Gender Affirmation Glossary

The commonly accepted gender binary of female and male assumes a one-to-one relationship between one’s assigned gender at birth and their current gender identity. Gender is far more fluid than this assumption implies. Being an affirmative and supportive campus requires each person to understand the meaning of transgender, nonbinary and intersex identities and terms.

Cisgender – Refers to people who are not transgender in content that is about gender. Do not use terms like “normal” to describe people who are not transgender. Cisgender is not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexuality.

Gender Identity—The internal perception, experience, or psychological sense of an individual’s own gender and how they may label themselves regardless of gender assigned at birth.

Gender Expression—The external display or presentation of gender identity, typically though combinations of wardrobe/style, demeanor, social behaviors and interactions. Expression does not always align or correspond with a particular identity and is culturally/socially determined.

Gender Binary—The idea/concept that there are only two (2) genders/sexes, which is determined at the time of birth. Often utilized to determine how a child should be reared.

Nonbinary—A term used to describe a plethora of identities and experiences that exist beyond and between the binary notions of gender as being male/masculine or female/feminine. Not all nonbinary individuals identify as transgender, though the majority do.

Sex—Often utilized in place of “gender assigned at birth,” but holds a complicated relationship and history for the intersex community.

Assigned Gender at Birth—The idea/concept of understanding one’s gender assigned at birth, commonly to understand the individual’s current gender identity. Ex. AFAB (assigned female at birth), AMAB (assigned male at birth).

Transgender – A term that describes a wide range of identities and experiences in which an individual identifies with/as a gender (or genders) other tan or in addition to their assigned gender at birth.

Intersex—An individual with born characteristics (anatomy, organs, chromosomes, hormones, etc.) that do not fit normative ideas of male or female. Intersex conditions are considered to be as common as red hair, though many intersex infants and children are forced to undergo nonconsensual, medically unnecessary surgeries to conform them to society’s ideals, some as early as a few months old.

Legal Name—The name registered and listed within the larger systems of government and expressed on all forms of identification.

Lived Name—The name that an individual uses in their life and differs from their legal name, but still holds just as much and/or more importance to the individual.

Dead Name – The name that an individual no longer uses and replaced with their Lived Name. Sometimes dead names and legal names are one in the same, but neither should be utilized if the Lived Name is known.

Nonconforming—A term to describe an individual who actively challenges societal expectations of their gender/perceived gender through their gender expression.

Gender Affirming—A term to note certain procedures or actions taken by a transgender and/or nonbinary person to align themselves with their identity. Ex. Gender affirming surgeries.

Student in red receives a hug from mentor

Inclusive Communication Practices

Being thoughtful of how we communicate with each other can go a long way in building and sustaining an inclusive culture. All members of the UCI community are encouraged to increase their understanding of how gender is reflected in verbal and written communications and actively use language and practices that are inclusive of all genders to meet the expectations set forth by administration. This information is intended as a resource designed to be respectful of transgender and nonbinary individuals. There are no specific rules for these engagements but below are some recommendations based on input from a cross sectional taskforce focused on creating an inclusive campus.


Pronouns matter when it comes to gender identity. In an effort to be more inclusive, it is important to understand and use pronouns appropriately. For example, the binary pronouns he and she do not apply to all people, and with the Gender Recognition Act, the state of California now recognizes non-binary is a third gender option. Making assumptions about a person’s gender identity may be incorrect, question their lived or legal identity, and/or otherwise make an individual feel that they do not belong. It is therefore important to avoid making assumptions about a person’s gender.

Find out More About Pronouns

Verbal Communications

Be open to the convention of using preferred/lived pronouns in verbal communication. In some situations, it may be appropriate to ask others for their pronouns or start a conversation by sharing your own pronouns. By asking others their pronoun, sharing your own pronouns and accepting pronouns such as they/them/theirs (vs. he/she) nonbinary identities becomes legible.

  • Some individuals may want to be referred to by their name as an alternative to using pronouns.
  • If you are unsure, inquire if they have a preferred pronoun they would use when referring to themselves.
  • Set the tone in meetings or gathering when introducing yourself – “Hi, I’m Peter Anteater and my pronouns are they, them, their.”

Written Communication

In written communication, many default to using he or she. While this is not incorrect, if you choose to do this, accuracy is key. It is recommended to request an individual’s preference when possible or if germaine to the topic. If in doubt, consider using they/them pronouns or the person’s name in lieu of using binary pronouns.

Options for addressing a campus colleague include avoiding male/female terms such madam/sir or Mr./Mrs./Ms. and instead use full name or title and last name; or colleagues for employees; or students for undergraduates or graduate students.

Reference Guidelines for Written Communications

  • Associated Press Stylebook, a comprehensive reference manual used by writers, journalists and communications professionals, permits the use of “they” as a singular pronoun.
  • UCI Editorial Style Guide is in the process of being updated to include nonbinary gender guidelines.

When alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy, they/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun. However, rewording usually is possible and preferable. Clarity is a top priority and gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. Other pronouns such as ze or zie are not used in AP style, however, asking the individual what they prefer is recommended.

In communications about people who identify as neither male or female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her, it is recommended to use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence. If they/them/their use is essential, be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person.

Example of a written internal communication without binary pronouns

I am delighted to announce that Peter Anteater, a highly experienced leader in higher education, has been appointed our next vice chancellor. After an extensive national search, Peter quickly emerged as the top choice to lead our efforts.

Previously serving as vice provost at University and in a range of administrative leadership positions, Peter comes to UCI with more than 20 years of progressive experience in providing visionary leadership at higher education institutions.

Peter earned a B.S. and a Ph.D. at State University.

I am grateful to the search committee for their hard work in identifying and helping recruit such an outstanding leader in our administration.

Please join me in welcoming Peter to UCI.