Language & Understanding Gender
- Terminology - Acronyms - History -
Gender identity terminology and language is being changed and created all the time. I have included some basic definitions for trans, non-binary and gender expansive language. There are numerous articles and lists of terms. Included at the end are some historical references.
For specific section on non-binary, go to Parents...a good place to start... or "In the Trans Community" for the section titled Non-Binary.
“The gift of language. The more we give this gift of language to others about things we don’t understand, the more awareness we’re building. The more awareness, the more we normalize things that generally carry stigmas, the more we lift one another up. This is how this all works. Let’s continue to give the gift of passing on definitions and education and language for our trans community. Our entire lives are based off of education and learning and raising awareness. We can do this for our trans loved ones. It’s up to us, allies, to share the language we’ve learned with others who are uninformed. The onus isn’t on the trans community to educate. It’s on us. We know knowledge is power. It was a gift to learn the language I needed to understand my transgender son. Pass it on.”
--- Excerpt from The Gift of Language, a blog post by Vanessa Nichols, Dec 2019
ARTIST CREDIT: u/FrogginBullfish
GRAPHIC CREDIT: Victoria Barron, 2021
Cisgender (adj.) – A person whose gender identity and assigned sex at birth correspond (i.e., a person who is not transgender).
Non binary (adj.) – Describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do.
Transgender (adj.) – Describes a person whose gender identity and assigned sex at birth do not correspond. Also used as an umbrella term to include gender identities outside of male and female. Sometimes abbreviated as trans.
Source: Glossary of LBGTQ terms by Liz Dyer, Founder of Serendipitydodah — Home of the Mama Bears. This is a regularly updated glossary of common LGBTQ terms on the Mama Bears site of LGBTQ+ kids.
By Clio Hartzer. Being’ Enby blog. Jan 2021. (US)
“I designed this for teachers who prefer a visual summary of the key ideas on degendering language. I also have longer text-based pieces for those who want more details: Non-binary students: Non-binary ‘they’ and style guides, and Non-binary students and pronouns.” Clio is a non-binary teacher and blogger.
By Clio Hartzer. Being’ Enby blog. Jan 2021. (US)
“I designed this for teachers who prefer a visual summary of the key ideas on pronoun use for transgender and nonbinary students. I also have longer text-based pieces for those who want more details: “Non-binary students: Non-binary ‘they’ and style guides”, and “Non-binary students and pronouns.”
SOURCE: Assigned Male Comics
AUDIO & VISUAL RESOURCES & WEBSITES
Podcasts, radio interviews, videos...
By Meaghan Ray. Let’s Talk Gender Podcast. Season 2, Episode 1. Oct 2021. (Alberta)
“To start off Season 2, I will be talking about nonbinary identities and labels. We talk about this, in Season 1: Episode 1: Language and Labels, but this time I’ll focus specifically on non-binary identities and labels. “
CBC Listen radio interview with host Faith Fundal. Jul 2020. (Canada)
"What is ‘gender identity’? How is it different from ‘gender expression’? What about ‘non-binary’? Join host Faith Fundal (formerly Wil Fundal) as they explore these questions alongside people who find themselves navigating the world of preferred pronouns, trans rights and the quest to be recognized for who they are."
New York State Office of Mental Health
US & INTERNATIONAL
By Sam Dylan Finch. 2014.
"I know you better than you know yourself //
I would rather hurt you repeatedly than change the way I speak about you //
Your sense of safety is not important to me //
Your identity isn't real and shouldn't be acknowledged //
I want to teach everyone around me to disrespect you //
Offending you is find if it makes me feel more comfortable //
I can hear you talking, but I'm not really listening //
Being who you truly are is an inconvenience to me //
I would prefer it if you stopped being honest with me //
I am not an ally, a friend, or someone you can trust"
Transgender School. Video. May 2021. (US)
Bridget & trans daughter Jackie created Transgender School.
YouTube Video. Feb 2021. (US)
Dara (they/them) has a series of vlogs. She has a page called Conversations With a Gender Therapist.
"One of my coaching clients recently came to me with a few questions that, as a 'fellow' nonbinary person, they wondered if I'd be comfortable answering for them. I thought, 'I bet these are questions other folks would ask... Heck yeah, let's make a video!'
Here are the questions I'll be touching on...
-- When you realized you were nonbinary, did you come out right away or was it more of a process?
-- When you realized you were nonbinary, how hard was it to tell: your partner, your family, your friends?
-- Before telling people, did you ever feel like it was overwhelming and wished to not have to deal with it?
-- In your eyes, what is the most difficult thing being nonbinary?
-- Have you had good experiences when dealing with doctors and them understanding you as a nonbinary patient?-- What are 3 things you wished you knew before your surgery? (can be positive or not so positive things)"
By Kirby Conrad. Dec 2020.
"Pronouns are hard! There is a reason for that (the reason is… linguistics), but the fact of the matter is, many people find it very difficult to switch pronouns for a person, or to use certain pronouns at all. This post isn’t about getting into the why, but more going about the how to get better."
"Resources on personal pronouns". Sections:
See RESOURCES. for various videos.
By AMAZE Org. YouTube video.
”Everyone has a gender identity—a feeling or sense of being male, female or somewhere in between. Sometimes people’s gender identity matches their bodies, and sometimes it does not. When you share your gender identity with the world through clothing, makeup, how you talk, act and more, this is called ‘gender expression.’ A person’s gender identity and gender expression can be different.”
Transgender School Podcast Ep. 14. Feb 3, 2022. YouTube video. (US)
"What is the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity? Why are there so many different labels for sexual orientation and what do they all mean? Are the labels helpful or problematic? Can my (or my child’s) sexual orientation change over time? How can I ever begin to understand all this?
In this episode, we answer these questions more in a very frank mother-daughter discussion about sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and emotional and physical intimacy. We wanted to dive deep into this topic because we know it can be very confusing for people. We explore the ways parents tend to make assumptions about their kids’ sexual orientations and gender identities. In fact, in this very conversation, Jackie reveals something new about the history of her sexual orientation that Bridget didn’t know.
We offer ideas for how we can all be more aware of and open-minded about the fluidity of the various forms of attraction that human beings may experience in the span of their lifetime. We discuss the importance of understanding that no sexual orientation has definitive, fixed characteristics. This is why parents' efforts to identify and label their kids based on specific behaviors or traits are generally pointless. Unless your child explicitly expresses it to you, you likely have no idea how they experience their own sexual orientation. We also talk about intersex people, how the cisgender community perceives and treats queer people, and their reaction to couples in visibly queer relationships. To close today's episode, we go through some sexual orientation definitions and terminology.
In this episode, you will learn: How people express their sexual orientation, and that there are at least 46 terms to define sexual orientation (4:19); The differences between sexual and romantic attraction (5:58); About parents and their preconceived ideas of their children's sexual orientation and gender identity (8:20); There is NO universal way of being gay, bisexual, or experiencing any other type of attraction; it is an individual experience (12:43); How cisgender people perceive and treat queer people (18:34); Some sexual orientation definitions and terminology (27:02)"
vs Gender Expression
vs Anatomical Sex
vs Sexually Attracted To
vs Romantically Attracted To
Created by Sam Killerman. Infographic.
“A teaching tool for breaking the big concept of gender down into bite-sized, digestible pieces"
Click for French version.
Trans Student Educational Resources.
The identity-bread person
By Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife. Graphic. (Canada)
A graphic similar to the Genderbread Person and the Gender Unicorn.
BOOKS & OTHER WRITTEN RESOURCES
Alberta Health Services Family Newsletter April 2022. (ALBERTA)
"Teens have a big vocabulary around sexual and gender diversity that continues to change and evolve. If you’re a parent or caregiver of a young person, chances are you’ve heard them use words like bisexual or cisgender, acronyms like LGBTQ2S+, or pronouns like they/them. This is the language of sexual and gender diversity. While these words might feel new or awkward to you, they’re respectful, kind, inclusive, and safe.
Take pride in your words—get to know terms and phrases related to gender and sexual diversity, and practice using them. Inclusive vocabulary can help you feel more comfortable and confident talking with your teen, and may lead to more open and honest conversations.
Start by learning some key differences between sex, gender identy and gender expression, and sexual orientation."
Project of Alberta Health Services, MyHealth.Alberta.ca and Alberta Government.
2SLGBTQ+: What does it mean?
By Kids Help Phone. Published June 19, 2018. Updated February 18, 2022.
"2SLGBTQ+ is an acronym that stands for Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and additional sexual orientations and gender identities. Here, Kids Help Phone shares information about sexual orientations, gender identities and commonly used terms to better understand yourself and those around you. Any and all combinations of sexual orientations and gender identities are possible and unique to each individual. This page is for anyone, however you identify."
By S. Bear Bergman. Today's Parent magazine. Jan 2021. (CANADA)
“Learning these terms now will help in your discussions about gender with your kids later. Here’s a breakdown of some key concepts.”
Talking Bigender site.
Bigender: The Definition
"Bigender is a gender identity described as being two genders- either simultaneously [both genders at the same time], fluidly [switching between the two] or partially [sort of like being a percentage/amount of each]. It falls under the nonbinary umbrella and is one of the many multigender identities out there.
Q - Do the two genders have to be 'Girl and Boy'?
A – Absolutely not. This is probably the most common bigender-related misconception out there. A bigender person could be a combination of a binary gender and nonbinary gender [example: girl and agender] or two nonbinary genders [example: androgyne and neutrois]. Bigender is not defined as only being man and woman."
By Jed. May 2018.
By Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER ). (US)
“Terms are always changing in the LGBTQ+ community. This list will be updated as often as possible to keep up with the rapid proliferation of queer and trans language.”
FTM basics: Terminology
by Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide.
FTM is Female to Male. “This page contains definitions of a number of terms that are commonly used within FTM and transgender communities. These definitions are not meant to be the “last word” on any particular term or subject; rather, they are meant to help orient those who may be new to FTM issues. Please think of this page as one possible starting point toward knowledge and understanding of trans men’s issues. Remember that each of us is different, and the best way to learn is to be inquisitive, respectful, and to keep an open mind.”
By Sarah Kennedy Coaching. Blog post. (2020?)
"I think a person can dress and adorn themself in any way they please. And how they do it is not my business. And what I know is gender expression and gender identification are not the same thing.
Gender expression is defined as the outward presentation of gender, expressed through such things as names, pronouns, clothing, haircuts, behavior, voice, body characteristics, and more. It tells us nothing about a person’s actual gender and is very influenced by societal norms.
Gender identification is one’s internal sense of gender. Some people completely identify with the gender they were assigned at birth while others do not. It’s not something that can be identified externally and can be very individual to each person.
And neither of these has anything to do with sexuality or sexual orientation."
Gender inclusive language: Building relationships
By Trans Care BC. Chart. CANADA
"Gender-inclusive language signals that your service and space welcomes diversity. Greet everyone new without using gender markers. Once you know the words people use to describe their families and themselves, use their words in a respectful and professional manner."
By Clio Hartzer. Being’ Enby blog. Jan 2020.
Gender neutral language in English
Wikipedia (nonbinary wiki)
Incredible list of nonbinary terms for friends, family…
By Gender Queeries. (US)
Great list of ideas for gender-neutral “family”, ”relationship”, “official”, as well as miscellaneous titles. Their site also has numerous other categories of gender neutral names.
Posted by Grant Barrett. A Way With Words podcast. May 2017.
"A transgender and gender-nonconforming listener wonders if there’s a gender-neutral term for 'aunt' or 'uncle.' Some people have suggested pibling, meaning the “sibling of one’s parent.” Others have proposed baba, titi, bibi, zizi, unty or untie, or simply cousin. In the same way that kids often come up with a pet name for their grandparents, perhaps nieces and nephews (or nieflings, as they’re sometimes collectively called) will come up with their own term. The tumblr Gender Queeries has more suggestions for all kinds of gender-neutral words denoting kinship." This is part of a complete episode.
Gender nonconformity in children and adolescents
Endocrine Society / Hormone Health Network. (US)
Discusses terminology, hormones, gender dysphoria, etc.
By Gender Queeries. (US)
By Straight for Equality, a project of Pflag National. (US)
A PDF booklet with information to guide allies of the trans community. Has useful general information.
How to they/them: A visual guide to nonbinary pronouns and the world of gender fluidity
By Stuart Getty. 2020. Book.
“What does nonbinary really mean? What is gender nonconforming? And isn’t they a plural pronoun? In this charming and disarming guide, a real-life they-using genderqueer writer unpacks all your burning questions in a fun, visual way. No soapboxes or divisive comment-section wars here! Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, always human, this gender-friendly primer will get you up to speed. Its about more than just bathrooms and pronouns–this is about gender expression and the freedom to choose how to identify. While they might only be for some, that freedom is for everyone!”
Is there a difference between being transgender and transsexual?
Written by Mere Abrams, LCSW, Nov 2019. Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, PhD, LCSW, CST. Article. (US)
Language of gender
Gender Spectrum website. (US)
“The vocabulary of gender continues to evolve and there is not universal agreement about the definitions of many terms. Nonetheless, here is some working language and examples of frequently used (and misused) terms. We offer them as a starting place for dialogue and understanding, which begins by clarifying how we are using various terms, rather than asserting that they represent the final or only definition of the various terms.”
By Sarah Kennedy Coaching. (US)
“When someone makes a name change or pronoun, it is a gift to be given the new ones. You have been entrusted with a piece of themselves so it is not to be taken lightly. Yet we are human and our brains love to work on autopilot. So they will make mistakes now and again. How we handle these mistakes is important.”
By Liz Dyer, Serendipitydodah – Home of the Mama Bears, 2020. (US)
Tons of optional non-binary terms! “Here is a helpful list of non-binary terms. Many of these terms were gathered by crowdsourcing LGBTQ people. Of course this isn’t a comprehensive list. If you have suggestions, know of other terms or have requests let us know in the comments.: Here is a helpful list of non-binary terms. Many of these terms were gathered by crowdsourcing LGBTQ people. Of course this isn’t a comprehensive list. If you have suggestions, know of other terms or have requests let us know in the comments.”
“The current (May 2020) state of the rules.”
By Clio Hartzer. Being’ Enby blog. May 2020.
A note on the nonbinary ‘they’. It’s now in the dictionary.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (US)
“We recently announced the addition of the nonbinary use of they—that is, they as it’s used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary—and a lot of people had some questions, “why?” being primary among them”.
Pronouns: Beyond the basics!
A chart on respectful pronouns beyond the basic ones.
By Straight for Equality, a project of Pflag National. (US)
By Mady G. Book. 2019
“In this quick and easy guide to queer and trans identities, cartoonists Mady G and Jules Zuckerberg guide you through the basics of the LGBT+ world! Covering essential topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships, this guide explains the spectrum of human experience through informative comics, interviews, worksheets, and imaginative examples. A great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys!”
A quick & easy guide to they/them pronouns
By Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson. Book. 2018. (US)
"Archie, a snarky genderqueer artist, is tired of people not understanding gender neutral pronouns. Tristan, a cisgender dude, is looking for an easy way to introduce gender neutral pronouns to his increasingly diverse workplace. The longtime best friends team up in this short and fun comic guide that explains what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use them. They also include what to do if you make a mistake, and some tips-and-tricks for those who identify outside of the binary to keep themselves safe in this binary-centric world. A quick and easy resource for people who use they/them pronouns, and people who want to learn more!”
“A quick, easy and important educational comic guide to using gender-neutral pronouns.“A great, simple look at the importance of using correct pronouns; extremely accessible to those for whom gender-neutral language is a new concept.” –– School Library Journal (starred review)
2018 Chicago Public Library Best Books of the Year – Teen Nonfiction. Autostraddle 20 Best LGBTQ Graphic Novels of 2018.
Reimagine Gender website. (US)
“Gender is a word you’ve probably heard a thousand times; discussions about gender are everywhere. But if you’re like most people, you may not have thought much about it, and what you’ve read and heard may have left you more bewildered than when you started. We’re here to help.
Reimagine Gender began with the work being done at our sibling organization, Gender Spectrum, which was founded by Stephanie Brill in 2006 with a focus on gender-diverse kids and their families in the United States. As awareness of gender grew, the organization received requests to provide education and training about gender in areas beyond Gender Spectrum’s mission. Meanwhile, we realized the need to work with those who most directly shape how gender is seen and understood, particularly corporations, NGOs, legislators and policy makers.”
Singular nonbinary ‘they’: Is it ‘they are’ or ‘they is’? Notes on a conjugation
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (US)
Some common myths about gender
Gender Spectrum website. (US)
“Most of us have had little or no education about gender. So it’s important to understand and address some common myths many of us hold about gender, children and youth.”
By Liz Dyer, Founder of Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears. (US)
“There are some common questions that we hear over and over from moms of lgbtq kids and one of those questions goes like this: What do all the letters mean in the longer lgbt acronyms and which acronym should I use?“
By Liz Dyer, Founder of Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears.
“Someone recently mentioned to me that they were very uncomfortable using ‘they/them’ pronouns for someone because there were sentences where it sounded weird to them. They asked if I thought it would be offensive to use the person’s name instead of using ‘they/them' in place of ‘he/him’ or ‘she/her’ “
“Pronouns are for everyone”
By Meaghan Ray. Purple and Green and the Life In Between blog post. April 2021. (Alberta, CANADA)
TransWhat website. (US)
“I encourage everyone to take a look at the TransWhat? pages, including people who do identify as trans, and people who [assume that they!] don’t know a trans person. However, I’m targeting these explanations specifically towards those who have learned — whether recently or a while ago — that someone they are close to is choosing to transition in some way. I hope that, by providing this information to those who might otherwise be confused, I can help maintain peace and support among trans people and their friends/families.”
Gender Spectrum website. (US)
“Understandings of gender continually evolve. In the course of a person’s life, the interests, activities, clothing and professions that are considered the domain of one gender or another evolve in ways both small and large.”
By Gender Queeries. (US)
By Katherine Locke. Picture book. May 2021. (US)
"Follow Ari through their neighborhood as they try to find their words in this sweet, accessible introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns that is perfect for readers of all ages.
Whenever Ari's Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: 'What are your words?' Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood's big summer bash, Ari doesn't know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it's okay to not know your words right away—sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you.
Filled with bright, graphic illustrations, this simple and poignant story about finding yourself is the perfect introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns for readers of all ages."
By Sarah Kennedy Coaching. (US)
“Humans are mean making machines. Our brains are wired for safety and seeking clarity. In order to find that safety, our brains will assign meaning where it isn’t necessarily there. By generating meaning, we create a sense of certainty and comfort. So let’s dive in to see what meaning is real versus the meaning that we may be self generating about the word transgender.“
By Juno Dawson. Jun 2022. (UK)
"Discover what it means to be a young transgender and/or non-binary person in the twenty-first century in this candid and funny guide for teens from the bestselling author of This Book is Gay.
In What's the T? Stonewall ambassador and bestselling author Juno Dawson is back again, this time with everything you've wanted to know about labels and identities and offering uncensored advice on coming out, sex, and relationships with her trademark humor and lightness of touch. It is informative, helpful, optimistic, and funny but with a good dose of reality and some of the things that can downright suck too.
The companion title to the groundbreaking This Book Is Gay, What's the T? tackles the complex realities of growing up trans with honesty and humor and is joyfully illustrated by gender non-conforming artist Soofiya.
This book is for:
Anyone with questions
Parents of trans and/or non-binary kids
Educators looking for advice about the transgender community"
Juno Dawson is the international bestselling author of fiction and nonfiction for young adults. She is a columnist for Attitude magazine and a key LGBTQ+ activist with the charity Stonewall. A former teacher specializing in behavior studies, Juno now writes full time and lives in Brighton, England.
"When you misgender someone"
By Meaghan Ray. Purple and Green and the Life In Between blog post. Sept 2021. (Alberta)
"Even I, a nonbinary person with a trans husband, sometimes get people’s pronouns or preferred language wrong. Our brains are used to holding onto stereotypes and first impressions as shortcuts. It takes conscious effort to change how we perceive people and the language we are using for them. So, when someone you know comes out as trans or nonbinary, or simply asks you not to use certain language when referring to them, you will likely get it wrong at some point.When you get it wrong, correct yourself and move on."
By Ashlee Fowlkes. Forbes Magazine, Feb 2020. (US)
"Refer to a person's pronouns as their pronouns. There is no need to qualify the statement with the word 'preferred.' " Ashlee is transgender, and a psychologist.
By Meg-John Barker & Jules Scheele. Jan 2020.
"Join the creators of Queer: A Graphic History on an illustrated journey of gender exploration. Is masculinity 'toxic'? Why are public toilets such a political issue? How has feminism changed the available gender roles - and for whom? Why might we all benefit from challenging binary thinking about sex/gender?
In this unique illustrated guide, Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele travel through our shifting understandings of gender across time and space - from ideas about masculinity and femininity, to non-binary and trans genders, to intersecting experiences of gender, race, sexuality, class, disability and more.
Tackling current debates and tensions, which can divide communities and even cost lives, Barker and Scheele look to the past and the future to explore how we might all approach gender in more caring and celebratory ways."
"An outstanding work' - CN Lester, author of Trans Like Me
By Meg-John Barker & Jules Steele. 2016.
“Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Jules Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.
Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what's 'normal' - Alfred Kinsey's view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler's view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we're invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media. Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking.”
''Queer: A Graphic History could totally change the way you think about sex and gender'' -- Vice
By Susan Stryker. Revised edition, 2017.
"Covering American transgender history from the mid-twentieth century to today, Transgender History takes a chronological approach to the subject of transgender history, with each chapter covering major movements, writings, and events. Chapters cover the transsexual and transvestite communities in the years following World War II; trans radicalism and social change, which spanned from 1966 with the publication of The Transsexual Phenomenon, and lasted through the early 1970s; the mid-'70s to 1990, the era of identity politics and the changes witnessed in trans circles through these years; and the gender issues witnessed through the '90s and '00s.
Transgender History includes informative sidebars highlighting quotes from major texts and speeches in transgender history and brief biographies of key players, plus excerpts from transgender memoirs and discussion of treatments of transgenderism in popular culture."
What does the word transgender mean? Pose actress Angelica Ross breaks down the history and evolution of the term “transgender
By Angelica Ross of the “Pose” TV series. September 2018. (US)
IMAGE CREDIT: Schitt's Creek "Honeymoon" episode 2015.