A Guide To Gender Identity Terms (2023)

"Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It's how someone refers to you in conversation," says Mary Emily O'Hara, a communications officer at GLAAD. "And when you're speaking to people, it's a really simple way to affirm their identity." Kaz Fantone for NPR hide caption

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Kaz Fantone for NPR

A Guide To Gender Identity Terms (2)

"Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It's how someone refers to you in conversation," says Mary Emily O'Hara, a communications officer at GLAAD. "And when you're speaking to people, it's a really simple way to affirm their identity."

Kaz Fantone for NPR

Issues of equality and acceptance of transgender and nonbinary people — along with challenges to their rights have become a major topic in the headlines. These issues can involve words and ideas and identities that are new to some.

That's why we've put together a glossary of terms relating to gender identity. Our goal is to help people communicate accurately and respectfully with one another.

Proper use of gender identity terms, including pronouns, is a crucial way to signal courtesy and acceptance. Alex Schmider, associate director of transgender representation at GLAAD, compares using someone's correct pronouns to pronouncing their name correctly – "a way of respecting them and referring to them in a way that's consistent and true to who they are."

Glossary of gender identity terms

This guide was created with help from GLAAD. We also referenced resources from the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Trans Journalists Association, NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, Human Rights Campaign, InterAct and the American Psychological Association. This guide is not exhaustive, and is Western and U.S.-centric. Other cultures may use different labels and have other conceptions of gender.

One thing to note: Language changes. Some of the terms now in common usage are different from those used in the past to describe similar ideas, identities and experiences. Some people may continue to use terms that are less commonly used now to describe themselves, and some people may use different terms entirely. What's important is recognizing and respecting people as individuals.

Jump to a term: Sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, agender, gender-expansive, gender transition, gender dysphoria, sexual orientation, intersex

Jump to Pronouns: questions and answers

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, behaviors and roles that varies between societies and over time. Gender is often categorized 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, the American Psychological Association notes. 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 behavior, 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.

Cisgender and transgender have their origins in Latin-derived prefixes of "cis" and "trans" — cis, meaning "on this side of" and trans, meaning "across from" or "on the other side of." Both adjectives are used to describe experiences of someone's gender identity.

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.

Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some argue that such a diagnosis inappropriately pathologizes gender incongruence, while others contend that a diagnosis makes it easier for transgender people to access necessary medical treatment.

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.

Sexual orientation is separate from gender identity. As GLAAD notes, "Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a straight woman. A person who transitions from female to male and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a gay man."

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.

Intersex can refer to a number of natural variations, some of them laid out by InterAct. Being intersex is not the same as being nonbinary or transgender, which are terms typically related to gender identity.

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Pronouns: questions and answers

What is the role of pronouns in acknowledging someone's gender identity?

Everyone has pronouns that are used when referring to them – and getting those pronouns right is not exclusively a transgender issue.

"Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It's how someone refers to you in conversation," says Mary Emily O'Hara, a communications officer at GLAAD. "And when you're speaking to people, it's a really simple way to affirm their identity."

"So, for example, using the correct pronouns for trans and nonbinary youth is a way to let them know that you see them, you affirm them, you accept them and to let them know that they're loved during a time when they're really being targeted by so many discriminatory anti-trans state laws and policies," O'Hara says.

"It's really just about letting someone know that you accept their identity. And it's as simple as that."

Getting the words right is about respect and accuracy, says Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Kaz Fantone for NPR hide caption

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Kaz Fantone for NPR

A Guide To Gender Identity Terms (5)

Getting the words right is about respect and accuracy, says Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Kaz Fantone for NPR

What's the right way to find out a person's pronouns?

Start by giving your own – for example, "My pronouns are she/her."

"If I was introducing myself to someone, I would say, 'I'm Rodrigo. I use him pronouns. What about you?' " says Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

O'Hara says, "It may feel awkward at first, but eventually it just becomes another one of those get-to-know-you questions."

Should people be asking everyone their pronouns? Or does it depend on the setting?

Knowing each other's pronouns helps you be sure you have accurate information about another person.

How a person appears in terms of gender expression "doesn't indicate anything about what their gender identity is," GLAAD's Schmider says. By sharing pronouns, "you're going to get to know someone a little better."

And while it can be awkward at first, it can quickly become routine.

Heng-Lehtinen notes that the practice of stating one's pronouns at the bottom of an email or during introductions at a meeting can also relieve some headaches for people whose first names are less common or gender ambiguous.

"Sometimes Americans look at a name and are like, 'I have no idea if I'm supposed to say he or she for this name' — not because the person's trans, but just because the name is of a culture that you don't recognize and you genuinely do not know. So having the pronouns listed saves everyone the headache," Heng-Lehtinen says. "It can be really, really quick once you make a habit of it. And I think it saves a lot of embarrassment for everybody."

Might some people be uncomfortable sharing their pronouns in a public setting?

Schmider says for cisgender people, sharing their pronouns is generally pretty easy – so long as they recognize that they have pronouns and know what they are. For others, it could be more difficult to share their pronouns in places where they don't know people.

But there are still benefits in sharing pronouns, he says. "It's an indication that they understand that gender expression does not equal gender identity, that you're not judging people just based on the way they look and making assumptions about their gender beyond what you actually know about them."

How is "they" used as a singular pronoun?

"They" is already commonly used as a singular pronoun when we are talking about someone, and we don't know who they are, O'Hara notes. Using they/them pronouns for someone you do know simply represents "just a little bit of a switch."

"You're just asking someone to not act as if they don't know you, but to remove gendered language from their vocabulary when they're talking about you," O'Hara says.

"I identify as nonbinary myself and I appear feminine. People often assume that my pronouns are she/her. So they will use those. And I'll just gently correct them and say, hey, you know what, my pronouns are they/them just FYI, for future reference or something like that," they say.

O'Hara says their family and friends still struggle with getting the pronouns right — and sometimes O'Hara struggles to remember others' pronouns, too.

"In my community, in the queer community, with a lot of trans and nonbinary people, we all frequently remind each other or remind ourselves. It's a sort of constant mindfulness where you are always catching up a little bit," they say.

"You might know someone for 10 years, and then they let you know their pronouns have changed. It's going to take you a little while to adjust, and that's fine. It's OK to make those mistakes and correct yourself, and it's OK to gently correct someone else."

What if I make a mistake and misgender someone, or use the wrong words?

Simply apologize and move on.

"I think it's perfectly natural to not know the right words to use at first. We're only human. It takes any of us some time to get to know a new concept," Heng-Lehtinen says. "The important thing is to just be interested in continuing to learn. So if you mess up some language, you just say, 'Oh, I'm so sorry,' correct yourself and move forward. No need to make it any more complicated than that. Doing that really simple gesture of apologizing quickly and moving on shows the other person that you care. And that makes a really big difference."

Why are pronouns typically given in the format "she/her" or "they/them" rather than just "she" or "they"?

The different iterations reflect that pronouns change based on how they're used in a sentence. And the "he/him" format is actually shorter than the previously common "he/him/his" format.

"People used to say all three and then it got down to two," Heng-Lehtinen laughs. He says staff at his organization was recently wondering if the custom will eventually shorten to just one pronoun. "There's no real rule about it. It's absolutely just been habit," he says.

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But he notes a benefit of using he/him and she/her: He and she rhyme. "If somebody just says he or she, I could very easily mishear that and then still get it wrong."

What does it mean if a person uses the pronouns "he/they" or "she/they"?

"That means that the person uses both pronouns, and you can alternate between those when referring to them. So either pronoun would be fine — and ideally mix it up, use both. It just means that they use both pronouns that they're listing," Heng-Lehtinen says.

Schmider says it depends on the person: "For some people, they don't mind those pronouns being interchanged for them. And for some people, they are using one specific pronoun in one context and another set of pronouns in another, dependent on maybe safety or comfortability."

The best approach, Schmider says, is to listen to how people refer to themselves.

Why might someone's name be different than what's listed on their ID?

Heng-Lehtinen notes that there's a perception when a person comes out as transgender, they change their name and that's that. But the reality is a lot more complicated and expensive when it comes to updating your name on government documents.

"It is not the same process as changing your last name when you get married. There is bizarrely a separate set of rules for when you are changing your name in marriage versus changing your name for any other reason. And it's more difficult in the latter," he says.

"When you're transgender, you might not be able to update all of your government IDs, even though you want to," he says. "I've been out for over a decade. I still have not been able to update all of my documents because the policies are so onerous. I've been able to update my driver's license, Social Security card and passport, but I cannot update my birth certificate."

"Just because a transgender person doesn't have their authentic name on their ID doesn't mean it's not the name that they really use every day," he advises. "So just be mindful to refer to people by the name they really use regardless of their driver's license."

NPR's Danny Nett contributed to this report.

FAQs

How do you answer gender identity on a form? ›

7 tips for asking about sexual orientation and gender identity
  1. Use inclusive language and survey design.
  2. Include self-describe answer options.
  3. Don't combine sexual orientation and gender identity questions.
  4. Use skip logic to tailor the survey experience.
  5. Include context when asking about gender and sexual identity.

What are the 4 gender pronouns? ›

She, her, hers and he, him, his are common and more familiar pronouns. Some people call these “female/feminine” and “male/masculine” pronouns, but many avoid these labels because, for example, not everyone who uses he feels like a “male” or “masculine”.

What are the 6 gender identities? ›

Gender Identity Terms
  • Agender. Not having a gender or identifying with a gender. ...
  • Bigender. A person who fluctuates between traditionally “male” and “female” gender-based behaviours and identities.
  • Cisgender. ...
  • Gender Expression. ...
  • Gender Fluid. ...
  • Genderqueer. ...
  • Gender Variant. ...
  • Mx.

What should I select in gender identity? ›

Gender Identity Terms
  • Agender (adj.)
  • Cisgender (adj.)
  • Non-binary (adj.)
  • Man (noun)
  • Transgender (adj.)
  • Woman (noun)
  • Gender Not Listed Above.
  • Prefer Not to Answer.

What is my gender identity? ›

Gender identity is each person's internal and individual experience of gender. It is a person's sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person's gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex.

What are examples of preferred pronouns? ›

What is a “preferred gender pronoun”? example: If Xena's preferred pronouns are she, her, and hers, you could say "Xena ate her food because she was hungry."

What are the 7 main genders? ›

Through these conversations with real people Benestad has observed seven unique genders: Female, Male, Intersex, Trans, Non-Conforming, Personal, and Eunuch.

What are the 7 common gender? ›

The 7 different genders include agender, cisgender, genderfluid, genderqueer, intersex, gender nonconforming, and transgender.

What are the 11 gender identities? ›

There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.

What are the three factors that determine gender identity? ›

These are: 1) the role of the brain; 2) the role of socialisation; and 3) multi-dimensional gender development.

What third gender means? ›

Third gender is a concept in which individuals are categorized, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman. It is also a social category present in societies that recognize three or more genders.

What is most important to know about gender identity? ›

Gender identity goes beyond the way that someone outwardly presents themself. It is the core sense of oneself. Our gender identity often aligns with our sex assigned at birth, but for transgender and gender fluid people, their sense of self may not fully conform to their biology.

Which celebrities are non binary? ›

Non-binary, genderqueer and genderfluid identities
NameBirth yearNotable as
Miley Cyrus1992Singer, songwriter, actor
Brihony Dawson1983/1984Television presenter, singer
Adore Delano1989Singer, songwriter, drag queen, television personality
Cara Delevingne1992Model, actor
91 more rows

What are cool gender-neutral pronouns? ›

Some pronouns are: I, we, he, she, all, it, they, their, etc. Gendered pronouns are those that indicate gender: he, she, him, her, hers, his, himself and herself. All others, like "it, "one," and "they," are gender-neutral. You probably already use some gender-neutral pronouns: they, their, and them.

What are the 23 personal pronouns list? ›

In Modern English the personal pronouns include: "I," "you," "he," "she," "it," "we," "they," "them," "us," "him," "her," "his," "hers," "its," "theirs," "our," "your." Personal pronouns are used in statements and commands, but not in questions; interrogative pronouns (like "who," "whom," "what") are used there.

How to define gender? ›

Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed. This includes norms, behaviours and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl or boy, as well as relationships with each other. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time.

What are 5 example of gender identity? ›

For most people, their gender matches up with the cultural expectations of the sex they were assigned at birth. This means they're cisgender. Others may self-identify as being transgender, agender, Two-Spirit, gender queer, non-binary, gender fluid or any number of terms (explained below).

What is an example of binary gender? ›

The gender binary describes the inaccurate concept that gender is categorized into only two distinct forms (i.e. man/woman). Many gender-expansive identities exist either between or outside of this binary, such as genderfluid, genderqueer, non-binary or agender.

What are the preferred pronouns for straight female people? ›

She, her, hers and he, him, his are the most commonly used pronouns. Some people call these "female/feminine" and "male/masculine" pronouns, but many avoid these labels because, for example, not everyone who uses he feels like a "male" or "masculine." There are also lots of gender-neutral pronouns in use.

How do I choose my pronouns? ›

7 tips for getting pronouns right
  1. Don't assume another person's gender or gender pronouns. ...
  2. Ask a person's gender pronoun. ...
  3. Share your own gender pronoun. ...
  4. Apologise if you call someone by the wrong pronoun. ...
  5. Avoid binary-gendered language. ...
  6. Help others. ...
  7. Practise!
Oct 14, 2021

When did gender pronouns become a thing? ›

When did gender pronouns become a thing? Believe it or not, English speakers' dissatisfaction with binary, gendered language was documented as early as 1795. Use of “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun predates this discussion by some three or four hundred years.

Are there 2 or 3 sexes? ›

Based on the sole criterion of production of reproductive cells, there are two and only two sexes: the female sex, capable of producing large gametes (ovules), and the male sex, which produces small gametes (spermatozoa).

What are the 15 sexualities? ›

Here are some of the most common types of sexual orientation your teen may be exploring:
  • Heterosexual. Heterosexual, also known colloquially as straight, is a term that describes those that are attracted to the opposite sex. ...
  • Gay. ...
  • Lesbian. ...
  • Bisexual. ...
  • Asexual. ...
  • Queer. ...
  • Demisexual. ...
  • Pansexual.
Jan 5, 2022

What are the 3 major types of gender roles? ›

Gender role ideology falls into three types: traditional, transitional, and egalitarian.

What are 10 examples of common gender? ›

Common Gender:

Words like a parent, friend, child, servant, enemy, thief, cousin, baby, student, writer, teacher, etc.

What are the list of simple genders? ›

In English, the four genders of noun are masculine, feminine, common, and neuter.

What is the most common gender on earth? ›

The number of men and women in the world is roughly equal, though men hold a slight lead with 102 men for 100 women (in 2020). More precisely, out of 1,000 people, 504 are men (50.4%) and 496 are women (49.6%).

What societies have 5 genders? ›

In contrast to the gender binary, Bugis society recognizes five genders: makkunrai, oroané, bissu, calabai, and calalai.

What is the full acronym for lgbtqqip2saa? ›

LGBTQQIP2SA: any combination of letters attempting to represent all the identities in the queer community, this near-exhaustive one (but not exhaustive) represents Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-Spirited, and Asexual.

What are the genders recognized by the US government? ›

Gender identity: A person's internal sense of being male, female, or something else such as agender, binary, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, or nonbinary.

What controls gender identity? ›

Regarding grey matter, the main sexually dimorphic areas associated with the development of gender identity are represented by the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and the third interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus (INAH3).

What does gender identity depend on? ›

It is defined by one's own identification as male, female, or intersex; gender may also be based on legal status, social interactions, public persona, personal experiences, and psychologic setting.

What are the 5 factors that affect gender identity and role? ›

Contents
  • 1 Parental Influences and Environmental Influences.
  • 2 Patterns of Play.
  • 3 Friendships and Schooling.
  • 4 Media.
  • 5 Children's Literature on Gender Identity.
  • 6 Children's Expression of Gender Identity.
  • 7 Social Impacts.
  • 8 Social Cognitive Theory and its Impact on Gender Role Development.

What is fourth gender? ›

(anthropology) A category (a gender), present in societies which recognize four or more genders, which is neither cis male nor cis female; often, such societies consider trans men to constitute a third gender and trans women to constitute a fourth gender, or vice versa.

Is intersex a birth defect? ›

Intersex variations are not abnormal and should not be seen as 'birth defects'; they are natural biological variations and occur in up to 1.7 per cent of all births. Most people with intersex variations are not born with atypical genitalia, however this is common for certain intersex variations.

How do you deal with gender identity issues? ›

Coping and support
  1. Mental health care. You might see a mental health professional to explore your gender, talk about relationship issues, or talk about any anxiety or depression you're experiencing.
  2. Support groups. ...
  3. Prioritizing self-care. ...
  4. Meditation or prayer. ...
  5. Getting involved.
Feb 26, 2022

What is gender schema in psychology? ›

Gender schemas refer to mental structures that organize incoming information according to gender categories and in turn lead people to perceive the world in terms of gender. They also help people to match their behavior with the behavior they believe is appropriate for their own gender.

What are the gender pronoun options on forms? ›

Pronouns can be in the first person singular (I, me) or plural (we, us); second person singular or plural (you); and the third person singular (e.g., she/her, he/him, they/them, ze/hir) or plural (they/them). Gendered pronouns specifically reference someone's gender: he/him/his or she/her/hers.

How do you include all genders? ›

A number of strategies can be applied, when speaking or writing in English, to be more gender-inclusive:
  1. Use non-discriminatory language. 1.1 Forms of address. ...
  2. Make gender visible when it is relevant for communication. ...
  3. Do not make gender visible when it is not relevant for communication.

Why do I question my gender identity? ›

You may question your gender if your interests and social life do not fit with society's expectations of the gender you were assigned at birth. You may feel: that you cannot identify with being just male or female. that you identify with multiple genders.

What are the correct pronouns for Nonbinary? ›

For example a non-binary person could use both “he/him/his” and “they/them/theirs” pronouns.

What are the options for gender-neutral pronouns? ›

'They', for instance, is a third-person pronoun that is gender neutral. Other gender-neutral pronouns include 'them', 'this person', 'everyone', 'Ze', or 'Hir'. If you're not sure which pronoun to use, you can also use that person's name.

How do you write without gender pronouns? ›

How to Make Your Writing More Gender-Inclusive
  1. Avoid Gendered Pronouns Where Possible. ...
  2. Find Gender Neutral Alternatives to Gendered Words. ...
  3. Alternate Between Male and Female Pronouns. ...
  4. Singular They Is Your Friend. ...
  5. Always Use People's Preferred Pronoun. ...
  6. No Unnecessary Reference to Gender, Marital Status or Looks.
Jun 13, 2019

What is a gender-neutral term? ›

What is gender-neutral language? Gender-neutral language is simply a way of talking about people without assuming their gender. For example, it's referring to someone you don't know as “they” rather than using the pronoun “he” or “she,” or addressing a group as “everyone” rather than saying, “Hey, guys.”

Can you say you guys to a girl? ›

"Guy" is used to refer to a male person and "you guys" is used in a casual, gender-neutral way. This means that men or women can address other men or women by saying"you guys". It is of course informal.

Can a child be non-binary? ›

Children who do continue to feel they are a different gender from the one assigned at birth could develop in different ways. Some may feel they do not belong to any gender and may identify as agender. Others will feel their gender is outside of male and female and may identify as non-binary.

What affects gender identity? ›

Social behavior that reflects varying degrees of aggression, dominance, dependency and gentleness. Manner and style of behavior and physical gestures and other nonverbal actions identified as masculine or feminine. Social relationships, including the gender of friends, and the people they decide to imitate.

Do I have gender dysphoria? ›

You may feel: certain that your gender identity conflicts with your biological sex. comfortable only when in the gender role of your preferred gender identity (may include non-binary) a strong desire to hide or be rid of physical signs of your biological sex, such as breasts or facial hair.

What is the accurate definition of gender? ›

In the study of human subjects, the term gender should be used to refer to a person's self-representation as male or female, or how that person is responded to by social institutions on the basis of the individual's gender presentation.

How is gender measured? ›

Measures of gender include questions about a person's gender identity, which reflects their internal understanding of their own gender, as well as questions about gender expression, which is how a person expresses their gender to others.

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