Gender Lexicon: vocab, explanations, and charts

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This is a reference page explaining terms that are used in conversations around gender. I’ll be adding to it over time as I learn more.

Gender vs. sex vs. orientation

This page is specifically about gender, which is different from sex and from orientation.

The sex of a person includes their biological sex characteristics. There are male and female sex characteristics. In cases where someone is born with a combination of sex characterics, they are intersex.

The orientation of a person is all about sexual attraction. People can be sexually attracted to the same gender (e.g. gay, lesbian), just one different gender (e.g. straight), multiple genders (e.g. bisexual, pansexual), or not attracted to any (e.g. asexual).

This article does not cover sex or orientation beyond what you just read. Instead I focus on gender, which has to do with a person’s identity.

Context for gender vocabulary

Many of the terms fit together and overlap with each other. Multiple terms can describe the same person at once. This confused me when I was first learning, so I created a chart to help visualize how some of them work.

transgender vocab adrien converse

I refer to myself as agender, nonbinary, and transgender, because agender is a subcategory of nonbinary, and nonbinary is a subcategory of trans.

We’ll get into the vocab list in a minute, but before we do, one more chart.

Genders don’t fall strictly on a male–female scale

I’m working on creating a chart that depicts where some genders tend to fall on the spectrum: that spectrum including the binary scale from male to female, and also a non-binary scale from genderless to a combination of genders.

In the meantime, this one (source unknown) is a pretty helpful place to start.

This should help you contextualize where some of the genders in this list tend to fall.

Alphabetical list of gender terms

Following is an alphabetical list of gender terms, including all the ones in the chart above, along with a few others.

AFAB

An abbreviation for “assigned female at birth,” occasionally used as “DFAB,” which stands for “designated female at birth.” This term applies to anyone who had “F” put on their birth certificate when they were born, for any reason.

AMAB

An abbreviation for “assigned male at birth,” occasionally used as “DMAB,” which stands for “designated male at birth.” This term applies to anyone who had “M” put on their birth certificate when they were born, for any reason.

Agender

A person without gender. Falls under the nonbinary umbrella, which falls under the transgender umbrella. I’m an example of an agender person.

Bigender

A person who has two genders at once. Falls under the nonbinary umbrella, which falls under the transgender umbrella. Bigender people can be either AFAB or AMAB.

Binary

A person whose gender is either man or woman. A binary person can be either cisgender or transgender.

Cisgender

A person whose real gender aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth; not transgender. Sometimes shortened to “cis.”

Demiboy

A person whose gender is somewhat male, but not entirely. A demiboy may be AMAB or AFAB. Falls under the nonbinary umbrella, which falls under the transgender umbrella.

Demigirl

A person whose gender is somewhat female, but not entirely. A demigirl may be AMAB or AFAB. Falls under the nonbinary umbrella, which falls under the transgender umbrella.

FTM

An abbreviation for “Female to Male”. Typically used in reference to trans men who are undergoing a transition (either socially, physically, or both).

Gender fluid

A person whose gender varies between two or more genders. Falls under the nonbinary umbrella, which falls under the transgender umbrella.

Genderqueer

A person whose gender is neither male nor female, but is some combination of both. Falls under the nonbinary umbrella, which falls under the transgender umbrella.

MTF

An abbreviation for “Male to Female”. Typically used in reference to trans women who are undergoing a transition (either socially, physically, or both).

Nonbinary

A person who is neither male nor female; an umbrella term for all the genders that are not strictly binary. Falls under the transgender umbrella (though some nonbinary people don’t consider themselves to be transgender).

Transgender

A person who was assigned a gender at birth that doesn’t match their true gender. “Transgendered,” or “transgenders” are common misuses of the term. Instead, use like so: “those folks are transgender,” or “he is transgender.” Often shortened to “trans.”

Transgender man

A person who was assigned the female gender at birth, but whose gender is actually male. Falls under the binary umbrella, which falls under the transgender umbrella. Often shortened to “trans.”

Transgender woman

A person who was assigned male at birth, but whose gender is actually female. Falls under the binary umbrella, which falls under the transgender umbrella.

Future additions to this page

I plan to add additional charts and definitions as I think of or find them. Feel free to leave comments about terms or concepts you think would be helpful to cover.

11 comments

    • Many folks in the trans community use these terms to self-describe, and it’s always handy to have definitions available for those outside of the community. You should probably make a note that it shouldn’t be used to describe someone else unless they have explicitly made it clear that that’s alright.

      • Agree—I see a lot of trans folks still using these terms to describe themselves, so I’m going to keep them for now. “Bioessentialist” might be a good term for me to include, though, especially to add context that FTM/MTF aren’t universally agreed-upon terms.

        Agree that people shouldn’t use terms to describe others without their permission. That concept probably deserves an entire article of its own. There’s always more to say. 🙂

    • Thanks, Amber—I’m planning to add a section that describes the difference between gender, sex, and orientation as part of the framing—I’ll definitely mention intersex in that section.

  • The definition for genderqueer isn’t right. That sounds more like androgyne. Genderqueer was basically the name of the non-binary community before the term non-binary came to be. Some people felt uncomfortable with the word queer in the name, so the term non-binary was thought of as an alternative. Genderqueer is still used too, but the only real difference is really the ‘queer’ part. This is at least what I’ve read from the creator of the GQ’s flag design. By the way, agender and neutrois people are represented in that flag, so the chart would be a bit off. I go with both, personally. I’m agender. Just want to bring that up. Everything else seemed fine to me.

    • I’ve heard a lot of contrasting (and sometimes conflicting) definitions of genderqueer. So much so that I’ve been considering just taking it off the list. 😉 We’ll see … maybe I’ll eventually get to the bottom of it.

      Thanks for weighing in. Androgyne would be a good term for me to add.

  • This is a great start! I would suggest not using the word “real” referring to Cisgender because it comes off as if trans people aren’t necessarily “real” male/female and everything in between. Some people may be triggered.

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