As individuals, we hold multiple identities. To acknowledge our complexities, the University of Iowa strives to make our online systems inclusive of people of all identities. Included on this page you will find general descriptions of various identity terms, which you can also use to self-identify your sex and gender identity in MyUI.
Please note that the words we use to describe ourselves and our experiences are constantly changing. Different members of the transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) community will use these terms in very different ways. We are offering some of the most common definitions, not the only definition or understanding of the words below.
Physical attributes that typically mark bodies as female, intersex, or male through socially constructed distinctions on the chromosomal, hormonal, genitals, and/or reproductive organ levels. Also referred to as "Sex Assigned at Birth".
Female - is a socially constructed term that refers to a sex category that differentiates bodies as being marked by certain physical characteristics. These distinctions may be made based on genetics, hormones, secondary characteristics, reproductive capabilities, and/or sexual organs.
Intersex - a general term used for atypical combinations of physical features in which a person’s genitalia, secondary characteristics, chromosomes, and/or primary naturally produced hormones do not function or appear the way in which people would assume based upon a binary sex assignment system.
Male - is a socially constructed term that refers to a sex category that differentiates bodies as being marked by certain physical characteristics. These distinctions may be made based on genetics, hormones, secondary characteristics, reproductive capabilities, and/or sexual organs.
Gender or Gender Identity is based on a group of emotional, behavioral, and psychological characteristics that typically classify an individual as “woman” or “man” or “non-binary” or any other gender identity term. Gender can be understood to have several components including gender identity, gender expression, and gender attributions. It’s possible to hold multiple identities listed here (e.g., identifying as non-binary and agender, identifying as cisgender and a man). Identities are complex and there are as many gender identities as there are people.
Agender – an identity under the non-binary and transgender umbrella terms. It can be seen either as a non-binary gender identity or as a statement of not having a gender identity. May also include being genderless, lacking gender and/or being gender neutral.
Cisgender – a value-neutral term to describe people who identify/agree with the gender they were assigned at birth, often shortened to cis. A cis woman is a person who is assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman. A cis man is a person who is assigned male at birth and identifies as a man.
Non-binary – an inclusive category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine – identities that are outside of the gender binary.
Transgender – a value-neutral term to describe people who do not identify/agree solely with the gender they were assigned at birth (sometimes referred to as an umbrella category under which a broad spectrum of gender identities exist). Often abbreviated as trans or trans*.
Someone's pronouns, or pronouns of reference, are the set of pronouns that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual. While there are societal expectations and trends around what gender identity uses which set of pronouns, you cannot know what someone's gender identity is solely by the pronouns they use. Some pronoun sets (they, ze, xe, etc.) are considered gender neutral or gender inclusive pronouns which do not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed. Sometimes, people might choose to use multiple sets of pronouns or to use different pronoun sets at different times. If this is the case, people will often refer to both sets of pronouns they use, like so: "he/they"; they/she"; "he/him or they/them"; "she/her or they/them".
Below, you will find some of the common sets of pronouns and examples of how to use them in a sentence. All of the options below are available for selection in MyUI. You can also select one of these combined options: "he/him or they/them"; "she/her or they/them". MyUI also has an option to select "Another set of pronouns not listed above" if our current list does not include the pronouns you use. For more information about updating your pronouns in MyUI, click here. We have only highlighted some of the pronoun series that are out there-- language grows on a community level and we cannot possible capture all the ways people use to describe their experiences.
To learn more about the importance of understanding and using correct pronouns of reference for faculty, staff, students and community members at the University of Iowa please watch our "Pronouns at UI Video".
References: The University of Iowa LGBTQ Safe Zone Project Curriculum.
Common Sets of Pronouns
He, him, his.
He took a walk.
The dog belongs to him.
That book is his.
The student surprised himself with the test results.
She, her, hers.
She took a walk.
The dog belongs to her.
That book is hers.
The student surprised herself with the test results.
They, them, theirs.
They took a walk.
The dog belongs to them.
That book is theirs.
The student surprised themselves with the test results.
Ze, hir, hirs.
Pronunciation: ze (zee), hir (here), hirs (here-s), hirself (here-self).
Ze took a walk.
The dog belongs to hir.
That book is hirs.
The student surprised hirself with the test results.
Ze, zir, zirs.
Pronunciation: ze (zee), zir (z-ear), zirs (z-ear-s), zirself (z-ear-self).
Ze took a walk.
The dog belongs to zir.
That book is zirs.
The student surprised zirself with the test results.