LGBTQIA+ Spectrum

Gender 101: Sex and Gender

We are assigned a sex at birth based on what our body looks like. The sex marker, usually “female” or “male,” is put first on our birth certificate and then on other legal documents. The way our society defines sex, it is both a set of biological and legal characteristics. “Sex assigned at birth” is one way our society categorizes physical and physiological features like chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive/sexual anatomy.

However, we all relate to and express our sex assigned at birth differently, depending on our culture and family. We definitely all express our gender in different ways, too. There are as many ways to express our sex and our gender as there are people in the world!

Here are some key definitions that we use to understand the differences between terms like sex and gender; gender identity and gender expression; and transgender identity and sexual orientation. We also included some ideas for talking about body parts, hormones, and surgeries.


Being an Ally

An ally is someone that stands up for and with LGBTQIA+ individuals in a variety of ways. An ally might be a straight person wanting to support LGBQIA+ people, or a cisgender person wanting to advocate for transgender folks. There are many ways to be an ally, and being an ally is about more than supporting equal rights. It is also about advocating for marginalized and oppressed groups, standing against oppression, listening to and uplifting their voices, and reflecting constantly on intersecting identity, privilege and justice. Here are some tips on being an ally, whether you identify within the LGBTQIA community or not:

10 Ways to Be an Ally & a Friend*

  1. Be a listener.
  2. Be open-minded.
  3. Be willing to talk.
  4. Be inclusive and invite LGBTQIA+ friends to hang out with your friends and family.
  5. Don't assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
  6. Anti-LGBTQIA+ comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
  7. Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
  8. Defend your LGBTQIA+ friends against discrimination.
  9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
  10. If you see LGBTQIA+ people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at