Helpful Terms and Definitions

Sex and Gender

It is important to clarify the distinctions between sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

The designation of a person at birth as male or female based on their anatomy (genitalia and/or reproductive organs) or biology (chromosomes and/or hormones). The phrase “sex assigned at birth” is more accurate and respectful than the phrase “biological sex” as it acknowledges the reliance on external anatomy. Additionally, in the case of intersex individuals it is not always possible to assign this at birth. Assigned sex may differ from gender identity.

Your deeply-felt sense of your own gender – for example, the knowledge that you are a man , a woman, or some other gender.

A person’s gender may or may not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others.

The external manifestation of a person’s gender identity. Gender can be expressed through mannerisms, grooming, physical characteristics, social interactions and speech patterns.

Society identifies these cues as masculine or feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture. 

Refers to a person’s physical, emotional and/or romantic attraction to another person. Sexual orientation is distinct from sex, gender identity and gender expression. Transgender people may identify as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual or queer.



TENI Glossary last updated April 2021. 

A person whose gender identity is both male and female, or neither male nor female. They might present as a combination of male and female or as sometimes male and sometimes female.

A gender identity which can be literally translated as ‘two genders’ or ‘double gender’. These two gender identities could be male and female, but could also include non-binary identities.


A person whose gender identity is aligned with their sex assigned at birth.

The assumption that a cisgender identity is more authentic or natural than a trans identity. The belief that a person’s sex assigned at birth always remains their real gender (e.g. suggesting that a trans woman is ‘really a man’ or a trans man is ‘really a woman’).

The process of accepting and telling others about one’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. Many trans people will ‘come out’ as a different gender to the sex assigned at birth and may begin a social or physical transition (see definition of Transition). Not all trans people choose to be out, or stay out after transitioning, for reasons around feeling unsafe or invalidated and to avoid experiencing discrimination. It is important never to out someone as trans without their consent. Forced outing – whether intentional or unintentional – is a form of transphobia (see definition of Transphobia).

A person who wears clothing, accessories, jewellery or make-up not traditionally or stereotypically associated with their assigned sex. Crossdressers are typically comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth, but crossdressing can also be an initial stage of exploring one’s gender identity prior to coming out as trans.

Individuals who feel a partial connection to a particular gender identity. Examples of demigender identities include demigirl, and demiboy, and demiandrogyne

A generic definition encompassing any issue noted at birth where the genitalia are atypical in relation to the chromosomes or gonads. Since 2006, this is the preferred term for intersex by some, but not all, medical practitioners in the area. DSD has been contested because it presumes an underlying ‘disorder’ and that there is something intrinsically wrong with the intersexed body requiring it to be fixed.

Term used to describe the discomfort caused by an incongruence between one’s true gender and their sex assigned at birth. 

Is a non-binary gender identity. Gender fluid individuals experience different gender identities at different times. A gender fluid person’s gender identity can be multiple genders at once, then switch to none at all, or move between single gender identities. Some gender fluid people regularly move between only a few specific genders, perhaps as few as two.

The assumption, of individuals and/or institutions, that everyone is
heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities. This can lead to invisibility and stigmatizing of other sexualities: e.g. when learning a man is married, asking him what his wife’s name is. Heteronormativity also leads us to assume that only masculine men and feminine women are straight.

The use of hormones to alter secondary sex characteristics. Some trans people take hormones to align their bodies with their gender while others may not take hormones for many different reasons.

A general term used to refer to a variety of conditions involving individuals whose anatomy, chromosomes, and/or hormones do not correspond with the binary definitions of male or female.
There are a wide variety of Intersex variations which may be identified at any point in life or may not be noticed at all. There is a highly problematic and still ongoing occurrence of intersex individuals with ambiguous anatomy having non-consensual surgery to ‘correct’ this soon after their birth. Most individuals who are intersex do not identify as transgender or do not consider themselves covered by the transgender umbrella.

Refers to individuals who experiences more than one gender identity. It can be used as a gender identity in its own right, or can be an umbrella term for other identities which fit this description. Multigender identities include bigender (two genders), trigender (three genders), quadgender (four genders), quintgender (five genders), polygender (many genders), pangender (all genders) and genderfluid (variable gender).
A non-binary gender identity which is considered to be a neutral or null gender. It may also be used to mean genderless, and has considerable overlap with agender – some people who consider themselves neutrally gendered or genderless may identify as both, while others prefer one term or the other.

Various umbrella terms for gender identities that fall outside of the binary of man or woman and thus do not conform to traditional gender roles. This includes a wide variety of gender identities, some of which are listed below.

Various surgical procedures that change a person’s secondary sex characteristics. Other terms include Gender Confirmation Surgery, Gender Reassignment Surgery, Sex Reassignment Surgery, Genital Reconstruction Surgery, Sex Affirmation Surgery and so on. Some, but not all, trans people undergo surgery to align their bodies with their gender. Some trans people define themselves by their
surgical status such as post-operative (post-op), pre-operative (pre-op) or non-operative (non-op).
However, these terms place emphasis on genitals as a marker for gender identity and may be rejected
by people who do not see their gender as related to surgical status.

An umbrella term which refers to any person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex assigned to them at birth. This includes non-binary identities.

Avoid using this term as a noun: a person is not ‘a trans’; they may be a trans person.

TENI advocates the use of “transgender” or “trans” as an umbrella term as it is currently the most inclusive and respectful term to describe diverse identities. However, we acknowledge and respect each individual’s right to self-identify as they choose.

The fear, dislike or hatred of people who are trans or are perceived to challenge
conventional gender categories or ‘norms’. Transphobia can result in individual and institutional discrimination, prejudice and violence against trans and gender variant people.

A process through which some transgender people begin to live as the gender with which they identify, rather than the one assigned to them at birth. Transition can include social, physical and/or legal changes such as coming out; changing one’s gender expression; changing one’s name, pronoun and sex designation on legal documents; and medical intervention via hormones and/or surgeries.

  • A person who wears clothing, accessories, jewellery or make-up not traditionally or stereotypically associated with their assigned sex.
  • People who crossdress may be comfortable with their assigned sex, although some people may go on to identify as transgender.
  • In North America, crossdresser is the preferred term as transvestite can be understood as a medical term.

A man who was assigned female at birth (AFAB) but identifies as a man. Some trans men make physical changes through hormones or surgery; others do not. Some trans men may refer to
themselves as FTM (female-to-male), however others prefer to refer to themselves simply as a man, or men of transgender experience.

A woman who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) but identifies as a woman. Some trans women make physical changes through hormones or surgery; others do not. Some trans women may refer to themselves as MTF (male-to-female), however others prefer to refer to themselves simply as a woman or women of transgender experience.

Another term for ‘intersex’ preferred by some medical practitioners and intersex people in place of DSD as it removes the stigma of ‘disorder’ from the nomenclature.

  • Gender Identity Disorder – In DSM-IV[2], GID is the psychiatric diagnosis used when a person has (1) a strong and persistent cross-gender identification and (2) persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex, and the disturbance (3) is not concurrent with physical intersex condition and (4) causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. This diagnosis was removed from the DSM-V and replaced with Gender Dysphoria. It is still common for a diagnosis of GID or Gender Dysphoria to be required to access hormones or surgery.
  • Hermaphrodite – generally considered derogatory; has been replaced by the term intersex (see definition of Intersex).
  • Sex change – generally considered derogatory; has been replaced by the terms ‘transition’ or ‘surgery’ (see definition of Transition and Surgery).
  • Transsexual – A person whose gender identity is ‘opposite’ to the sex assigned to them at birth, thus the term connotes a binary view of gender. Transsexual people may or may not take hormones or have surgery. The term ‘transsexual’ is hotly debated in trans communities with some people strongly identifying with the term while others strongly rejecting it. Moreover, for some, ‘transsexual’ is considered to be a misnomer inasmuch as the underlying medical condition is related to gender identity and not sexuality.
  • Transvestite – see definition for Crossdresser. Crossdresser is the preferred term as transvestite can be understood as a medical term.
  • Tranny – a slang term for many different trans identities. Some find this term highly offensive, while others may be comfortable with it as a self-reference, but consider the term derogatory when used by outsiders. It is recommended to avoid using this term.