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2SLGBTQ+ Education Guide

A primer on 2SLGBTQ+ identities for the curious, questioning, teachers and allies, and a guide to further resources for research, assignments and interests.

Gender 101

What is gender?

"Gender can refer to the individual and/or social experience of being a man, a woman, or neither. Social norms, expectations and roles related to gender vary across time, space, culture, and individuals." - The 519 (LGBTQ community resource and advocacy center)

“Gender Identity describes our internal understanding and experience of our own gender. Each person’s experience with their gender identity is unique and personal.” - Trevor Project

"Gender is a complex system of identities, expressions, and roles that are usually assigned based on the appearance of one's genitalia at birth. How gender is represented and defined varies from culture to culture and from person to person. Gender is a word that can take on a number of more specific meanings. Just like with sex categories, the separation of these gender categories involves assumptions, including:

  1. That a person's gender will be predictable based on their assigned sex at birth.
  2. That all people fall neatly into one of two gender categories."

University of South Dakota

What about "biological sex"?

"The classification of people as either male, female, or intersex. Sex is usually assigned at birth and is based on an assessment of a person’s reproductive systems, hormones, chromosomes, and other physical characteristics.” - 519 

“The label of one’s sex assignment at birth is often attributed to a child before they can speak, walk, or know for themselves what their gender identity is. As such, sex assignment does not take into account one’s true gender identity.” - Trevor Project 

"Sex is a medical term designating a certain combination of physiological characteristics related to the human reproductive system. These include chromosomes, gonads, hormones, genitalia and secondary sex characteristics (like breast tissue or facial hair). Bodies are generally expected to be easily categorized as one of two sexes, male or female. This involves making assumptions, including:

  1. That there are exactly two clearly differentiated versions of every sex trait which always correspond neatly with the rest.
  2. That all of these traits are unchanging over the course of a person's life."

University of South Dakota

See also above sections on Intersex and the Gender Binary.

What is the Gender Binary?

“Gender Binary: A social system whereby people are thought to have either one of two genders: “man” or “woman.” These genders are expected to correspond to birth sex: male or female. In the gender binary system, there is no room for living between genders or for transcending the gender binary. The gender binary system is rigid and restrictive for many people whose sex assigned at birth does not match up with their gender, or whose gender is fluid and not fixed.” - 519 's Glossary

"Nonbinary: Used to describe people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as outside of the male-female gender binary. Many other words for identities outside the traditional categories of man and woman may be used, such as genderfluid, genderqueer, polygender, bigender, demi gender, or agender. These identities, while similar, are not necessarily interchangeable or synonymous." - Trevor Project

What is Two Spirit? 

"Two Spirit is meant to be an umbrella term that points to the important roles that Two Spirit people held prior to colonization; however, as an umbrella term, specific teachings, roles, meanings, and language must come from the community. For example a Cree ‘Two Spirit’ person from the plains area could go by aayahkwew (roughly translates to “neither man nor woman”) while a Mohawk ‘Two Spirit’ person could go by Onón:wat (I have the pattern of two spirits inside my body). Furthermore, the teachings, roles, and responsibilities for a Two Spirit person differs from community to community...

The identity itself was introduced by the Elder Myra Laramee through a vision she had prior to the 1990 gathering in Winnipeg. Within this vision, Myra shared the vision she had of her Anishinaabemowin name of niizh manidoowag; which roughly translates to having the ability to be neutral through the lens of having both a feminine spirit and masculine spirit within one's body." OutSaskatoon


What is Intersex?

“Intersex: A person born with sex characteristics (chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals) that do not fit the typical medical definitions of male or female bodies.” - 519 

“A socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation. Intersex is a general term used to describe a variety of conditions where a person is born with reproductive and/or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to, or isn't understood to, fit the typical definitions of female or male, and/or is born a chromosomal combination other than XX or XY. Some intersex conditions are Turner Syndrome, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, Klinefelter's Syndrome, MRKH and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.” - Scarleteen 

"Intersex is an umbrella term for differences in sex traits or reproductive anatomy. Intersex people are born with these differences or develop them in childhood. There are many possible differences in genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or chromosomes, compared to the usual two ways that human bodies develop.

Some intersex traits are noticed at birth. Others don’t show up until puberty or later in life. Intersex people often face shame—or are forced or coerced into changing their bodies, usually at a very young age. Most surgeries to change intersex traits happen in infancy.

The word intersex also invokes a community. Intersex people are diverse, coming from all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, genders and orientations, faiths, and political ideologies. We are united by

  1. our experiences living with variations in our sex traits,
  2. the belief that these differences are a natural part of human diversity,
  3. the idea that people deserve their own choices about their own bodies." - InterACT

What does cisgender and transgender mean? 

“Cisgender: A person whose gender identity is in alignment with the sex they were assigned at birth.” - 519 

"Cisgender: Describes people who have a gender identity which is traditionally thought to “match” their assigned sex. For instance, someone who was assigned male at birth who identifies as a man. Often used in relation to transgender." - Scarleteen

“Trans(gender): An umbrella term referring to people whose gender identities differ from the sex they were assigned at birth. “Trans” can mean transcending beyond, existing between, or crossing over the gender spectrum. It includes but is not limited to people who identify* as transgender, transsexual, non-binary or gender non-conforming (gender variant or genderqueer).” -519 

"Transgender (or trans): An umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Many transgender people will transition to align their gender expression with their gender identity, however, you do not have to transition in order to be transgender." - Trevor Project

What about the term transsexual?

"A person whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth. They may or may not undergo medically supportive treatments to align their bodies with their gender identity, such as hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery or other procedures or changes. This term is dated and can be considered offensive if someone does not use it to refer to themselves." - The 519

What does it mean for a transgender person to transition?

“Transition refers to a range of social, legal, and medical changes that some trans people may pursue to affirm their gender identity.” -  519 's Glossary

“Transitioning can refer to any social, legal, and/or medical steps individuals take to affirm their gender identity or gender expression. Not everyone wants to take some or any of these steps, and that is okay — this doesn’t make them any less of who they are. Transitioning for some looks like using a new set of pronouns or wearing different clothing and/or going through the process of changing one’s name on legal documents or changing one’s gender marker on a driver’s license and/or going on hormones or getting surgery to affirm one’s gender. Not all people who identify with gender(s) other than the one they were assigned at birth choose to transition. And for those who do, the process can look millions of different ways.” - Trevor Project's Coming Out Guide 

How are pronouns important to gender?

"In English, whether we realize it or not, people frequently refer to us using pronouns when speaking about us. Often, when speaking of a singular human in the third person, these pronouns have a gender implied -- such as “he” to refer to a man/boy or “she” to refer to a woman/girl. These associations are not always accurate or helpful.

Often, people make assumptions about the gender of another person based on the person’s appearance or name. These assumptions aren’t always correct, and the act of making an assumption (even if correct) sends a potentially harmful message -- that people have to look a certain way to demonstrate the gender that they are or are not."

“In English, our most commonly used pronouns (he/she) specifically refer to a person’s gender. For queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and transgender people, these pronouns may not fit, can create discomfort, and can cause stress and anxiety.” - LGBT Life Center 

"Neo-Pronouns: Alternative pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some non-binary and gender diverse persons. Some examples are “ze/hir” and “ey/em”, etc." - Trevor Project

2SLGBTQ+ Glossary

A reminder that these definitions are not meant to be prescriptive, rather they are used by folks to help self-identify.

The terms will draw from the Trevor Project, The 519 and Scarleteen glossaries.