Gender can be complicated.

For many people, the terms "gender" and "sex" are used interchangeably. This idea has become so common, particularly in western societies, that it is rarely questioned. We are born, assigned a sex, and sent out into the world. Yet biological sex and gender are different; gender is not inherently or solely connected to an individual's physical anatomy.

Biological Gender (sex) includes physical attributes such as genitalia, sex chromosomes, sex hormones, and reproductive structures. At birth, it is used to assign sex - to identify individuals as male or female. Gender is far more complicated. It is the complex interrelationship between an individual's sex (Biological Gender), the internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither (Gender Identity) as well as one's outward presentations and behaviors (Gender Expression) related to that perception, including their gender role. Together, the intersection of these three dimensions produces one's authentic sense of gender, both in how people experience their own gender as well as how others perceive it.

Terms & Definitions

Cisgender: An identity label used to refer who someone whose gender identity or expression matches the sex they were assigned at birth. This term is often used to acknowledge privilege related to gender identity.

Cisgender Privilege: The benefits and access to resources one receives from society by virtue of being gender conforming and/or by virtue of having our gender validated by the dominant culture.

Gender: The social construction of masculinity and femininity in a specific culture. Gender is often assigned dichotomously at birth to match biological sex (male or female), and this determines the gender role in which a young person may be socialized to uphold.

Gender Attribution: Process by which members of a culture (or a society) assign(s) or ascribe(s) a gender and/or sex onto a person, usually without knowing concretely what sex that person is or what gender they identify as. Gender attribution may affect how individuals treat, respond to, or interact with that individual, and may result in the misuse or pronouns or other behaviors that may be harmful or offensive to an individual.

Gender Expression: A term which refers to the ways in which we each manifest masculinity or femininity. It is usually an extension of our gender identity, our innate sense of being male, female, etc. Each of us expresses a particular gender every day by the way we style our hair, select our clothing, or even the way we stand. Our appearance, speech, behavior, movement, and other factors signal that we feel and wish to be understood as masculine or feminine, or as a man or a woman.

Gender Identity: The sense of being male, female, genderqueer, agender, etc. For some people, gender identity is in accord with physical anatomy. For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate and that you cannot assume how someone identifies in one category based on how they identify in another category.

Gender Neutral Language: Language which does not use one gender to represent all people.

Gender Neutral Pronouns: Pronouns which do not signal femaleness or maleness are preferred by some transgender people. For example, ze and hir, pronounced zee and here, would replace she/he and her/him or hers/his, respectively.

Gender Non-Conforming:  A person who is or is perceived to have gender characteristics and/or behaviors that do not conform to traditional or societal expectations.

Gender Normative: A person who by nature or by choice conforms to gender based expectations of society.

Gender Role: This is the set of roles, activities, expectations and behaviors assigned to females and males by society. Our culture recognizes two basic gender roles: Masculine (having the qualities attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities attributed to females). People who step out of their socially assigned gender roles are sometimes referred to as transgender. Other cultures have three or more gender roles.

Genderqueer: A term which refers to individuals or groups who queer or problematize the hegemonic notions of sex, gender and desire in a given society. Genderqueer people possess identities which fall outside of the widely accepted sexual binary (i.e. "men" and "women"). Genderqueer may also refer to people who identify as both transgendered AND queer, i.e. individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.

Gender Variant: A person who does not conform to gender-based expectations of society.

Sex: A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. Because usually subdivided into male and female, this category does not recognize the existence of intersexed bodies.

Sexual Identity: How a person identifies physically: female, male, in between, beyond, or neither.

Transgender: An umbrella term used to describe people whose gender expression is nonconforming and/or whose gender identity is different from their assigned gender at birth.

Transition: Refers to the complex process of altering one’s gender, which may include some, all or none of the following: changing name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and chest, facial and/or genital alteration.

Transsexual: A person who intent is to live as a gender other than that assigned at birth. Many individuals who identify as transsexual engage in some process of altering either primary or secondary sexual characteristics through hormone treatment, surgery, or both.

Related Links

Contact

Women's Center

Alumni Hall 2nd Floor 
300 College Park 
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 0322

937-229-5390