Facebook recently added an exciting new feature that gives you far more freedom when defining your gender identity, as well as an option to use ‘they’ pronouns. In total, there are 58 gender categories to choose from (you can have more than one as well). This marks a long overdue but positive step forwards in terms of visibility and the recognition of the vastness and variation that comes with the construction of ones gender identity.
We’ve created a breakdown of all the new options so you can make sure you get the most out of your new gender identity expression abilities on the ol’ book-of-face!
First off, if you’re a bit new to the wonderful, diverse and kinda confusing world of gender identities, you can get a few essential facts via this awesome comic done by our friend Sam Orchard. It could also be useful to make sure you know what ‘gender binary‘ and ‘umbrella term‘ mean (you’ll see why soon enough).
Also, make sure to keep in mind that terminology has a personal definition for each person in how they relate both to themselves and the world. This makes it extremely difficult to correlate a completely accurate definition for any one identity.
“Gender is a language that agender people don’t speak.” Agender is an identity that means ‘without’ gender. Agender individuals have no gender identity and/or no gender expression. Often they identify as a person rather than a gender.
An androgyne individual may possess traits that are simultaneously masculine and feminine or neither. Some androgynes identify with both traditional genders, while others consider themselves to be neither, or a combination of aspects of both male and female. Having an androgynous appearance doesn’t necessarily make a person androgyne.
Androgyny, or an androgynous person is generally someone who appears as a combination of both masculine and feminine traits. The word androgyny can apply to both superficial (the way one dresses or one’s physical appearance) and psychological characteristics (the gender identity ‘androgyne’). One’s gender identity may be ‘female’ or ‘male’ – but they can act and look androgynous without this being part of their gender identity.
Bigender is a descriptor for people who identify with two genders. A bigender person can identify as both genders at the same time (like androgyne) or go back and forth between the two. The two genders that a bigender person identifies with don’t have to be ‘male’ and ‘female’ but rather a combination of any two gender identities on the gender spectrum. Some bigender individuals switch genders, sometimes using different personas for either gender to feel comfortable in different situations.
Cisgender (Cis for short) is a term used to describe a gender identity that matches an individual’s sex. So, if your birth certificate is marked ‘Female’ and when you grow up you identify as a female woman, this means that you have a cisgender gender identity. Being cisgender is often thought of as having no gender identity – however that is a popular misconception – everyone has a gender identity, and no one gender identity is more natural than any other.
A person whose sex and gender identity is female. A common misconception is that a cis female has a feminine gender presentation, when she actually can have some or many personality characteristics/parts of her appearance that are generally considered to be masculine. However, unless she identifies with a male or other gender identity, she is a cis female.
A person whose sex and gender identity is male. A common misconception is that a cis male has a masculine gender presentation, when he actually can have some or many personality characteristics/parts of his appearance that are generally considered to be feminine. However, unless he identifies with a female or other gender identity, he is a cis male.
Female to male (or FTM for short) refers to those who are transgender or transexual and are in the process of transitioning from female to male. Transitioning can either involve gender reassignment surgery and/or hormonal treatment to reassign their female physical appearance so that it matches their male gender identity. However, one doesn’t have to undergo surgical or hormonal intervention in order to identify as FTM.
Gender fluid describes a person who has no fixed gender identity on the gender spectrum. Being gender fluid (or being any gender identity for that matter) doesn’t define how someone acts, dresses or appears but is a psychological gender identity. Defying the social stereotypes of certain gender appearances doesn’t necessarily correlate with any given gender identity – so people who look gender fluid may actually identify with another specific gender identity.
This term refers to individuals whose behaviours, appearance or interests fall outside what is considered typical for their gender identity. For example, a person who identifies as having a male gender identity, but who exhibits traits usually pertaining to a female gender identity expression (wearing dresses or makeup) can be seen as gender nonconforming. Gender nonconforming can also be seen as a political identity, adopted by those who refuse or dispute assigning certain behaviours or appearances to a specific gender identity.
Gender questioning refers to an individual who is questioning either their personal gender identity or constructions of gender in a wider sense. Gender questioning people are often seen to be confused about their gender identity or critical of the social norms surrounding gender identity.
The term gender variant is usually an umbrella term, collecting together all of the gender identities that sit outside male or female. In and of itself, to be gender variant means to not exhibit the typical behaviour/appearance associated with your gender given at birth.
Genderqueer can be an umbrella term used to describe those whose identity is non-normative (not male or female). It can also be used as a stand-alone gender identity itself , pertaining to feelings of being neither male or female, both, or somewhere in between. Genderqueer is also a term used to refer to a political standing, similar to gender nonconforming, where one rejects the binary of gender or the assigning of characteristics or behaviours to one gender identity.
The term intersex is a general term assigned to those whose reproductive or sexual anatomy doesn’t fit the typical definitions of either male or female. Genital variance can usually be assigned by doctors at birth, and can lead to a child having corrective surgery to make them appear male or female before they are old enough to consent. Variance in ones reproductive system may not be discovered until later in life during puberty and the development of ones body.
Male to female (or MTF for short) refers to those who are transgender or transexual and are in the process of transitioning from male to female. Transitioning can involve gender reassignment surgery and/or hormones treatment to reassign their male physical appearance so that it matches their female gender identity. However, one doesn’t have to undergo surgical or hormonal intervention in order to identify as MTF.
Similar to agendered, neutrois is a term to describe when an individual identifies with no gender identity on the spectrum. There is not one overarching definition for neutrois, however individuals who identify as such sometimes go through a transition process – where they move away from any behaviour or appearance that can be gendered. Whereas, for example, androgyne is a combination of both male and female characteristics, neutrois is an elimination of these characteristics.
Non-binary is an umbrella term for those who do not prescribe to the separate definitions of male and female (for example: gender variant, gender nonconforming, genderqueer) . A non-binary person can carry this as a gender identity, where they feel neither male or female or both at any given time, or a political identity (or both) where they reject and critique the western binary models of male and female gender identities.
Often seen as heavily overlapping with terms such as ‘genderqueer’, ‘gender variant’ and ‘gender fluid’, pangender individuals do not identify with specifically male or female gender identities. Pangender people can feel as though their gender identity is fixed (feeling as though they are many gender identities at once) or fluid (moving between various and multiple gender identities).
Transgender is an umbrella term encapsulating gender identities where an individual’s self identification or gender identity does not match the one associated with their assigned sex at birth. A transgender individual may identify with any gender identity (not only male or female), and may or may not have undergone gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatment.
A transgender female is a person whose female self identification or female gender identity doesn’t match their assigned sex. A transgender woman may or may not have undergone gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatment.
A transgender male is a person whose male self identification or male gender identity doesn’t match their assigned sex. A transgender man may or may not have undergone gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatment.
Often mistaken or merged with ‘transgender’, transsexual is a term referring to a person who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. The term transsexual is often more closely associated than term ‘transgender’ is with the wish to realign one’s sex and gender identity through the use of medical intervention.
A transsexual female is a person whose female gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. A transsexual woman either wants to begin/is in the process of/has already finished transitioning to align their sex and their gender identity through the use of medical intervention.
A transsexual male is a person whose male gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. A transsexual man either wants to begin/is in the process of/has already finished transitioning to align their sex and their gender identity through the use of medical intervention.
The addition of an asterix to the end of the word ‘trans’ is a special effort to indicate that the term functions as an umbrella term for an extremely varied range of identities, including culturally specific ones. Our friends over at Rainbow Youth use the term trans* to indicate that they include identities such as: whakawahine, tangata ira tane, FtM, MtF, transsexual, fa’afafine, transgender, whakawahine, transmen, transwomen, akava’ine, leiti, genderqueer and gender-neutral people.
The term two-spirit is an umbrella term which refers to Native American/First Nation individuals who are non-heterosexual or have a gender identity that is not male or female. Historically, the term meant to have both female and male spirits within one being, however the term had/has different meanings in different communities or tribes.