Why Refinery29 Created A Gender Identity Glossary

Photographed by Stephanie Gonot

In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of a gender revolution. We aren’t merely male or female. We’re trans; we’re gender-fluid; we’re nonbinary; we’re agender. That is to say, people are no longer confining themselves to the classification of the bodies they were born with or society’s rules for what those bodies can and cannot do.

With this revolution comes a push for a new way of talking about gender. New labels and pronouns that seek to provide once-alienated people with a sense of self and a concise way to express their identities to the world have flooded the English lexicon. The trouble is, the world outside where these conversations are happening hasn’t caught up to it yet. That’s partly because learning a new language is hard, especially when that language is highly personal and constantly evolving — but it’s also because this new language asks us to completely reconsider what we thought we already knew. Whether someone is trans or absolutely comfortable with their sex (or somewhere else on the spectrum), navigating the ever-expanding list of gender terms can be fraught. How do we have a meaningful dialogue if people are so fearful of making a misstep?

That’s why we created our Gender Nation glossary, which launches today, the first day of Transgender Awareness Week. As a crowd-sourced glossary of gender identity and sexual orientation terminology, this living document is the first of its kind. It’s filled with 85 terms (and counting) defined by people who identify with the terms themselves, and it was created in partnership with GLAAD, one of the leading LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the country.

When it comes to the way society views gender, it is still a relatively new, under-discovered world.

The way we see it, whether or not you’re a part of the revolution, we are now living in a world where an increasing number of people no longer accept the premise that gender is binary. Opting out of the conversation about what it means to be pangender or intersex or neutrois can mean missing out on opportunities to connect with other people, and broaden each other’s perspectives. Shifting the way we talk about gender may seem like a revolutionary concept, but it’s about giving individuals sovereignty over their own identities — whether or not they ultimately decide to identify as something other than their sex assigned at birth. But what if you don’t even know what “sex assigned at birth” means?

Our Gender Nation glossary seeks to decode all that.

We reached out to GLAAD about transforming their media reference guide into a mobile web-optimized crowd-sourced glossary for the public. Together, we updated the existing terms that appear in their media guide, and added 57 more. Then, we created a Google form to solicit written and video definitions from LGBTQ people from across the country to go with R29 x GLAAD’s base definitions.

The resulting glossary is an informative, easily accessible tool for anyone looking to learn about the evolving gender vocabulary. Throughout Transgender Awareness week, we’re accepting even more submissions from people who want to add their own personalized definitions, or add any terms we’re inadvertently missing.

When it comes to the way society views gender, it is still a relatively new, under-discovered world. Use this glossary to learn about all of the ways people can express their gender; share it with family members who have never met a trans person; or see if there’s a label that you feel at home in. And then join the conversation. Even better, let us know what your gender identity means to you by submitting your own definition.

Welcome to Gender Nation, where gender is defined by the people who live it.

Gender and sexual orientation are both highly personal and constantly evolving. So, in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, we're talking about the importance of language and raising the voices of the LGBTQIA community. Welcome to Gender Nation, where gender is defined by the people who live it. Want to learn more? Check out our Gender Nation glossary.