Definitions Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in APA Documents
Definitions Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in APA Documents
Terms related to sexual orientation and gender diversity have been defined in several APA documents. Due to the developing understanding of constructs, shifting usage of terms, and contextual focus of these documents, the definitions vary somewhat. This resource provides definitions and their sources. Please cite the source using references provided below.
|Guidelines for Psychological||Guidelines for psychological practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients||Resolution on Gender and Sexual||APA Dictionary of Psychology
Association. (2015). Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender
Nonconforming People. American Psychologist, 70(9), 832-864. doi.org/10.1037/a0039906
|American Psychological Association.
(2012). Guidelines for Psychological
Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients. American
Psychologist, 67(1), 10–42. doi:
|American Psychological Association &
National Association of School Psychologists. (2015). Resolution on gender and sexual orientation diversity in children and adolescents in schools. Retrieved from
|American Psychological Association. (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Terms & Definitions
|Cisgender||Cisgender: An adjective used to describe a person whose gender identity and gender expression align with sex assigned at birth; a person who is not TGNC.||None||Cisgender replaces the terms “nontransgender” or “bio man/bio woman” to refer to individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies and their gender identity (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009).||Cisgender (Adj.): having or relating to a GENDER IDENTITY that corresponds to the culturally determined gender roles for one’s birth sex (i.e., the biological
sex one was born with.) a cisgender man or cisgender woman is thus one whose internal gender identity matches, and presents itself in accordance with, the externally determined cultural expectations of the behavior and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex as male or female. Also called cisgendered.
|Gender||None||Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.||Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender‐normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender nonconformity (APA, 2012).||Gender (n): the condition of being male, female, or neuter. In a human context, the distinction between gender and SEX reflects the usage of these terms: Sex usually refers to the biological aspects of maleness or femaleness, whereas gender implies the psychological, behavioral, social, and cultural aspects of being male or female (i.e., masculinity or femininity.)|
classification of an infant at birth as either male or female.
Children born with AMBIGUOUS GENITALIA are usually assigned a gender by parents or physicians.
|Gender Concept||Gender Concept: an understanding of the socially constructed distinction between male and female, based on biological sex but also including the roles and expectations for males and females in a culture. Children begin to acquire concepts of gender, including knowledge of the activities, toys, and other objects associated with each gender and of how they view themselves as male or female in their culture, possibly from as early as 18 months of age.|
|Gender Dysphoria: Discomfort or distress related to incongruence between a person’s gender identity, sex assigned at birth,||None||Gender dysphoria refers to discomfort or distress that is associated with a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and that person’s sex||Gender Dysphoria: (1)
Discontent with the physical or social aspects of one’s own sex. (2) In DSM-5, a diagnostic class
|gender identity, and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics
(Knudson, DeCuypere, &
Bockting, 2010). In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM‐5 [American Psychiatric Association, 2013]) adopted the term Gender Dysphoria as a diagnosis characterized by “a marked incongruence between” a person’s gender assigned at birth and gender identity (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 453). Gender Dysphoria replaced the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in the previous version of the DSM (American
Psychiatric Association, 2000).
|assigned at birth — and the associated gender role and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics (Fisk, 1974; Knudson, De Cuypere, & Bockting, 2010).
Only some gender‐nonconforming people experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives (Coleman, et al. 2011).
|that replaces GENDER IDENTITY DISORDER and shifts clinical emphasis from cross-gender identification itself to a focus on the possible distress arising from a sense of mismatch, or incongruence, that one may have about one’s experienced gender versus one’s assigned gender. Diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria in children include significant distress or impairment due to marked gender incongruence, such as a strong desire to be-or a belief that one is-the other gender; preference for the toys, games, roles, and activities stereotypically associated with the other gender, and a strong dislike of one’s sexual anatomy. In adults, the manifestations of gender dysphoria may include a strong desire to replace one’s physical sex characteristics with those of the other gender (see SEX REASSIGNMENT), the belief that one has the emotions of their gender, and a desire to be treated as the other gender or recognized as having an alternative gender identity.|
|Gender Expression: The presentation of an individual, including physical appearance, clothing choice and accessories, and behaviors that express aspects of gender identity or role.||Gender expression refers to the “…way in which a person acts to communicate gender within a given culture; for example, in terms of clothing, communication patterns and
interests. A person’s gender
|Gender expression refers to an individual’s presentation — including physical appearance, clothing choice and accessories — and behavior that communicates aspects of gender or gender role. Gender expression may or||None|
|Gender expression may or may not conform to a person’s gender identity.||expression may or may not be consistent with socially prescribed gender roles, and may or may not reflect his or her gender identity” (American Psychological Association, 2008, p. 28).||may not conform to a person’s gender identity.|
|Gender Identity||Gender Identity: A person’s deeply‐felt, inherent sense of being a boy, a man, or male; a girl, a woman, or female; or an alternative gender (e.g., genderqueer, gender nonconforming, gender neutral) that may or may not correspond to a person’s sex assigned at birth or to a person’s primary or secondary sex characteristics. Since gender identity is internal, a person’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others. “Affirmed gender identity” refers to a person’s gender identity after coming out as TGNC or undergoing a social and/or medical transition process.||Gender identity refers to “one’s sense of oneself as male, female, or
transgender” (American Psychological Association, 2006). When one’s gender identity and biological sex are not congruent, the individual may identify as transsexual or as another transgender category (cf. Gainor, 2000)
|Gender identity refers to one’s sense of oneself as male, female or something else (APA, 2011). When one’s gender identity and biological sex are not congruent, the individual may identify along the transgender spectrum (APA, 2012; Gainor, 2000).||Gender Identity: one’s selfidentification as male or female.
Although the dominant approach in psychology for many years had been to regard gender identity as residing in individuals, the important influence of societal structures, cultural expectations, and personal interactions in its development is now recognized as well. Significant evidence now exists to support the conceptualization of gender identity as influenced by both environmental and biological factors. See CISGENDER; GENDER CONSTANCY; TRANSGENDER. See also GENDER ROLE.
|Genderqueer||Genderqueer: A term to describe a person whose gender identity does not align with a binary understanding of gender (i.e., a person who does not identify fully as either a man or a woman). People who identify as genderqueer may redefine gender or decline to define themselves as gendered altogether. For example, people who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as both man||None||Genderqueer refers to a person whose gender identity falls outside of the gender binary (i.e., identifies with neither or both genders).
Genderqueers may also use the term “gender fluid” as an identifier but typically reject the term “transgender” because it implies a change from one gender category to another.
|and woman (bigender, pangender, androgyne); neither man nor woman (genderless, gender neutral, neutrois, agender), moving between genders (genderfluid); or embodying a third gender.|
|Queer||None||None||Queer is an umbrella term that individuals may use to describe a sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression that does not conform to dominant societal norms. Historically, it has been considered a derogatory or pejorative term and the term may continue to be used by some individuals with negative intentions. Still, many LGBT individuals today embrace the label in a neutral or positive manner (Russell, Kosciw, Horn, & Saewyc, 2010). Some youth may adopt ‘queer’ as an identity term to avoid limiting themselves to the gender binaries of male and female or to the perceived restrictions imposed by lesbian, gay and bisexual sexual orientations (Rivers, 2010).||Queer (Adj., n): controversial slang, in the main pejorative, referring to gays and lesbians or relating to homosexual orientation. The original and still common use of the word, to describe anything that is odd or strange, was extended to refer to gays in the late 19th and throughout much of the 20th century, when it acquired a predominantly negative connotation. During the late
1960s and onward (see SEXUAL
REVOLUTION), it was appropriated by some members within the gay community as a term of identification that carried no negative connotation and, indeed, became a label of pride and self-respect. This usage is not embraced, however, by all members of the gay community.
|Sex||Sex (Sex assigned at birth): Sex is typically assigned at birth (or before during ultrasound) based on the appearance of external genitalia. When the external genitalia are ambiguous other
indicators (e.g., internal genitalia, chromosomal and hormonal sex)
|Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex (i.e., atypical combinations of features that usually distinguish male from female). There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal||Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female or intersex. There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs and external genitalia. (APA, 2012).||Sex (n): (1) the traits that distinguish between males and females. Sex refers especially to
physical and biological traits, whereas GENDER refers
especially to social or cultural traits, although the distinction between the two terms is not
|are considered to assign a sex with the aim of assigning a sex that is most likely to be congruent with the child’s gender identity (MacLaughlin & Donahoe, 2004). For most people, gender identity is congruent with sex assigned at birth (see cisgender); for TGNC individuals, gender identity differs in varying degrees from sex assigned at birth.||reproductive organs, and external genitalia.||regularly observed. (2) the physiological and psychological processes related to procreation and erotic pleasure.|
|Sexual orientation: A component of identity that includes a person’s sexual and emotional attraction to another person and the behavior and/or social affiliation that may result from this attraction. A person may be attracted to men, women, both, neither, or to people who are genderqueer, androgynous, or have other gender identities. Individuals may identify as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, queer, pansexual, or asexual, among others.||Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation typically have included attraction to members of one’s own sex (gay men or lesbians), attraction to members of the other sex (heterosexuals), and attraction to members of both sexes (bisexuals). While these categories continue to be widely used, research has suggested that sexual orientation does not always appear in such definable categories and instead occurs on a continuum (e.g., Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953; Klein, 1993;
Klein, Sepekoff, & Wolff, 1985; Shiveley & DeCecco, 1977) In addition, some research indicates that sexual orientation is fluid for some people; this may be especially true for women (e.g., Diamond, 2007; Golden, 1987; Peplau & Garnets, 2000).
|Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation typically have included attraction to members of one’s own sex (gay men or lesbians), attraction to members of the other sex (heterosexuals), and attraction to members of both sexes (bisexuals). Some people identify as pansexual or queer in terms of their sexual orientation, which means they define their sexual orientation outside of the gender binary of “male” and “female” only. While these categories continue to be widely used, research has suggested that sexual orientation does not always appear in such definable categories and instead occurs on a continuum (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953; Klein, 1993; Klein,
Sepekoff, & Wolff, 1985; Shively & DeCecco, 1977). In addition, some research indicates that sexual orientation is fluid for some people; this may be especially true for women
|Sexual orientation: one’s enduring sexual attraction to male partners, female partners, or both. Sexual orientation may be heterosexual, same sex (gay or lesbian), or bisexual. See also OBJECT CHOICE.|
|(e.g., Diamond, 2007; Golden, 1987; Peplau & Garnets, 2000).|
|Sex role||Sex role: the behavior and attitudinal patterns characteristically associated with being male or female as defined in a given society. Sex roles thus reflect the interaction between biological heritage and the pressures of socialization, and individuals differ greatly in the extent to which they manifest typical sex-role behaviors.|
|Transgender||Transgender: An adjective that is a umbrella term used to describe the full range of people whose gender identity and/or gender role do not conform to what is typically associated with their sex assigned at birth. While the term “transgender” is commonly accepted, not all TGNC people self‐identify as transgender.||None||Transgender is an umbrella term that incorporates differences in gender identity wherein one’s assigned biological sex doesn’t match their felt identity. This umbrella term includes persons who do not feel they fit into a dichotomous sex structure through which they are identified as male or female. Individuals in this category may feel as if they are in the wrong gender, but this perception may or may not correlate with a desire for surgical or hormonal reassignment (Meier & Labuski, 2013).||Transgender:|