Glossary

These definitions are intended to provide an overview and are not a comprehensive discussion of the ideas involved. Many people’s experience will be different than what is given here.

Gender

Fundamentally about how a person identifies themselves and how they interact with society, regardless of cisgendered or trans* status. This might include a choice of clothing, or which of a pair of binary-gendered lavatories they would prefer to use, but of course, many people will act and present in ways that are not stereotypical for their gender. This should be the default question on forms.

Sex assigned at birth

Generally thought of as the sex announced when a person is born. This is usually one of male, female or intersex, though many intersex babies are then operated on to make them more closely resemble one of the binary sexes and then raised as that binary gender.

Sex

Is usually about a person’s biological characteristics, covering a range of aspects such as gonads and genetic and hormonal make-up. There is an ongoing discussion as to whether sex is a function of someone’s actual body or the sex that they identify that their body should have when these are different. ‘Biological Sex’ is not well defined as there are many aspects that make up Biological Sex and ‘Chromosomal Sex’ is also not binary and generally, people may not know this information anyway.

“Legal gender” and “legal sex”

These are very imprecise terms – the laws on, for example, sexual offences, discrimination, marriage and identity documents are not consistent as to what constitutes someone’s legal sex. People often have different sex or gender markers on different legal documents: in the UK some documents can be changed with a deed poll, whereas for others 2 years’ ‘real life experience’ and an involved legal process are required.

Trans*

This is an umbrella term including transgender and transsexual: people whose sex assigned at birth does not describe or does not completely describe their (identified) gender or sex.

Cisgendered

People whose sex assigned at birth matches their (identified) gender and sex.

Non-binary-gendered

people whose gender is not or not wholly described by ‘male’ or ‘female’. Some identities which can be non-binary include androgyne, polygender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, dual-gendered, non-gender identifying, gender questioning, gender variant, gender fluid, butch, femme and cross-dressing & transvestite people

Gender neutral

Does not reference specific genders, e.g. gender-neutral toilet signage might include a WC or toilet symbol, but would not include any combination of the standard “male” and “female” figures.

Intersex

Many people do not have a binary sex: they might show or have shown a combination of physical characteristics usually attributed to only one of men or women. Intersex people are affected by many of the same issues as non-binary-gendered people.