One of the biggest stretches for parents and grandparents today is the new fluidity in gender identification. That means in order to enter the world of our children and grandchildren we have to put aside our most basic assumptions that there are only two genders and we can instantly recognize which is which.
According to the Daily Beast, “Just in the last ten years, web searches for ‘genderqueer’ and ‘nonbinary’ have grown by a magnitude of at least ten times.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has added both terms, the Associated Press Stylebook uses ‘they’ as a singular gender-neutral pronoun, and Facebook gives several dozen options for self-identification when creating a personal profile. Moreover, many states are beginning to allow the use of “X” in gender fields rather than “M” and “F” on official documents.
Research shows that each generation is more accepting of gender fluidity than the generation that came before it. Young people born after 1996, the so-called Generation Z, are the most passionate about LGBT equality. They are also less likely to identify as heterosexual themselves. To help you navigate their brave, new world, I’ve assembled a mini-dictionary of relevant terms.
Ally. A heterosexual person who supports and respects members of the LGBTQ community.
Bigender. A person who fluctuates between traditionally male and female identities.
Cisgender, sometimes just “cis”. This refers to people whose gender identity aligns with their assigned sex at birth. “Cis” comes from the Latin, which means “on this side of” as opposed to “trans,” which means across or “on the opposite side of.”
Gay. Men or women who experience attraction solely or primarily to members of the same gender. It’s also an umbrella term for the queer community as a whole.
Gender binary. The idea that there are only two genders and that every person is one of those two.
Gender fluid. A person who is gender fluid may feel more male some days and more female other days. To him/her gender is dynamic and changing rather than static.
Genderqueer. An umbrella term to describe someone who doesn’t identify with conventional gender identities, roles, expression and/or expectations.
Homosexual. A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex/gender. Since it was once a category of mental illness, the LGBTQ community prefers the terms gay or lesbian.
Husband. Both men in a gay marriage.
Intersex. About 1% of children are born with chromosomes, hormones, genitalia and/or other sex characteristics that are not exclusively male or female. Most are assigned a male or female identity by their doctors and/or families.
LGBTQ: Acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning. This is shorthand for all the people who have a non-normative gender or sexuality. Sometimes there’s a “+” at the end to be even more inclusive.
Pansexuality. Also called omnisexuality, this refers to one’s attraction toward people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Also called gender-blind.
Metrosexual. A man with a strong aesthetic sense who spends more time, energy, or money on his appearance and grooming than is considered gender normative.
Mx. An honorific that is gender neutral. It is often the option of choice for people who do not identify within the gender binary: Mx. Jones runs a great nursery.
Non-binary. This describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman.
Queer. An umbrella term to describe individuals who don’t identify as straight and/or cisgender. Due to its historic use as a slur, it is not embraced by all LGBTQ people.
Sex assigned at birth (SAAB). This phrase is used to recognize a person’s assigned sex as opposed to his/her gender identity.
Sex reassignment surgery (SRS). A group of surgical options that alter a person’s biological sex. “Gender confirmation surgery” is considered by many to be a more affirming term.
Stealth. A trans person who is not “out” as trans and is perceived/known by others as cisgender.
Straight. A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to people who are not their same sex/gender. A more colloquial term for the word heterosexual.
Third gender. Describes a person who does not identify with either man or woman, but identifies with another gender. It is a way to move beyond the gender binary.
Trans*. An umbrella term covering a range of identities beyond socially-defined gender norms. Trans written with an asterisk is often used to indicate that one is including non-binary identities as well as transgender men (transmen) and transgender women (transwomen).
Transgender. Describes someone who has transitioned from living as one gender to living as another. It’s an umbrella term for anyone whose sex assigned at birth does not correspond to his gender identity today.
They: Many people in the gay community prefer a non-binary pronoun (ungrammatical as it may be) when referring to themselves.
Wife: Both women in a gay marriage.
Ze , zir, zee, zerr and zeer.These are gender neutral pronouns preferred by some trans people. They replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively.
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