Relevant Terms and Definitions Related to Gender Care

SexAn assignment that is made at birth, usually male or female, typically on the basis of external genital anatomy but sometimes on the basis of internal gonads, chromosomes, or hormone levels
Gender identityA person’s deep internal sense of being female, male, a combination of both, somewhere in between, or neither, resulting from a multifaceted interaction of biological traits, environmental factors, self-understanding, and cultural expectations
Gender expressionThe external way a person expresses their gender, such as with clothing, hair, mannerisms, activities, or social roles
Gender perceptionThe way others interpret a person’s gender expression
Gender diverseA term that is used to describe people with gender behaviors, appearances, or identities that are incongruent with those culturally assigned to their birth sex; gender-diverse individuals may refer to themselves with many different terms, such as transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer,7 gender fluid, gender creative, gender independent, or noncisgender. “Gender diverse” is used to acknowledge and include the vast diversity of gender identities that exists. It replaces the former term, “gender nonconforming,” which has a negative and exclusionary connotation.
TransgenderA subset of gender-diverse youth whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex and generally remains persistent, consistent, and insistent over time; the term “transgender” also encompasses many other labels individuals may use to refer to themselves.
CisgenderA term that is used to describe a person who identifies and expresses a gender that is consistent with the culturally defined norms of the sex they were assigned at birth
AgenderA term that is used to describe a person who does not identify as having a particular gender
Affirmed genderWhen a person’s true gender identity, or concern about their gender identity, is communicated to and validated from others as authentic
MTF; affirmed female; trans femaleTerms that are used to describe individuals who were assigned male sex at birth but who have a gender identity and/or expression that is asserted to be more feminine
FTM; affirmed male; trans maleTerms that are used to describe individuals who were assigned female sex at birth but who have a gender identity and/or expression that is asserted to be more masculine
Gender dysphoriaA clinical symptom that is characterized by a sense of alienation to some or all of the physical characteristics or social roles of one’s assigned gender; also, gender dysphoria is the psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM-5, which has focus on the distress that stems from the incongruence between one’s expressed or experienced (affirmed) gender and the gender assigned at birth.
Gender identity disorderA psychiatric diagnosis defined previously in the DSM-IV (changed to “gender dysphoria” in the DSM-5); the primary criteria include a strong, persistent cross-sex identification and significant distress and social impairment. This diagnosis is no longer appropriate for use and may lead to stigma, but the term may be found in older research.
Sexual orientationA person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender(s) to which they are attracted; sexual orientation and gender identity develop separately.
  • This list is not intended to be all inclusive. The pronouns “they” and ”their” are used intentionally to be inclusive rather than the binary pronouns “he” and “she” and “his” and “her.” Adapted from Bonifacio HJ, Rosenthal SM. Gender variance and dysphoria in children and adolescents. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2015;62(4):1001–1016. Adapted from Vance SR Jr, Ehrensaft D, Rosenthal SM. Psychological and medical care of gender nonconforming youth. Pediatrics. 2014;134(6):1184–1192. DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition; DSM-IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition; FTM, female to male; MTF, male to female.