KU Style Guide

gender and sexuality

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.

Some frequently used terms and definitions:

cisgender: May be used if necessary to refer to people who are not transgender in stories about gender, as a means to distinguish people from one another. Use only with explanation. Do not use terms like normal to describe people who are not transgender. Cisgender refers to gender and is not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexuality.

gender nonconforming (n.), gender-nonconforming (adj.): Acceptable in broad references as a term for people who do not conform to the traditional view of two genders. The group is providing scholarships for gender-nonconforming students. When talking about individuals, be specific about how a person describes or expresses gender identity and behavior. Roberta identifies as both male and female. Not synonymous with transgender. Use other terms like bigender (a term for people who identify as a combination of two genders) only if used by subjects to describe themselves, and only with explanation.

intersex: Term for people born with genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs that don’t fit typical definitions for males or females at birth. Gonzalez is an intersex person, Zimmerman is intersex. Do not use the outdated term hermaphrodite.

sex reassignment or gender confirmation: The treatments, surgeries and other medical procedures used by transgender people to match their sex to their gender. The preferred term over gender reassignment; do not use the outdated term sex change. Sex reassignment or gender confirmation surgery is not necessary for people to transition their gender. Balducci weighed whether to have sex reassignment surgery during his transition.

transgender: An adjective that describes people whose gender identity does not match the sex or gender they were identified as having at birth. Does not require what are often known as sex reassignment or gender confirmation procedures. Identify people as transgender only if pertinent, and use the name by which they live publicly. Generally, avoid references to a transgender person being born a boy or girl, since describing someone as transgender speaks for itself and doesn’t take intersex babies into account. Bernard is a transgender man. Christina is transgender. The shorthand trans is acceptable on second reference and in headlines: Grammys add first man and first trans woman as trophy handlers.
            Do not use as a noun or refer to someone as a transgender, or use the term transgendered. Not synonymous with terms like cross-dresser or drag queen, which do not have to do with gender identity. Do not use the outdated term transsexual. Do not use a derogatory term such as tranny except in extremely rare circumstances – only in a quote when it is crucial to the story or the understanding of a news event. Flag the contents in an editor’s note.
            Use the name by which a transgender person now lives: Caitlyn Jenner. Refer to a previous name only if relevant to the story: Caitlyn Jenner, who won a 1976 Olympic gold medal in decathlon as Bruce Jenner. See LGBT, LGBTQ.

transition, gender transition: The process by which transgender people change the physical characteristics associated with the sex or gender they were identified as having at birth to those matching their own gender identity. May include sex reassignment or gender confirmation procedures, but not necessarily. Washington is transitioning while helping his daughter consider universities. Chamberlain’s family offered support during her transition.