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This is an educational resource. As a Catholic, Marianist university, we are guided by our mission to foster an educational community that welcomes and includes all people. As a Christian and educational community, we recognize that every person has innate dignity because all people are made in the image and likeness of God and we seek to create an environment where all persons feel respected, safe and valued.

Source: PennState Student Affairs Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity 

Terms & Definitions

Cisgender: Someone whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth, someone who is not trans. The Latin prefix cis means “on the same side of.” Cisgender is often shortened to cis.

Cisgender Privilege: The privileges cisgender people have because their gender identities match their assigned gender and because they are considered “normal”. For example, cis people don’t have to worry about violence and institutionalized discrimination due to the fact they are cis.

Gender: A complex combination of roles, expressions, identities, performances, and more that are assigned gendered meaning by a society. Gender is both self-defined and society-defined. How gender is embodied and defined varies from culture to culture and from person to person.  Gender is a spectrum rather a binary.

Gender Attribution: The act of categorizing people we come into contact with as male, female, or unknown. Gender attribution is questionable because it can lead to misgendering people unintentionally because one can never know a person’s gender identity just by looking at them.

Gender binary: The pervasive social system that tells us there can only be masculine cis men and feminine cis women, and there can be no alternatives in terms of gender identity or expression.

Gender Expression: How one expresses their gender outwardly and/or the facets of a person’s expression which have gendered connotations in our culture. There is no right or wrong way to express your gender.

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of what gender they are. One’s gender identity may or may not align with their assigned gender, and one’s gender identity is not visible to others.

Gender Neutral Pronouns: Pronouns other than the usually gendered he or she. Some examples are ze/hir/hirs, and they/them/their but there are many others.

Gender Non-Conforming: Not fully conforming to gendered social expectations, whether that is in terms of expression, roles, or performance.

Gender Role: Cultural expectations for what people should do with their lives, what activities they should enjoy or excel at, and how they should behave, based on what their gender is.

Genderfluid: This term can be used as a specific identity or as a way of articulating the changing nature of one’s gender identity or expression. People who are genderfluid may feel that their gender identity or expression is constantly changing, or that it switches back and forth.

Genderqueer: This term can be used as an umbrella term for all people who queer gender, as a somewhat similar term to gender nonconforming, or as a specific non-binary gender identity. As an umbrella term is can include gender nonconforming people, non-binary people, and much more. As a specific identity it can generally be understood as a gender that is neither man nor woman, possible in between the two or seen as a totally separate gender altogether.

Sex: A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. A binary system (man/woman) set by the medical establishment, usually based on genitals and sometimes chromosomes. Because this is usually divided into ‘male’ and ‘female’ this category ignores the existence of intersex bodies. See intersex.

Sexual orientation: Refers to who one is sexually attracted to. Gender identity and sexual orientation may affect one another but they are not the same. The term transgender does not refer to sexual orientation; it refers to gender identity and/or expression.

Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. “Transgender” can include transsexuals, cross dressers, drag kings/queens, masculine women, feminine men, and all those who defy what society tells them their “gender” should be.

Transition: To transition can mean a lot of things but a broad definition is the process trans people may go through to become comfortable in terms of their gender. Transitioning may include social, physical, mental, and emotional components and may not fit into the narrative we are used to seeing. Transition may or may not include things like changing one’s name, taking hormones, having surgery, changing legal documents to reflect one’s gender identity, coming out to loved ones, dressing as one chooses, and accepting oneself among many other things. Transition in an individual process.

Two-Spirit: A modern umbrella term used to recognize gender diversity and gender variance within different Native American tribes.

Understand the Theory Behind Our Work

The Women’s Center is a close partner of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at UD.

Women’s and Gender studies focuses on the experiences and perspectives of women and considers how gender intersects with other factors and oppressions, such as race and class, to shape all of our lives. 

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