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Assigned gender: The gender proclaimed at an individual’s birth (typically male, female, or intersex). Assigned-gender terms are sometimes abbreviated AMAB (assigned male at birth) and AFAB (assigned female at birth).

Gender identity: The gender with which an individual identifies (typically male, female, or nonbinary).

Gender expression: The way an individual presents their gender identity, through behavior, clothing, and other style choices. Someone’s gender expression can vary depending on the setting or how they’re feeling that day, and that expression may not conform to “masculine” or “feminine.”

Cisgender, or cis: Someone whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth. Avoid using the terms “normal,” “real man,” or “real woman” to describe cisgender people.

Transgender, or trans: Someone whose gender identity differs from the gender they were assigned at birth. Avoid using the terms “transsexual” or “cross-dressing” to describe trans people.

Gender confirmation: A medical process whereby a person’s physicality is altered to match their gender identity, often via hormone treatments or surgery. Avoid using the term “sex change.”

Transition: The process of changing one’s gender identity and/or gender expression, regardless of whether one undertakes the gender-confirmation process.

Genderfluid: A person who does not identify with one gender, or whose gender expression is flexible.

Gender nonconforming: A catch-all term for genderfluid and nonbinary people, and sometimes for individuals whose gender expression diverges from societal norms.

Genderqueer: More often used by gender-nonconforming people, this term carries an additional connotation of political activism. Avoid describing someone as “queer” (adjective) unless you know that the individual self-describes that way. Never use the word “queer” as a noun.

This was excerpted from “Your Guide to Gender Identity” which was published in the November 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Amy C. Waninger

Amy C. Waninger is an inclusivity expert and founder of the consulting firm Lead at Any Level. This article was adapted from her book Network Beyond Bias.

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