ACLU: Transgender 101: A Glossary Of Terms

On February 22, 2017, President Trump directed the Education and Justice departments to revoke guidance prohibiting transgender discrimination in public schools. Under the now defunct guidance, schools could not bar students from using bathrooms and locker rooms matching their sexual identity. Transgender people already face discrimination, harassment, violence and worse, and this move by the Trump administration effectively allows schools to legally discriminate against transgender students, singling them out in an environment that should instead foster inclusiveness.

When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled not to reinstate the Trump administration’s “travel ban” executive order, Trump tweeted, “See you in court.” This is also the stance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “No president is above the law. See you in court,” reads the cover of the Winter 2017 issue of the ACLU’s “Stand” magazine.

As various transgender rights cases weave through the legal system, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. Below is a glossary of terms from the Winter 2017 issue of “Stand” magazine.


TRANSGENDER OR TRANS: A person whose gender identity differs from the person’s sex assigned at birth. A transgender man is a man who was assigned female at birth. A transgender woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth.

CISGENDER: A person whose gender identity aligns with the person’s sex assigned at birth.

NON-BINARY: One of many terms describing the identity of a person who identifies outside of the traditional male-female binary.

GENDER IDENTITY: One’s internal core sense of belonging to a particular gender, such as male or female. Gender identity is innate and cannot be altered by external forces.

SEX ASSIGNED AT BIRTH: The gender assigned to a newborn by a medical provider based on a cursory examination of external genitalia.

SEX CHARACTERISTICS: The components of sex that include chromosomes, hormones, reproductive organs, genitalia, secondary sex characteristics and gender identity.

GENDER DYSPHORIA: A condition in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, marked by a strong and persistent discomfort with a person’s sex assigned at birth. According to Dr. Deanna Adkins of Duke University’s Center for Child and Adolescent Gender Care, “Treatment for gender dysphoria focuses on alleviating distress through supporting outward expression of the person’s gender identity and bringing the body in alignment with that identity to the extent deemed medically appropriate.”

(As published in the Winter 2017 issue of “Stand” by American Civil Liberties Union, page 22)

The ACLU’s website has more information about transgender rights. (“Know Your Rights: Transgender People and the Law“)

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