Defining Sex, Gender & Sexuality

A Helpful Guide To Understanding Issues Around Gender Dysphoria


Gender is expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity. It is largely culturally determined and is assigned at birth based on the sex of the individual. It affects how people perceive themselves and how they expect others to behave.

Gender, Acquired

The gender role that a trans person achieves through the process of transition. It is the legal term in relation to the issuing of a Gender Recognition Certificate which gives a trans person full legal rights in this gender.

Gender, Attributed

The gender and sex that one is taken to be by others. This is usually an immediate, unconscious categorisation of a person as being a man or a woman, irrespective of their mode of dress

Gender Identity

The gender to which one feels one belongs.

Gender Dysphoria

An anxiety, uncertainty or persistently uncomfortable feelings experienced by an individual about their assigned gender which is in conflict with their internal gender identity.

Physical Sex

To what sex do the organs of the body match, i.e. male or female. Birth with ambiguous genitalia occurs in roughly 1:2000 live births (see Intersex Person)


The social, psychological, emotional and economic processes that a trans person undergoes to move from their assigned gender role into their chosen or acquired gender. The time this takes is variable and depends on the individual’s ability to embrace significant change in their life. If requiring genital surgery the individual will have to undergo a so called Real Life Test, i.e. living in their acquired gender role for a minimum of 1 year.

Transsexual Person

A person who feels a consistent and overwhelming desire to transition and fulfil their life as a member of the opposite gender. Most transsexual people actively desire and complete gender reassignment surgery. The ratio of Female to Male (FTM) and Male to Female (MTF) transsexual people is in the region 1:3 – 1:4


An umbrella term used to include transsexual people, transvestites and cross-dressers, as in “the transgender community.”

Transgender Person

A person who, like a transsexual person, transitions – sometimes with the help of hormone therapy and / or cosmetic surgery – to live in the gender role of choice, but has not undergone, and generally does not intend to undergo genital surgery.

Trans man/woman

A term that is used by some trans people (transsexual and transgender people) who are open about their status and do not fear the consequences of their pasts being revealed or who believe that transition does not mean they become men or women. A generic term that the trans community wishes to see used in documents, policies, statutory instruments etc.


A person who dresses in the clothing of the opposite sex as defined by socially accepted norms. Consequently, in contemporary society, the majority of transvestites are cross-dressing men. Social transvestites cross-dress merely to feel more comfortable. The erotic transvestite cross dresses to achieve sexual gratification alone or with a partner. Transvestites normally cross dress only occasionally and do not seek hormones or surgery.

Intersex Person

An individual who is born with ambiguous genitalia and may or may not be accompanied by various degrees of gender dysphoria. The condition may arise due to certain congenital disorders or hormone imbalances in the foetus or placenta. True hermaphrodites (having both types of gonads and ambiguous genitalia) are extremely rare.


The direction in which an individual wants to direct their sexual desires, forces or libido. Trans people display the normal spread of sexualities – heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual etc. The sexuality of a trans person may remain the same or change through the process of transition.


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