This section introduces key terms related to gender identity and gender expression. In the first instance, please watch the ‘Trans 101’ video for a useful introduction to trans and gender diverse identities. This section also contains key term definitions as well as resources for further study. Please engage with these before completing the corresponding worksheet in the workbook.

Sex and gender

There is a distinction between a person’s sex, their gender identity, and their gender expression.

  • The designation of a person at birth as male or female based on their anatomy (genitalia and/or reproductive organs) or biology (chromosomes and/or hormones).
  • The phrase “sex assigned at birth” is a respectful way to acknowledge the process of sex assignation that occurs at birth when a health professional looks at a baby’s external anatomy.
  • For some people, their sex assigned at birth may differ considerably from their gender identity.
  • Refers to a person’s deeply-felt identification as male, female, or some other gender. This may or may not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • The external manifestation of a person’s gender identity. Gender can be expressed through mannerisms, grooming, physical characteristics, social interactions and speech patterns.
  • Refers to the spectrum of gender identities and expressions that people have, including those that do and do not conform to cultural norms and stereotypes.


Gender identities

There are a diverse range of gender identifications that young people may have:

  • Refers to a person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex assigned to them at birth. This term includes a wide variety of people who may have different gender identities.
  • REMEMBER: Not everyone who may be considered part of the transgender umbrella will refer to themselves as transgender. For some, this may be because they identify with a particular term, e.g. man/woman, which they feel more precisely describes their identity. Others may feel that their experience is a medical or temporary condition and not an identity.
  • Commonly used shorthand for transgender.
  • REMEMBER: Avoid using trans as a noun. A person is not ‘a trans,’ they are a trans person.
  • An umbrella term for gender identities that fall outside the gender binary of male or female. This includes individuals whose gender identity is neither exclusively male nor female, a combination of male and female or between or beyond genders.
  • Similar to the usage of transgender, people under the non-binary umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms (e.g. androgynous, gender fluid, genderqueer, gender variant).
  • REMEMBER: there are difference between non-binary youth and it may be important to recognise that a non-binary young person was assigned female at birth (AFAB) or assigned male at birth (AMAB).
  • A person whose gender identity and gender expression is aligned with the sex assigned at birth.
  • The term cisgender acknowledges that everyone has a gender identity.


Other key terms

When discussing the experiences of trans and gender diverse youth it is important to be aware of the following terms:

  • The process of telling others about one’s gender identity and gender expression. Many trans people will ‘come out’ as a different gender to their sex assigned at birth and may begin a social or physical transition (see definition of Transition).
  • Some trans and gender diverse youth choose to ‘come out’ or be ‘out’ about their gender identitu to raise visibility or acknowledge their experiences. Others do not want to ‘come out’ as they feel this implies that their gender identity is not valid or authentic.


  • A process through which some trans and gender diverse youth begin to live as the gender with which they identify, rather than their sex assigned at birth.
  • Transitioning might include social, physical or legal changes such as coming out to family, friends and significant others; changing one’s appearance; changing one’s name, pronoun and sex designation on identification and documentation); and medical intervention (e.g. through hormones or surgery).
  • Refers to a person’s physical, emotional or romantic attraction to another person.
  • Sexual orientation is distinct from sex, gender identity and gender expression.
  • REMEMBER: trans and gender diverse youth may identify as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, queer or asexual.
  • The fear, dislike or hatred of people who are transgender or are perceived to challenge conventional gender categories or ‘norms’ of male or female.
  • Transphobia can result in individual and institutional discrimination, prejudice and violence against trans or gender variant people.
  • Disclosing a trans and gender diverse youth’s gender identity without their consent.
  • It is important to never out a trans person without their permission.
  • REMEMBER: Forced outing – whether intentional or unintentional – is a form of transphobia.


What you can do

Ensure that you and your colleagues are up-to-date and understand gender and sexuality identity terminology.


Next steps

Complete ‘Worksheet 2: Key Terms’ and then continue to Section 3: Silence and Invisibility.