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Glossary and references


Terms related to gender identity

This section provides definitions of terms relevant to the concept of gender identity.

Note: The label is in bold; definition is in normal font, and supporting information in italics.

Acquired gender: The new gender of a person who has had their gender reassigned and/or legally recognised. It is possible for an individual to transition fully without surgical intervention (Balarajan, Gray, & Mitchell, 2011).

Agender: A person who is internally ungendered or does not have a felt sense of gender identity (University of California – Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center, 2013).

Cisgender: Individuals who have a match between the gender they were recorded at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity (adapted from Schilt & Westbrook, 2009).

Cross-dresser: Refers to a person who wears the clothing of the opposite sex because it is the clothing of the opposite sex. This excludes people who wear opposite-sex clothing for other reasons. Cross-dressers may not identify with, or want to be, the opposite gender, nor adopt the behaviours or practices of the opposite gender, and generally do not want to change their bodies (Balarajan, Gray, & Mitchell, 2011).

Gender: The social and cultural construction based on the expectation of what it means to be a man and/or a woman, including roles, expectations, and behaviour. The concept of gender diversity acknowledges this full range of genders. Societies, and cultures within societies, have different constructs and expectations of gender and this can vary over time.

Gender diverse: Having a gender identity or gender expression that differs from a given society’s dominant gender roles (adapted from Open Society Foundations, 2013).

Gender dysphoria: Distress caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and that person’s sex assigned at birth (and the associated gender role and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics) (World Professional Association for Transgender Health, 2012).

Gender expression: How someone expresses or presents elements of masculinity and/or femininity externally (HRC, 2008). This includes clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms, voice, and other behaviours. Someone’s gender expression may or may not reflect their gender identity.

Gender identity: An individual’s internal sense of being wholly female, wholly male, or having aspects of female and/or male.

Genderqueer: One of the terms used by people who do not identify as male or female, or may have aspects of male and female.

Trans/transgender: In New Zealand, this is often used as an umbrella term for transgender or transsexual people. It relates to a person whose gender identity differs from their sex recorded at birth. It includes; for example, trans men (tangata ira tāne), trans women (whakawahine), fa’afafine, fakaleiti, akava’ine, genderqueer, and other gender diverse individuals. Transgender people may or may not choose to medically and/or surgically transition.

Trans man: A transgender individual who, although assigned female at birth, currently identifies as a male (Grant, et al, 2011). For example, a female-to-male transgender person (FtM).

Trans woman: A transgender individual who, although assigned male at birth, currently identifies as a female (Grant, et al, 2011), for example, a male-to-female transgender person (MtF).

Transitioning: When a transgender person take steps to live in their gender identity. It may involve social transition, legal gender recognition, and/or medical and/or surgical transition. There is no single way of transitioning, nor is transition defined by medical and/or surgical steps someone has or has not taken.

Transsexual: A term used for someone who intends to undergo, may be undergoing, or has undergone gender-affirming treatment to align their physical self with their gender identity.


Terms related to sex and sexual orientation

The following terms do not relate to gender identity. They are listed below to clarify distinctions between gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation.

See Explanatory notes for definitions for sex and gender.

Indeterminate sex: Physical appearance and/or genetic testing does not enable a person to be classified as male or female (Statistics NZ, 1995). A person with indeterminate sex can have a combination of male and female features, or features that are not characteristic of either sex.

Intersex: An umbrella term that relates to a range of physical, hormonal, or genetic features present (but not always evident) at birth, which are neither wholly female nor wholly male, or a combination of female and male (Adapted from ILGA-Europe, nd.).

Sex: The distinction between males and females based on the biological differences in sexual characteristics (Statistics NZ, 1995). Sex is biologically determined and is based on chromosomal and physical attributes. A third category, indeterminate sex, is recorded on some administrative databases and in some cases is self-defined, with no medical evidence required.

Sexual behaviour: Refers to how people behave sexually, whether they have sexual partners of the same sex or not. Sexual behaviour does not necessarily form a basis for a person’s sexual identity (Office for National Statistics [ONS], 2010).

Sexual identity: How individuals think of themselves. This does not necessarily match their sexual behaviour or who they are attracted to, and can change over time (ONS, 2010).

Sexual orientation: A person’s sexual orientation can be derived from their sexual attraction, sexual behaviour, and/or sexual identity (ONS, 2010). It includes, for example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, heterosexual, and asexual.


Māori and Pacific terms related to both gender identity and sexual orientation

Terms outside the binary female/male exist within many cultures. See below for some examples.

Māori terms

Ira tāngata: Gender diverse. (Note the macron over the ‘a’ in ‘tāngata’ defines the broadness/diverseness of gender.) How people live their life.

Takatāpui: The traditional meaning of takatāpui is ‘intimate companion of the same sex’. Many Māori people have adopted this term to describe themselves, instead of or in addition to terms such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or transgender. It refers to cultural and sexual/gender identity (Pega, Gray, & Veale, 2010). Also spelt takataapui.

Tāne (noun): husband, male, man (Moorfield, nd).

Tangata ira tāne: Someone born biologically female who has a male gender identity.

Wahine (noun): woman, female, lady, wife (Moorfield, nd).

Whakawahine, hinehī, hinehua: Terms describing someone born biologically male who has a female gender identity.

Pacific terms

Fa’afafine (Samoa, American Samoa, and Tokelau); fakaleiti or leiti (Tonga); fakafifine (Niue), akava’ine (Cook Islands); mahu (Tahiti and Hawaii); vakasalewalewa (Fiji); palopa (Papua New Guinea): These terms have wider meaning and are best understood within their cultural context.


Residual categories

Don’t know

This category is used where the respondent does not know, or cannot give, an appropriate response.

Refused to answer

This category is only used when it is known that the respondent has purposefully chosen not to respond to the question. Use of this residual category in processing is optional. Its use is most applicable in face-to-face or telephone interviews, but may be used in self-completed questionnaires if the respondent has clearly indicated they refuse or object to answering the question.

Response unidentifiable

This category is used when there is a response given, but:

  • the response is illegible, or
  • it is unclear what the meaning or intent of the response is – this most commonly occurs when the response being classified contains insufficient detail, is ambiguous or vague, or
  • the response is contradictory, or
  • the response is clear and seemingly within the scope of the classification, but cannot be coded because no suitable option exists at the level being coded to.

Response outside scope

This category is used for responses that are positively identified (ie the meaning and the intent are clear), but which clearly fall outside the scope of the defined classification.

Not stated

This category is only used where a respondent has not given any response to the question asked, that is, it is solely for non-response.


Balarajan, M, Gray, M, & Mitchell, M (2011). Monitoring equality: Developing a gender identity question (Equality and Human Rights Commission Research report 75). Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission. Available from

Grant, JM, Mottet, LM, Tanis, J, Harrison, J, Herman, JL, & Keisling, M (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Available from

Human Rights Commission (2008). To be who I am: Kia noho au ki tōku anō ao. Report of the inquiry into discrimination experienced by transgender people. Available from

ILGA-Europe (nd). Glossary. Available from

International Commission of Jurists (2007). Yogyakarta principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. Available from

Moorfield, JC (nd). Te aka online Māori dictionary. Available from

Office for National Statistics (2010). Measuring sexual identity: Evaluation report. Available from

Open Society Foundations (2013). Transforming health: International rights-based advocacy for trans health. Available from

Pega, F, Gray, A, & Veale, J (2010). Sexual orientation data in probability surveys: Improving data quality and estimating core population measures from existing New Zealand survey data. Official Statistics Research Series, Vol 2010-2. Available from

Schilt, K & Westbrook, L (2009). Doing gender, doing heteronormativity: “Gender normals,” transgender people, and the social maintenance of heterosexuality. Gender & Society, 23(4), 440–464. Available from

Statistics NZ (1995). Statistical standard for sex. Available from

University of California – Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center (2013). Definition of terms. Available from

World Professional Association for Transgender Health (2012). Version 7, Appendix A – Glossary. In Standards of care for the health of transsexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people. Available from  

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