Think “gay,” “straight,” and “bisexual” are all the words you need to know to describe sexuality? Think again. Language is evolving and you’ll get left behind if you aren’t paying attention. So we compiled this list of gender terms and definitions for 2019 that can help you stay up to date.
Why should parents care?
Remember how your folks didn’t seem to understand you, your friends, or the struggles you were facing? The same can be said for kids today, particularly in the area of gender and sexuality, which is much more fluid than it was even 10 years ago. And because kids are growing up in an era when matters of sexuality are more widely discussed and understood, their knowledge far surpasses yours.
Don’t worry — we’ve got your back. Here are some of the most essential terms and definitions for gender and sexuality so you can communicate with your kids (or at least understand them).
FIRST UP: What is Cisgender and Transgender?
People are assigned a gender at birth. This gender assignment is made based on the anatomical sex of the newborn. So, if you’re born with a penis, you are assigned male at birth. If you are born with a vagina, you are assigned female at birth. If someone’s gender identity aligns with the one they were assigned at birth based on their biological sex, they are considered cisgender. Cis is just a Latin prefix meaning “on the same side.”
A transgender person is someone who identifies as a member of a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. For example, a person who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) but identifies as
Being transgender does not mean that the person has undergone any kind of medical procedure.
NEXT UP: Gender-X
A recent addition to popular gender terms and definitions is Gender-X — for people who don’t define themselves as male or female, but who need to select their sexuality on government documents. Sometimes referred to as the “third gender,” the term has become popularized since states like California, Oregon, New York, Washington state, and New Jersey began accepting it.
According to the Washington state guidelines, Gender X is a term used to encompass “a gender that is not exclusively male or female, including, but not limited to, intersex, agender, amalgagender, androgynous, bigender, demigender, female-to-male, genderfluid, genderqueer, male-to-female, neutrois, nonbinary, pangender, third sex, transgender, transsexual, Two Spirit, and unspecified.”
“Intersex” is an umbrella term describing several conditions in which a person’s reproductive and/or sexual anatomy doesn’t fit into the usual definitions of male or female. In some cases, a person might be born with female external genitalia, while inside they have anatomy that is predominately typical to males. Other people are born with external genitalia that is in between male and female genitalia. While others may be born with XXY chromosomes instead of the typical XX and XY. And those are just a few examples.
To be clear, an intersex person is not a hermaphrodite, which implies that the person is both fully male and fully female. As the Intersex Society of North America states, “The words ‘hermaphrodite’ and ‘pseudo-hermaphrodite’ are stigmatizing and misleading words. Unfortunately, some medical personnel still use them to refer to people with certain intersex conditions, because they still subscribe to an outdated nomenclature that uses gonadal anatomy as the basis of sex classification.”
There are many ways to be intersex.
For many years, when intersex children with differing external genitalia were born, many medical professionals believed it was essential that parents should decide the child’s gender assignment right away. Cosmetic genetic surgeries were often performed on infants, while endocrinologists manipulated children’s hormones. These practices have since been deemed unethical and unscientific; however, the mainstream population still doesn’t really understand the experience of intersex individuals, and they are often not considered when people talk about the validity of gender identity.