Gender Identity

College can be an exciting time of personal discovery. Many students come to more clearly understand their gender identity while in college, while others enter college with this part of their identity explored and more developed. Wherever you are on your journey of gender identity, we hope the following information will be helpful. The SJSU LGBT Resource Center is a great place to find community and many discussion groups related to specific topics under the LGBTQ umbrella. We also welcome you to Counseling Services, where there is a knowledgeable and affirming staff available if you would like to discuss your experience in a confidential space. Personal counselors are available at Counseling Services in Administration Building, Room 201, to consult, vent, and explore your identity. We are open for walk-ins M-F, 10am-4pm, and for emergency/crisis walk-ins M-F, 8:30am-4:30pm. Please call 408-924-5910 for more information.


  • Ally: a person who is an advocate and supporter of the LGBT community and LGBT individuals
  • Cisgender: An individual who does not identify as transgender and who identifies with their birth-assigned sex and gender.
  • Dragking/Dragqueen: Cross-dressing for performance purposes.
  • Gender: A social construct regarding a person's actual or perceived masculinity, femininity, and androgyny (including identity, appearance, or behavior) Ðmay not be different from that traditionally associated with the person's anatomical sex at birth.
  • Genderqueer/ Gender Fluid: One who rejects the gender binary (male/man or female/woman). An individual may identify as multiple genders, genderless, a third gender, etcÉ The individual's gender roles, identities, and gender presentations may be fluid and constantly evolving/changing.
  • Hermaphrodite: Outdated medical term used to describe an individual with an intersex condition.
  • Intersex: Medical condition in which an individual is born with ambiguous genitalia and/or an individual whose genitalia does not meet the medical expectation for their genetic sex.
  • Preferred Gender Pronoun (PGP): The pronoun an individual prefers to be referred to by (she, he, s/he, ze, hir, they, etc.)
  • Questioning: The individual process of contemplating whether one may be LGBT.
  • Transgender: An umbrella-term that is used to describe all individuals who transcend or transgress gender norms.
  • MTF/ Transwoman: An individual who identifies as a Male to Female Transsexual (assigned male at birth and gender identity is female/feminine/woman).
  • FTM/Transman: An individual who identifies as a Female to Male Transsexual (assigned female at birth and gender identity is male/masculine/man).
  • Transphobia: A fear or hatred of transgender individuals, which may result in prejudice and discrimination.
  • Transsexual: A person whose gender identity does not match their birth assigned sex and/or gender. Some transsexual individuals may alter their physical appearance with hormones or surgeries so that their physical body more closely matches their gender identity.
  • Sex: Biological categories of male, female, or intersex that are frequently determined by anatomy, chromosomes, and/or hormones.
  • Transvestite: Someone who dresses and assumes the role of the opposite gender. Often used synonymously with the term crossdresser. For many, the term crossdresser is preferred because historically the term transvestite has been used to diagnose a controversial mental illness.
  • Cross-dresser: A person who identifies with sex at birth, but who dresses and takes on mannerisms of opposite gender for various motivations (e.g., entertainment, political statement)

Please Note: It is very important to respect the way in which individuals identify their gender identity. Thus, please refrain from making assumptions, but rather ask how others identify and then refer to their identity as such (including pronoun preference). Also note that these definitions pertain to gender identity. Although, at times gender identity and sexual identity do intersect (gender identity may influence the label one uses to identify oneself regarding gender and/or sexual orientation), sexual identity is an identity that is separate from sexual orientation. Please see the sexual orientation page for Sexual Identity.

Questioning Gender Identity & Coming Out

Questioning your gender identity and “coming out” as transgender or gender queer can be very exciting and fun. Exploring different identities, and who you are as a person, allows you an opportunity to define yourself on your own terms and to be true to yourself and your desires. As with questioning any aspect of identity, it may also be a stressful time in one's life - at times, discovering your sexual identity can be overwhelming due to the societal pressures and discrimination that some individuals face.

If, and when, you feel that you are ready to come out to others, it is recommended that you first come out to those who are more likely to be supportive. You may also want to find other transgender or gender queer people of your cultural and religious background to seek support from others experiencing similar multicultural identities as you. Your coming out process does not need to follow a specific timeline or happen quickly. It is more important for you to explore who you are and to choose what feels most comfortable to you. Also, be mindful that you do not have to come out to everyone if you do not feel ready.

Navigating your Multicultural Identity

Most of us identify with more than one aspect of our identity. We may identify with a specific racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural group, or we may identify with a specific academic or extracurricular field of interest. These aspects of our identities can add additional layers of emotions when combined with identifying as transgender, gender queer, or if we are questioning our gender. Sometimes our religious background, family culture, and ethnic backgrounds may provide expectations or ideas for “who we should be” that create an additional layer of complexity. For example, many people struggle within themselves when they are questioning their gender identity and also identify with a cultural or religious group that is not accepting of gender queer people or which has very strict codes for how women and men should act. Many students find comfort in talking with others who are experiencing the same combinations of identities. No matter how you are feeling, know that you are not alone, and if you are feeling confused or stuck, consider visiting Counseling Services to talk things through with someone knowledgeable and supportive.

Athletic Identity as a Transgender or Gender Queer Person

Western society has stereotypical expectations of what men and women should look like, how they should define their gender, and how they are supposed to act. Those who violate those cultural norms, for whatever reason, may be punished or threatened with isolation and ostracism. Very little focus has been given to the construction of sex, gender, and gender identity within the sporting context, and how to have conversations about gender identity within the sporting world. The articles and books below talk about different aspects of sex, gender, and gender identity within the sporting context, in America and beyond, and how individual's have managed their multiple identities, have had to defend their gender identity, or, in some cases, have had to hide their true gender identity in order to compete.

Websites & Books



Campus Support at San Jose State

Community Support in San Jose

TV, Movies, & Books

  • Diagnosing Difference (2009)
  • Gender Rebel (2006)
  • Ma vie en rose (1997)
  • Southern Comfort (2001)
  • TransGeneration (2005)
  • Becoming a Visible Man - by Jamison Green
  • She's Not There - by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • Nina Here Nor There: My journey beyond gender ?Ð Nick Kreiger (2011)
  • Genderqueer, Voices from beyond the sexual binary - by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins
  • Transgender Warriors, Making history from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman - by Leslie Feinberg
  • Gender Outlaw: on men, women, and the rest of us - by Kate Bornstein (1995)
  • My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely - by Kate Bornstein (1998)
  • Nobody Passes - by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (2006)
  • Stone Butch Blues - by Leslie Feinberg (1993)
  • Whipping Girl: a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity - (2007)
  • The Transgender Child, A Handbook for Families and Professionals - by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper