Introduction to GBA+

Sex and gender – Gender diversity

The following definitions are adapted from The Gender Integration Framework from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Definitions have also been provided by Government of Canada’s LGBTQ2 Secretariat.

Sex refers to a person’s biological and physiological characteristics. A person’s sex is most often designated by a medical assessment at the moment of birth. This is also referred to as birth-assigned sex.

Gender refers to the roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society may construct or consider appropriate for the categories of “men” and “women”. It can result in stereotyping and limited expectations about what people can and cannot do.

Gender expression Gender expression refers to the various ways in which people choose to express their gender identity. For example: clothes, voice, hair, make-up, etc. A person’s gender expression may not align with societal expectations of gender. It is therefore not a reliable indicator of a person’s gender identity.

Gender identity is an internal and deeply felt sense of being a man or woman, both or neither. A person’s gender identity may or may not align with the gender typically associated with their sex.

Cisgender is a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Intersex people are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics, including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that do not fit with typical conceptions of “male” or “female” bodies.

LGBTQ2 is an acronym standing for the categories of lesbian, gay, bisexual (those who are attracted to both men and women), transgender, intersex, queer (a self-identifying term used in some gay communities, typically by younger persons) and two-spirit. There are many different acronyms that may be used by various communities. It should be noted that acronyms like these may combine sex, gender, and sexual orientation attributes into one community. This combination may or may not be appropriate in all circumstances, and GBA+ analysis should be specific where appropriate.

Non-Binary (also ‘genderqueer’) refers to a person whose gender identity does not align with a binary understanding of gender such as man or woman. A gender identity which may include man and woman, androgynous, fluid, multiple, no gender, or a different gender outside of the “woman—man” spectrum.

Trans or transgender is a person whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. It includes people who identify with binary genders (i.e. trans men and women), and people who do not fit within the gender binary, i.e. non-binary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, agender, etc.

Transexual is a term that is no longer commonly used, though may be more frequently used by transgender individuals of an older cohort. The term defines a person whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth, who has undertaken physical transition which may include medical and/or surgical interventions. The term has fallen out of favour as it implies that physical transition is necessary in order to claim a trans identity.

Two-spirit (also Two Spirit or Two-Spirited) is an English term used to broadly capture concepts traditional to many Indigenous cultures. It is a culturally-specific identity used by some Indigenous people to indicate a person whose gender identity, spiritual identity and/or sexual orientation comprises both male and female spirits.