A Guide to Gender Identity Terms - Vista
A Guide to Gender Identity Terms

A Guide to Gender Identity Terms

LGBTQ+ is an umbrella term used to describe people who may identify as: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, or Queer, and the “+” represents the many other gender identities that can fall under the LGBTQ umbrella that might not fit into one of the categories listed.

Pronouns are how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It’s how someone refers to you in conversation.

Issues of equality and acceptance of transgender and nonbinary people – along with challenges to their rights – is just one of the everyday issues they face. Proper use of gender identity terms, including pronouns, is a crucial way to signal courtesy and acceptance not only in the workplace but in everyday life, and is something everyone should be aware of.

We’ve put together a list of the key gender identity terms and their explanations, as well as a download of the full gender identity terms guide, we hope this can be put to good use in your organisation:

Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically assigned at birth, usually on the basis of external anatomy. Sex is typically categorized as male, female or intersex.

Gender is often defined as a social construct of norms, behaviours and roles that varies between societies and over time. Gender is often categorised as male, female or nonbinary.

Gender identity is one’s own internal sense of self and their gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not outwardly visible to others.

For most people, gender identity aligns with the sex assigned at birth. For transgender people, gender identity differs in varying degrees from the sex assigned at birth.

Gender expression is how a person presents gender outwardly, through behaviour, clothing, voice or other perceived characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine or feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture.

Cisgender, or simply cis, is an adjective that describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Transgender, or simply trans, is an adjective used to describe someone whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth. A transgender man, for example, is someone who was listed as female at birth but whose gender identity is male.

Nonbinary is a term that can be used by people who do not describe themselves or their genders as fitting into the categories of man or woman. A range of terms are used to refer to these experiences; nonbinary and genderqueer are among the terms that are sometimes used.

Agender is an adjective that can describe a person who does not identify as any gender.

Gender-expansive is an adjective that can describe someone with a more flexible gender identity than might be associated with a typical gender binary.

Gender transition is a process a person may take to bring themselves and/or their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. It’s not just one step. Transitioning can include any, none or all of the following: telling one’s friends, family and co-workers; changing one’s name and pronouns; updating legal documents; medical interventions such as hormone therapy; or surgical intervention, often called gender confirmation surgery.

Gender dysphoria refers to psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity. Not all trans people experience dysphoria, and those who do may experience it at varying levels of intensity.

Sexual orientation refers to the enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or other genders, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight orientations.

People don’t need to have had specific sexual experiences to know their own sexual orientation. They need not have had any sexual experience at all. They need not be in a relationship, dating or partnered with anyone for their sexual orientation to be validated. For example, if a bisexual woman is partnered with a man, that does not mean she is not still bisexual.

Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe people with differences in reproductive anatomy, chromosomes or hormones that don’t fit typical definitions of male and female.

Being intersex is not the same as being nonbinary or transgender, which are terms typically related to gender identity.

No glossary could fully encompass the range of gender identity terms that are used within LGBTQIA+ communities. If you hear a term you don’t recognise or feel like someone is using a term in a new way, ask the individual what the term means to them.

You can download our full gender identity terms guide below.

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