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Intro to Gender Diversity

— By 20 November 2013

Warning: This article contains discussion of body parts and transphobic slurs, if you're sensitive to these topics you may want to stop here

Whether you're looking for information for yourself or a friend, or just want to be more aware and informed, this article is for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about gender diversity! It can make a huge difference to be informed, both for yourself or to better support those around you.

Be warned, topics including transphobia and slurs are discussed in this article, readers sensitive to these topics may want to stop here.

It’s important not to treat this article as gospel, or the be all end all. This is a basic introduction to the discussion of gender diversity, but always respect the way an individual might feel and identify, and don’t be afraid to look for further information on this topic.

Someone just came out to me

When a friend comes out to you as trans it can be pretty confusing, but it’s vital to make being a supportive friend your top priority. Here’s a bit of advice on how to help support your mates.

More than anything just hear out your friend. Chances are they’ve thought long and hard about coming out and have a pretty good idea of what they’re feeling, so follow their lead and give input when asked. Don’t try to argue with them.

Use their preferred pronouns
Although it can take some getting used to, it’s very important to use the pronouns (she, xe, he, they, etc) someone asks you to use. If you’re not sure what they prefer or how to use them, politely ask.

DO NOT ask about body parts
Just because you’re curious, or comfortable talking about your own anatomy, doesn’t mean everyone is. It’s super confronting and can feel very invasive to ask about someone’s body. Just don’t go there.

Use their name
A person’s real name isn’t their legal name, or any other name than the one they identify with. Don’t ever ask what someone’s ‘birth name’ is, it’s disrespectful and can really upset them. If a person tells you they have a new name they want to be called, use it!

Do not ever, EVER use slurs

Although you might not realise it, words like ‘tranny’ or ‘shemale’ are amongst the most hurtful things you can say to a gender diverse person. Don’t ever use these words to anyone, unless asked to by that person.

Terms you may have heard

There are a lot of terms and phrases used to help explain being gender diverse or trans. You may have heard some of these terms used and not fully understood them, so here are some definitions!

Trans is an umbrella term- it's a word that includes all identities that do not align with people's birth assigned sex. Not everyone that applies to likes to be called trans though- but it's the collective term when you're talking about the whole group. Trans and ‘gender diverse’ are commonly used to mean the same thing.

Gender Identity
This refers to how people relate to themselves and, in some cases, their bodies. This can be male, female, something other, or in between. While gender is often associated with lots of traits such as clothing, physical attributes, and interests, none of these things actually can decide a person's gender, only that person can.

Basically, a person’s body. A person’s body parts do not necessarily reflect anything about their gender identity.


Cisgender refers to people that are not trans. Cisgender means a person’s self-perception of their gender matches the gender they were assigned at birth.

Assigned Gender
Assigned gender refers to the gender designated to a person at birth, this does not necessarily align with their gender identity. 


This is the gender assigned to someone at birth and is used on legal documents (unless changed as part of a transition process or any other reason). Assigned gender typically falls into two types; male and female.

MAAB stands for Male Assigned at Birth. This designation is most commonly given to people born with a penis and testicles. DMAB, AMAB, CAMAB are other variants of this that mean similar things.

FAAB stands for Female Assigned at Birth. This designation is most commonly given to people born with a vagina and uterus. DFAB, AFAB, CAFAB are other variants of this that mean similar things.

You might hear the term dysphoria used to mean gender dysphoria or body dysphoria. This is a strong negative feeling related to a person’s self-perception of their gender not matching the gender they were assigned at birth or anatomy.


Not all trans people necessarily experience gender dysphoria, and how much or little a person experiences it is not a deciding factor on whether someone is trans. Some people may take steps including a change of name/pronouns, wearing different clothes, wearing a binder or breast inserts, or taking medical steps or treatments to change their body.

A general term used to refer to people born with anatomy that may differ from traditional ideas of male and female, sometimes also known as intermediate gender.

Trans Woman
A gender diverse person who is female, but may be Male Assigned At Birth or intersex.

Trans Man
A gender diverse person who is male, but may be Female Assigned At Birth or intersex.

Non-Binary Gender
Some people do not identify with traditional ‘binary’ genders. Binary literally means something with two types or options, like male and female, but many people don’t identify with male or female gender identities.

Genderqueer can mean a few things. For some people, it's an umbrella term that includes lots of identities which don't fall under male or female- that is, non-binary identities.

It can also be people whose identities encompass both male and female, or shift between many genders, or are no gender at all. Some people use it to describe their specific non-binary identity, but every person that uses the word means it a little bit differently.

Being Genderqueer isn’t ‘making a statement’ or ‘trying to be trendy’, it’s a person’s identity that they feel strongly and should be respected just as much as any other.

Gender Binary
This refers to the way we are typically taught to think about gender. The binary - meaning two - refers to men and women. Lots of people, though, don't feel like they fit into either of those genders, showing that the gender binary is flawed.

Gender Expression

Gender Expression refers to how someone presents themselves. It can refer to clothing, use of makeup, behaviours, hairstyles and more. We usually describe someone's gender expression as 'feminine', 'masculine' or 'androgynous'. Remember, though, that someone's gender expression doesn't have to reflect their gender identity.

Gender roles

Gender roles are traditional ideas of what different genders should be. It's about how women are expected to be feminine, and behave in particular ways, and similarly men are expected to be masculine

These are the words we use in place of someone's name when we discuss them. They include he, she, they, and can be less obvious ones like actress, actor, etc.

Neutral Pronouns

These are pronouns that don't refer to a particular gender. The most commonly used set is they/them/their. Some people have their own preference of neutral pronouns like ze, fae, ihr, etc. It's a good to ask people their pronouns when you meet them, and if you're not sure how to use the ones they say, politely ask.


Cissexism refers to the negative behaviour of both individuals and society towards trans people. Transphobia is also often used to refer to individual incidents of Cissexism.

Cissexism can mean using the wrong pronouns for a trans person, making jokes at their expense, refusing to talk about trans people or ignoring their existence, and even go as far as acts of violence. These are only a few specific examples.

Transmisogyny refers to types of mistreatment and marginalisation specific to trans women, some of it can even come from other trans people.

A derogatory slur used to attack or upset trans people. This particular term is used especially prominently against transwomen.

Drag is about performing different gender roles. It is an art style, often included in dance and the like. Drag performers are not trans simply because they are drag performers- it isn't a trans identity. Some trans people are drag performers as well, though.



An older term that used to be used to be more commonly used to refer to transgender people, particularly in a medical or psychiatric context. Some trans/gender diverse people may refer to themselves with this term, but today many prefer transgender as a less body/surgery focused alternative, and may feel uncomfortable being described with this term.



Not to be confused with transgender. In modern use this typically refers to people happy with their gender identity (who may be cisgender) and have no desire to transition, but simply enjoy being able to wear clothing not typically associated with their gender assigned at birth. For example a cisgender man who enjoys wearing skirts/dresses.


When speaking of to or about an individual who identifies as transgender, the term transvestite is typically seen as derogatory.


An alternate term with similar in meaning to Transvestite. This is typically offensive to describe most transgender people as, as trans people aren't 'cross dressing' but just wearing the clothes they feel match their gender.