January 6, 2020

Glossary of gender terms

Glossary // WTF GENDER

Cisgender

“Cis” is the Latin prefix for “on the same side” (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). Cisgender refers to individuals whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009; Green, 2006). “Cisgender” is a complementary concept to “transgender” and is used instead of “non-transgender” (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). A person assigned male at birth who identifies as male is cisgender. A person assigned female at birth who identifies as female is cisgender. This definition does not preclude the possibility that cisgender people may be gender non-conforming.

Gender, gender identity, and gender expression

Gender is a multidimensional construct that has psychological, social, and behavioral dimensions that include gender identity and gender expression. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of gender (e.g., being a man, a woman, or genderqueer) and potential affiliation with a gender community (e.g., women, trans women, genderqueer). Gender expression is a behavioral dimension of gender, that is, how one expresses one’s identity through appearance and behavior (Spence, 2011). Gender may be reported in terms of a person’s felt, desired, or intended identity and expression, as well as how an individual believes that he or she is perceived by others.

Gender minority

Gender minority is an “umbrella” term that refers to transgender and gender non-conforming people—people whose current gender identity or gender expression do not conform to social expectations based on their sex assigned at birth (i.e., natal sex) (IOM, 2011).

Gender non-conforming / genderqueer

The term gender non-conforming refers to individuals whose gender expression does not fully conform to sex-linked social expectations (e.g., masculine girls/women, feminine boys/men). Gender non-conforming people may identify with the term transgender, trans, transsexual or any number of related community-created terms, or with an alternative, non-binary identity (e.g., as genderqueer), or may have no self-concept related to their gender expression.

Intersex / Differences of Sex Development

Intersex people are born with (or develop naturally in puberty) genitals, reproductive organs, and/or chromosomal patterns that do not fit standard definitions of male or female (OII-USA, 2013). In the United States, intersex infants and minors are often (but not always) diagnosed with a medically-determined intersex condition or “Difference of Sex Development” (DSD) (Hughes et al., 2006). However, some people use the term “intersex” as an identity label, sometimes even in the absence of such inborn physical characteristics.

Population-based data

Data collected using sampling procedures that allow for analyses and statistical inferences that can be generalized to a population.

Purposive / convenience / community-based sample

Data collected using sampling procedures that are not designed to provide statistical inference that can be generalized to a population. Purposive samples are often designed to study small or hard-to-reach/identify populations and provide a more thorough understanding of the specific needs or concerns of those populations.

Sex

The term sex refers to biological differences among male, female, and intersex people (hormones, secondary sex characteristics, reproductive anatomy) that can be altered over time through the use of hormones and surgical interventions (Krieger, 2003). The assignment of individuals to a sex category by medical practitioners at birth is typically based on the appearance of external genitalia. Assigned sex at birth is then recorded on the birth certificate as male or female. The sex marker can sometimes be changed on legal documents (i.e., driver’s license, passport, birth certificate) through a complex set of legal procedures (Conron, Landers, Reisner, & Sell, in press).

Transition

This term refers to a process (social and/or medical) where one undertakes living in a gender that differs from the sex that one was assigned at birth. In a physical gender transition, individuals seek to alter their primary and/or secondary sex characteristics through femininizing or masculinizing medical interventions (hormones and/or surgery), typically accompanied by a permanent change in gender role (Coleman et al., 2011). According to the current standards of care, transition is considered medically-necessary when clinically indicated for an individual (Coleman et al., 2011)

Transgender / Trans

Transgender describes individuals whose current gender identity is not fully congruent with their assigned sex at birth (USDHHS, 2011; Feinberg, 1996). Some individuals who fit this definition may identify with the term transgender while others, particularly some transsexual individuals, may not. Many use the shorthand “trans” in place of “transgender.”

Transgender Men / Trans Men

These terms refer to persons who were assigned female at birth and identify as men, regardless of whether they have physically transitioned from female to male.

Transgender Women / Trans Women

These terms refer to persons who were assigned male at birth and identify as women, regardless of whether they have physically transitioned from male to female.

Transsexual

A term used, often by medical providers, to describe individuals who seek to change or who have changed their primary and/or secondary sex characteristics through femininizing or masculinizing medical interventions (hormones and/or surgery), typically accompanied by a permanent change in gender role (Coleman et al., 2011). The term transsexual is used by some individuals as an identity label.

This glossary originally appeared in a report by The GenIUSS Group. (2014). Best Practices for Asking Questions to Identify Transgender and Other Gender Minority Respondents on Population-Based Surveys. J.L. Herman (Ed.). Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute. Reposted here by permission.

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