Gender Identity

  • Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same. Female, woman, and girl and male, man, and boy are also NOT necessarily linked to each other but are just six common gender identities.
  • Gender Expression/Presentation: The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. Most transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth.
  • Sex Assigned at Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, and chromosomes. It is important we don’t simply use “sex” because of the vagueness of the definition of sex and its place in transphobia.
  • Sexually Attracted To: Sexual Orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.
  • Romantically/Emotionally Attracted To: Romantic/emotional orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Gender transition

The process by which some people strive to more closely align their internal knowledge of gender with its outward appearance. Some people socially transition, whereby they might begin dressing, using names and pronouns and/or be socially recognized as another gender. Others undergo physical transitions in which they modify their bodies through medical interventions.

Gender dysphoria

Clinically significant distress caused when a person's assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify.

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Let's talk about pronouns

  • Use people’s correct pronouns and do not assume that you know someone’s gender or pronouns. If you don’t know, it is okay to ask someone for their pronouns. A person’s pronouns may be gendered (she/her and he/him) or gender-neutral (they/them and ze/hir -- pronounced “zee” and “here”). Using the pronouns “they/them” to refer to one person is a commonly accepted best practice and you should not question or comment upon the grammatical correctness of this.
  • Some example pronoun usage:
  • "Madison got a new sweater, they look great in the color green, don't they? I think green is their favorite color!"
  • "The person on stage has a wonderful singing voice; I wonder if they take singing lessons? I will ask them after the show."
  • Practice. It's totally possible to become awesome at incorporating non-binary and/or gender-neutral pronouns into your daily vocab-- and doing so is an affirming act of support for people who identify as such. A simple way to practice is to use a person’s chosen pronouns in day-to-day conversation (whether or not they are present).

Why do pronouns matter?

Ask yourself how many times someone has used your name or a pronoun to refer to you today. Now imagine that your coworker, a family member, or a friend routinely calls you by the wrong pronoun. That would be hard. This is why using a person’s chosen name and pronouns is essential to affirming their identity and showing basic respect. The experience of being mis-gendered can be uncomfortable and hurtful

Use gender-neutral language like “partner” and “spouse” rather than “boyfriend/husband” or “girlfriend/wife” when discussing relationships. This helps avoid making any assumptions about the gender of a person’s significant other. Remember that now that marriage equality is the law of the land, a person’s “spouse” may be someone of their same gender.

If you make a mistake, apologize concisely and move on.


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