We recognise that this is a new area for everyone and that we are all learning and may make mistakes. Both the individual and University and college officers should engage in open and respectful communication, and take responsibility for ensuring the desired outcome.
The historic approach to gender and sex has been to classify people into the binary categories of male or female on the basis of their physical attributes at birth. Nowadays it is recognised that there are at least four dimensions to gender and sex.
- Gender identity is a person’s internal sense of their own gender. For trans people their own sense of who they are does not match the sex assigned to them at birth.
- Gender expression refers to the ways in which people manifest their gender, for example through how they dress, speak and act.
- Sex– the two main categories (male and female) assigned to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) at birth. In the UK this sex is included on the birth certificate and is their legal sex within the country’s legal framework.
- Sexual orientation – a person’s emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person.
An increasing number of people are identifying at different points on these scales, and sometimes in a fluid and changing way, contributing to a more complex spectrum of gender identity.
Transgender or trans is used as an umbrella term for people whose identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Every trans person’s experience is different, and increasingly some people are taking an exploratory approach to gender identity.
Transitioning is a term used to describe the process and steps an individual takes in order to live in the gender with which they identify, where this is different from the one assigned at birth. The new identity may be non-binary (see below). Transitioning is a unique process for each individual and may include any number of changes to their life. Some people have a firm idea at the start of their desired outcome, but for other people the destination is not clear.
Transitioning may include dressing differently, changing name and pronoun, changing official documents, telling friends and family, or a number of other steps. Transitioning may include a medical intervention such as hormone treatment or surgery, though not everyone will choose this route.
Gender dysphoria is the clinical diagnosis for someone feeling profound distress at the discrepancy between the way they feel inside and the sex they were assigned at birth. However, some trans people reject the idea that experiencing gender dysphoria is a pre-requisite for being trans.