Topic 1

Definitions & Terms


The sex, i.e. “male” or “female” which is assigned to us at birth by default of our primary sexual characteristics.

Gender Expression/Presentation

The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. Most 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.


Gender is how a culture or society expects male persons and female persons to act and feel. Some people say that gender is a performance of particular ex-pected behaviour. For example, in some cultures, it is considered inappropriate for male people to show feelings or cry.

In some cultures female persons are expected to always make themselves second in relation to male people. In some societies conformance to the required gender is a lot more than just an expectation. People who don’t conform to the expected gender face ridicule, exclusion, violence, imprisonment and even death.

Gender Identity

One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same. Female, woman, and girl and male, man, and boy are also NOT necessarily linked to each other but are just six common gender identities.

Trans and gender non-conforming

Some small children don’t con-form to the cultural gender expectations. In other words, perhaps a male child doesn’t behave in all the ways his society has come to expect of boy children or a female child doesn’t behave in all the ways a society has come to expect of girls. These children are referred to as “gender non-conforming children.” They don’t meet the expectations and conform to the gender associated with their birth assigned sex. There are many gender non-conforming children. Most of these children grow up to identify across the lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight continuum. Only a few gender nonconforming children are transgender children.

Sexual orientation

It is important to remember that transgender and sexual orientation are very different. Transgender is about having a body that is different from what your brain tells you are. Sexual orientation is about which sex you are attracted to.

Romantically/Emotionally Attracted To

Romantic/emotional orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.

The continuum

We often like things to be one way or the other, but the truth is gender identity (and sexual orientation) exist on a continuum. In other words, many of us don’t fit neatly at one or other side of the continuum. For many of us, it’s a bit of this and a bit of that, rather than either/or.

It’s also worth remembering that some people don’t feel like they have a gender (a-gender) and some people don’t experience themselves as being sexually attracted to anyone or any gender (asexual). “The Gender Unicorn” is one way to explore these different aspects of sex and gender continuums. For ex-ample, identifying on the left of the sexuality spectra would indicate no attraction. More detailed definitions are given in the Gender Unicorn.

Sex Assigned at Birth

The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, and chromosomes. It is important we don’t simply use “sex” because of the vague-ness of the definition of sex and its place in transphobia.

Chromosomes are frequently used to determine sex from prenatal karyotyping (although not as often as genitalia). Chromosomes do not determine genitalia.

Sexually Attracted To Sexual Orientation.

It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression /presentation, and sex assigned at birth.

Sexual Fluidity People’s sexual responses are not set in stone, and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation they’re in. Like any other social trait, sexual preferences, attitudes, behaviours, and identity can be flexible to some degree