DEI Resources - Gender Identity and Expression

This page has been prepared by the Georgetown University Library’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. We hope you find it useful in more deeply exploring the topic of gender identity. If you have comments or suggestions about this page, please contact the Library's DEI Committee.

Introduction / Definitions

Gender identity

One's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender expression

External appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

[Sources for above definitions: Human Rights Campaign]

According to the American Psychological Assocation, “While transgender is generally a good term to use, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender-nonconforming will identify as a transgender person. The ways that transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academia and science are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge and openness about transgender people and their experiences grow.”

Examples of Inclusive Behaviors

  • Avoiding language that implies or reinforces binary genders.
    • Instead of “ladies and gentlemen,” “boys and girls,” “sir/madam,” try using “class,” “everyone,” “students,” “friends and colleagues,” “all.”
    • Instead of referring to a student as “he” or “she” in class, try using “they” until you know their pronouns.
    • You can add your own pronouns to Zoom.
  • Not asking students about personal information like birth name, surgery, hormones, genitals, or sexual orientation. 
  • Staying informed about the most appropriate terms to describe trans people, trans issues, and gender.
    • “Trans” and “transgender” are adjectives and should not be used as nouns.
    • Instead of “transsexual,” please use “trans” or “transgender” to mean a broader umbrella category, if that’s what you mean.
    • Instead of “sex change” or “sex reassignment,” please use “gender affirmation” or “transition care” or “change of gender marker” to refer to medical transition or change of a marker on a document or in a database, depending on the context.
    • Instead of “biological man” or “biological woman,” please use “cisgender man” or “cisgender woman” or perhaps “non-transgender man” or “non-transgender woman.”
    • Instead of “feminine/female pronouns” or “masculine/male pronouns,” please use “she/her pronouns” or “he/him pronouns.”
    • Instead of “preferred gender pronouns,” please use “personal pronouns” or just “pronouns.”
    • Instead of “transvestite,” please use “cross dresser.”
    • Instead of “hermaphrodite,” please use “intersex.”
    • Instead of “homosexual,” please use “gay” or “lesbian” as adjectives or “member of the LGBTQ community” as a noun.
    • Instead of “lifestyle” or “preference,” please use “orientation” or “identity.”

Learn More About Gender Identity and Gender Expression

Georgetown University Resources on Gender Identity and Gender Expression