The Office of Faculty Development

Gender Identity & Inclusivity

Learn more about and begin using the accepted terms to describe gender within your practice:

Biological sex refers mainly to biology and is a configuration of chromosomes, hormones, gonads (ovaries, testicles), reproductive units (sperm, egg), and internal and external anatomy. And while sex is often talked about as if the only two options are male and female, this two-sex system is inadequate for understanding the sex characteristics of all people.

Sexual orientation is the preferred term used when referring to an individual's physical and/or emotional attraction, such as homosexual or heterosexual.

Gender is more about your personal sense of who you are (e.g., man, woman, transgender, etc) and is a social construct. Gender primarily refers to qualities that are masculine or feminine, neither, or both. Just as sex is often talked about as male/female, gender is often thought about as being a man or woman. However, this binary gender system is inadequate for understanding the gender of all humans, especially across cultures. Many societies are now expanding their use of gender terms.

Sexual identity is comprised of your biological sex, gender expression and sexual orientation. 

Gender Nonconforming folks are people who do not follow other people's ideas or stereotypes about how they should look, or act, based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth. It is also not just about clothes but doing what suits their personality, such a job they choose, a role they may play at home etc., and not just about what they wear. They are people who do not feel that they have to fit into the roles assigned to them by society. Gender non-conforming people can be gay, straight, cisgender or trans.

Gender Queer is someone who identifies outside of, or wishes to challenge, the two-gender system. They can identify as multiple genders, a combination of genders, or “between'' genders. 

Gender Fluid is having two or more genders, having no gender or moving between genders.

Nonbinary is a term used by people that have any gender identity that does not fit the male/female binary.

Cisgender is a person who has the gender identity commonly associated with their biological sex (e.g., someone who is assigned as a female at birth and who lives as a woman). The reasoning behind this term is as we have more and more transgender people, as medical technology has improved, we need an opposite term to identify someone who is not transgender. The term comes from chemistry where it means “on this side.” communication.

Lesbian is a female homosexual; in other words, a female who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other females.

Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual. It can refer to both women and men but is primarily a term referring to men.

Bisexual is a romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or sexual behavior toward both males and females, or romantic or sexual attraction to people of any sex or gender identity; this latter aspect is sometimes termed pansexuality.

Transgender is a term that includes all people who have genders not traditionally associated with their biological sex at birth. Trans* is an inclusive term, referring to the many ways one can transcend or even transgress gender or gender norms (e.g., it includes individuals who may identify as transgender, transsexual, gender diverse, etc.

Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual or cisgender. It has been adopted by those who reject traditional gender identities and seek a broader, less conformist, and deliberately ambiguous alternative to the label LGBT+.

Questioning is a process of exploration by people who may be unsure, still exploring, and concerned about applying a social label to themselves for various reasons.

Asexual is a person who has no sexual feelings or desires

2-Spirit is a term used by Native American people who feel their body simultaneously manifests both a masculine and a feminine spirit. It is considered a third gender. If you are not Native American, please do not use this term. This is cultural misappropriation, the term is one that refers to people who are Native American and is part of their culture. 

Intersex generally refers to someone whose chromosomes, and/or anatomy do not conform to the expected configurations of either male typical or female typical bodies. Some intersex conditions are apparent at birth, while others are noticed around puberty or later. 

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