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Gender Dictionary

These are words that are useful for facilitators to know and be able to use fluently in activities about sexual orientation. Some of this language may be unfamiliar to you, particularly because it evolves quickly. Some will be familiar to you, but you may not have had a specific definition to use if a participant were to ask what exactly it meant. Some of these terms are not appropriate to use; the details of why are explained. Some have meanings that are very close to each other and it is not always immediately clear what the differences are. Nevertheless, it is critical to honor the language that people choose for themselves rather than assuming a term with a similar definition will work just as well.

+
noun
An indicator that sometimes comes after the initialism LGBTQ to indicate additional sexual and gender identities not explicitly included in the letters LGBTQ.

Advocate
noun
A person who is cisgender and works and campaigns for the rights of trans, gender nonconforming, and genderqueer people and others who identify as a gender minority.

Agender
adjective
A person who identifies as not having a gender; or, being without gender.

Androgynous
adjective
A balance of the feminine and the masculine that includes aspects of both.

Bottom surgery
noun
A medical procedure that changes a person’s genitals to bring them into alignment with their gender identity. Some transgender people choose to have bottom surgery, some choose not to, but many do not have access to the surgery whether they would choose to have it or not. It is never polite to ask about a person’s genitals, regardless of their gender identity.

Butch
noun
A masculine-expressing person; usually refers to a lesbian whose gender roles are typically categorized as masculine.

Cis normative
adjective
The assumption that cisgender people are normal and those who are gender minorities are not.

Cisgender
adjective
A person whose sex assigned at birth (typically “female” or “male”) is in alignment with their gender identity.

Cissexism
noun
Treating cisgender people as though they have more rights and moral authority compared to people who are gender minorities.

Coming out
verb
Commonly understood as the first time that someone discloses their gender identity or sexual orientation, coming out is actually something that gender and sexual minorities do throughout their lifetimes.

Correct gender pronoun (CGP)
noun
The pronouns (she/her/hers, he/him/his, ze/zir/zirs, they/them/theirs, etc.) that a person feels most comfortable being referred to as. Using a person’s CGP is a critical part of being respectful. It may also be referred to as preferred gender pronoun (PGP).

Cross-dresser
noun
A person who wears clothing that is typically assumed to belong to a different gender. Sometimes called a transvestite, although this term is not used frequently anymore and some may consider it offensive.

Dead name
noun
The way some transgender people refer to the name they were given at birth. Deadnaming refers to calling a trans, nonbinary, gender fluid, or other non-cis person by the name they were given at birth rather than their chosen name.

Desister
noun
A person who identified as transgender as a child but did not continue to identify as trans into adulthood.

Drag king
noun
A person who dresses as and adopts the character of a man to project a kind of exaggerated masculinity, usually for entertainment purposes.

Drag queen
noun
A person who dresses as and adopts the character of a woman to project a kind of exaggerated femininity, usually for entertainment purposes.

Estrogen
noun
A steroid hormone that is produced by the ovaries and, in lesser amounts, by the adrenal cortex, placenta, and testes. Some transgender people choose to take this hormone so that their bodies will be more feminine.

Gender
noun
A social construct that is often assumed to be aligned with aspects of biological sex, but that is far broader than biological sex. Different cultures have understood gender in dramatically different ways, with some incorporating an understanding of three or more genders.

Gender binary
noun
A categorization of gender as being either male or female rather than as a spectrum. This is a harmful understanding of gender for all people because it categorizes them in ways that they might not feel comfortable with.

Gender confirmation surgery
noun
A group of medical procedures that changes a person’s body to bring it into alignment with their gender identity. Also called sexual reassignment surgery; most people prefer the language gender confirmation surgery.

Gender dysphoria
noun
When a person’s gender identity is in direct conflict with their physical body, causing mild to extreme psychological distress. Gender dysphoria is a classification of mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM IV).

Gender expression
noun
The way(s) in which a person shares information about their gender through their hair, makeup, clothes, and other external aspects of their appearance that they have control over.

Gender fluid
adjective
A person who is able to incorporate all genders into their identity and to flow easily between them.

Gender identity
noun
A person’s internal sense of how they relate or do not relate to the social constructs that their culture associates with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender nonconforming
adjective
When a person’s identity does not readily fall into their culture’s understanding of what it should be given their sex assigned at birth.

Gender normative
adjective
When someone or something falls into the categories that a culture considers “normal” for a specific sex assigned at birth.

Gender norms
noun
The indicators that a culture assigns to specific sexes, primarily including aspects of a person that are unrelated to biology, such as hobbies, personality traits, and academic models of success.

Gender, Sexuality, and Relationship Diversity (GSRD)
adjective
This describes the wide range of identities that are referred to with the term LGBTQ+, but is far more inclusive of genders and sexualities. By describing the range of identities broadly, it does not leave any identity out accidentally. It also includes relationship diversity, which refers to, for example, people who identify as polyamorous.

Genderqueer
adjective
A gender identity that describes a person who falls outside of the stereotypical “woman” or “man” binary system. This is also an umbrella term that describes many gender identities outside of the gender binary. Genderqueer is sometimes shortened to “queer.” This term has historically been used in negative contexts but has been reclaimed by many who feel that it is more descriptive of them and their communities and experiences than LGBTQ+ or GSRD (gender, sexuality, and relationship diversity).

Hermaphrodite
adjective
An organism that has fully developed male and female reproductive tracts. While this term was historically used to described intersex individuals, hermaphroditism does not occur in humans and use of this term to describe people is inaccurate and usually considered offensive.

Hormone therapy
noun
A part of transitioning that some transgender people choose and are able to access that shifts their balance of hormones to bring them into alignment with their gender identity.

Intersex
adjective
A description of anatomy sometimes assigned at birth, and sometimes discovered later in childhood, adolescence, or even in adulthood, that indicates the presence of attributes associated with both typical males and typical females. Historically, some people used the word hermaphrodite to describe people who were intersex, but this is not an appropriate term and is considered offensive by many.

Misgender
verb
Using pronouns or other words that label a person’s gender incorrectly. This is often a painful experience for people, including trans and gender nonconforming people, especially when done by someone who is aware of their gender identity.

Name change
noun
When a person is transitioning, they often choose a new name for themselves. This can be an important part of the transitioning process and should be respected. Asking a transgender person for their “real” name (referring to the name they were given at birth) is offensive.

Niblet
noun
Also sometimes called a nibbling, this is a gender-neutral word to refer to the children of your siblings.

Nonbinary
adjective
A gender identification outside of the two-gender, binary system that many cultures recognize. Some people prefer to spell the word “non-binary” and others prefer “non binary.”

Nuncle
noun
Also sometimes called an auncle, this is a gender-neutral word to refer to the siblings of your parents.

Outing
verb
When a person discloses another person’s gender identity (or sexual orientation) without their permission. Sometimes this is done accidentally, and sometimes it is done intentionally. It is never okay to out someone.

Passing
verb
When a trans person is accepted in public to be the sex that is in alignment with their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth. Sometimes this is a sought-after feature of transitioning, sometimes it is not.

Persister
noun
A person who identified as transgender in childhood through adulthood.

Primary sexual characteristics
noun
Parts of the body directly related to reproduction.

Queer
adjective
An umbrella term that describes many gender identities outside of cisgender. This term has historically been used in negative contexts but has been reclaimed by many who feel that it is more descriptive of them and their communities and experiences than the term LGBTQ+.

Questioning
verb
The experience of considering one’s own gender identity as potentially different from the one associated with one’s sex assigned at birth.

Secondary sexual characteristics
noun
Nonreproductive-related biological differences that are connected to sex and gender.

Sex assigned at birth
noun
The female or male markers that are bestowed on a baby at the time of birth. Sex assigned at birth is usually determined based on an infant’s external genitalia without taking into consideration additional aspects of the infant’s biology or eventual gender identity.

T
noun
Short for testosterone, which some transgender people choose to take so that their bodies will be more masculine.

Third gender
noun
A gender identity that is neither woman nor man. In cultures with more than two culturally accepted gender identities, this term would describe those identities.

Top surgery
noun
A medical procedure that changes a person’s chest to bring it into alignment with their gender identity. Top surgery can be expensive. Some transgender people choose to have top surgery, some choose not to, but many do not have access to the surgery whether they would choose to have it or not. It is never polite to ask about a person’s surgical history, regardless of their gender identity.

Transgender
adjective
A person whose gender identity does not match the culturally assumed gender identity associated with their sex assigned at birth. Sometimes called transsexual, although this term is not in common use and some may find it offensive.

Transitioning
verb
A series of steps that transgender people may or may not choose to take toward shaping their physical bodies to be more in alignment with the cultural expectation associated with their gender identity. Hormone therapy and surgery are examples of steps that some people have access to during transitioning. Some people may choose to transition without incorporating either surgery or hormones into their biology. Rather, they shift their gender expression so that it is in alignment with their gender identity.

Two-spirit
adjective
A third-gender marker that is used in some Native American communities to describe a range of experiences outside of cisgender and heterosexual. It is not appropriate for people outside of these communities to use this term.