VIDEO: Understanding gender language

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Gender socially defines but can be tricky to understand when it doesn't conform to traditional societal norms.

The language around gender is rapidly evolving, as more and more people break out of the standard gender definition.

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Here's a quick, simplified guide to understanding some gender terms.

These terms can have different meanings or broader definitions in different parts of the country. This list is designed to give you the simplest explanation to help you distinguish between them. Here's some guidance we've collected from NLGJA, The Association of LGBTQ Journalists.


The state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones)

gender fluid

Denoting or relating to a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.

gender nonconforming

When a gender identity or expression does not necessarily conform to the traditional view of two genders.

gender identity

An individual's emotional and psychological sense of having a gender; feeling like a man, woman, both or neither (gender nonconformity). Does not necessarily align with an individual's sex at birth.


Also known as nonbinary. Refers to a person who identifies as neither male nor female. Some genderqueer people, but not all, also identify as transgender.


Refers to individuals whose gender identity and/or expression may not match their physical, sexual characteristics or sex assigned at birth. Some female and male cross-dressers, drag queens or kings, female or male impersonators and intersex individuals may also identify as transgender.


Refers to a person whose gender identity aligns with the gender and sex assigned at birth (i.e., not a transgender man/woman). Colloquially shortened to "cis" or combined as cis woman or cis man. The word cisgender distinguishes without assuming that cisgender is the neutral or normal state.
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