Glossary: Transgender and gender identity

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Gender identity

One's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or a girl).


Refers to a person whose biological sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations that make a person's sex ambiguous. The term intersex is not interchangeable with or a synonym for transgender.


The classification of people as male or female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex based on a combination of bodily charac-teristics including chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs and genitals.

Sexual orientation

Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual. For example, a man who transitions from male to female and is attracted to other women would be identified as a lesbian.

Sex reassignment surgery

Surgical alteration, which is only one small part of transition. Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have this surgery.


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.


Altering one's birth sex is a complex, long-term process. Transition includes some or all of the following: personal, legal and medical adjustments; telling one's family, friends and/or co-workers; changing one's name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly one or more forms of surgery.

Source: GLAAD Media Reference Guide. For a longer, more detailed list, go to


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