Here are some of the terms we use. This list is far from exhaustive and all-inclusive.
Gender identity refers to the gender or genders we identify with on the inside. When children are born, they are assigned a sex (usually male or female) and a gender (usually boy or girl). But, in reality, nobody really knows their gender because gender identity is not determined by genitals. Gender identity is how we feel inside and other people cannot decide this for us. For example, a parent who is raising a child to be a girl may be surprised when their child tells them that he is a boy.
Cisgender people are people whose gender identity is the same as the sex/gender they were assigned at birth. Transgender people have a different gender identity than their assigned sex/gender at birth. In many cultures, we grow up believing that everyone is either boy or girl, man or woman. But, gender is not so “either/or”; it is much more fluid. People may identify as girl, boy, man or woman, neither, or both. There are a wide range of gender identities including genderqueer, gender fluid, bigender, agender, two spirit and many more
Sex is determined based on reproductive and sexual anatomy. When children are born (or even before), they are usually categorized as male or female, based on a quick glance at their genitals. Some people are intersex, meaning their reproductive and sexual anatomy doesn’t seem to fit typical definitions of female or male. In spite of dominant thinking that everyone is born male or female, being intersex is completely natural. As mentioned above, the sex we are assigned does not determine how we identify.
Gender expression is the way we “express” gender, including what we wear, our mannerisms and the things we do. Our expressions are often limited by what is considered okay for our gender. For example, boys and men aren’t supposed to wear dresses or make-up. Girls and women aren’t supposed to act too “masculine.” Gender creative or gender non-conforming people don’t limit their expression based on what is expected for their gender. It is completely healthy for children and adults to have a wide range of gender expressions.
Sexual orientation is our emotional and physical and romantic attraction to others, which can include people of different sexes or gender identities. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual are common terms used to describe an individual’s sexual orientation. Some other identities include asexual (not experiencing sexual attraction), pansexual and omnisexual (attracted to people of all gender identities and sexes).