Understanding Gender Identity

The importance of understanding gender identity is crucial for everyone; both those who are gender diverse and those who aren’t. The physical features (or biological sex) that you are born with don’t necessarily define your gender. In the past, society has traditionally classified sex and gender as the same thing, but we now know that is not the case. Whilst it might sound complicated, it’s really quite simple. Let’s get into the nitty gritty.

What are some of the important terms I should be aware of related to Gender Identity?

  • Cisgender (cis) – someone whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth
  • Transgender (trans) – someone whose gender identity differs to some extent to the sex assigned at birth
  • Non binary – an umbrella term for gender identities outside of the ‘male’ and ‘female’ binary. Non-binary individuals may also identify as gender fluid, trans masculine, trans feminine, genderqueer, gender neutral, androgynous or agender
  • Gender Diverse – an umbrella term describing someone whose gender identity is diverse from the ‘binary’ framework
  • Sistergirl/Brotherboy – terms used for trans individuals in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • Dead name – a way to describe the former name a person no longer uses as it does not align with their gender or identity
  • Misgendering – an event where someone addresses a person using language that does not match their gender identity, including pronouns and names
  • Gender affirmation/transition – social, medical and/or legal steps a trans person takes to live as the gender they are
  • Gender pronouns – how people publicly express their gender identity; cis, trans and gender-neutral/genderfluid individuals may use she, he, they, ze and a range of other neo (new) pronouns
  • AFAB/AMAB – assigned female at birth and assigned male at birth (used for cis and trans individuals)

What does Gender Identity mean?

In a nutshell, gender identity is someone’s own internal sense of self and their gender. This differs from someone’s gender expression, or the way they outwardly express themselves. Someone’s gender expression may be congruent with their gender identity but also may differ for a variety of reasons (including not feeling ready or safe to ‘come out’ or ‘invite in’ yet; more on those terms later.). Individuals who are trans may choose to change their style, dress, name and legal status, as well as receive medical treatment such as puberty blockers, hormones and surgery to create harmony between their presentation and their gender identity. However, not all trans people will do this, and can still be referred to as trans. Often, people describe their gender as being fluid. This is a term used to describe a person with shifting or changing gender, and may identify as non-binary, genderfluid or genderqueer. They may choose to use pronouns congruent with their assigned sex at birth, or may choose to use they/them pronouns or other pronouns.

Spencer Health is proud the be a gender affirming practice and are welcoming of all clients who are looking for support with their gender identity or sexual orientation.

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