In collaboration with Amplified Opera, a co-producer of The Queen In Me and the COC’s Disruptor-in-Residence, we are providing this glossary of terms relevant to our understanding of gender identity and expression. This resource is intended to introduce concepts that some audience members may be unfamiliar with as well as expand and reframe terms that to capture the lived reality and complex dynamics of gender identity.
ACAB/AFAB/AMAB: Acronyms meaning “assigned cisgender/female/male at birth” referring to the sex one is assigned at birth (see below).
Allyship: The consistent and ongoing practice of taking action to end oppression. This is achieved through supporting and advocating for the interests of marginalized groups both in broader society and within social contexts such as the workplace.
Anti-Oppression/Anti-Racism (AO/AR): A framework consisting of theories, strategies, practices, and actions for challenging and countering racism and oppression, and for dismantling systems of inequality, prejudice, and discrimination.
Butch: A gender expression that aligns with societal definitions of masculinity through personal appearance, style, and mannerisms. Typically employed by queer women and trans people, and in particular by lesbians.
Cisgender (cis-): A gender identity and expression that matches the societal expectations for whichever sex a person was assigned at birth. It is a term used to highlight the privilege of people who are not transgender.
Cissexism/Genderism: The belief or assumption that there are, and should only be, two genders and that one’s gender is necessarily tied to assigned sex. This results in discrimination and exclusion which oppresses people whose gender and/or gender expression falls outside of cis-normative constructs.
Dyke: A slang term used as a noun for lesbian, and as an adjective to describe things associated with lesbianism. It originated as a homophobic slur, and and while pejorative uses still exist, it has been reclaimed as a term of affirmation for many cisgender lesbians, trans-non-binary, and trans-masculine individuals with a history of lesbian identity.
Enby: Another term for “Nonbinary” (see below), based on the phonetic pronunciation of the initials “NB”.
Femme: Historically used in the LGBTQ2S+ community to describe a lesbian who presents and acts in a traditionally feminine manner; it is increasingly used to describe gender expressions that reclaim and disrupt traditional constructs of femininity.
Gender: Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth, gender is used to classify a person as a man, woman, or other identity. The term encapsulates the norms, behaviours, and roles typically associated with these labels, as well as the relationships each has with one another. However, as a social construct, gender can vary from society to society and also change over time.
Gender Expression: How a person expresses oneself, in terms of dress and/or behaviors, that society will often characterize as "masculine,” “feminine,” or “androgynous.” In reality, individuals may embody their gender in a multitude of ways and have terms beyond these common few to name and describe their gender expression(s).
Gender Identity: a person’s deeply felt innermost concept of self as woman, man, trans, or genderqueer (identifies as neither, both, or a combination of female and male genders). One’s gender identity may or may not correspond to a person’s physiology or designated sex at birth.
Genderism/Cissexism: The belief that there are, and should only be, two genders, and that a person’s gender is is based on assigned sex at birth. In a genderist/cissexist construct, cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group.
Heteronormativity: Attitudes and behaviors that incorrectly assume gender is binary (ignoring genders besides women and men) and that people should and will align with conventional expectations of society for gender identity, gender expression, and sexual and romantic attraction. For example, someone assigned female at birth is expected to: 1) have a body that is considered “female” by the dominant culture, 2) identify as a girl or woman, 3) act feminine and fulfill the roles associated with girls and/or women, and 4) be romantically and sexually attracted to men.
Heterosexism: A system of attitudes, bias, and marginalization based on the assumption that heterosexuality is “normal” sexual orientation. Heterosexism ignores the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people, while priviledging those that identify as heterosexual.
IBPOC: An acronym that stands for Indigenous (including Inuit, Métis, First Nations), Black, and People of Colour. This acronym is often written as BIPOC, especially in the United States.
Internalized oppression: A form of oppression which occurs when an individual or collective internalizes messages of alleged inferiority, as well negative stereotypes, about their social group. Internalized oppression can be expressed in many specific forms, such as internalized sexism, internalized homophobia, and internalized ableism, among many other manifestations. Psychologists and mental health professionals have highlighted the ways in which internalized oppression can influence thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and experiences of the oppressed. Nonheterosexual individuals, for example, sometimes undertake practices such as “passing” for heterosexual or endeavouring to conceal their authentic identity in order to navigate an oppressive system.
Intersectionality: A theory introduced in 1989 by Black feminist and legal scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, which seeks to describes how overlapping (or intersecting) social identities create unique experiences in relation to systems of oppression and discrimnation. For example,intersectionality provides a robust framework for distinguishing forms of sexist oppression faced by, for example, a white, female lawyer in a large law firm compared to a non-white, non-heterosexual woman working in a warehouse–while both encounter oppression based on their identities as women, the specific overlapping social and political identities of their individual situations create different modes of discrimination and privilege.
LGBTQ2S+: An acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit, with the ‘+’ designating an inclusive and expanded number of identities including Intersex, Questioning, Asexual, Ally, Pansexual, Agender, Gender Queer, Bigender, Gender Variant, and Pangender among others.
Lesbian: A term which evolved in the 20th century, lesbian usually refers to a woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender. Some nonbinary people also identify as lesbians, often because they have some connection to womanhood and are primarily attracted to women. (See nonbinary below)
Masc: Distinct from biological male sex designation, masc., masculinity, manhood, etc., are a related set of terms referring to attributes, roles, and behaviours associated with men and boys. Masculinity is understood as a socially constructed concept, as evidenced by definitional traits and standards of masculinity differing across cultural and historical time periods.
Misgendering: Labeling somebody with a gender that is incorrect/does not align with their gender identity. This can occur when using pronouns or gendered language (e.g. “Hello ladies!” “Hey guys”), or assuming gender without knowing how individuals identify (i.e. “Since we’re all women in this room, we know…”).
Non binary/Nonbinary/Non-binary: A gender identity that extends outside the male/female gender binary, encompassing a range of expressions, understandings, and presentations of gender.
Pronouns: Used to refer to someone in the third person, pronouns can include they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, and he/him/his, among other examples. In English, pronouns have been linked to gender and are a common area of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect).
Queer: Historically, queer has been used as a slur against people whose gender, gender expression, and/or sexuality do not conform to dominant expectations. In recent years, some people have reclaimed the word queer as both a personal descriptor and an academic theory. It is important to note that not all people who identify as LGBTQIA use “queer” to describe themselves.
Sex: Sex is a medically constructed categorization that is most often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth.
Sexism: The cultural, institutional, and individual set of beliefs and practices that privilege men and subordinate and devalue ways of being that are associated with those who are not men.
Sexuality: The aspects of a person that include their sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, biological sex, etc.
Sexual Orientation: An emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction or non-attraction to other people. Sexual orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation.
Social Identity Groups: Social identity groups are formed on the sharing of physical, social, mental and other characteristics of individuals. These physical and mental characteristics can be both clear and ambiguous, and may lead an individual to self-identify a certain way while also potentially having identities, potentially correct or incorrect, ascribed by others.
Socialization: The process by which societal norms influence how members of a community live - including how they might think, behave, and hold certain values. Socialization can reinforce assumptions or expectations that give power to systems of oppression.
Social Justice: A process with the explicit goal of ensuring that all members of a society feel physically and psychologically safe and respected. The process involves a group that seeks to overturn the status quo by having a larger society acknowledge that present conditions enable oppression and inequity and must be changed for the positive advancement of all people.
Trans(*): An overarching term that acts as a more inclusive term for people within the transgender community who self-identify as gender non-conforming and/or non-binary.
Transphobia: The discrimination and oppression experienced by trans people (including those who self-identify as gender non-conforming, non-binary and other genders) on the grounds of their gender identity and/or expression. See “Cissexism” above.
Transgender: Identifying as transgender - also commonly referred to with the abbreviation “trans” - means that one’s gender identification is different from commonly held expectations of the sex that that person was assigned at birth. Transgender refers to person identifying as a gender other than the one they were assigned as birth. These include non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, no gender or multiple genders, or some other gender identity.