Finding words to describe yourself

You're allowed to be whoever you like. No-one can tell you who you are. Everyone is unique and is not fully described by any word or combination of words.

Sooner or later, however, you will find you will need to use words to describe yourself to other people. There are a number of common words used to describe people, which all have advantages and disadvantages.

Commonly used words

Click a word for more information on what the word means and when to use it.

Remember when you are talking about other people to use the words they prefer. If you're not sure, ask.

Words to avoid

Some words are commonly used as a slur - an offensive word used to insult or attack people. Some of these words may be upsetting or traumatic for people, and we strongly suggest you avoid using them. If you want to find out more about these words, you can read our page about them.

There are also words which are specific to a particular culture, such as two spirit, hijra, or kathoey. Do not use these words to describe yourself unless you are a member of the culture that the word comes from - that would be cultural appropriation. You can read more about these words on the PBS website.

People from other cultures may not wish to be described as transgender or nonbinary, because these words use a particular way of thinking about gender specific to Western culture. Words like these may not correctly describe who the person is, or how they interact with the society around them.

What words should I use?

You can use your judgement to choose the most appropriate words to describe yourself. The words you use may vary depending on where you are and who you are describing yourself to.

Construct your own

You can also create your own words to describe yourself that better fit who you are - even the most commonly used words have only been around a few decades at most, and more are being invented all the time!

Errors and omissions

Is there something missing from this page? Have you spotted something that isn’t correct? Please tweet us or message us on Facebook to let us know.