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Let's Learn: Common Terms


Illustration by: A. Leal De La Torre

This week for Pride Month, we aim to provide a useful, inclusive guide of terms used within the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of identity labels and their differences. It is important to understand and remind ourselves that even though someone may fit the generally used definition of one of these terms, they may not personally identify this way. Ask before you assume and understand how the person refers to themselves.


A breakdown of Common Terms


Sex: Sex is a label – Male, Female, or Intersex, that you are assigned by a doctor at birth based on the genitals you are born with and the chromosomes you have. It does not necessarily match someone’s gender or gender identity.


Gender: Gender is complex. It is a social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth; a set of social, psychological, and emotional traits, is often influenced by societal expectations. Gender identity is the internal perception of one’s gender, and how they label themselves, based on how much they align or don’t align with what they understand their options for gender to be.

A social construct is used to classify a person as a man, woman, or other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth; a set of social, psychological, and emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations


Sexual Orientation: An emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people of the same gender, different gender or multiple genders.


Cisgender: Applies to someone whose gender matches their assigned sex at birth


Transgender: Applies to a person whose gender is different from their “assigned” sex at birth.


Non-Binary: Non-binary is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine – A gender identity that embraces full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonates with an individual. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world.


Genderqueer: A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them. – some people regard queer as offensive, others embrace it.


Genderfluid: Applies to a person whose gender identity changes over time or changes at different times. That change might be in expression, but not identity, or in identity, but not expression. Or both expression and identity might change together.


Two-spirit: Used by some indigenous North American people to describe their sexual, gender, and/or spiritual identity. Refers to an individual who identifies as having both a feminine and a masculine spirit.


What if I make a mistake?


We are human, so mistakes can and will happen. It is best to apologize and move on quickly. Learn from this mistake, ask the right questions to fix the mistake, and use the correct pronoun or term the next time.


Some resources to help you keep learning and understanding can be found below:





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