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non‐conformity.
“Gender identity refers to one’s sense of oneself as male, female or something else. When one’s gender identity and biological sex are not congruent, the individual may identify along the transgender spectrum.
“Transgender is an umbrella term that incorporates differences in gender identity wherein one’s assigned biological sex doesn’t match their felt identity. This umbrella term includes persons who do not feel they fit into a dichotomous sex structure through which they are identified as male or female. Individuals in this category may feel as if they are in the wrong gender, but this perception may or may not correlate with a desire for surgical or hormonal reassignment.
“Gender expression refers to an individual’s presentation – including physical appearance, clothing choice and accessories – and behavior that communicates aspects of gender or gender role. Gender expression may or may not conform to a person’s gender identity.
“Gender dysphoria refers to discomfort or distress that is associated with a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and that person’s sex assigned at birth – and the associated gender role and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics. Only some gender‐nonconforming people experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives.”
Definitions of Terms from UC Berkeley
The Centers for Educational Justice and Community Engagement at the University of California, Berkeley, provides definitions of terms at http://ejce.berkeley.edu/geneq/resources/lgbtq-resources/definition-terms and these are reproduced below. The version on the website on 5 February 2017 states:
“These terms were last updated in July 2013. For the most complete definitions, we encourage you to compare what you find here with information from other sources as language in our communities is often an evolving process, and there may be regional differences. Please be aware that these terms may be defined with outdated language or concepts.”
Agender A person who is internally ungendered or does not have a felt sense of gender identity.
Bisexuality Also bi. A person who is attracted to two sexes or two genders, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. This used to be defined as a person who is attracted to both genders or both sexes, but since there are not only two sexes (see intersex and transsexual) and there are not only two genders (see transgender), this definition is inaccurate.
Cisgenderism Assuming every person to be cisgender therefore marginalizing those who identify as trans in some form. It is also believing cisgender people to be superior, and holding people to traditional expectations based on gender, or punishing or excluding those who don’t conform to traditional gender expectations.
Drag The act of dressing in gendered clothing and adopting gendered behviors as part of a performance, most often clothing and behaviors typically not associated with your gender identity. Drag Queens perform femininity theatrically. Drag Kings perform masculinity theatrically. Drag may be performed as a political comment on gender, as parody, or simply as entertainment. Drag performance does not indicate sexuality, gender identity, or sex identity.
Family Colloquial term used to identify other LGBTIQ community members. For example, an LGBTIQ person saying, “that person is family” often means that the person they are referring to is LGBTIQ as well.
Family of Choice Persons or group of people an individual sees as significant in their life. It may include none, all, or some members of their family of origin. In addition, it may include individuals such as significant others, domestic partners, friends, and coworkers.
Gender A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. See “Gender Identity” and “Gender Expression” for more on gender.
Gender Diverse A person who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society (e.g. transgender, transsexual, intersex, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc) preferable to “gender variant” because it does not imply a standard normativity.
Gender Identity an individual’s internal sense of gender, which may or may not be the same as one’s gender assigned at birth. Some gender identities are “woman,” “transman” and “agender” but there are many more. Since gender identity is internal it isn’t necessarily visible to others. Additionally, gender identity is often conflated with sex, but they are separate concepts – please see GenEq’s Gender/Sex Infosheet (link sends e-mail) for more on the difference between the two.
Gender Identity Disorder The medical diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostics and Statistics Manual IV (DSM4) used to describe a person who experiences significant gender dysphoria (lack of identification with one’s sex and/or gender assigned at birth). It is anticipated that the DSM5 (released in 2013) will replace this diagnosis with “gender dysphoria.”
Genderism The system of belief that there are only two genders (men and women) and that gender is inherently tied to one’s sex assigned at birth. It holds cisgender people as superior to transgender people, and punishes or excludes those who don’t conform to society’s expectations of gender.
Gender-Neutral/Gender-Inclusive Inclusive language to describe relationships (“spouse” and “partner” instead of “husband/boyfriend” and “wife/girlfriend”), spaces (gender-neutral/inclusive restrooms are for use by all genders), pronouns (“they” and “ze” are gender neutral/inclusive pronouns) among other things.
Gender Non-Conforming A person who don’t conform to society’s expectations of gender expression based on the gender binary, expectations of masculinity and femininity, or how they should identify their gender.
Genderqueer A person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. This identity is usually related to or in reaction to the social construction of gender, gender stereotypes and the gender binary system. Some genderequeer people identify under the transgender umbrella while others do not.
Gender Role How “masculine” or “feminine” an individual acts. Societies commonly have norms regarding how males and females should behave, expecting people to have personality characteristics and/or act a certain way based on their biological sex.
Gender Variant A synonym for “gender diverse” and “gender non-conforming”; “gender diverse” and “gender non-conforming” are preferred to “gender variant” because variance implies a standard normativity of gender
Hate Crime Hate crime legislation often defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.
Heterosexuality Sexual, emotional, and/or romantic attraction to a sex other than your own. Commonly thought of as “attraction to the opposite sex” but since there are not only two sexes (see “Intersex” and “Transsexual”), this definition is inaccurate.
Heterosexism Assuming every person to be heterosexual therefore marginalizing persons who do not identify as heterosexual. It is also believing heterosexuality to be superior to homosexuality and all other sexual orientations.
Heterosexual Privilege Benefits derived automatically by being (or being perceived as) heterosexual that are denied to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers and all other non-heterosexual sexual orientations.
Intersex Intersex is a set of medical conditions that feature congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. That is, intersex people are born with “sex chromosomes,” external genitalia, or internal reproductive systems that are not considered “standard” for either male or female. The existence of intersexuals shows that there are not just two sexes and that our ways of thinking about sex (trying to force everyone to fit into either the male box or the female box) is socially constructed.
It A pronoun used to refer to a thing; the use of “it” as a pronoun for a person is extremely offensive in its complete dehumanization of the subject; for appropriate, gender neutral pronouns, see chart of gender neutral pronoun usage (link is external) at the bottom of this page.
Lambda The Gay Activist Alliance originally chose the lambda, the Greek letter “L”, as a symbol in 1970. Organizers chose the letter “L” to signify liberation. The word has become a way of expressing the concept “lesbian and gay male” in a minimum of syllables and has been adopted by such organizations as Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
A political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid.
A simple label to explain a complex set of sexual behaviors and desires. For example, a person who is attracted to multiple genders may identify as queer.
Many older LGBT people feel the word has been hatefully used against them for too long and are reluctant to embrace it.
Rainbow Flag The Rainbow Freedom Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker to designate the great diversity of the LGBTIQ community. It has been recognized by the International Flag Makers Association as the official flag of the LGBTIQ civil rights movement.
Sex A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. Common terms are “male, “female” and “intersex.”
Sexual Minority Refers to members of sexual orientations or who engage in sexual activities that are not part of the mainstream. Refers to members of sex groups that do not fall into the majority categories of male or female, such as intersexuals and transsexuals.
Sexual Orientation The deep-seated direction of one’s sexual (erotic) attraction. It is on a continuum and not a set of absolute categories. Sometimes referred to as affection, orientation or sexuality. Sexual orientation evolves through a multistage developmental process, and may change over time. Asexuality is also a sexual orientation.
Straight Person who is attracted to a gender other than their own. Commonly thought of as “attraction to the opposite gender,” but since there are not only two genders (see transgender), this definition is inaccurate.
Transgender Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans or TG) people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, ect.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing.Transgender people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man.
An umbrella term for transsexuals, cross-dressers (transvestites), transgenderists, gender queers, and people who identify as neither female nor male and/or as neither a man or as a woman. Transgender is not a sexual orientation;transgender people may have any sexual orientation. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such.
Transsexual Transsexual refers to a person who experiences a mismatch of the sex they were born as and the sex they identify as. A transsexual sometimes undergoes medical treatment to change his/her physical sex to match his/her sex identity through hormone treatments and/or surgically. Not all transsexuals can have or desire surgery.
Transvestite Individuals who regularly or occasionally wear the clothing socially assigned to a gender not their own, but are usually comfortable with their anatomy and do not wish to change it (i.e. they are not transsexuals). Cross-dresser is the preferred term for men who enjoy or prefer women’s clothing and social roles. Contrary to popular belief, the overwhelming majority of male cross-dressers identify as straight and often are married. Very few women call themselves cross-dressers.
Triangle A symbol of remembrance. Gay men in the Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear the pink triangle as a designation of being homosexual. Women who did not conform to social roles, often believed to be lesbians, had to wear the black triangle. The triangles are worn today as symbols of freedom, reminding us to never forget.
Two-Spirit American Indian/First Nations/Native American persons who have attributes of both men and women, have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with mystical rituals (shamans). Their dress is usually mixture of men’s and women’s articles and they are seen as a separate or third gender. The term “two-spirit” is usually considered to specific to the Zuni tribe. Similar identity labels vary by tribe and include “one-spirit” and “wintke.”
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|Gender Neutral Pronunciation||/zee/||/here/||/here/||/heres/||
American Psychological Association (2015), Definitions Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in APA Guidelines and Policy Documents, at https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf, accessed 25 December 2016.
UC Berkeley, Centers for Education Justice & Community Engagement, Definition of Terms, at http://ejce.berkeley.edu/geneq/resources/lgbtq-resources/definition-terms, accessed 5 February 2017.
Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 5 February 2017.
Image: American Psychiatric News, at http://alert.psychnews.org/2012/08/task-force-issues-report-on-treatment.html, accessed 25 December 2016.