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Redefining Gender

These days, talking about sex and gender can involve a lot of specialized terms. Here’s a guide

Asexual: Someone who generally does not experience sexual attraction. Asexual people can experience sexual arousal, romantic attraction and desire intimacy, but do not feel the need to act out those feelings in a sexual way. Asexuality is not the same as celibacy, which is the choice not to have sex.

Cisgender: Referring to an individual who has a match between the gender they were assigned at birth and the roles and behaviours considered by society to be appropriate to their sex. “Cis” is short for “cisgender.”

Gender: A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures.

Gender dysphoria: The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2013) replaced the entry “Gender Identity Disorder” with “Gender Dysphoria” and changed the criteria for diagnosis. The necessity of a psychiatric diagnosis remains controversial, as both psychiatric and medical authorities recommend individualized medical treatment through hormones and/or surgeries to treat gender dysphoria. Some trans advocates be­lieve the inclusion of gender dysphoria in the manual is necessary in order to gain health insurance that covers the medically necessary treatment recommended for transgender people.

Gender expression: How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behaviour, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.

Gender fluid: A person whose gender identification and expression shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations.

Gender identity: An individual’s internal sense of being male, female or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Gender non-conforming: A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Genderqueer: Used by some individuals who identify as neither entirely male nor entirely female. See non-binary.

LGBTQ: An acronym standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

Non-binary: A term used by some people who don’t fit neatly into the categories of “male” and “female,” whose gender blends elements of being a man or a woman, who don’t identify with any gender, or whose gender changes over time. See genderqueer.

Transgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behaviour is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is not a sexual orientation; transgender people may have any sexual orientation. “Trans” is short for “transgender.”

Transgender man: A transgender individual who currently identifies as a man.

Transgender woman: A transgender individual who currently identifies as a woman.

Transition: The time when a person begins living as the gender with which they identify rather than the gender they were assigned at birth, which often includes changing one’s first name and dressing and grooming differently. Transitioning may or may not also include medical and legal aspects, including taking hormones, having surgery or changing identity documents to reflect one’s gender identity.

Two-spirit (2S): Refers to Indigenous people, both current and historical, whose individuals spirits are a blend of male and female spirits. This term has been reclaimed in some Indigenous LGBT communities to honour their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.


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