Gender glossary

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Ryan T. Anderson claimed in February 2018 that transgender rights activists have failed "to offer a plausible definition of gender and gender identity that is independent of bodily sex," instead relying on vague "metaphysics."[1] This mirrors my experience with some opponents of the term "GNU/Linux." So I'll try to clear the air the same way I did for GNU/Linux: by defining the terms as I understand them, as rigorously as I can.


Humans and other vertebrates have two sexes. In theory, half the population are specialized for producing offspring and the other for gathering and defending resources.

Anatomical sex characteristics
Those physical characteristics that ordinarily form a bimodal distribution[2] strongly correlated with the sex chromosome karyotype, which is XX or XY in mammals.
Anatomical sex
How the anatomical sex characteristics manifest in a person's body.
Denoting anatomy well between the male and female modes.
Sex assigned at birth
Birth sex
A medical professional's assessment of to which mode the person's anatomy was closest as a newborn.


"Gender" originally meant only agreement classes of nouns and pronouns in grammar, which in many languages are correlated with the referent's sex. As feminist theory developed, writers extended the term to describe what society considers masculine or feminine. (Some other writers misunderstood it as a euphemism for "sex" to avoid the "software exchange" meaning.)

Gender stereotype
A culture's association of particular aspects of personality and expression with a particular sex assigned at birth.
Gender identity
The sex that an observer would assign based on comparing a person's personality alone, as opposed to anatomy, to the culture's stereotypes.
Gender expression
The sex that an observer would assign based on comparing a person's expression alone, as opposed to anatomy, to the culture's stereotypes.
Cisgender (cis)
Having gender identity matching birth sex.
Transgender (trans)
Having gender identity opposing birth sex.
Having gender identity or expression between the masculine and feminine norms.
Having personality or expression that varies from matching one gender stereotype to the other over time.
The most common English-language pronoun used to refer to a person of unknown gender or to a nonbinary person. Its verb agreement is identical to that of the plural pronoun they: the plain form (not -s form) in the present, and were (not was) in the past tense of be.


Separate from gender identity is sexual orientation ("whom you love").

The anatomy, gender identity, or gender expression that a person prefers in a romantic or sexual partner.
Preferring a romantic or sexual partner of the same sex or gender as oneself.
Heterosexual (het)
Preferring a romantic or sexual partner of the opposite sex or gender to oneself.
The combination of cisgender and heterosexuality, which have represented a privileged group for over the past millennium of Western history.

One popular illustration summarizing the difference among anatomy, birth sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation is "The Genderbread Person" by Sam Killermann.


Near the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the medical community took notice of gender.

Gender dysphoria (GD)
Distress based on mismatch between birth sex and gender identity that seriously interferes with a person's life.
Real-life experience (RLE)
A trial of consistent public expression of a different presentation for several months to determine whether a permanent transition would be effective in treating dysphoria. Said of a transition to the opposite gender.
Gender transition
A treatment for gender dysphoria by allowing a trans person to consistently live in accordance with their gender identity, not their birth sex.
Conversion therapy
An attempt to treat gender dysphoria by changing a trans person's personality to match the stereotype associated with their birth sex, or to treat homosexuality by changing a gay person's orientation to het. This is often done by instilling shame in a person over their personality.
Gender-affirming surgery
Sex reassignment surgery (SRS)
A procedure to treat gender dysphoria by modifying the person's anatomy. Generally the last stage of transition.
A child raised by their parents in a gender-neutral manner in order to make the child's transition from nonbinary to another gender identity less jarring. For example, parents buy both technology toys and parenting toys for their theybies. (Blend of singular "they" and "baby")

Over the years, transition has produced better mental health outcomes than shoehorning them into the opposite expression. If this is metaphysical, then perhaps metaphysics is the most effective model of the effects of gender stereotypes on mental health.

Having a mismatch between a person's limbs and senses and their sensorimotor map.
Body integrity dysphoria (BID)
Body integrity identity disorder (BIID)
Distress based on being transabled that seriously interferes with a person's life.
Synonym for RLE in a transabled person, such as full-time use of crutches or a wheelchair.

Anderson's article also compares transgender people to transabled people. These people want to lose a limb or a sense in order to feel whole. For the few transabled people who have undergone an affirming amputation, the procedure has proven effective in treating their BID. Incidentally, The Bible records in Mark 9:43-48 that Jesus of Nazareth recommended affirming surgery.

TERF wars

Bigotry against trans people.
Transantagonism, with the additional implication that the bigotry is rooted in an anxiety disorder.
Bigotry against gay people, with the additional implication that the bigotry is rooted in an anxiety disorder.

Given the ineffectiveness of conversion therapy, this leaves two ways to treat gender dysphoria. Trans rights advocates prefer expanding availability of transition, which has proven effective over the years. The other, less proven way is to erase gender stereotypes from the culture, so that expectations of personality and expression are no longer coupled to a birth sex. Some opponents of trans rights, who call themselves gender-critical feminists but are more widely known as trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) believe that eradicating the patriarchy that supports gender stereotypes is a better idea in the long run. They claim that abolishing gender saves the cost associated with transition, it better accommodates nonbinary people, and it removes an excuse that a very small number of men have used to assault women and girls. However, as Max Planck observed, culture advances one funeral at a time. It takes several generations to erode a stereotype, and TERFs have offered few if any viable options for the present generation of transgender people.

Transition... Eroding stereotypes... Why not both?


  1. Ryan T. Anderson. "Transgender Ideology Is Riddled With Contradictions. Here Are the Big Ones." The Heritage Foundation, 2018-02-09. Accessed 2019-12-26.
  2. Jesse Singal. "Why So Many Progressives Are Arguing That Biological Sex Doesn't Exist". Singal-Minded, 2019-04-03. Accessed 2019-12-26.