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Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Populations

The scope of this guide is meant to inform all who interact with it on related issues to transgender and gender non-conforming populations.

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Vocabulary and Terms to Know

It's important, when working with transgender and gender non-conforming populations, to use the proper language that is accurate to an individual's identity and sensitive to their needs. The table below lists several terms related to trans identities, with definitions provided by the PFLAG LGBTQ+ Glossary (Opens New Window).


Glossary of Terms

Term Definition
AFAB Assigned female at birth. AFAB people may or may not identify as female some or all of the time. AFAB is a useful term for educating about issues that may happen to these bodies without connecting to womanhood or femaleness.
Agender Refers to a person who does not identify with or experience any gender. Agender is different from nonbinary because many nonbinary people do experience gender.
AMAB Assigned male at birth. AMAB people may or may not identify as male some or all of the time. AMAB is a useful term for educating about issues that may happen to these bodies without connecting to manhood or maleness.
Assigned Sex

The sex assigned to an infant at birth based on the child’s visible sex organs, including genitalia and other physical characteristics.

Biological Sex Refers to anatomical, physiological, genetic, or physical attributes that determine if a person is male, female, or intersex. These include both primary and secondary sex characteristics, including genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, and genes.
Cisgender A term used to refer to an individual whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Deadnaming Occurs when an individual, intentionally or not, refers to the name that a transgender or gender-expansive individual used at a different time in their life. Avoid this practice, as it can cause trauma, stress, embarrassment, and even danger.

Broadly, gender is a set of socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate.

Gender Dysphoria The distress caused when a person's assigned sex at birth and assumed gender is not the same as the one with which they identify.
Gender Euphoria A euphoric feeling often experienced when one’s gender is recognized and respected by others, when one’s body aligns with one’s gender, or when one expresses themselves in accordance with their gender.
Gender Expression The manner in which a person communicates about gender to others through external means such as clothing, appearance, or mannerisms. This communication may be conscious or subconscious and may or may not reflect their gender identity.
Gender Identity A person’s deeply held core sense of self in relation to gender. Gender identity does not always correspond to biological sex.
Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) An umbrella term for those who do not follow gender stereotypes, or who expand ideas of gender expression or gender identity. GNC does NOT mean non-binary as cisgender people can be GNC as well.
Gendered Language ​​Commonly understood as language that has a bias towards a particular sex or social gender. E.g., the use of titles such as "Mrs." or "Mr.". Languages such as French and Spanish change word endings to have masculine or feminine associations - English does not.

Describes a person who does not consistently adhere to one fixed gender and who may move among genders.

Genderqueer Refers to individuals who blur preconceived boundaries of gender in relation to the gender binary; they can also reject commonly held ideas of static gender identities.
Intersex Intersex is the current term used to refer to people who are biologically between the medically expected definitions of male and female. (E.g. variations in hormones, chromosomes, internal/external genitalia, or combinations of primary and secondary sex characteristics).
Misgender To refer to an individual using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, which does not correctly reflect their gender. This may be unintentional and without ill intent or can be a maliciously employed expression of bias.
Non-binary Refers to people who do not subscribe to the gender binary. They might exist between or beyond the man-woman binary.
Out A term which describes people who openly self-identify as LGBTQ+ in their private, public, and/or professional lives. There are many states of being out; individuals can be out only to themselves, close friends, or everyone. Some transgender people prefer to use the term disclose.
Passing With gender, the act of presenting as cisgender or gender-typical, which is generally accomplished through conforming to gender roles. People may try to pass in anti-LGBTQ+ environments to ensure their safety.
Primary Sex Characteristics The ovaries and testes, their development, and related hormones (estradiol and testosterone, respectively).
Pronouns The words used to refer to a person other than their name. Common pronouns are they/them, he/him, and she/her. Neopronouns are pronouns created to be specifically gender neutral, including xe/xem, ze/zir, and fae/faer.
Secondary Sex Characteristics Other physical attributes in sexual development that are not inherently gendered, but contribute to masculinization or feminization. Includes breast or testicular growth, growth of facial and pubic hair, changes in voice pitch, and other changes such as widening of hips (in female bodies) and development of an Adam's apple (in male bodies).
Transgender A term describing a person’s gender identity that does not necessarily match their assigned sex at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity. This word is also used as an umbrella term to describe groups of people who transcend conventional expectations of gender identity or expression.

A term used to refer to the process--social, legal, and/or medical--one goes through to affirm one’s gender identity. There is no one way to transition--the word means something to each individual. The validity of an individual’s gender identity does not depend on any social, legal, and/or medical transition; the self-identification itself is what validates the gender identity.

  • Social Transition: changing one's name and/or pronouns, appearance or gender expression (such as clothing or hairstyles), the public restroom facilities one uses, and any other expressions or applications of gendered activities or behaviors in a public or social context.
  • Legal Transition: the process of legally changing one's name, sex, or other gender markers on legal documentation and identification
  • Medical Transition: seeking gender affirmation through medical processes, including but not limited to surgical procedures, the use of hormone therapies, and other forms of gender-affirming care as needed.
Transphobia Animosity, hatred, or dislike of trans and gender-expansive people that often manifests itself in the form of prejudice and bias. Transphobia often stems from lack of knowledge about transgender people and the issues they face and can be alleviated with education and support.
Transsexual A term which refers to people who consider or use medical interventions such as hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries, also called sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or pursue medical interventions as part of the process of expressing their gender. A less frequently used--and sometimes misunderstood--term (considered by some to be outdated or possibly offensive, and others to be uniquely applicable to them).