KU Style Guide

gender, sex and sexual orientation

Gender is not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people. When needed for clarity or in certain stories about scientific studies, alternatives include men and women, boys and girls, males and females. See gender-neutral language

Some frequently used terms and definitions:
sex Refers to a person's biological and physiological characteristics, usually assigned at birth.

gender A social construct encompassing a person's behaviors, intrinsic identity and appearance. Gender often corresponds with but is not synonymous with sex.

gender identity A person's sense of feeling male, female, neither or some combination of both.

gender expression How people outwardly convey their gender, intentionally or not, such s through fashion choices, mannerisms or pronouns.

cisgender Describes people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth; that is, not transgender. Not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexual orientation.

intersex Describes people born with genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs that don’t fit typical definitions for males or females at birth. Do not use the outdated term hermaphrodite.

LGBTQ (adj.) Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and/or questioning.

transgender describes people whose gender identity does not match the sex or gender they were identified as having at birth.

transition, gender transition The legal, medical or social processes some transgender or nonbinary people undergo to match their gender identity. Examples can include a formal or informal change to names or pronouns, makeup and hairstyles, hormone therapy, or gender-confirmation or gender-affirming surgery (Do not use the outdated term sex change).

For information and resources, contact the university's LGBTQ Resource Center.