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Trans and Non-Binary Resources: What is Misgendering?

Common Terms and Definitions

Misgender: Referring to someone (especially a transgender person) using a word, pronoun, or form of address that does not correctly reflect their gender.

  • Examples: 
    • Using he/him pronouns for someone who uses they/them
    • Calling a trans woman "sir"
    • Referring to a trans man as "Mrs. Teach"

Deadname: To call a transgender person by their birth name when they have changed their name as part of their gender transition.

Gender transition: The process of shifting toward a gender role different from that assigned at birth.

  • Social transition: Changing names, pronouns, and clothing.
  • Medical transition: Hormone therapy and surgery.
  • Transitioning is not required to be transgender. A person may identify as transgender but never socially or medically transition.

Transgender (Trans): Anyone whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Nonbinary: When gender identity and/or gender expression fall outside the gender binary. Other terms include agender, genderfluid, genderqueer, and more.

Cisgender (Cis): Anyone whose gender identity is aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Assigned Sex at Birth (ASAB): The sex assigned to an infant at birth based on external characteristics.

  • AFAB: Assigned Female at Birth
  • AMAB: Assigned Male at Birth

Gender Dysphoria: Discomfort or distress related to an incongruence between an individual's gender identity and the gender assigned at birth. Not all trans people experience gender dysphoria, and those who do experience it to different degrees.

Gender Identity and Expression: Identity is a deeply held knowledge of one's own gender, and expression is outward signifiers of gender.

Gender Non-Conforming (GNC): Someone whose gender expression (but not identity) differs from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity

Trans 101

What does it mean to be trans? What about nonbinary? Or genderfluid? This video tackles some of the basic vocabulary of the trans spectrum of identity.

What to Do When You Get It Wrong

You're going to make a mistake; it happens to everyone. It takes time to adjust to new ways of speaking and thinking.

But it's going to be alright!

animated gif of someone saying "it's not just a formality, sorry"

DON'T: Don't go on about how sorry you are.
That will only make the person you just misgendered feel even more awkward or even that they have to comfort you.
DO: Apologize and move on.

DON'T: Don't give up. Using correct pronouns is not optional.
DO: Keep trying!

What if they get angry?

Most people will accept your apology if your mistake is made in good faith. But if they're not, remember:

DON'T: Don't go on about how sorry you are. Don't try to explain yourself or why you made the mistake.
DO: Apologize again, but if they don't accept your apology, just move on.

DO: Try to empathize and meet the other person with compassion and understanding.

Why won't they accept my apology?

Take a look at the statistics on the "Why Is This Important?" tab. Things are rough for trans youth.

  • You might not be the first person to misgender that person today. You might not be the tenth.
  • Trans folks are constantly being misgendered, often maliciously.
  • It can be difficult to tell whether someone is making a genuine mistake or is being a jerk.
  • Their anger or resentment likely has little to do with you and is a result of feeling perpetually under attack. 
    • It's not about you as an individual or your intent.
    • Don't center yourself or your feelings.
    • Try to empathize and imagine why they are reacting so strongly.


American Psychological Association. (2018, September). Defining transgender terms. Monitor on Psychology, 49(8).

GLAAD Media Reference Guide - Transgender terms. GLAAD. (2022, April 21). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from