Gender identity is a term that refers to how someone experiences their own gender. For some people, their genitals and how they look play a role in their gender identity. But for others, these things can have nothing to do with gender identity!
When people are born, they’re assigned a gender (usually male or female) based on the genitals a doctor can see. A lot of people who are transgender feel like their gender is different from the one a doctor said it was when they were born.
Some people might feel like a man, a woman, a combination of these, or another gender. Other people might feel like no gender fits them. Someone’s gender identity can change too! Over time, people can change how they feel about their gender, just like they can change how they feel about other parts of who they are.
The word “trans” can include people who identify as transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, two-spirit, agender, cross-dresser, and many more.
What does transgender mean?
When people are born, they’re assigned a gender based on the genitals a doctor can see. A lot of people think that when you’re assigned a sex like male, female, or intersex as a baby, that should stay the same throughout your life. But while this may be true for some people, it’s not true for everyone! A lot of people don’t feel like their assigned sex is the same as their gender identity. Those people are transgender.
People who are transgender might make changes to their bodies. This helps them match how they look and how the people around them may see them, to how they feel inside. Any changes a trans person makes to their bodies is a personal choice!
Some transgender people take hormones to change the way they look. Other people might also get gender-affirming surgeries. These surgeries can change someone’s chest, privates, or other body parts.
A lot of trans people choose not to make any changes to their bodies, while others might choose to make some changes but not others. Everyone deserves to have their identity respected no matter how they dress, act, or change their bodies over time!
What does cisgender mean?
Cisgender people identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. So, if someone is assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman, that makes them cisgender!
A lot of cisgender people don’t question their gender identity. They feel like their assigned sex is the same as their gender identity. But some cisgender people might question their gender identity, and that’s okay, too! Everyone has the right to think about their identity and what it means for them.
Being cisgender doesn’t mean someone is 100% okay with traditional gender roles (like expecting all women to be wives and mothers, or expecting all men to always be strong and never cry). There are just as many ways to be cisgender as there are to be trans!
What does non-binary mean?
Non-binary people might feel like their gender isn’t a man or woman. They might feel like they’re a mix of both, another gender, or neither. Many gender identities fall under the non-binary umbrella.
There’s a big range of non-binary people. Some of them also identify as transgender. But not all of them do, and that’s okay too!
What does intersex mean?
Many people think there are only two sexes, male and female. That’s because today, most people are assigned one of those two sexes at birth. But sex, like gender, can also exist on a spectrum! That’s because sex includes things like your privates, hormones, and chromosomes. Since everyone is different, people can have very different hormone levels, different chromosomes, and privates that look different from each other, even within one particular sex.
Some people are born with a mix of traits that makes it hard to assign them a sex. For example, someone could be born with a penis, and also have a uterus inside their body. People who are born with a mix of different traits are usually called intersex. Some people who are intersex know their whole lives. Others learn about it during puberty or medical procedures.
People who are intersex can identify with any gender. Some might identify as a man, woman, non-binary, transgender, or something else. There’s a huge variety!
What are pronouns?
Pronouns are the way you talk about someone when you’re not saying their name. For example, they went to the store for their favorite snack. Some common ones are he/him or she/her. But some people use other pronouns to express their gender identity. Some people use they/them or ze/zir. Other people might use a mix like she/they or they/he! Still others might have no pronoun preference at all.
If you ever don’t know someone’s pronouns, it can help to ask them or someone who would know! If you have trouble remembering, it can help to practice.
It’s not okay to intentionally use the wrong pronouns for someone, especially if you know it will upset them. But that’s different from making an honest mistake! If you make a mistake with someone’s pronouns, you can apologize, correct yourself, and move on.
There are lots of ways people identify and all of them are okay! No matter what, it’s important to respect everyone’s identity. You don’t have to understand everything about someone in order to respect them and use their correct name and pronouns!