Understanding gender

Cisgender: A person whose gender identity matches the sex assigned to them at birth.

Gender: A set of cultural identities, expressions and roles—codified as feminine or masculine—that are assigned to people based on the interpretation of their bodies, appearance, behaviors and, more specifically, their sexual and reproductive anatomy. Since gender is a social construct, it is possible to reject or modify the assignment made and develop something that is true and just to oneself.

Gender nonconforming: A descriptive term and/or identity of a person who has a gender identity and/or expression that does not conform to the traditional expectations of the gender they were assigned at birth. People who identify as gender nonconforming or gender variant may or may not also identify as transgender.

Gender expression: The multiple ways (for example, one’s behaviors or dress) in which a person may choose to communicate gender to oneself and/or to others.

Gender identity: A personal conception of oneself as male, female, both, neither, and/or another gender. Gender identity can be the same as or different from the gender a person is assigned at birth. Gender identity is self-identification; no one can tell anyone else how to identify or what terms to use. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation, and everyone has both a gender identity and a sexual orientation.

LGB/TGNC: A catchall acronym for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender nonconforming, to cover a range of sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.

Sex assigned at birth: The classification of people by the medical community as male, female, intersex, or another sex at birth based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, and chromosomes.

Sexual orientation: The inner feelings of who a person is attracted to emotionally and/or physically, in relation to their own gender identity. Some people may identify as asexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, pansexual, queer, straight, and many other orientations.

SOGIE: A catchall acronym to refer to the concepts of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression that is often used in reference to policies or data collection practices. 

Transgender: An umbrella term describing people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

Sources: These definitions (except for LGB/TGNC and SOGIE) are adapted from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), https://perma.cc/RTR8-Q3YK (as of November 2017); and Trans Student Educational Resources (http://perma.cc/7NHY-474N), which also provides additional terms and definitions related to gender diversity.