Pride Month this year has been full of positive momentum. The Biden administration expanded its interpretation of federal sex protections to include transgender and gay students. Laurel Hubbard will be the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics. Despite these achievements, it can still be challenging to know how you can support the LGBTQ+ community. One way? Education.
Taking the time to understand the goals, intricacies and tribulations of the community is vital in spreading a message of love. And understanding frequently used words and pronouns is a great way to start. Here we provide a quick guide of terminology associated with gender experience and identity. This list is by no means exhaustive but instead is meant to clarify some basics.
Sex: Sex is what you are assigned at birth based on your chromosomes and the genitals you’re born with. This could be male, female or intersex (when someone is not born with clear male or female genitals, chromosomes or sex hormones). Someone’s sex does not always match someone’s gender identity.
Gender: There are many different gender identities. Those are defined using societal expectations, behaviors and characteristics rather than biology. It’s a social and legal status.
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Gender identity: How one perceives their gender and labels themselves based on how much they align or don’t align with the defined gender options.
Cisgender: When someone’s gender matched their assigned sex at birth.
Transgender: When someone’s gender is different from their assigned sex at birth.
Nonbinary: This describes a spectrum of genders that are not exclusively masculine or feminine.
Genderfluid: When a person’s gender identity changes at different times or over time.
Agender: When a person does not identify as any gender.
Sexual orientation: Who a person is attracted to sexually. This can be people of the same gender, different gender or multiple genders. Eg.: Heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual.
When it comes to pronouns, it’s important to use the correct ones to affirm someone’s identity, and it is a step toward being an ally. Pronouns should never be assumed based on someone’s appearance.
Common pronouns include she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs. Ze/hir/hir, xe/xem/xyr, and ve/ver/vis are other pronoun options. If you are unsure, ask, “What pronouns do you use?” or “Are you comfortable sharing your pronouns?” And remember, people can use different pronouns in different settings (i.e., work versus family). You could also take the step to share your pronouns in conversations and add them to your business cards or social media accounts if comfortable.
More information on pronouns can be found here.