Gender Modality refers to the correspondence (or lack thereof) between one's assigned gender at birth and one's actual gender and/or gender presentation. The two primary, and most well known gender modalities are cisgender and transgender. However, those are not the only possible modalities one can have. Gender modality is an open-ended category which welcomes the elaboration of further terms.
While the term "trans" may by defined as any lack of correspondence between gender identity and gender assigned at birth, some may find the all-or-nothing nature of ‘correspondence’ too constraining, or may feel that their relationship with their assigned gender at birth is more complex than can be described through the terms cis or trans. The cis-trans binary is challenged by some non-binary people (especially agender people) as well as some intersex people, who feel like they do not fit either term. Gender modalities also creates a space for cultures in which terms like trans and cis do not reflect understandings of gender in that society.
- Cisgender: When one's assigned gender at birth is the same as one's actual gender.
- Transgender: When one's assigned gender at birth is different from one's actual gender.
- Ipsogender: Intersex people who identify as their assigned gender at birth, but do not feel the term “cisgender” describes them due to being intersex. A “cis intersex” person.
- Ultergender: Intersex people who identify as a gender other than their assigned gender at birth, but do not feel the term “transgender” describes them due to being intersex. A “trans intersex” person.
- Cisn't: An umbrella term for anyone who isn't cisgender.
- Transn't: An umbrella term for anyone who isn't transgender.
- Isogender: When you're not cis, but you don't identify as trans.
- Absgender: Someone beyond, between or removed from trans/cis dichotomy.
- Utrinquegender: Someone who has aspects of both trans and cis experiences.
- Sensgender: When one relates to the trans experience, but only sometimes, temporarily, or not completely.
- Adgender: When one moves towards a particular gender expression. Includes trans people as well as people who are not trans but still transition.
- Demicisgender: Identifying partially as your assigned gender/sex at birth, and partially not.
- Demitransgender: Identifying partially, but not completely as transgender.
Gender modality was a term created by Florence Ashley, a transfeminine jurist and bioethicist, some time around February 28, 2019. The term was coined because Ashley noted that the notion of ‘gender identity’ as used in law, perpetuates the idea that ‘gender identity’ is something only used by trans people (whereas cis people would just have 'gender'). Ashley traces this misuse of the term gender identity to fact that a conceptual category such as gender modality was not available when policymakers attempt to speak of discrimination against trans people by virtue of being not cis.
The benefits of using gender modality as a concept include:
- Moves away from the othering nature of using the term "gender identity" when trans people are the sole intended subjects, which normalizes terminology that describes non-LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ people as equals.
- Enhances our vocabulary when discussing the various aspects of gender (e.g. gender assigned at birth, gender identity, gender expression, and now gender modality).
- Resolves controversies surrounding appropriate terminology when referring to the fact of being trans, with terms such as “transsexuality”, “transgenderism”.
- Opens the door to gender modalities outside of a cis/trans binary, by enabling us to talk about ones “gender modality” instead of one “being cis or trans” (in the same way that “sexual/romantic orientation” gives us conceptual tools to avoid reproducing a “straight/gay” binary).
Ashley advocates for the usage of gender modality in the WPATH Standards of Care version 8 and has written several essays on the topic of gender modality.
- Ashley Florence (2019-04-08). "Gender modality: Proposal for new terminology." Medium. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
- Ashley, Florence. (2021). 'Trans' is my gender modality: a modest terminological proposal. In Laura Erikson-Schroth (Eds.), Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press (forthcoming). https://www.florenceashley.com/uploads/1/2/4/4/124439164/florence_ashley_trans_is_my_gender_modality.pdf Accessed 2020-08-02