This guide is a resource provided by Real Facts NC to aid in the understanding of identity-based language we use in our messaging. We combined our own definitions with definitions from other sources to define some terms we use in our work. Use this guide to contextualize our work and use it as a guide for your own.


Sex: The classification of a person as male or female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy. Sex is recorded on the birth certificate. A person’s sex, however, is actually a combination of bodily characteristics including chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics. (GLAAD, retrieved 7/14/20

AMAB and AFAB: Acronyms for “assigned male at birth” and “assigned female at birth.” These terms point out that upon birth, someone categorizes an individual based on physical characteristics. (Susan Stryker, Transgender History)

 Intersex: An umbrella term for unique variations in reproductive or sex anatomy. Variations may appear in a person’s chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs like testes or ovaries. Some intersex traits are identified at birth, while others may not be discovered until puberty or later in life. (InterACT, retrieved 7/20/20)


Agender: An identity that often falls under nonbinary and transgender umbrella terms that describes someone who does not identify themselves with a particular gender. Some agender people find that they have no gender identity while some define this term as having a “neutral” gender identity.

Gender: An idea created by society (A.K.A. a social construct) that tells us what certain genders are “supposed” to be like, based on a group of emotional, behavioral and cultural characteristics (like how we express our feelings or how we dress). (The Trevor Project, retrieved 7/14/20

Cisgender: Those who identify as the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a baby born with a vulva is categorized as a girl. If she also sees herself as a girl throughout her life, she is considered cisgender. (Planned Parenthood, retrieved 7/14/20)

Transgender: An adjective describing someone whose gender identity or expression does not match the gender assigned to them at birth. When shortened, can be referred to as trans, which serves as an umbrella identity for other non-binary trans identities. The term “transgender” should not be placed in the tense structure; more explicitly, this term should never be used in the past tense.

 Gender nonconforming, Genderqueer, and Nonbinary: Adjectives describing individuals who don’t conform to the gender binary. Each of these terms have more nuance and often are unique to the individual. For example, a person could be nonbinary and be completely separate from the gender binary, whereas another nonbinary person can see themselves existing alternatively to the gender binary. In both cases the person is nonbinary but where they are in relation to the gender binary is different.

Gender binary: A system that pairs together sex (which is based on individual’s reproductive anatomy) and gender (which refers to the socially constructed ideas and expectations that a culture has for a certain sex). (Sex Info Online, retrieved 7/20/20


LGBTQ+: An acronym used to encompass the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and other identities.

 Straight: heterosexual; a person who is sexually or romantically attracted to people of the opposite sex: a heterosexual person (Merriam-Webster, retrieved 7/20/20)

Queer: A broad term that is inclusive of people who are not straight and/or cisgender. In the past this word was used as a discriminatory or derogatory term. Today the word is often used in a positive way by folks who identify as queer as well as by allies of queer/LGBTQ people, however, some people still feel that it is a word that carries negative weight. (The Trevor Project, retrieved 7/14/20)

Lesbian: Historically an adjective used to describe a woman who is attracted to other women: a gay woman. This definition for this term is currently changing and more recently has been used in a way that allows more space for the evolving LGBTQ+ community. (Merriam-Webster, retrieved 7/20/20)

Bisexual: an adjective used to describe an individual who can be attracted to more than one gender (HRC, retrieved 7/20/20)

Gay: An adjective used to describe an individual who is attracted to people of their same sex. (Merriam-Webster, retrieved 7/20/20)

Questioning: An adjective used to describe an individual who is questioning their sexuality. 


Black: A racial classification/identity that includes people of African origin, directly and indirectly. This term is used to encompass a global identity and culture, rather than one limited to nationality. (Cambridge Dictionary, retrieved 7/20/20)

white: A racial classification/identity that encompasses multiple ethnic backgrounds that in the U.S. has been reconstituted over time to include (and benefit) additional groups of people but includes settlers and immigrants of European origin.

Native/Indigenous: A classification used to encompass groups of people who have origins and ancestors who resided in North America, Turtle Island, or Hawai’i, including the U.S., before the creation of the U.S. This specifically includes people who maintain tribal affiliation, community attachment, or kin.

Brown: A racial and political category used to signify groups of people who are not white and includes people who identify as Latinx, South and Southeast Asian, Desi, Pacific Islander, and Arab. Politically, it often signifies people whose ancestors or lands of origin have been colonized by white Europeans or subject to militarism. Note that not all Brown people are Latinx and not all Latinx people are Brown. 

Latinx: An ethnic, cultural, and political category that emerged from queer communities in the mid 2000s (as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino/a) to describe people of Latin-American origin. Latinx is a multi-racial category that includes Black (Afro-Latinx), indigenous, and white people of the Americas and the Caribbean. (Huff Post, 10/17/17, Oprah Mag 6/19/19)

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