For my first post, I thought it would be good to go through some terms used in the LGBT (etc) community that you may (or may not) have heard before. These terms go beyond the standard acronym (for an explanation of the acronym, check out Candice’s article here) and explain some of the more complicated labels or terms used within the queer community. With respect to the word queer, I use it very often to identify myself and others within the LGBT community, but not everyone is comfortable with this term.
Sex: Sex here refers to one’s biological sex, genitalia, chromosomes or physical anatomy.
Gender (or Gender Identity): The gender that a person sees themselves as, or our mental representation of our gender. This includes labels like male/masculine, female/feminine, woman, man.
For some, our sex and gender match and we would label these people
Cisgender: a match between an individuals assigned sex and gender identity or gender expression. For many of us (but not all!) these things do match and we fill the behaviour deemed “socially appropriate” for one’s gender. Ciswoman and cisman also fall under this term.
For many, many others, our sex and gender may not match, and a general label for these people is
Transgender (also Trans*): someone who identifies other than or opposite to the gender than they were assigned at birth. I included the asterisk beside trans because trans is often used as an umbrella term to encompass a whole lot of other identities and labels. Trans* or Transgender is a very inclusive term to use to refer to the Trans* community and is generally safe to use. Some people may refer to themselves as a transman or transwoman and generally expect the same treatment a cisgender woman would with respect to pronouns (he/him and she/her), preferred name use and your general demeanour. I will get more into these sorts of things in a later post.
Now, one’s sex and gender are very separate from one’s sexual orientation (hetero/homo/bi sexual). Not all cisgender people are straight and not all transgender people are gay. Any combination of sex, gender and sexual orientation is possible.
Other possible sexual orientations are
Pansexual: someone who is attracted to a wide range of gender identities or sexes. The gender or sex is irrelevant to whether an individual will be attracted to someone else.
Asexual: someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
However, there are still a whole host of other gender labels that people choose to identify with that do not include cisgender, transgender, male/masculine or female/feminine.
Genderqueer (or gender non-conforming): gender identities that fall outside or between the typical gender binary of man/woman. This includes people who identify as both genders (genderqueer, bigendered), people who identify as neither gender or androgynous and people who move between genders (genderfluid).
Another term that applies to gender that you may not have heard before is
Intersex: an individual who presents atypical combinations of physical, chromosomal and genital features that usually distinguish female sex from male sex. This could be a very wide range or hormonal, chromosomal or genital expressions and individuals could have biological aspects of both sexes. By law, we are all labelled as either male or female at birth even when there are genital or chromosomal abnormalities which presents problems for intersex people’s gender identity and sex. The term hermaphrodite is considered very outdated and not politically correct.
I hope that this made sense and cleared up some confusion that you may have had about these terms. They are used very specifically and are often not interchangeable. If you have any other questions about terms like this or are looking for an even more in depth list (there are so many more!) please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!