Introduction to GBA+

Sex and gender – Gender diversity

The following definitions are adapted from The Gender Integration Framework from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men, women and intersex persons. A person’s sex is most often designated by a medical assessment at the moment of birth. This is also referred to as birth-assigned sex.

Gender refers to the roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society may construct or consider appropriate for men and women. It can result in stereotyping and limited expectations about what women and men can and cannot do.

Gender identity is each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex. Gender identity is fundamentally different from a person’s sexual orientation.

Gender expression refers to how a person publicly presents gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, walk, mannerisms, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are common ways of expressing their gender.

Intersex is defined as a congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. Intersex people are born with ambiguous genitalia or both male and female sex organs. 

Trans or transgender is an umbrella term that refers to people with diverse gender identities and expressions that may differ from stereotypical expectations based on sex or gender norms. It includes but is not limited to people who identify as transgender, trans woman (male-to-female), trans man (female-to-male), gender non-conforming, or gender queer.

LGBTQ2 is an acronym standing for the categories of lesbian, gay, bisexual (those who are attracted to both men and women), transgender, intersex, queer (a self-identifying term used in some gay communities, typically by younger persons) and two-spirit. There are many different acronyms that may be used by various communities. It should be noted that acronyms like these may combine sex, gender, and sexual orientation attributes into one community. This combination may or may not be appropriate in all circumstances, and GBA+ analysis should be specific where appropriate.

Two-spirit is a term used by some Indigenous cultures for a person who displays any of the gender characteristics in the LGBTQ2 categories. It may refer to sex, gender or sexual orientation, or a combination of these.