Gender-Related Terms

Gender” is the primary term for describing the usually biological factors combined with the psychological, social, emotional, and lived roles of male and female; it is also a legal term.

Gender Identity” is a social identity that connotes an individual to be male, female, both, or neither; it is a deeply held belief and does not always correspond to biological or assigned at birth gender.

Gender Expression” describes the ways in which a person communicates their gender externally.  Please note that this may or may not reflect their gender identity or their sexual orientation.

Gender Nonconforming” designates a person who believes their gender identity to be one of many possible genders beyond strictly female or male.

Natal Gender” or what is now called “Gender Assigned at Birth” is the gender declared for the person at birth, based on external sex characteristics.

Transgender” is a term used to describe a person who identifies with a gender that was not assigned at birth or whose gender expression is different than a cultural norm.

Transition” indicates that a person is undergoing a process that is discovering or undergoing a change.  This may or may not include hormones, surgery, or therapy.

Gender Affirming” describes the process of transitioning to another gender, typically through hormone treatment and possibly surgery.

Primary sex characteristics” are genitals and reproductive organs, like the penis, vagina, testicles, ovaries, and uterus.

Secondary sex characteristics” are physical attributes specific to someone’s natal gender that develop during puberty. They are what make men appear male and women appear female, such as body shape, breasts, facial hair, and voice tone.

Gender Dysphoria” represents a more enlightened view of what was previously called Gender Identity Disorder. The new category focuses on the emotional distress that results from patients feeling that they should be a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. This is in contrast to the old concept of Gender Identity Disorder, in which the problem was with gender identity rather than the emotional troubles that accompanied those feelings. This new understanding is less stigmatizing. It no longer sees the different gender feelings as a disorder and instead addresses the difficulties these people encounter.

Please Note:  We want to acknowledge that this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of terms used within the LGBTQ+ community/culture. There is a growing and changing vocabulary used to understand, describe, and communicate various aspects of the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ people and ample online resources exist for those interested in searching on their own.