What is Gender?

A guide to gender terms

In the nonbinary community’s fight for equality, understanding gender terminologies have played a crucial role. Gender is a complex topic with many aspects to consider, so it is important that we understand the various terms people use to describe themselves to acknowledge their identity. Here is a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, guide to gender terminologies.

Source: Psycom (https://www.psycom.net/gender-identity-terms)

Sex: a person’s biological status, assigned at birth based on anatomy. Typically categorized a male, female, or intersex - a person with anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of male or female (for example. they can appear female on the outside but have male reproductive anatomy).

Gender: A complex social construct of norms, behaviors, and roles that change between different societies and over time. Often categorized as male, female, or nonbinary.

Gender differs from sex because it is an abstract construct and does not have to be based on one’s anatomy.

Gender identity: one’s internal sense of one’s gender, which is not necessarily visible to others. Gender identity can be man, woman, neither, or both.

Types of gender identity:

  • Cisgender (cis): a person who identifies with their sex assigned at birth

  • Bigender (bi): a person who identifies as both man and woman

  • Transgender (trans): a person who identifies with a gender that isn’t their sex assigned at birth

  • Agender: not identifying with any gender

  • Genderqueer/nonbinary: a general term for people who don’t identify with the typical definition of man or woman.

Gender expression: external expression of one’s gender identity, usually through clothing, behavior, voice, and other perceived characteristics. Gender expression can be masculine or feminine, though the definition of each varies with culture and time.

Sexual orientation: An enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people of certain gender(s). Sexual orientation is independent of gender identity (for example, a person can identify as a man but do not have to be attracted to women as traditionally expected of men).

Types of sexual orientation:

  • Gay/Homosexual: a person who is attracted to members of the same gender. Men, women, and non-binary people can all identify as gay.

  • Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to other women. Women and non-binary people can identify as lesbian.

  • Heterosexual/straight: a person who is attracted to members of the opposite sex.

  • Asexual: a person who lacks sexual attraction for other people

  • Bisexual: a person who can be attracted to more than one gender, although not necessarily at the same time or to the same degree.

  • Pansexual: a person who can be attracted to any gender, although not necessarily at the same time or to the same degree.

Keeping in mind how gender identity and sexual orientation are not always apparent from external appearance, we should refrain from assigning pronouns to people based on our assumptions and start asking for their pronouns. Understanding and addressing people in alignment with how they see themselves is crucial to making everyone feel seen and accepted for who they are, regardless of gender.