What is your type? …binary…non-binary…transexual?
The terms sex, gender, and sexual orientation refer to three elements of sexuality in general. In fact, despite what many people may think, these three elements are completely independent of each other. This point is very important to understand. To make these three levels of human sexuality clearer, I will explain the contribution of genetics in determining our sex, as expressed through chromosomes 🧬 and biology. Next, we will talk about the notion of gender, which is a feeling that develops between two and five years of age. During adolescence, we develop our sexual orientation which means that we become aware of our sensations that tell us what gender(s) we are attracted to. Then I’m going to talk a little bit about the notion of transgender and how we manage our feelings around this identity. Finally, after this article, I add a list of words and terms that deal with the vocabulary of human sexuality, in French and English.
A person’s sex is defined by chromosomes, and sex is determined by science and biology. At birth, one can be identified as either male, female, intersex, or born with ambiguities of sexuality because external genitalia are unclearly developed, poorly developed, or developed in a way that the sex of the baby would only be known definitively only after a few months, or even after a few years.
Here is one of the reasons a baby can be assigned to the wrong sex at birth. For example, if a baby’s external sexual organs are very small or unrecognizable at birth, the baby is often referred to as a girl. Growing up during the first months or years of his life, it can happen that this sexual organ becomes more clearly, a penis and this baby is, in fact, a little boy. In fact, around the same time, we also see that his testicles descend from the abdomen to outside the body. As the boy begins to be socialized as a girl in its first months or first years of life, this can contribute to the confusion of gender identity.
However, the opposite can also happen with a new born female. If the external sexual organ appears to be larger than usual, the baby can be referred to as a boy, while in reality she is a girl. Around the age of six months up to two years, for example, what the obstetrician observed is that the external sexual organ that was thought to be a penis, is actually a clitoris, which was larger than normal at birth. Once this small child is reassigned to the female sex, instead of the male sex, sexual socialization has already begun in the child, and gender identity confusion is a real possibility that began during the first two years of family and social life.
Since a blood test exists to determine the true sex of a newborn, the attribution at birth to the wrong biological sex is inexcusable today. In case of doubt about the sex of a newborn, a blood test that checks the chromosomes should be carried out immediately to avoid unnecessary problems, such as psychic confusion on the part of the baby or parents.
Gender identity is how a person identifies according to the criteria of society, and that is a sociological phenomenon. A human may feel like a man, woman, gender-fluid, non-binary, agender, or a person may not want to define himself at all.
Sexual orientation is a person’s preference or preferences with respect to their partners they are attracted to. There is also an emotional orientation where people are not at all interested in sex, in general, which does not prevent them from having a coupled relationship, rather spiritual than physical, for example. So just to be clear, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation are in no way related. These are three concepts that are completely separate. In addition, a person’s genital organ may not necessarily agree with their gender. We must understand that there is both a sociological component, as well as a psychological component to identify with a gender.
The sociological part is how we are going to be perceived by society. It will be understood by way of speaking, the way of dressing, and the way of behaving. These different ways of observing a person result from stereotypes that have developed over the centuries, when man, society and religion needed to categorize people according to the sexual roles assigned to them. This need to differentiate between men and women has become a rigid feature of society especially in Western countries. We needed to put these strict behaviors of men and women in rigid, square boxes, which belonged only to a man or a woman. Their manners were rigidly defined.
Fortunately, these social distinctions are changing, but the change always seems too slow for the category of people who suffer from the restrictive norms of society. Soon, we hope that everyone will have access to everything without judgment or external questioning. These ideas may sound utopian, but it is really that quality that we expect in the end.
As everyone knows, for a long time, certain external characteristics were reserved only for men, such as for example, pants, beards, hair, and having a deep voice, etc.
In contrast, at the same time, women were characterized rather by the high-heeled shoes they wore, as well as their skirts, dresses, heavy makeup, lipstick, and long hair delicately styled in the fashion of the time, and they preferred light colors, such as pink and various pastel colors.
Everything that was not made accessible to both men and women were put in place and reinforced by strict dress codes, which were delineated for each of the sexes. A major goal of these dress codes was to use them in a way to easily define persons of both sexes, as well as to define their place in the societal hierarchy. Today, as the rules of personal social behavior changes, there is much greater liberty in the choice of clothing that we can wear. Almost anything is becoming available to everyone.
The psychological portion of gender identification is more complex and unique to each person. Binary individuals can define themselves as men or women, most tending to align themselves with one of the two categories of human gender. Here, we are referring to gender identity and not sexuality.
Non-binary individuals comprise many more categories of people, such as those who are a-gender and those who prefer to not identify themselves with one gender or the other. Persons who are gender fluid are people who experience continual change of gender identity and these non-binary people sometimes identify as male, sometimes as female, and at other times somewhere between the two extremities on the human sexuality spectrum. There also exists those who absolutely prefer not to identify themselves on this continuum of human sexuality. Generally, each non-binary person lives his non-binary lifestyle in a unique way. There can be billions of ways non-binary individuals choose to express themselves throughout their life.
Thereupon, as mentioned above, I will now discuss persons who identify as being transgender. The sensation of having been born in the wrong body is often the first sign of gender dysphoria that can occur in young children. This feeling can manifest itself as early as 3 years of age in certain toddlers. However, the onset of gender dysphoria may occur later in many children. Sometimes, the symptoms are not recognized until adolescence, or even beyond, into early adulthood.
Often these individuals who have the sensation of having been born in or of living in the wrong body, decide to undergo a gender transition, so that their perceived gender matches with their outward sexual appearance. This alignment can often help a person live much more peacefully with his perceived gender and sexuality.
Treatments for sexual reassignment can include hormones, as well as gynecological, urological, and aesthetic (plastic) surgery. In most cases, surgical treatments do not begin before the end of adolescence. However, appropriate hormones are prescribed at the onset of adolescence so that the transition between sexes occurs as naturally as possible and at the right time. Afterwards, in early adulthood, hormonal treatment coincides with more intensive surgical procedures.
In the youngest children, the first measures of sexual transition begins as psychotherapy where the children learn to socialize with others of their own age with similar feelings of gender dysphoria. Such psychotherapeutic sessions can last for several years, depending upon their understanding of human nature, their comprehension of interpersonal relations, and according to the overall maturity of the child.
Often young children, as well as other children and adolescents who wish to experiment with transition to the opposite sex, begin by experimenting with small, superficial exterior changes. Once they are comfortable with their new look or appearance, as well as the public’s reaction to them, they continue their evolution, constantly pushing outward their limits of experimentation to a new a physical level (hair color, piercings, wearing androgynous clothing, jewelry), to a new social level (making friends with whom they feel more comfortable, for example), and a new sexual level (creating intimacy in a couple), all in a quest to find where and with whom they feel most complete and comfortable in society.
At this time, just before making a sexual transition, a strong collection of acquaintances and friends is essential to help the transgender person develop self esteem during this delicate period. Before adolescence begins, it is ideal to optimally control the development of secondary sexual characteristics by synchronizing sex hormone therapy. These treatments are guided by an endocrinologist who consults with the person’s psychiatrist or psychologist, with whom a strong, sincere, therapeutic relationship has been created.
By the end of adolescence, the patient can decide to continue his transition by progressing onward to sexual reassignment toward the sex with which he or she feels most comfortable. Since surgery is often irreversible, persons usually wait until ages 18 to 25, or even later. A certificate of sexual reassignment must be presented by the psychotherapist to the patient’s treating medical team for the sexual transition. Members of this medical team, mentioned above, work together so that the sexual reassignment procedure progresses as harmoniously as possible, with the psychosocial support of family, friends, and all significant people in this person’s life. At this stage of sexual reassignment, individuals are at a state where their emotional feelings are delicate and vulnerable, because they are in the process of incorporating their emotions at this crucial time into their new personality. In all, the medical, psychotherapeutic, and surgical treatments around the sexual reassignment can take between five, ten, or even twenty years to complete, all depending upon the person’s underlying state of physical and emotional health. The support people in the life of the person undergoing this procedure is important and often necessary for a successful transition.
To conclude our discussion of humane sexuality, I will leave you with several ideas. Rather than classifying other people as men or women, it is easier to think of each person as an individual human being. We are all unique individuals, vastly different than the labels and boxes that society uses to try to limit us, define us, and constrain us. This is a matter of respect and of letting others define themselves as they want to be.
In order to conduct ourselves correctly and politely, and to not mislabel another person’s gender, the best and easiest way to greet a person is to address them by their first name. Another option is to ask others by which pronoun they would like to be defined. Currently, many gender neutral pronouns exist in various languages, and they differ slightly according to the language family. In French, there are many gender neutral pronouns, among which “iel”, “ille”, “ol”, “ul”, “ael”, “im”, and many more. In English, the pronouns “they” and “their” are often used for both the singular and plural.
The most important point to remember is to remain tolerant towards everyone and to detach ourselves from obsolete dogmas that defined sexuality in the past. Live and let live is the best policy, allowing others to live life as they wish. By adopting this more open attitude during the 21st century, life can only be more tranquil for all concerned.
ENGLISH VOCABULARY OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY :
NOTE ABOUT TERMS THAT CONSTANTLY CONSTANT : (these terms come from the website https://transstudent.org.) We thank them for their cooperation in helping 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.
Term for someone who exclusively identifies as their sex assigned at birth. The term cisgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.
Encompassing term of many gender identities of those who do not identify or exclusively identify with their sex assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life. Also see: The Gender Unicorn.
A term for people of marginalized gender identities and sexual orientations who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. This term has a complicated history as a reclaimed slur.
BASIC TERMINOLOGY CISGENDER/CIS
Adjective that means “identifies as their sex assigned at birth” derived from the Latin word meaning “on the same side.” A cisgender/cis person is not transgender. “Cisgender” does not indicate biology, gender expression, or sexuality/sexual orientation. In discussions regarding trans issues, one would differentiate between women who are trans and women who aren’t by saying trans women and cis women. Cis is not a “mad up” word or slur. Note that cisgender does not have an “ed” at the end.
The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. (typically referred to as masculine or feminine). Many transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth. Someone with a gender nonconforming gender expression may or may not be transgender.
One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or other gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity are not necessarily the same.
SEX ASSIGNED AT BIRTH
The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex assigned at birth often based on physical anatomy at birth and/or karyotyping.
A person’s physical, romantic, emotional, aesthetic, and/or other form of attraction to others. In Western cultures, gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Trans people can be straight, bisexual, lesbian, gay, asexual, pansexual, queer, etc. just like anyone else. For example, a trans woman who is exclusively attracted to other women would often identify as lesbian.
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life. Note that transgender does not have an “ed” at the end.
A person’s process of developing and assuming a gender expression to match their gender identity. Transition can include: coming out to one’s family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents;
hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgery. It’s best not to assume how one transitions as it is different for everyone.
A deprecated term that is often considered pejorative similar to transgender in that it indicates a difference between one’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth. Transsexual often – though not always – implicates hormonal/surgical transition from one binary gender (male or female) to the other.
Unlike transgender/trans, transsexual is not an umbrella term, as many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. When speaking/writing about trans people, please avoid the word transsexual unless asked to use it by a transsexual person.
An umbrella term encompassing many different genders of people who commonly do not have a gender and/or have a gender that they describe as neutral. Many agender people are trans. As a new and quickly-evolving term, it is best you ask how someone defines agender for themselves.
AFAB AND AMAB
Acronyms meaning “assigned female/male at birth” (also designated female/male at birth or female/male assigned at birth). No one, whether cis or trans, gets to choose what sex they’re assigned at birth. This term is preferred to “biological male/female”, “male/female bodied”, “natal male/female”, and “born male/female” which are inaccurate.
Someone who advocates and supports a community other than their own. Allies are not part of the communities they help. A person should not self-identify as an ally but show that they are one through action.
The lack of romantic attraction, and one identifying with this orientation. This may be used as an umbrella term for other emotional attractions such as demiromantic.
The lack of a sexual attraction, and one identifying with this orientation. This may be used as an umbrella term for other emotional attractions such as demisexual.
Refers to those who identify as two genders. Can also identify as multigender (identifying as two or more genders). This ter should not be confused with Two- Spirit, which is specifically associated with Native American and First Nations cultures
A system only encompassing two options. This term is also used as an adjective to describe the genders female/male or woman/man. Since the binary genders are the only ones recognized by society as being legitimate, they enjoy an unfairly privileged status.
An umbrella term for people who experience sexual and/or emotional attraction to more than one gender. See also: pansexual, fluid, omnisexual, and queer
A term used within the queer communities of color to refer to sexual orientation, gender, and/or aesthetic among people usually assigned female at birth. Boi often designates queer women who present with masculinity (although, this depends on location and usage). This term originated in women of color communities in the 20th century.
Genital surgeries such as vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, or metoidioplasty.
An identity or presentation related to masculinity. Butch can be an adjective (she’s a butch woman), a verb (he went home to “butch up”), or a noun (they identify as a butch). Although commonly associated with masculine queer/lesbian women, it’s used by many to describe a distinct gender identity and/or expression, and does not necessarily imply that one also identifies as a woman or not.
CROSS-DRESSING (ALSO CROSSDRESSING)
The act of dressing and presenting as a different gender. One who considers this an integral part of their identity may identify as a crossdresser. “Transvestite” is often considered a pejorative term with the same meaning. Drag performers are crossdressing performers who take on stylized, exaggerated gender presentations (although not all drag performers identify as crossdressers). Crossdressing and drag are forms of gender expression and are not necessarily tied to erotic activity, nor are they indicative of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This term should only be used by the consent of the person it describes.
Systemic prejudice in the favor of cisgender people.
Exaggerated, theatrical, and/or performative presentation that usually plays with gender. Although most commonly used to refer to crossdressing performers (drag queens and drag kings), anyone of any gender can do any form of drag. Doing drag does not necessarily have anything to do with one’s sex assigned at birth, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
An identity or presentation that leans towards femininity. Femme can be an adjective (he’s a femme boy), a verb (she feels better when she “femmes up”), or a noun (they’re a femme). Although commonly associated with feminine lesbian/ queer women, it’s used by many to describe a distinct gender identity and/or expression, and does not necessarily imply that one also identifies as a woman or not.
GENDER AFFIRMING SURGERY; GENITAL
VAGINOPLASTY; PHALLOPLASTY; METOIDIOPLASTY
Different surgeries related to genitalia. These are only one part of some trans people’s transition (see “Transition” below). Only the minority of transgender people choose to and can afford to have genital surgery. The following terms are inaccurate, offensive, or outdated: sex change operation, gender reassignment/ realignment surgery (gender is not changed due to surgery), gender confirmation/confirming surgery (genitalia do not confirm gender), and sex reassignment/realignment surgery (as it insinuates a single surgery is required to transition along with sex being an ambiguous term).
THE GENDER BINARY
A system of viewing gender as consisting solely of two, opposite categories, termed “male and female”, in which no other possibilities for gender or anatomy are believed to exist. This system is oppressive to anyone who defies their sex assigned at birth, but particularly those who are gender-variant or do not fit neatly into one of the two standard categories.
Anxiety and/or discomfort regarding one’s sex assigned at birth.
A changing (“fluid”) gender identity and/or presentation.
GENDER IDENTITY DISORDER / GID
A controversial DSM-III and DSM-IV diagnosis given to transgender and other gender-nonconforming people. Because it labels people as “disordered,” Gender Identity Disorder is often considered offensive. The diagnosis is frequently given to children who don’t conform to expected gender norms in terms of dress, play or behavior. Such children are often subjected to intense psychotherapy, behavior modification and/or institutionalization. This term was replaced by the term “gender dysphoria” in the DSM-5.
An identity commonly used by people who do not identify or express their gender within the gender binary. Those who identify as genderqueer may identify as neither male nor female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, or may simply feel restricted by gender labels. Many genderqueer people are cisgender and identify with it as an aesthetic. Not everyone who identifies as genderqueer identifies as trans or nonbinary.
HETERONORMATIVE / HETERONORMATIVITY
Terms referring to the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm, which plays out in interpersonal interactions and society and furthers the marginalization of queer people.
Describing a person with a less common combination of hormones, chromosomes, and anatomy that are used to assign sex at birth. There are many examples such as Klinefelter Syndrome, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Parents and medical professionals usually coercively assign intersex infants a sex and have, in the past, been medically permitted to perform surgical operations to conform the infant’s genitalia to that assignment. This practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults speak out against the practice. The term intersex is not interchangeable with or a synonym for transgender (although some intersex people do identify as transgender).
A collection of identities short for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, aromantic, pansexual, polysexual (sometimes abbreviated to LGBT or LGBTQ+). Sometimes this acronym is replaced with “queer.” Note that “ally” is not included in this acronym.
MONOSEXUAL / MULTISEXUAL / NON-MONOSEXUAL
Umbrella terms for orientations directed towards one gender (monosexual) or multiple genders (multisexual/non-monosexual).
NONBINARY (ALSO NON-BINARY)
Preferred umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man, used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a nonbinary person). Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary. Sometimes (and increasingly), nonbinary can be used to describe the aesthetic/presentation/ expression of a cisgender or transgender person.
Wearing a penile prosthesis.
Capable of being attracted to many/any gender(s). Sometimes the term omnisexual is used in the same manner. “Pansexual” is used more frequently as more people acknowledge that gender is not binary. Sometimes, the identity fails to recognize that one cannot know individuals with every existing gender identity.
Being perceived by others as a particular identity/gender or cisgender regardless how the individual in question identifies, e.g. passing as straight, passing as a cis woman, passing as a youth. This term has become controversial as “passing” can imply that one is not genuinely what they are passing as.
Capable of being attracted to multiple gender(s).
Umbrella term for gender and sexual minorities who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. There is a lot of overlap between queer and trans identities, but not all queer people are trans and not all trans people are queer. The word queer is still sometimes used as a hateful slur, so although it has mostly been reclaimed, be careful with its use.
To not be openly transgender in all or most social situations.
Short for testosterone.
Chest surgery such as double mastectomy, breast augmentation, or periareolar (keyhole) surgeries.
Prefix or adjective used as an abbreviation of transgender, derived from the Latin word meaning “across from” or “on the other side of.”
An outdated term popularized in the early 2010’s that was used to signify an array of identities under the trans umbrella. However, it became problematized online due to improper usage. See our page on the asterisk.
A person’s process of developing and assuming a gender expression to match their gender identity. Transition can include: coming out to one’s family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgery. It’s best not to assume how one transitions as it is different for everyone.
Originally coined by the author Julia Serano, this term recognizes the intersections of transphobia and misogyny and how they are often experienced as a unique form of oppression against trans women.
Systemic violence against trans people, associated with attitudes such as fear, discomfort, distrust, or disdain. This word is used similarly to homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, etc.
TRANS WOMAN / TRANS MAN
Trans woman generally describes someone assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman. This individual may or may not actively identify as trans. It is grammatically and definitionally correct to include a space between trans and woman. The same concept applies to trans men. Often it is good just to use woman or man.
Sometimes trans women identify as male-to-female (also MTF, M2F, or trans feminine) and sometimes trans men identify as female-to-male (also FTM, F2M, or trans masculine). Please ask before identifying someone. Use the term and pronouns preferred by the individual.
An umbrella term referring to various indigenous gender identities in North America.
Chutes Cohoes / Cohoes Falls