Gender and sex basics

Gender identity and expression

Author: Moonbeam. Reviewed by Elapids and Nix.

Gender identity, or the manner in which you identify yourself in terms of gender, can develop very early in life, as young as 3. Gender expression, how our appearances and actions communicate our gender identity to other people, is initially determined by social and cultural factors. These aspects of gender are not fixed, but can change over time. 

For some individuals, this may be a slow process. A person may be assigned female at birth, identify as female until some point in their early adulthood, and then identify as male for the rest of their life. For others, fluctuation in gender identity or expression may change much more rapidly, over months, weeks, or even days. This is sometimes referred to as being “gender-fluid,” which is also a term used by some non-binary people.

Common labels and terms

Author: Lilith. Edited by Moonbeam. Reviewed by Elapids, Moonbeam, and Nix.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the world of different genders and experimenting with one’s own gender for the very first time. Things can be intimidating, especially when you aren’t sure what everything means. This short list of common terms can help everything make a little more sense while exploring and reading about gender.

Cisgender: Someone who is cisgender identifies with the gender they were assigned when they were born. Someone who was assigned male at birth and identifies as a boy or a man, or someone who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a girl or woman would be cisgender.

Transgender: Someone who does not identify with their assigned gender at birth. This is an umbrella term that covers both binary trans and non-binary trans individuals, but is also commonly used as an identity by itself.

Non-Binary: Also commonly referred to as NB or Enby. Non-Binary individuals do not identify with the binary male and female genders. Non-Binary is an umbrella term referring to many identities that fall in-between and or outside of the binary male and female, but is also commonly used as an identity by itself. Non-Binary falls under the trans umbrella, and some non-binary individuals may identify as trans as well as non-binary while others may not.

AGAB: Short for “Assigned Gender At Birth”. This just means what is marked in the sex or gender box on someone’s birth certificate when they are born.

AMAB: Short for “Assigned Male At Birth”.

AFAB: Short for “Assigned Female At Birth”.

MtF: Short for “Male to Female”.

FtM: Short for “Female to Male”

MtNB: Short for “Male to Non-Binary”.

FtNB: Short for “Female to Non-Binary”.

HRT: Short for “Hormone Replacement Therapy”.

GCS: Short for “Gender Confirmation Surgery” or “Gender Confirming Surgery”

GRS: Short for “Gender Reassignment Surgery” or “Genital Reconstructive Surgery”. These are slightly outdated terms which have mostly been dropped in favor of “GCS”.

SRS: Short for “Sex Reassignment Surgery” or “Sexual Reassignment Surgery”. These are slightly outdated terms which have mostly been dropped in favor of “GCS”.

Gender Dysphoria: A sense of unhappiness, ranging from mild to intense, stemming from the disconnect between one’s gender and their assigned gender at birth. Gender dysphoria can be easy to pinpoint in some cases, or can be a more general unhappiness with no apparent cause. Gender dysphoria can be difficult to recognize, especially in those who have not discovered or realized that they are trans yet, but is often recognized as gender dysphoria in retrospect.

Gender Euphoria: The opposite of gender dysphoria. Where dysphoria is discomfort towards the disconnect between their gender at birth, gender euphoria is a sense of comfort and happiness stemming from things that affirm one’s gender.

Gender Confirmation Surgery: A surgical procedure which, for transgender and non-binary individuals, makes changes to the body in ways that relieve gender dysphoria and/or provide gender euphoria. This includes certain surgeries which operate on the face, neck, voice, breasts, genitalia, and other locations as desired by the patient. Often used interchangeably with “GRS” or “SRS”.

Bottom Surgery: Colloquial term referring to gender-confirming surgical procedures which target one’s genitalia (e.g. vaginoplasty or phalloplasty). This includes both procedures which aim to create a new genital arrangement in place of the one the patient is born with, and procedures which aim to stop undesired biological processes from occurring (e.g., hormone production or menstruation).

Top Surgery: Colloquial term referring to gender-confirming surgical procedures which target one’s breasts. (e.g. breast augmentation or mastectomy)

Intersex: Any individual whose sexual organs, genitals, and/or chromosomal patterns do not align within typical binary standards of male and female. Someone who is intersex may have genitals that fall outside typical standards of male or female, a mix of internal sexual organs (such as both ovarian and testicular tissue), or chromosome patterns outside XX (usually meaning “female”) or XY (usually meaning “male”) such as XXX or XXY. Some people who are born this way may also refer to themself as hermaphroditic or as a hermaphrodite, however many do not, as the label is sometimes used as a slur against those who are intersex. It is also important to note that there is also a distinction between the two terms and the most important thing to do is refer to someone as they ask you to refer to them.

Agender: “Genderless” or “genderfree”. Sometimes described as having no gender, a lack thereof, or being gender neutral. This tends to fall under the non-binary umbrella, but someone who is agender may not necessarily identify as non-binary in addition to being agender.

Neutrois: “Neutral” or “null” gender. Similar to agender in that many who identify with the neutrois label may also experience feelings of genderlessness, though this is not true to every neutrois person’s experience. Many people who identify with this label may also identify with the agender label, but again, not all identify with both labels. This tends to fall under the non-binary umbrella, but someone who is neutrois may not necessarily identify as non-binary in addition to being neutrois.

Third Gender: A category that means someone does not identify as male or female. People under the third gender category can identify as one or more of many labels, such as xenogenders.

Salmacian: A sex identity in which someone desires a set of mixed sex characteristics, such as having both a penis and a vagina, or breasts and a penis, or some other genital configuration that can be considered a mix of multiple sexes. This label is also known as aphrodisian, bisex, biadic, ambissex, ambiadic, and bigenital. Some people who identify this way may also refer to themself as hermaphroditic or as a hermaphrodite, but many do not, as the label is sometimes used as a slur against those who are intersex.

Genderfluid: While many express that gender is fluid and changes over time as one grows and develops as a person, a genderfluid individual feels that their gender is not set at a fixed point on the gender spectrum. They may identify as any gender or combination of genders at any given time, and may experience a gender change at random or in response to different sets of circumstances. This is one of many terms that fall under the non-binary umbrella, but not all people who are genderfluid may identify with the term.

Some Examples of Other Non-Binary Identities:

  • Demigender (Demigirl/Demiboy/Demifluid)
  • Bigender
  • Pangender
  • Multigender
  • Genderqueer
  • Amalgender (specific to intersex people)
  • Culturally Specific Genders such as Two-Spirit
  • Galactian Alignments (Solarian, Lunarian, Stellarian, etc.)
  • Xenogenders and Neo-Identities (Monstergender, Catgender, Abimegender, etc.)

Further reading