Transgender Health Definitions

Sex: A person’s sex, as assigned at birth. This is usually identified by one’s reproductive organs, hormones and/or chromosomes. The chromosomes are XX for females and XY for males.

Differences of sex development (DSD): When a person’s reproductive organs, hormones and/or chromosomes are not consistently male or female. A person born with DSD may identify as “intersex."

Gender identity: A person’s internal sense of being boy/man, girl/woman, neither, or both. Your gender identity may not be the same as the sex assigned to you at birth.

Gender fluid: One who exhibits a wider range of gender identity and expression. People who describe themselves as gender fluid do not feel restricted by society’s typical gender norms and expectations. They may identify and express themselves as male or female or along a spectrum. Their identity and expression may vary over time.

Gender expression: The way a person presents their gender to other people. You can express your gender as masculine, gender-neutral, feminine, or something in between any of those descriptions. A person’s gender may be shared, or expressed, through body shape, clothing, accessories, hair style, mannerisms, voice, walk, and interests.

Cisgender: A person who has the same gender identity as the sex assigned to them at birth.

Transgender: A person who does not have the same gender identity as the sex assigned to them at birth. Also includes those who have different gender expressions and behaviors than what society expects for their biologic sex. May or may not involve altering one’s body with hormones and/or surgery. Transgender status does not relate to one’s sexual orientation.

Gender roles: Society’s expectations for a person’s behavior, attitudes and emotions based on the sex assigned to that person at birth.

Gender non-conforming: When gender identity, expression and/or role is not the same as what society expects for a person with that biologic sex.

Sexual orientation: a person’s physical and/or emotional attraction to others. These attractions may change over time or be permanent. Some examples of sexual orientation are shared here.

Straight or heterosexual: A person who feels romantic, emotional and/or sexual attraction to a person of the opposite gender.

Gay: Men who feel romantic, emotional and/or sexual attraction to men.

Lesbian: Women who feel romantic, emotional and/or sexual attraction to women.

Bisexual: A person who feels romantic, emotional and/or sexual attraction to men and/or woman.

Pansexual: A person who feels romantic, emotional and/or sexual attraction to people of various gender identities.

Asexual: A person who does not have sexual feelings or associations.

Other definitions

Queer: A general term used by people who do not identify as heterosexual or cisgender. This term used to insult people. But for some people it is now gaining acceptance.

Questioning: A term used to describe someone who isn’t sure about his or her sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Ally: A heterosexual or cisgender person who supports people who are LGBTQI*.

LGBTQI*: A person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex. 

Note: The asterisk (*) is used to include all other gender and sexual minorities. 

Used with permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research