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Gender Justice Glossary  

This list has been created collaboratively between the staff at the UC San Diego Women’s Center and UC San Diego LGBT Resource Center. We built this page together as both Centers seek to create space for thinking critically about gender and power, as well as the impact of gender, gender identity and gender expression on individuals, communities and institutions. Intersectional feminism and its understanding of patriarchy, white supremacy and power guides our approach. We hope that this information helps you in your exploration of gender justice issues. 

Language is and always will be changing and is often contested. Additionally, language within academic spaces can be inaccessible and elitist. We hope that this page can serve as a means to gain clarity around terms central to our work and regularly used in our spaces. 


Agender: An umbrella term encompassing many different genders of people who commonly do not have a gender and/or have a gender that they describe as neutral. (source: Trans Student Educational Resources website)  

Ableism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people who have mental, emotional and physical disabilities. (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Bigender:  Refers to those who identify as two genders. Can also identify as multigender (identifying as two or more genders). Do not confuse this term with Two-Spirit, which is specifically associated with Native American and First Nations cultures.  (source: Trans Student Educational Resources website)  

Cisgender (adj.): Non-trans. From a Latin prefix meaning “on the same side,” as opposed to trans- which means “across.” Describes people whose gender identity matches what is expected of them in their culture based on their sex assigned at birth—e.g. people assigned male at birth who identify as men and people assigned female at birth who identify as women.(source: Trans* Ally Workbook: Getting Pronouns Right & What It Teaches Us About Gender, Shlasko & Hofius, 2014)

Cissexism/Genderism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people whose gender and/or gender expression falls outside of cis-normative constructs.  This system is founded on the belief that there are, and should be, only two genders & that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. Within cissexism cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans*/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group. (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Cissexism: A system of bias in favor of cisgender people, in which people whose gender identities do not match their assigned genders are considered inferior (Source: "Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community" Erickson-Schroth, 2014) 

Cissexism/Cisnormativity: The system of oppression that values and privileges cisgender people, upholds the gender binary, and marginalizes, oppresses, and makes invisible the lives and experiences of transgender and nonbinary people. (Source: Amherst College)

Closed spaces (and why do we have them):  Closed spaces are intended to provide space for a specific identity-based community.  Although no university community member can ever be excluded from a student or an employee organization based on protected categories, these spaces are created to deepen conversation, build community, and strengthen relationships within a specific community. Often referred to as “Intentional Spaces” or with language similar to “This group/space is intended for…”

Enby: the abbrebriation of nonbinary using the phonetic spelling. "NB" already means several things, including "non-black" as in NBPOC ("non-black people of color). This is a term created by Black women activists (source: anamardoll and Sean Dajour Smith,)

Equity: When we use equity vs. equality, we do intentionally. Equity entails challenging systems of inequality with a specific focus on understanding that diverse communities need diverse solutions in order to foster equity 

Femme: Gender expressions that reclaim/claim and/or disrupt traditional constructs of femininity; this term that has historically used in the lesbian community and it is being increasingly used by other LGBTQIA people. (source:  UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary

Gender: A set of cultural identities, expressions and roles — codified as feminine or masculine — that are assigned to people, based upon the interpretation of their bodies, and more specifically, their sexual and reproductive anatomy. Gender can be understood to have several components, including gender identity, gender expression and gender roles. Since gender is a social construction, it is possible to reject or modify the assignment made, and develop something that feels truer and just to oneself (source: GLSEN Safe Space Kit)

Gender Binary System: refers to the faulty assumption that an individu­al’s sex, gender identity, and gender expression always line up in predictable ways—for example, that everyone who is born with a uterus identifies as a woman and expresses herself through femininity—and further that there are two and only two sexes, and two and only two genders (where identity and expression are conflated). This is just not true. At the same time, since most of us are taught to believe in this model, its impact on our lives is very real. (source: Trans Allyship Workbook, Shlasko & Hofius, 2017)

Gender Expression: Any combination of how someone outwardly presents external gender characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as masculine or feminine, including dress, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. (GLSEN Trans Action Handout)

Gender Equity: the social constructions of gender has led to disparities in social, economic, and political opportunities. To achieve gender equity, the impacts of gender based oppression needs to be identified and addressed in ways that foster equity between all genders with an understanding that diverse communities need diverse solutions. 

Gender Identity: Gender identity refers to people’s own understandings of themselves in terms of gendered categories like man and woman, boy and girl, transgender, genderqueer, and many others. Gender identity cannot be observed; the only way you can know someone’s gender identity is if they tell you. Some people’s gender identity is consistent for their whole lives; other people experience shifts in their gender identity over time. (Trans Allyship Workbook, Shlasko & Hofius, 2017)

Gender Nonconforming: people who do not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society. Sometimes abbreviated GNQ. (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Gender Oppression: The system of oppression that targets and marginalizes cisgender women, transgender, and nonbinary people on individual, cultural, and institutional levels by reinforcing sexism and genderism. Gender oppression also maintains patriarchal power for cisgender men.

Genderqueer: An identity commonly used by people who do not identify or express their gender within the gender binary. Those who identify as genderqueer may identify as neither male nor female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, or may simply feel restricted by gender labels. Not everyone who identifies as genderqueer identifies as trans or nonbinary. Sometimes abbreviated GQ. (source: Trans Student Educational Resources website)  

Intersex (adj.):  A term used to describe the experience of naturally (that is, without any medical intervention) developing primary or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society's definitions of male or female. Intersex is an umbrella term and there are around 20 variations of intersex that are included in this umbrella term.  Many visibly Intersex people are mutilated in infancy and early childhood by doctors to make the individual’s sex characteristics conform to society’s idea of what normal bodies should look like. Intersex people are relatively common, although society's denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. (source:UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Intersectional Feminism: a commitment to viewing social justice issues through a lens that recognizes the compounding impact of systemic oppression on those with multiple marginalized identities.  

Intersectionality: A term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to describe the way that multiple systems of oppression interact in the lives of those with multiple marginalized identities.  Intersectionality looks at the relationships between multiple marginalized identities and allows us to analyze social problems more fully, shape more effective interventions, and promote more inclusive advocacy amongst communities (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Masculine of Center: is a term, coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project, that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/ womxn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi, trans-masculine etc. (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Nonbinary: A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual. For some people who identify as nonbinary there may be overlap with other concepts and identities like gender expansive and gender nonconforming. Nonbinary identities may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new ideas of self. (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Privilege: a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group.  The concept has roots in WEB DuBois’ work on “psychological wage” and white people’s feelings of superiority over Black people.  Peggy McIntosh wrote about privilege as a white woman and developed an inventory of unearned privileges that she experienced in daily life because of her whiteness. (source:UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Pronouns: Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person.  Examples are they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his.  In English and some other languages, pronouns have been tied to gender and are a common site of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect.) (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Queer: Historically, queer has been used as an epithet/slur against people whose gender, gender expression and/or sexuality do not conform to dominant expectations. Some people have reclaimed the word queer and self identify as such. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into norms/being “abnormal.” Manifestations of oppression within LGBTQIA+ movements such as racism, sizeism, ableism, cissexism, transmisogyny as well as assimilation politics, resulted in many people being marginalized, thus, for some, queer is a radical and anti-assimilationist stance that captures multiple aspects of identities. (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Race: A social construct that divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliations, cultural history, ethnic classification, based on the social, economic, and political context of a society at a given period of time. (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary)

Racism: The systematic subordination of marginalized racial groups (Indigenous/Native American, Black, Chicanx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and non-white Latinx people, non-white Middle Eastern people, etc.) who have relatively little social power in the United States, by members of the agent/dominant/privileged racial group who have relatively more social power (white). (source: UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center Glossary

Reclaimed Words: As language evolves, some individuals and communities choose to identify with terms that had previously been used as slurs against them. The words are “reclaimed” and given new meaning, often imbued with a sense of pride and resilience. Examples include, “queer,” “dyke,” and “tranny,” among others. It’s important to remember that identity is unique to each individual; not all members of a community readily accept the use of reclaimed words, as they may still find them offensive and hurtful (GLSEN Safe Space Kit). 

Sexism: The systematic, institutional, pervasive, and routine mistreatment of women and feminine people. This mistreatment creates an imbalance of power in society that renders women and feminine people disadvantaged. The belief that maleness and masculinity are superior to femaleness and femininity. (Gender and Sexuality Center @ University of Texas @ Austin

Transgender (adj.): Used most often as an umbrella term, and frequently abbreviated to “trans.” This adjective describes a wide range of identities and experiences of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. Not all trans people undergo medical transition (surgery or hormones). 

Transition: can refer to any of the medical, social, legal, spiritual and personal processes that a trans person may go through in order to live their life in a way that works for their gender. Asking people to call them a different pronoun than before can be part of someone’s transition. (source: Trans Allyship Workbook, Shlasko & Hofius, 2017)

Two Spirit: A contemporary term used to identify Native American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender individuals with traditional and cultural understandings of gender roles and identity.  Encompassing term used is “Two Spirit” adopted in 1990 at the 3rd International Native Gay & Lesbian Gathering in Winnipeg, Canada. Term is from the Anishinabe language meaning to have both female and male spirits within one person.  Has a different meaning in different communities. (Source: Mending the Rainbow: Working with the Native LGBT/Two Spirit Community

 There are a variety of definitions and feelings about the term “two spirit” – and this term does not resonate for everyone.  


Why an "x"?: Various communities utilize an x to transform gender-specific terms into more inclusive form of identity for women, men, nonbinary people and those who are gender nonconforming. Examples of uses include: womxn, Latinx, Filipinx, ect. There are nuanced approaches to the usage of the ‘x’ that are community specific based on the evolution of language and impacts of colonization.