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The language we use when talking about gender is very important, because it can have an effect on people’s wellbeing. Learn about various terms to do with gender.
The language we use when talking about gender is very important, because it can have an effect on people’s wellbeing. It can be daunting; it might seem like you will never know it all, or like it changes without you realising, or you might be worried about ‘getting it wrong’.
What is important to remember is that language is personal; your meanings or use of these words may be different to how other people use them. Not everyone will want to be known by the same terms so the most important thing is to be respectful of someone else’s identity and the labels they choose to use. In turn, you deserve that respect back.
Read more about what gender is.
Brook works hard to keep up to date and to reflect all the terms out there, but if you feel we’ve missed something out, or would like to share a term we haven’t mentioned, please email us with the subject ‘gender definitions’.
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J |K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
AFABThe acronym for ‘Assigned female at birth’. Someone who was assigned female at birth, usually based on the appearance of external genitalia (a vagina and vulva).
AgenderSomeone who doesn’t have a gender at all. This is different from being asexual, which means that someone does not experience sexual attraction. See here for more information on asexuality.
AMABThe acronym for ‘Assigned male at birth’. Someone who was assigned male at birth, usually based on the appearance of external genitalia (a penis and testicles).
AllySomeone who supports the LGBTQ+ community and challenges discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. This can be a person who is not LGBTQ+, and it can also be someone who is a member of one part of the LGBTQ+ community supporting members of other parts of the community.
BigenderSomeone whose gender is made up of two separate genders which may be experienced at the same time or at different times.
BindingThe action of tightly wrapping the chest with garments or materials in order to minimise the appearance of breasts. Binding is one of the many actions which trans people, particularly those assigned female at birth, can choose to undertake to feel more comfortable. See our pages on Transitioning and on Breasts and Chests for more information.
Bottom surgeryAnother term for gender affirmation surgery in the genital area. See our page on Transitioning for more information.
Cis or cisgenderThis describes a person whose gender identity is the same as the gender they were assigned at birth.
Cis manA man who was assigned male at birth.
Cis womanA woman who was assigned female at birth.
Chosen nameThis refers to the name someone chooses when they change it from the one they were given at birth, usually as part of their social or legal transition. See our page on Transitioning.
Closeted/In the ClosetA term used to describe someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ in some way, but has not openly told anyone about this aspect of their identity.
Coming outWhen someone tells someone else about their LGBTQ+ identity. Coming out is rarely a once-in-a-lifetime event, as many LGBTQ+ people may want or need to come out to each new person they meet, or may realise different aspects of their LGBTQ+ identity over time which they might then choose to tell people about. Read more about coming out.
Deadnaming/deadnameUsing someone’s previous name, usually the name they were given at birth, rather than their current chosen name. This usually refers to intentionally or maliciously using a trans person’s previous name. See our page on Transitioning.
FeminineA set of ideas and behaviours that are associated with women due to a society’s culture.
GenderThe socially constructed ideas about human behaviour, actions and roles in relation to ideas of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. The way you feel about your gender is called your gender identity. See our page on What is Gender?.
GenderqueerSomeone whose gender is outside of the gender binary. The ‘queer’ part of genderqueer is quite a politicised word, and it means that often this is a more political gender identity than some other non-binary genders.
Gender affirmation surgeryAn umbrella term used to describe various surgical procedures which some trans people may undergo as part of their transition. See our page on Transitioning.
Gender assigned at birthThe gender that a person is assumed to be when they are born, usually based on the sex assigned at birth.
Gender binaryThe word ‘binary’ means something only has two states. If someone has a binary view of gender, it means they think that the only genders that exist are ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Many people believe that this binary view of gender is incorrect and that there are lots of other gender identities.
Gender dysphoriaThe distress or discomfort someone might feel when their sex assigned at birth doesn’t match their gender. Trans people may experience different levels of dysphoria, and some trans people don’t experience dysphoria at all.
Gender expressionThe outward behaviours and choices that a person makes in relation to their gender identity. This can include choices about their appearance, for example clothing and hairstyles, and their behaviour and mannerisms.
Gender fluidThis describes someone whose gender is not fixed; their gender may change slowly or quickly over time and can switch between different gender identities and expressions. Each gender fluid person’s experience of their gender is unique to them.
Gender identityA person’s internal feelings and convictions about their gender. This can be the same or different to the gender they were assigned at birth.
Gender neutralLots of things are ‘gendered’, which means they are associated with masculinity or femininity. If something is gender neutral, then it means it is not associated with a gender, which means it has no limitations to use that are based on the gender of the person using it.
Gender non-conformingSomeone whose gender expression doesn’t align with the social expectations of their gender, or the gender binary.
Gender rolesThis refers to the many behaviours, mannerisms, personality traits and likes/dislikes that society expects men and women to have, be and do. Gender roles have changed over history, and are different in different parts of the world, but can be taken very seriously. Gender roles are often presented as ‘natural’, however they are socially constructed. Strict gender roles are a big problem for everyone, because we are all unique, and the expectation that we should fit into a category because of our gender can be very uncomfortable, but this is especially the case of LGBTQ+ people.
Gender transitionThe process of someone changing their social and/or legal identity, gender expression, and/or physical characteristics to reflect their gender identity. See our page on Transitioning.
IntersectionalityA word used to refer to the approach of thinking about intersecting or overlapping areas of power, discrimination and identity. The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw as a way to help explain the oppression of African-American women as being informed by both their ethnicity and their gender. Learn more about intersectionality here.
IntersexThis describes a person whose biology doesn’t easily fit into the ‘male’ or ‘female’ sexes. There are a variety of ways of being intersex, and it has its own challenges. Intersex people may or may not also identify as trans. Read about the difference between sex and gender.
Legal genderThe gender on a person’s legal documents.
Legal transitionWhen a person officially changes their gender/sex on legal documents.
LGBTQ+The acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. The ‘+’ is used to be more inclusive of other identities beyond those in the acronym.
MasculineA set of ideas and behaviours that are associated with men due to a society’s culture.
MisgenderThe act of referring to someone as the wrong gender or using the wrong pronouns. This usually refers to intentionally or maliciously referring to a trans person incorrectly, but can also be done by accident.
MisogynyPrejudice and discrimination towards someone who is female or is assumed to be female, or of items and behavious associated with femininity.
Non-binarySomeone whose gender doesn’t fit into the gender binary. It is a term that is an identity in itself, and it is also an umbrella term for various gender identities such as genderqueer, bigender, gender fluid and pangender.
Outing/OutTelling someone about someone else’s gender identity or sexual orientation without their consent.
Pangender‘Pan’ means ‘all’ and describes someone whose gender is made up of a number of different genders. A pangender person may consider themselves a member of all genders.
Polygender‘Poly’ means ‘more than one’ and describes people who experience multiple genders at the same time or at different times.
PrideHaving a positive view of being part of the LGBTQ+ community. It is also a worldwide event which celebrates of LGBTQ+ cultures, protests against current discrimination, and is a reminder of past discrimination against the community.
PronounsAre words that we use instead of names, like ‘he’, ‘her’ or ‘them’. Pronouns are often associated with gender; you are probably used to using words like ‘he’, ‘his’ and ‘him’ when talking about men and ‘she’, ‘her’ and ‘hers’ when talking about women. Pronouns can become very important to trans and non-binary people because they are so closely associated with gender. The pronouns they want to be referred to by may not be obvious to you. You should always ask people what pronouns they want you to use when you talk about them, and always use the pronouns that people ask you to use, whether they are there or not.
If in doubt, you can refer to people as ‘they’, ‘them’ or ‘theirs’, since ‘they’ is a gender neutral pronoun (see gender neutral). Other gender neutral pronouns exist, which you may not have heard of; ‘ze’, ‘zem’ and ‘zirs’ and ‘xe, xem and xeir’ are examples of gender neutral pronouns, but there are many others. Always be respectful of the way people want to be spoken about.
QueerQueer is an umbrella term used by some to describe members of the LGBTQ+ community. It can also be used as an identity in its own right that rejects specific labels of romantic/sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
The term has been reclaimed by members of the community from its historical use as a slur, but some members of the community may not wish to use it due to this history. You can read more about the political history of the word ‘queer’ here. When Q is seen at the end of LGBTQ+, it typically refers to the word ‘queer’. In some contexts, the Q can stand for ‘questioning’, but this is much less common.
QPOC/QTIPOCThis stands for ‘Queer People of Colour’ or ‘Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour’. Queer people of colour experience intesrsection oppressions on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and other factors.
QuestioningA term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
SexThe scientific and/or legal classification of a person as male, female or intersex. A person’s sex is usually decided by a combination of primary and secondary sex characteristics including chromosomes, hormones, and internal and external reproductive organs. Read about the difference between sex and gender.
Sex assigned at birthThe sex that a person is given when they are born, usually because of the appearance of external genitalia.
Social transitionWhen a person changes how they interact with society in order to reflect their gender identity. This can include changing their name or pronouns, using different spaces or facilities, and changing their gender expression. See our page on Transitioning.
Third genderIn the UK gender has historically had two categories; ‘man’ and ‘woman’. In other parts of the world, gender has more than two categories. India, Pakistan, Samoa, Albania and various parts of Africa, for example, have three gender categories. Exactly what the three genders are depends on the place and time we’re talking about. This shows us very quickly that gender is more the traditional, Western binary idea.
Top surgeryAnother term for gender affirmation surgery in the chest area. See our page on Transitioning.
Transfeminine/transfemmeA broad term to describe trans people whose gender, or gender expression, is mostly feminine.
Transgender/transThis is an umbrella term that describes anyone whose gender is not the same as the gender they were given when they were born.
Transmasculine/transmascA broad term to describe trans people whose gender, or gender expression, is mostly masculine.
TransmisogynyPrejudice and discrimination towards someone who is transfeminine or who is assumed to be transfeminine, that is based only on their gender expression. Transmisogyny is about the specific intersection of transphobia and misogyny experienced by transfeminine people. This can come from both outside of and within LGBTQ+ communities.
TransphobiaPrejudice and discrimination towards someone who is trans that is based on their trans identity. Transphobia includes a range of attitudes and behaviours that make it very hard to be trans. People can be transphobic in the things they say, the things they do and the ways in which they behave towards trans people, including denying and refusing to accept someone’s gender identity. This prejudice is a very unpleasant form of bullying or harassment, and it is illegal in the UK.
TranssexualThis is now an old fashioned term for someone who is trans. This word is hardly used anymore, and is considered very medical. The word transsexual has mostly been replaced by trans or transgender, which is thought to be more inclusive.
Trans manA man who was assigned female at birth.
Trans womanA woman who was assigned male at birth.
For more definitions, see the LGBTQ+ terminology guide[https://nationallgbtpartnership.org/publications/lgbtq-terminology-guide/] from The National LGB&T Partnership, produced in partnership with Brook.
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