Gender Identity Explained

There are so many ways that people can experience their gender. Being Transgender, non-binary, or intersex is a complex existence that varies a lot from person to person. This page includes a simplistic view of what it means to identify outside of the normalize gender binary of male or female. Whether you are trans, non-binary, or intersex yourself, or you have a loved one who is, we hope this page will offer some helpful definitions and vocabulary. This is not meant to be representative of every experience of those outside the gender binary. Much of the information on the page was compiled from research conducted by The Trevor Project.

TRANSGENDER: Someone who does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender is a complex idea that varies widely depending on the context. For example, Gender Expression has to do with how we as individuals chose to represent out gender in public. This could correspond to how we dress or how long our hair is. Gender Identity has to do with how we internally view our own sense of gender. And Gender Presentation is how external forces view and interpret our gender expressions.

Being Transgender could mean that someone’s Gender Identity does not perfectly align with their Gender Expression or Presentation, leading them to want to change how they express themselves to the world. Although, again, it varies from person to person. These changes could include altering the way you dress to taking certain hormones or undergoing surgery to better align with your own sense of gender identity.

It is important to emphasize how to refer to those who consider themselves transgender who may or may not have undergone physical transitions.

For someone who was assigned the sex MALE at birth who now identifies as a WOMAN would be referred to as a TRANSGENDER WOMAN.

For someone who was assigned the sex FEMALE at birth, who now identifies as a MAN, would be referred to as a TRANSGENDER MAN.

It is important not to put the emphasize on the sex assigned at birth, but instead someone’s real gender identity when referring to transgender people.

For more information, you can visit the wonderful Trevor Project, who go more in depth than we have here.

Check out our Transgender Book Recs page!

NON-BINARY: Someone who does not identify exclusively with the strict male/female gender binary.

Being non-binary can mean many different things depending on the individual. For example, non-binary people may say they identify as neither female or male, some combination of both, or that their gender identity changes depending on their mood or emotions. Many non-binary people have pronouns other than she/her or he/him, such as they/them, xe/xim, ze/hir, or ey/em. Remember to always ask someone’s pronouns before assuming what they prefer to go by.

GENDERQUEER: An umbrella term that is similar to non-binary. Can refer to either transgender individuals or someone who identifies outside of the strict male/female binary.

Below are some more terms which fall under the non-binary/genderqueer umbrella. Although they might seem similar, they are all distinct identities with subtle nuances.

BIGENDER: Someone who identifies as two genders at the same time.

DEMIGENDER: Someone who identifies partially to one or more genders. May not feel a strong connection to any gender or gender at all.

AGENDER: Someone who experiences no genders. In other words, they are gender neutral.

POLYGENDER: Someone who experiences multiple genders.

TWO-SPIRIT: A term unique to First Nations/Indigenous individuals which challenges the colonial idea of the gender binary. Refers to a First Nations individual whose sexual orientation/gender identity is outside of the colonial construction of the gender binary.

Check out our Non-Binary/Genderqueer Book Recs

INTERSEX: Refers to someone who was born somewhere in between the typical binary ideas surrounding male and female.

Being intersex is, again, a complex medical condition which drastically varies between individuals. It can mean a person may present as one gender on the outside, but may have internal anatomy that corresponds to a different gender or even multiple genders. It could also mean someone has both male and female genitalia but internal anatomy that corresponds to one or multiple genders.

If you are intersex, you most likely were diagnosed at birth. It is typical for doctors and parents to choose a gender for an intersex child and push them in the direction of that chosen gender, although every situation is different. This can happen either by surgery on the baby or by simply raising the child to identify as that chosen gender. This can lead to complicated feelings by the intersex individual that can be difficult to work through later in life as they may or may not continue to identify as the gender chosen for them.