The words ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ are often incorrectly used interchangeably to mean the same thing.
Gender refers to a person’s innate sense of their own identity, which may or may not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth.78 Gender identity does not necessarily represent a simple binary choice.79 Some people’s gender identity is man or woman, while other people identify as other genders such as genderfluid, nonbinary, genderqueer etc, or indeed no gender at all, such as agender.
For more on the distinction between gender and sex, see the 'Gender' and ‘Sex’ definitions.
Some of the terminology and definitions used in this glossary relate to subject matter that may be upsetting or triggering for some people.
A legal term used in the Gender Recognition Act 2004. It refers to the gender that a person who is applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) has lived in for two years and intends to continue living in.69
It is important to note that, for many trans people, this term is seen as problematic, as the word ‘acquired’ suggests that a change in gender has occurred; as well as emphasising a reliance upon undergoing gender reassignment and acquiring legal recognition of one’s gender, in order for an individual to be legitimised and accepted as the gender they are.
AFAB and AMAB are both acronyms that relate to what is known as an individual’s ‘assigned’ sex at birth. ‘AFAB’ and ‘AMAB’ mean “assigned female / male at birth”. ‘DFAB’ or ‘DMAB’ are also sometimes used and mean “designated female / male at birth”.
A term that may be used to describe an individual’s gender identity when it does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Note that not all trans people feel comfortable using this term in relation to their own gender. Affirmed gender is a term that is often used when someone has transitioned but decided not to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate.70 Many people who identify as trans do not seek legal recognition under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 because they see the process of obtaining a GRC as being both unnecessary, bureaucratic and potentially harmful.
A person who does not identify with any gender and who does not have a felt sense of gender identity.
A person whose biological sex is not readily apparent, whether intentionally or unintentionally.71
Someone who reflects an appearance that is both masculine and feminine, or whose gender expression appears to be neither or both male or female. As in ‘Androgyne’, where a person may have rejected gender roles entirely.
A term used to indicate that the sex a person is assigned at birth based on examination of primary sex characteristics, usually external genitalia (see also 'AFAB and AMAB').
Binding refers to a variety of methods that some people use to flatten their breast tissue. Usually, this means wearing an undergarment called a binder.72 It is important to note that binding involves risk of permanent change to the breasts and injury to other parts of the body and it is therefore extremely important that individuals seek medical advice before engaging in this practice.
A term used by some people to describe someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. ‘Non-Trans’ is also used by some people.73
Refers to social and/or individual assumptions that all people have a gender identity that matches their sex assigned at birth. This attitude often leads to discrimination and ‘cissexism’, if cultures and individuals fail to recognise and take account of trans people and their specific requirements.
A term used to describe a form of prejudice and discrimination against trans people. This often arises from the belief that trans people’s genders are inferior to, or less authentic than, those who are cisgender. Common examples include purposeful misuse of pronouns or insisting that trans people use different toilets or changing rooms.74 A less overt example of cissexism might be the assumption that everyone in society is cisgender and that society should be structured in such a way as to benefit or be more accommodating of cisgender people. Also see ‘Cisnormativity’ and ‘Transphobia’.
Deadnaming occurs when someone calls an individual by a name that they no longer wish to use or be associated with, for example their birth name. Deadnaming is a term most often associated with trans people who have changed their name or who are in the process of choosing a new name as part of their transition.75
An umbrella term for nonbinary gender identities that have a partial connection to a particular gender. This includes the partly female identity ‘demigirl’, and the partly male identity ‘demiboy’.76
The act of dressing in gendered clothing and adopting gendered behaviours, often exaggerated forms of ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’ as a part of a performance. This often involves an individual wearing clothing and adopting behaviours that are not typically associated with their own gender identity. Drag challenges the assumption that male bodies cannot be feminine, or female bodies masculine.77 Related terms are ‘drag king’ and ‘drag queen’.
A dual role person occasionally wears clothing and/or makeup and accessories that are not traditionally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. This is not the same as drag. Generally, dual role people do not wish to transition and do not necessarily experience gender dysphoria. Some people prefer to use the term ‘alter ego’. Historically the terms ‘transvestite’ and ‘cross dresser’ were used to describe dual role people, but they are now considered to be outdated. It is important to note that while some people may still use the terms transvestite or cross dresser to describe themselves, other people may find these terms offensive.78
A person’s ‘gender’ and their ‘sex’ are often incorrectly referred to as the same thing. The sex a person is assigned at birth (female or male) is usually determined by an examination of their external genitalia.
Gender identity refers to a person’s innate sense of their own identity, which may or may not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth.79 Gender identity does not necessarily represent a simple binary choice.80 Some people’s gender identity is man or woman, while other people identify as other genders such as genderfluid, nonbinary, genderqueer etc, or indeed no gender at all, such as agender.
Gender is influenced by both biological factors (ie gametes, genotype, hormones) as well as expectations of people that are socially constructed based on their assigned sex, including societal norms, gender expression/behaviours and gender roles.
For more on the distinction between gender and sex see the ‘Sex’ definition.
A single or multiple surgical procedures that alter or change physical sex characteristics of a person in order to better express that individual’s gender identity. A common misconception is that all trans people have undergone some form of surgery, however a large percentage of trans individuals choose never to undergo gender affirming surgery as part of their transition. This may also be referred to as Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS).
Gender binary or Gender binarism - relates to the social classification of people based on two distinct masculine and feminine binaries, including the way in which individuals are assigned one of two different sexes at birth, based on their genitalia and primary sex characteristics. In this binary model sex assigned at birth is presumed to determine a person’s gender identity and sexuality, thus assuming by default that all are in alignment, and therefore an individual is expected to adhere to the gender-based norms associated with their binary group.
Gender binarism speaks to the oppression experienced by trans people who do not fit neatly into either of the two binary sex classifications of man or woman, and who are unable to adhere to associated gender norms, meaning that they are typically marginalised by society.
Gender systems in so-called ‘Western’ society have largely followed a binary model, in which male and female are understood to be the only categories, with women and men seen as fundamentally different. A consideration of historical and contemporary gender systems across the globe shows that this has not been the case elsewhere. For instance, other cultures have recognised the existence of more than two genders, for instance in India there is the Hijra community, in many parts of Latin America the Travesti, in the Zapotec culture in Mexico the Muxe, the Mahu in Polynesian cultures and the Fa’afafine in Samoan.81
Gender conforming and non-conforming refer to personal features including biological, behavioural, psychological etc. as they relate to the sex assigned at birth and the subsequently expected gender role.82
The term used to describe the distress and difficulties experienced by a person as a result of external social expectations that they may encounter relating to their gender identity, expression and role.
Gender Dysphoria is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who does not feel comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender dysphoria is not considered a mental health issue in itself, but unmanaged gender dysphoria or the social stigma that may accompany it can result in ‘clinically significant levels of distress’ (NHS, 2013)83 often leading to mental health conditions and suicide.
Considered to be the opposite of gender dysphoria, gender euphoria refers to the feeling of comfort and joy that a trans person may experience by imagining or presenting as the gender they identify with and/or when being viewed as their gender by other people.
Gender expression refers to a person’s external characteristics and behaviours that are socially defined as either masculine, feminine or androgynous, such as clothing, hairstyle, make-up, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. Typically, trans people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, but this is not always possible. It is best practice to not assume someone’s gender identity on the basis of their gender expression. If you are unsure about how to refer to someone, depending on the situation, it may be appropriate for you to ask that person how they would like to be addressed,84 but that does not necessarily mean it is appropriate to ask a person how they identify in terms of their gender identity.
In the UK there are a small number of NHS Gender Identity Clinics across the country that diagnose gender dysphoria and which can prescribe hormones, hormone blockers and refer trans and nonbinary people to surgery.85
Gender incongruence is a medical term used to describe a person whose gender identity does not align, to a greater or lesser extent, with the sex they were assigned at birth. When this causes the individual distress and difficulties it is known as gender dysphoria.86
Often used to refer to non-gendered facilities (Gender Neutral Toilets (GNT)) as well as non-discriminatory, neutral language that may be used instead of gendered language and pronouns. For example, when referring to people, gender neutral language would tend to use ‘they’, ‘them’ or ‘their’ rather than ‘she/he’, ‘hers/his’ etc.
Pronouns are what we use to refer to people in the third person, in a way that takes into account their gender identity, for example ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people, particularly those with nonbinary identities, may use Gender Neutral Pronouns and ask others to refer to them using ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’.87
Gender Neutral Pronouns can sometimes also be referred to as ‘personal gender pronouns’, and they used to predominantly be referred to as ‘preferred pronouns’. However, it is important to note that the latter is no longer seen as appropriate as the word ‘preferred’ fails to embody an individual’s reasons for selecting their pronouns and is more suggestive of an optional everyday choice, rather than a requirement that helps an individual attempt to match their gender identity with the correct pronouns.
There are other less common gender neutral pronouns, which are referred to as ‘neopronouns’, for example, zie, hir, xe. See the ‘Neopronoun’ definition for more information.
Some people may choose not to use a pronoun but instead use their name, for example, “Jane drank Jane’s coffee as Jane was thirsty.”
It is important to use the name and pronoun that you are asked to use. If you are not sure what the right pronoun is, you can listen to what pronouns others are using or if it is appropriate or possible you can politely ask the person what pronouns they use. Deliberate or persistent use of the wrong pronoun is a form of harassment. Also see the ‘Misgendering’ definition.
It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around a trans person’s pronoun, nor is it appropriate to make assumptions about an individual’s pronouns.88 On some occasions you may make a mistake, do not make a big deal of this, just apologise, correct yourself and move on. If you hear someone else using the incorrect pronoun when referring to someone, you can explain the correct pronoun to them.
It should be noted that some languages may not have neutral pronouns, or a sufficient variety of pronouns that could be substituted for gendered pronouns. This may be an issue for students and members of staff who use those languages.
It is recommended that, where possible, gender neutral pronouns (‘they’ ‘their’ and ‘them’) are used in University policies and forms as this is more inclusive than gendered pronouns like ‘he/she’ or ‘his/hers’.
Ways to help others know your pronouns could include:
- adding pronouns to your email signature
- using your pronouns when you introduce yourself at the start of a meeting
Whether you use gender neutral pronouns or not, including your pronouns in your email signature is a good signal of allyship and demonstrates a willingness to foster inclusion.
The Department of Chemistry has produced some helpful guidance on personal gender pronouns which you may find useful.
Gender Neutral Toilets (GNT), are toilet facilities either created or repurposed within buildings, which do not have gendered signage and that do not require the person using them to define as a particular gender. Some gender neutral toilets provide additional facilities such as baby changing facilities, sanitary bins or showers.
Following consultation with staff and students, the University’s GNTs were given the name ‘All Gender Toilets’ as this was felt to be more inclusive. For more information see the University’s All gender toilets webpage.
This is the legal term used in the Equality Act 2010 to describe the protected characteristic of anyone who ‘proposes to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex’ (Equality Act, 2010). Importantly, the act requires no medical supervision or interventions for a trans person to be afforded protection and may instead mean changing one’s name, pronouns, dressing differently and/or living in their self-identified gender.89
It is important to note that the term Gender Reassignment is considered problematic for many trans people, as it fails to take account of all the nuances of gender identity and the lived experiences of trans people, and is predominantly associated with medical transition. Also, the word ‘reassignment’ is weighted with negative connotations.
A Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) enables a trans person to be legally recognised in their ‘affirmed gender’ and to be issued with a new birth certificate.90 GRCs are issued by the Gender Recognition Panel under the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The act requires that the applicant is over 18, has a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, has lived in their affirmed gender for a minimum of two years prior to the application, and intends to live permanently according to their ‘acquired gender’ status.
The requirements involved in obtaining a GRC often act as a barrier for trans individuals and as such not all trans people will apply for a GRC, in fact only a small proportion of trans people do apply for a GRC. Many people who identify as trans do not seek legal recognition under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 because they see the process of obtaining a GRC as both unnecessary, bureaucratic and harmful due to its associated requirements.
For more information, also see the ‘Acquired Gender’ and ‘Affirmed Gender’ definitions in this section.
A GRC is not required for an individual to change their gender markers (e.g name, pronouns) at work or to legally change their gender on other documents such as their passport.
The holder of a full GRC is legally recognised in their acquired gender for almost all purposes. It is never appropriate to ask to see a trans person’s GRC and it is unlawful to do so, because it breaches their right to privacy. Once a person has obtained a GRC their gender history can only be disclosed where there are explicit exceptions in law.
A social construction that consists of a prescribed set of relational boundaries determining how men and women (or those perceived to be men or women) behave; there are nuances to these roles depending on age, race, ethnicity, class, and the gender of the person one is interacting with.
These are broad terms used by and to refer to some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the binary categories of man and woman.91
A person who does not identify with a single, fixed or binary gender may instead identify as being genderfluid, their gender may change over time or between different situations, and may not be restricted to any one gender identity. Someone who is genderfluid may express their gender in an outwardly fluid or changing way, with their physical appearance often moving between masculine and feminine forms of gender expression.
Genderqueer is used by some people to refer to their gender identity when they do not identify in a way that aligns with what might be considered conventional or traditional gender distinctions, but may instead identify as having a gender somewhere between female and male or, more commonly, outside the gender binary altogether.
It is important to note that some LGBT+ people are uncomfortable with use of the word ‘Queer’ in reference to themselves and/or others, while others associate the use of this word with the reclaiming of what was, and is sometimes still considered to be, a slur against the LGBT+ community and individuals.
Internalised transphobia occurs when a trans person believes themselves to be less worthy due to their gender identity. Internalised transphobia is often fuelled by transphobia itself so that many trans people read transphobic comments or experience incidents of transphobia directed at them or others and internalise that hatred within themselves.
Misgendering is when a person intentionally or unintentionally refers to someone directly or indirectly using language that does not align with that person’s affirmed gender. For example, referring to a woman as “he” or calling her a “guy” is an act of misgendering. Deliberate misgendering is a form of harassment. Also see the ‘Gender neutral pronouns and Pronouns’ definition.
A pronoun is a word that a person may use to identify themselves instead of using their name such as ‘she’ or ‘he’. Neopronouns are a category of new (neo) pronouns that are increasingly used in place of ‘she’. ‘he’ or ‘they’ when referring to a person. Some examples of neopronouns include: ze/zir/zirs, xe/xem/xyr, and ey/em/eir. It should be noted that Gender Neutral Pronouns like ‘they’ and ‘them’ are much more commonly used in the UK than Neopronouns. For more detail see the ‘Gender neutral pronouns and Pronouns’ definition.
Nonbinary is a term that refers to people whose gender is not completely and exclusively male or female. They can identify with not having gender at all, with both binary genders, with a third identity, or an identity which can change over time. Nonbinary people fall under the transgender umbrella and nonbinary is an umbrella term itself, although some people use it to describe their specific gender identity too.92
Several terms are used to describe a gender identity that is outside of the binary male or female categories, with nonbinary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, bigender, pangender, among others. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing, but all speak to an experience of gender identity that is not simply male or female.
It should be noted that, just as with trans men and trans women, nonbinary people transition and live their lives in various ways and this may or may not include medically transitioning (ie taking hormones or undergoing surgeries).93
Passing refers to whether someone is regarded, at a glance, to be a cisgender man or cisgender woman. This might involve physical gender cues such as their hair or clothing, and/or behaviour, which is historically or culturally associated with a particular gender.94
The term ‘passing’ is closely associated with the term ‘clocking’ which is often used by trans people to describe a moment when they feel that someone else, cisgender or trans, has identified them as trans based on their physical appearance or behaviour. It should be noted that not all trans people can or wish to "pass" as cisgender in order to avoid being “clocked”. However, to other trans people, being “clocked” is an extremely uncomfortable and distressing experience.
This term is sometimes used to refer to someone who identifies as a man or woman, but who was assigned the opposite sex at birth. This is increasingly used by people to acknowledge a trans past.95 However, some people find this term problematic and it should not be used to refer to a specific person without their consent, as this may result in them being outed.
‘Real-life experience’ or ‘experience’ are terms used by the medical profession and refer to the period in which an individual is required to live, work and study full-time in their affirmed gender before they can undergo genital surgery. Previously the requirement applied to hormone replacement as well as genital surgery. Some trans staff and students may be asked by a gender identity clinic to provide confirmation from their institution that they are undertaking real-life experience or experience.96 This is also known as the ‘real life test’.
Trans and transgender are words often used interchangeably as inclusive umbrella terms used to refer to people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the legal sex (male or female) assigned to them at birth.97 It can also include someone who does not identify as male or female (nonbinary) or someone who is outside any gender definition (Agender, Androgynous).98
An individual does not need to undergo gender reassignment, hormonal treatment or surgery, in order to be considered as trans or transgender. Trans is included in the Equality Act 2010 as one of the nine protected characteristics, listed under Gender Reassignment.
Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, genderqueer (GQ), genderfluid, nonbinary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bigender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.99
It is important to note that not all people that can be included in the umbrella term ‘Trans’ or ‘Transgender’ will choose to associate with it or refer to themselves in this way.100 For example, someone who has transitioned to another gender, ie from a man to a woman, may not identify as a trans woman, but may instead simply refer to herself and her identity as a woman. Also, see the ‘Trans history’ definition.
One of a number of so-called ‘third wave’ feminist movements. Trans feminism has a particular emphasis on trans issues and intersectionality. It is rooted in the idea that there are multiple forms of sexism, misogyny and gender-based oppression that often intersect with one other, as well as other forms of discrimination, such as racism and disableism; and as such, impact people in very different ways depending on how they identify across all the protected characteristics, particularly gender identity.
A term used to describe someone who was assigned female at birth but who identifies and lives as a man.101 The terms ‘female-to-male’ or ‘FtM’ are shorthand for indicating the direction of a person’s transition. These terms can be seen as offensive, while some people may use them to describe themselves.102
A term used to describe someone who was assigned male at birth but who identifies and lives as a woman.103 The terms ‘male-to-female’ or ‘MtF’ are shorthand for indicating the direction of a person’s transition. These terms can be seen as offensive, while some people may use them to describe themselves.104
A term coined by trans activist Julia Serano, and is used to describe the unique forms of sexism that affect people on the trans female/feminine spectrum, which involve the interplay of transphobia, misogyny and toxic masculinity. The term also relates to what is said to be the societal fascination, consternation and demonisation that trans people often experience as a result of a predominantly cissexist society.105
An umbrella term that defines discrimination, prejudice or malicious acts towards trans people.106 It may result from fear, anger, intolerance, resentment and discomfort that some people may have as a result of another person being trans. This can manifest in discrimination, harassment, victimisation and hate crime.107
If you feel you have experienced or witnessed transphobia it may be appropriate for you to report it as a hate crime to the police and/or the University. See the University’s Dignity at Work and Study and the Report and Support webpage for more information.
The word transition or transitioning refers to the process of a person changing their physical body, social role and/or gender expression in order to match their gender identity. Examples of transitioning include telling friends, family and colleagues, changing names, asking people to use different pronouns, and changing the way gender is expressed. For some people, this may involve medical assistance such as hormone therapy and surgery - for others it may not.108
If you would like to find out more about how you can support someone during their transition, see the guidance section of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion webpages.
Transsexual is a term that was traditionally used to describe a person diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Increasingly trans people are not comfortable with the use of this term, instead preferring trans or transgender. While some people may find the term offensive, others may still use it to describe themselves.109
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is a global awareness day observed annually on November 20th, as a day to memorialise those who have been murdered in the past 12 months as a result of transphobia. It is an opportunity to draw attention to the continued violence endured by transgender people. It is also known as the International Transgender Day of Remembrance.