Terminology for how people identify changes over time

This is a new website, and we know that the way we talk about issues around gender is changing all the time. If you see anything on this site that you think is either incorrect or out of date, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us via

Head to the Stonewall website to see more gender related terms that are in current use

Adult services

A wide range of care, support and assistance that are available to adults in need.

ASC – Autistic Spectrum Condition

A lifelong disability that affects how someone sees the world, processes information, and relates to other people.

A person with an Autism Spectrum Condition might have some of the following in various degrees:

  • Difficulties making friends or keeping them
  • Lack of empathy
  • Says the wrong thing
  • May seem very cold hearted – doesn’t realise they have hurt your feelings
  • Needs lots of reassurance
  • Doesn’t like change, likes a routine
  • Doesn’t like team games, struggles to understand rules
  • Indifferent to peer pressure, doesn’t need the latest game
  • Speaks very monotonously 
  • Doesn’t like looking you in the eye
  • Has particular topics they are fascinated in
  • Any elaborate routines
  • Not very good at coordination, catching a ball
  • Doesn’t feel pain or has a very low pain threshold


Cisgender is used as a term to describe people who are not transgender: i.e. for people whose gender identity matches the gender that they were assigned at birth.

However, some people who identify as non-binary, for example, might not identify as being either cisgender or transgender and would argue that you do not necessarily have to fall into one of those two categories.

Coming out

Coming out is the experience of telling people that you are questioning your gender identity or that you identify as transgender.  It is a term that was initially used to describe the process that people went through when first revealing to other people that they were gay.  Many people experience a process where they have to ‘come out’ to themselves before they can come out to other people.


Detransitioning refers the process of reversing a social, and sometimes physical, transition.  Some people no longer identify as transgender and ‘detransition’ back to present in line with their assigned gender.  This can often be as difficult as the initial coming out and transitioning process and also requires understanding and support.

Gender assigned at birth

Gender assigned at birth is a term used to describe the gender that someone was identified as at birth, usually by looking at their genitalia. If the midwife said “It’s a boy!” then we might describe someone as being assigned male at birth.

Historically, our service used the terms “natal / born” or “biological” to describe the sex and gender someone was identified as at birth. However, we try where possible to avoid these terms now as some people feel that they privilege biology over their lived and felt identity. 

For example, some people might feel that they were never a girl, and society simply assumed that they were a girl because of their genitalia, when in fact their gender was always male. In this case, someone may feel that the ‘wrong’ gender was assigned to them by other people/society.

Others may feel that their gender was ‘correctly’ assigned at birth but their gender has changed since then and is now different.

Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria describes the distress that a person can experience because they feel a mismatch between the sex they were assigned at birth and their felt gender identity. Gender Dysphoria is also a clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth.


Non binary is a term used to relate to someone who doesn’t identify as either male or female. There are many ways in which people identify or present in a non-binary manner, and perhaps we all do in some respects.


Passing refers to a person’s ability to be perceived of as either a cisgender man or a cisgender woman. People usually try to ‘pass’ through using a mixture of physical gender cues (for example, hair style or clothing) and ‘stereotypical’ behaviours that tend to be associated with a particular gender.  People sometimes try to ‘pass’ when they socially transition.  Some hope to be perceived as cisgender.

Social Transition

Social transitioning is the process of changing one’s gender presentation in order that it matches the internal gender identity. Coming out to others can sometimes be the first step towards a social transition.  For young people who are transgender this process often involves a request to use a new name and pronoun and, for some, also a change in the way that they present (see What is Passing?’ above.)  Young people can socially transition in one sphere of their life but not another, and will often experiment with their presentation on their own, then with friends and family initially.  Choosing to attend school in the preferred gender can be a significant step for young people, and often involves time and planning to make this process as smooth as possible.  Transitioning is a process, not an event, and for some will later involve medical intervention (read about our staged approach to physical intervention).


Going stealth means to live in your identified gender without other people knowing that your assigned gender is different. People will then believe you to be cisgender rather than transgender.  People who are transgender sometimes go stealth in public but not with family, partners, or intimate friends. Young people tell us that there are pros and cons for both being in stealth or not.

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