Before we get down to terms around identities. We need to talk about what makes gender, sex, and expression differ in what they refer to when talking about someone.
Gender is a neurological way of identifying yourself. There isn’t a really simple way to understand or explain how complex gender as a whole can be. In much of the population gender and sex happen to run alongside each other. In that many cases someone’s biological sex, matches their gender. What do we mean by biological Sex? Well, biological sex is describing the sex characteristics someone is born with, such as penis or vagina. This also includes secondary sex characteristics which can develop during puberty, such as breasts or prominent facial hair.
But… wait.. what is Expression? Expression is a way of dressing, or how one presents themselves through sources not always connected to gender/sex. A good example of expression is generally Drag performers. In that they use the expression of a gender/sex of someone “opposite” to their own for typically musical performances. We’ll discuss more of that later, but lets get down to some definitions and begin to understanding okay?
Transgender: Perhaps in the past you could use the term transgender and transsexual interchangeably. However, more modern takes on the word use it more as an umbrella term. Many identities now fall under the term transgender. It now more-so encompasses anyone whose gender does not fall under the binary concepts. This word may not be used by everyone unanimously, so where appropriate be aware of how someone may self identify.
Transsexual: Is used by someone who seeks to transition from from the sex they were born as to the sex they identify as. This term is one that is typically associated with someone who may use ftm [More commonly Trans man], or mtf [More commonly Trans woman], female to male, or male to female as a identifier. This is more traditionally what individuals think of when someone uses the term transgender.
Note : In generally avoid the word Tranny as it’s terminology has evolved into a insult/way of fetishsizing gender concepts.
Cisgender: Before moving forward, I’m going to cover a term that has a bit of controversy around it. Ultimately, I’ll reflect on this word and the word Queer separately. However, Cisgender is a term that reflects someone whose biological sex, and gender they were assigned at birth match. It basically reflects upon anyone whose gender and sex match with little flow outside of that. Their expression may or may not play a part in it.
Intersex: This is another identifier which I feel should be covered as one of the core basics. Intersex isn’t a term that falls under transgender exclusively, but individuals who are intersex may face discrimination based on their biology/gender. As quoted from the Intersex Society of North America,
““Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.”
Again, it’s not a term that necessary may be covered under the umbrella of Transgender, but someone who is intersex may still identify as transgender.
Genderqueer: This is a much more varied term under the Transgender umbrella. In many aspects we can look at Genderqueer being a whole new umbrella. Individuals and terms that fall under Genderqueer tend to be individuals who fall outside of the binary of male and female gender. Individuals who identify as Genderqueer may also identify as Transgender, or they may not. Individuals who are Genderqueer may or may not want hormones or physical modifications to their bodies.
- Androgynous/Adrogyne; Androgynous/Adrogyne is a term many individuals who identify as Genderqueer use for their forms of expression. This generally means that someone dresses to not be either masculine or feminine. They may even dress to not be exclusively identifiable as either. This term is generally used to identify someones way of expressing.
Agender: This term is very similar to the term Asexual, they are individuals whose gender identity doesn’t necessarily have a way of expression. They generally don’t have a gender that is expressed in a binary form. They may not feel that gender is a concept they can connect to. Generally using a pronoun that is neutral, such as They/Them/Theirs is the best way to go.
Genderfluid: Someone who identifies as Genderfluid may not identify as one gender, or have a way of expressing their gender in any given way. They may prefer to flow more gradually through different gender concepts to express themselves for different reasons. Even expressing different identities differently to different people. While they connect to different identities they may not identify specifically as one identity. Generally speaking, ask them for pronouns or be prepared to refer to them differently depending on their needs.
- Non-binary: Gender for many years was connected exclusively with sex. In that if someone was female sex, they were also female gender and similar with male. However, as individuals in Sociology, and Psychology grew and began to understand more about human nature. They began to understand that this wasn’t always the case, and started to understand concepts that may have seemed unreasonable before. Much like the Sexuality spectrum the Gender spectrum is varied and complex. Thus the way gender is understood, is no longer considered binary at all. Binary as in only having male/female with no middle ground. Thus, Non-binary refers to individuals who prove that the binary concept of gender is both flawed, and outdated. Further, they also identity in between man/woman or may identify with masculinity or femininity. There are overlapping ways of identifying as Non-binary with Genderfluid, and Genderqueer. When confused, speak with the person privately once you’re friends with them to better understand.
The following three gender identities have a lot of overlap in terms of concept but may differ by each individual.
Bigender; Individuals who identify as Bigender identify with one more gender, and may flow between expressing those gender identities. These may be gender identities in the binary, such as male/female, or may be genders that fall outside the binary. They can also express one gender, and one sex all the time. Using different forms of expression to show a more masculine or feminine traits. Pronouns can vary.
- Trigender; Very similar to bigender, in that they are and express/connect to three genders. Following much of the same concept as Bigender.
- Pangender; Again, very similar to the the above. are and express/connect to many gender concepts. Very similar to Genderfluid in that regard.
The following concepts have some over lay with Transgender concepts, but very often don’t refer to people who are or feel/identify as Transgender.
Cross-Dresser/Transvestite; Both of those terms of synonymous with each other. However, I will state that Cross-Dresser is probably the generally more preferred term. While this term is generally not a part of the transgender umbrella many individuals find confusion with the terms which is why cross-dresser is probably a safer to use term. Simply put it is someone who identities as one gender/sex and dresses as another gender/sex occasionally for various reasons. Often these individuals are heterosexual, and may dress as a different gender to engage in sexual acts.
Drag Kings/Queens; These individuals hold a very special place in the history of LGBTQ+ history. However, they share a very rocky history with Transgender culture. Very rarely do they over lay, however some very well know Drag performers have come out publicly as Transgender. There is a lot of strife between the G/L and T. Since many G individuals are also Drag performers this tension spreads. In general, a Drag performer is someone who is typically either man or woman gender identifying, and dresses as the opposite. As in someone who is Cis-Male would dress as a woman, or someone who is Cis-Female would dress as man. Mostly, this is for performance reasons.
The following three concepts have a bit more of regional or cultural contexts that either historically fall under Transgender concepts, or in respects to aspects of it in their culture.
Third-sex; Hjira; Two-spirit; Due to the nature of these concepts I plan on making a new page discussing them. Until such time, I’m sorry that I haven’t expanded upon them. These terms also tend to have a strong cultural history to them. Therefore, I’m reluctant to discuss some aspects of them because they aren’t all my culture or experience.