Gender and Sexual Diversity Terminology
The University of Cincinnati (“UC”) is committed to ensuring equal access to University programs and activities for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors. The Office of Gender Equity & Inclusion (“OGEI”) supports UC’s dedication to equity and inclusion by educating the campus community on concepts integral to improving campus climate. This list of terminology serves as a resource for those who wish to learn and engage in conversations around gender and sexual diversity (“GSD”).
It is important to note that this resource is not an exhaustive list of GSD terminology, and terminology is fluid and constantly evolving. We encourage individuals to become familiar with this list and to continue to educate themselves responsibly on GSD terminology and concepts.
In addition to this list, community members may find further educational touchpoints and resources from the following:
A person who openly affirms and advocates for the safety, dignity, and inclusion of those from a marginalized social group. Allyship in this context means advocating for the well-being and rights of people who hold marginalized gender and sexual identities.
The classification of things into two distinct, opposite, and disconnected categories. In this context, masculine v. feminine, male v. female, gay v. straight, and cisgender v. transgender are examples. A binary mindset is problematic when considering gender and sexual diversity.
A descriptor for a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth - sometimes “cis” for short. “Cisgender” is preferred to terms like “biological,” “genetic,” or “real” when referring to gender, as these terms suggest that transgender and non-binary people’s identities are not authentic or legitimate.
An (often unconscious) notion or belief that everyone is or should be cisgender and the attitudes and outcomes associated with this assumption.
Advantages that come with identifying or being perceived as cisgender (e.g., acceptance from family and religious institutions, safety in public spaces, access to competent and respectful healthcare, acceptance in one’s chosen career field).
Behavior, policies, and other actions that grant preferential treatment to cisgender people. A type of sexism that reinforces the idea that being cisgender is somehow better or more “right” than other gender identities and/or makes other genders invisible.
The lifelong process of acknowledging, defining, and sharing one’s gender, sexual orientation, and/or romantic orientation. Coming out may happen multiple times over an individual’s lifetime.
The categorization of people based on social/cultural constructions of masculinity, femininity, and other gender categories. Gender is usually attributed to social roles and the perceptions of others about how gender should be performed instead of the gender that an individual affirms for themselves. “Woman,” “man,” “boy,” and “girl” are examples of this term. “Gender” is often confused with “sex.”
The process by which people more closely align their outward appearance with their internal knowledge of their gender. This can be a social process (e.g., dressing and using names and pronouns in alignment with one’s gender identity) and/or a medical process (such as hormone therapy or surgery).
Everything we do that communicates our gender to others: clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms, way of speaking, roles we take in interactions, etc. Gender expression manifests in a number of ways, such as femininity, masculinity, and androgyny. Gender expression can vary for an individual from day to day or in different situations.
How one sees oneself as a gendered or agender person. Gender identity is how we think about ourselves and define ourselves – it is not defined by how other people perceive our gender. Gender identity may be fluid, depending on an individual’s experience of cultural influences. Common identity labels include cisgender, agender, and transgender.
A descriptor of practices, language, and spaces that seek to include people of all genders. “Gender-neutral,” “unisex,” and “genderless” are often used to mean “gender-inclusive” as well.
An (often unconscious) notion that everyone is or should be heterosexual and the attitudes and outcomes associated with this assumption.
Behaviors, policies, and other actions that grant preferential treatment to heterosexual people. A type of sexism that reinforces the idea that heterosexuality is somehow better or more “right” than any other sexual orientations and/or makes other orientations invisible.
Advantages that come with identifying or being perceived as heterosexual (e.g., acceptance from family and religious institutions, safety in public spaces, access to competent and respectful healthcare, acceptance in one’s chosen career field).
An umbrella term for people who exhibit biological and/or anatomical diversity which might include ambiguous genitalia, having traits of both male and female reproductive organs, possessing a chromosomal variance other than XY or XX, having hormone levels that are not considered average, or other biological factors which don’t easily fit into constructed “male” or “female” boxes.
Initialism that stands for Lesbian. Gay. Bisexual. Queer. Intersex. Asexual. Plus. This initialism may be seen in different forms, sometimes shortened as LBGTQ+, for example.
Not relating to, composed of, or involving just two things. In a gender/sexual diversity context, identities beyond the binary of man/woman, male/female, masculine/feminine, and gay/straight.
Exposing someone’s identity(ies) to others. Outing someone can have serious repercussions for that person’s employment, economic stability, personal safety, or familial relationships.
An umbrella term that describes sexual and gender identities other than heterosexual and cisgender. Also used to express a sexual or gender identity that is fluid, complicated, and/or cannot be defined. Terms like “genderqueer” may be used to disrupt to concept of gender. While often used today, queer has a long history as a slur, so the decision to use this word should be made after determining the context of the situation.
Initialism that stands for queer and transgender people of color.
In the context of gender/sexual diversity, being unsure of, exploring, and/or otherwise being in the process of understanding one’s gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual identity, and/or sexual orientation.
The direction of one’s romantic interest toward others, if any. Romantic orientation indicates the sex and/or gender with which a person is likely to have a romantic relationship or fall in love. This does not necessarily have to involve sex.
The categorization of people based on a collection of physical and/or biological traits and factors, either known or assumed. Sex is usually defined as relating to reproductive organs, genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, and/or secondary sex characteristics. Male, female, and intersex are examples of this term. “Sex” is often confused with “gender.”
The sex categorization imposed, generally by a medical or birthing professional, based on a physical examination of a newborn.
How one identifies one's degree of desire for intimate emotional and/or sexual relationships. Asexual and demisexual are examples of this term. “Sexual identity” is often misconstrued to mean “sexual orientation.”
The direction of one's sexual interest toward others, if any. Sexual orientation indicates the sex and/or gender with which a person is likely sexually attracted to or have a sexual relationship. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and pansexual are examples of this term. “Sexual orientation” is often misconstrued to mean “sexual identity.”
An umbrella term for someone whose gender identity and/or gender expression does not align with that typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life. Sometimes shortened to trans or trans*.