If you are new to LGBTQ+ identities or gender theory, or if you are struggling to label your own gender identity, this article is for you! I will go over several major gender identities and terminology, beyond their dictionary definitions. Most of these terms are perceived as being black and white or having very strict definitions, but many are much looser than what people perceive. If more information on any given label is desired, it is always best to look specifically to people who identify as such and are willing to talk with you about it. Many LGBTQ+ and transgender accounts exist with admins who are more than willing to explain their identities and experiences with their gender and labels they use, or their posts about the same information may be enough.
SEX: Defined purely by biology, typically male or female. Sex is determined by the sex characteristics a person has. Most frequently it is clear to determine, and these characteristics are the result of XX or XY chromosomes, but there are instances of chromosomes not matching someone’s sex - such as women who have XY chromosomes but are insensitive to testosterone and therefore never develop male sexual characteristics or organs.
GENDER: An identity that is culturally and socially influenced; often matches the person’s sex, though not always. Someone’s gender is not always obvious by their appearance, and only you can determine your gender identity.
GENDER BINARY: The social theory that gender is either male or female, and that everyone must fall in one category. The gender binary is still the most dominant theory of gender perpetuated in modern society.
GENDER SPECTRUM: The theory that gender is not a binary, but a spectrum between male and female, and that people can fall in the middle, shift around over time, encompass multiple areas of it at once, or not be on it at all. This theory is widely accepted in gender studies academia, yet some parts of the LGBTQ+ community do not believe it goes far enough.
PRONOUNS: The gendered pronouns we use to refer to a person have become increasingly more noticed as the transgender community gains greater mainstream acceptance, yet there are many who incorrectly assume that pronouns only apply to LGBTQ+ individuals. However, everyone uses pronouns - it is just that anyone who is cishet rarely needs to think about it. Typically those who are male/masculine aligned use he/him, female/female aligned use she/her, and those who do not feel more of one or the other use they/them (with plural conjugations for verbs: ex. They are kind). However, there are dozens of alternative gender/neutral pronouns, and pronouns do not always dictate a person’s gender. What pronouns one uses is a personal decision.
CISGENDER: Using the latin prefix cis-, which means on the same side as, this term is used to describe those whose gender identities align with their sex, i.e. a biologically female person who identifies as a woman.
TRANSGENDER: Using the latin prefix trans-, which means across, this term describes anyone whose gender is not aligned with their biological sex, and is an umbrella term for both binary and non-binary gender identities. In fact, the white stripe in the transgender flag is meant to represent anyone who does not identify with a binary identity. Many trans people physically transition or present outwardly as their gender identity, but some do not and their lack of outward presentation does not invalidate their identity.
ASSIGNED GENDER AT BIRTH (AGAB): Essentially, refers to the F or M on a person’s birth certificate. Most people’s AGAB aligns with their sex, however, individuals with unclear sex-characteristics also have an AGAB. It is common to see the abbreviations of AMAB (assigned male at birth) and AFAB (assigned female at birth) within LGBTQ+ accepting communities.
GENDER NON-CONFORMING (GNC): Anyone who’s outward expression of their gender identity does not conform with expectations of their gender. This term is inclusive of trans people.
MtF/ TRANS WOMAN: Anyone who was male or assigned male at birth and identifies as a woman/female. Likewise, FtM/ TRANS MAN refers to anyone who was female or assigned female at birth and identifies as a man/male.
NONBINARY: An umbrella term for anyone who does not identify as strictly male or strictly female. Many non-binary people simply identify their gender as nonbinary, wheras others use more specific labels. Non-binary genders have existed in many cultures across the world. Many individuals who are non-binary (such as myself) may also find a more specific label that describes their gender identity, but all can use non-binary as the label is intended to be encompassing of anyone who is neither male nore female, not as an androgynous third gender.
AGENDER: A term to refer to someone who feels no connection with any gender identity, or feels that they have no gender. Agender falls under the non-binary umbrella as it is neither male nor female.
BIGENDER: A term to refer to someone who feels their gender identity encompasses multiple genders simultaneously. Also falls under the non-binary umbrella.
GENDERQUEER: A non-binary gender label that is often used by people who feel their gender is not neutral between male or female and cannot be pinned down on the gender spectrum.
DEMIGIRL/DEMIBOY: A gender identity that describes someone that somewhat identifies with a male or female gender, but not wholly.
GENDERFLUID: A label used to describe people whose gender identities are inconsistent and changing. Some genderfluid people are fluid only between two genders, some the whole spectrum. Genderfluid people can have both binary and non-binary genders, but do not need to have both. The rate of change for people’s genders is not set in stone. Some genderfluid people use multiple pronouns to reflect what gender they are at the moment, others use only one set of pronouns. I myself am genderfluid, but often do not use this label and instead opt for the more encompassing term “non-binary.”
INTERSEX: Someone who is not born with clearly defined male or female sexual characteristics. As many as 1% of the population are intersex, and many are unaware that they are. Intersex people can be cisgender or transgender, and have a binary or non-binary gender identity. PERISEX is the opposite term, used to describe people who are clearly male or female.
Hopefully these explanations helped you better understand the transgender commmunity. There is a lot of information online about gender identities, and unfortunately a lot of it is not helpful for people still trying to wrap their heads around what is what. If you want to learn more about a specific part of the transgender community or a specific issue that trans people face, feel free to reach out to us at TWE. We can direct you to some resources, or do an article of our own about a specific topic!