A Note On Language

The words we use to talk about and with LGBT2SQ children and youth are important. Choosing language that reflects respect for, and understanding of, their identities is one of the simplest ways to communicate support, and to create safer and affirming spaces for LGBT2SQ children and youth.

Some terms may be unfamiliar and confusing. While it is normal to have concerns about “getting it right,” asking an individual how they wish to be identified can help to show support for their identity and experiences, and is an important first step toward being an ally.

This information in this guide is current to the time of publishing. Please refer to the links provided for inquiries about the most up-to-date information.

Meet the Gender Unicorn6—a fun way to explore, understand, and explain the differences and interconnectedness of terms like gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, and sexual orientation:iv

The Gender Unicorn

Children and youth who identify as LGBT2SQ are not a homogeneous group. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are not set at birth - they can change over time. Each child and youth is unique in how they identify. The following chart highlights identities that you will read about throughout the guide.7

iv Sexual orientation can sometimes be referred to as attraction.

Sex-related definitions

Sex/Assigned Sex

The classification of a person as male, female, or intersex based on biological characteristics, including chromosomes, hormones, external genitalia, and reproductive organs. The term “assigned sex” is used to acknowledge that sex is often a value determined by medical professionals and is commonly assigned to newborns based on visual assessment of external genitalia. Inclusion here of the recognized category of “intersex,” frequently overlooked in discussions of sex, serves as a reminder that even at the level of biology, sex is not a binary system.
Intersex A person whose chromosomal, hormonal, and/or anatomical sex characteristics fall outside the conventional classifications of male or female.
Sexual orientation-related definitions
Sexual Orientation A term that classifies a person’s potential for emotional, intellectual, spiritual, intimate, romantic, and/or sexual interest in other people, often based on their sex and/or gender. Sexual orientation is often referred to as attraction.
Lesbian A woman-identified person who experiences attraction towards other women.
Gay A person who experiences attraction to individuals of the same sex/assigned sex and/or gender identity. The word “gay” can be used to refer to attraction experienced by both men and women, or only men.
Bisexual A person who experiences attraction towards more than one sex/assigned sex or gender identity.
Pansexual A person who experiences attraction to individuals with diverse sexes/ assigned sexes, gender identities, and gender expressions.
Asexual An individual who may not experience sexual attraction or desire to engage in sexual activity.
Gender-related definitions
Gender8 Gender is based on the expectations and stereotypes about behaviours, actions, and roles linked to being a "man" or "woman" within a particular culture or society. The social norms related to gender can vary depending on the culture, and can change over time.
Gender Identity A person's internal and individual experience of gender. This could include an internal sense of being a man, woman, both, neither, or another gender entirely. A person's gender identity may or may not correspond with social expectations associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Since gender identity is internal, it is not necessarily visible to others.
Gender Expression The way a person presents and communicates gender within a social context. Gender can be expressed through clothing, speech, body language, hairstyle, voice, and/or the emphasis or de-emphasis of bodily characteristics or behaviours, which are often associated with masculinity and femininity. The ways in which gender is expressed are culturally specific and may change over time.
Gender identity-related definitions
Trans The term trans is frequently used as an umbrella term for a variety of other terms, including transgender, transsexual, and can also refer to terms like genderqueer, agender, bigender, Two-Spirit, etc. Some people may identify with these or other specific terms, but not with the term trans. Similarly, some people may identify as trans, but not with other terms under the trans umbrella. At their simplest, each of these terms has commonalities with the term trans, and yet they are all unique in their specific reference to the context of, and specific relationships between, conceptions of gender identity and sex/assigned sex.
Transgender A person who does not identify (in full or partially) with the gender associated with their sex assigned at birth (sex/assigned sex).
Gender Diverse/ Gender Independent An umbrella term for gender identities and/or gender expressions that differ from cultural or societal expectations based on assigned sex. Individuals may identify and express themselves as “feminine men” or “masculine women,” or as androgynous, outside of the categories “boy/man” and “girl/woman.” People who are gender non-conforming may or may not identify as trans.
Gender Fluid The term gender fluid refers to the potential for change in ideas, experiences, and expressions of gender at an individual and/or societal level. This concept recognizes the potential for individual movement within a gender spectrum when it comes to self-presentation or expression. Some people may choose to identify as gender fluid.
Genderqueer A person whose gender identity and/or expression may not correspond with social and cultural gender expectations. Individuals who identify as genderqueer may move between gender identities, identify with multiple genders, or reject the gender binary or gender altogether.
Gender Creative9 A term sometimes used to refer to children or youth who identify and express their gender in ways that do not align with the social expectations associated with the sex assigned to them at birth (sex/assigned sex).
Cisgender The term used to describe individuals whose gender identity or expression aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gender identity and sexual orientation-related definitions
Two-Spirit10 The term Two-Spirit encompasses Indigenous cultures, spiritual beliefs, and values, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a term used by some, but not all, Indigenous people to describe their gender, sexual orientation, and/or sex and gender roles in Indigenous ways, using traditional terms and concepts. The Two-Spirit identity affirms the interrelatedness of all aspects of identity, including gender, sexuality, community, culture, and spirituality. For further information and resources on Two-Spirit communities, please visit: http://www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com/twospiritdirectory.html
Queer A term used by some members of LGBT2SQ communities, as a symbol of pride and affirmation of diversity. It can be used by a community to encompass a broad spectrum of identities related to sex/assigned sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, or by an individual to reflect the interrelatedness of these aspects of their identity. Queer was historically a derogatory term for difference, used in particular to insult LGBT2SQ people and communities. Although sometimes still used as a slur, the term has been reclaimed by many individuals within LGBT2SQ communities.
Questioning11 A term used to describe those who are in a process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.