People have a wide range of gender and sex identities, all of which are valid and worthy of exploration. Femininity and masculinity are different ways in which people express their gender. Maleness and femaleness are different attributes of sex identity. These sets of characteristics are not mutually exclusive, but rather exist on a spectrum in both cases.  (Some people do not identify with either sets of identity.)

What does it mean to be trans?

  • “Transgender” or “trans” is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from that typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. This may include people with a variety of sex and gender identities, some of which fall within a binary framework and some of which do not.
  • Trans people are human beings first and foremost, and thus have fundamental civil rights.

What does affirming the validity of trans identity entail?

  • Understanding that sex and gender are both fluid concepts rather than binary ones.
  • Incorporating a fluid definition of sex and gender into our understanding of institutions such as marriage, family, and medicine.

Social Justice Considerations

  • Trans inequality is not an individual problem, but a social one involving human rights.
  • The insistence on a binary definition of gender is an injustice that denies the existence and human rights of trans people.
  • Being trans/transgender is not abnormal, medically or socially.

Gender inclusion is good etiquette both personally and professionally!

  • Learning some basic concepts about trans identity and experience goes a long way.
  • Attention to pronouns helps people feel welcome. In stating your name, it is good form to follow up with the pronouns others should use in referring to you.
  • Be aware that not all people of a specific gender or sex identity will necessarily use the same pronouns! Learn and respect the unique ways in which each person sees themselves.
  • Recognizing that trans people are more than their gender centers their humanity.
  • The inclusion of trans people in professional activities such as article and book reviewing is both affirming on a personal level and just on a structural one.

Basic Concepts

  • Gender is a socially constructed concept that typically involves ways of presenting oneself and behaviors associated with sex differences.
  • Sex is often assigned at birth, typically on the basis of genitals, though hormones and chromosomes may be considered, too. As an identity, sex is strongly tied to the body and often associated with reproduction.
  • Non-binary refers to identities that are neither entirely feminine/female nor entirely masculine/male. This can include people who feel as if their identity is in the middle of one of these spectrums or people whose identities lie outside of both.
  • People whose bodies are not easily classifiable as “female” or “male” are “intersex.” This is not the same as being trans, but some intersex people also identify as trans.
  • The terms “cissex” and “cisgender” describe people whose sex and gender identities (respectively) match the ones they were assigned at birth.

Helpful Resources on Sex and Gender Justice:

ASA Sociologists for Trans Justice | |

European Commission on Trans and Intersex People

Legal Reforms to Protect the Human Rights of Trans, Intersex, and Gender Variant People (United Nations Panel)

The Gender Book

Social Justice Books

NEA Toolkit on Sexuality and Gender Identity

Planned Parenthood Sexuality and Gender Identity Guide

Write Where It Hurts

Special thanks to Vasilikie Demos, Xan Nowakowski, and the S4TJ Committee on Advancing Trans and Intersex Studies in Academia for creating this document and sharing it with us.