Home 9 Writing 9 What’s the Best Way to Refer to Everyone Who Isn’t Cis?

What’s the Best Way to Refer to Everyone Who Isn’t Cis?

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Writing

The language surrounding gender is constantly evolving. In order to honor the identities of those who don’t conform to mainstream gender expectations, it’s important to be careful, thoughtful, and precise in our word choice. This raises some intricate considerations for copywriters who want their words to be broadly inclusive. One common question: What’s the best way to refer to everyone who isn’t cis?

While there’s no one umbrella term that can be used across the board, there are a few different options for those who have an interest in more inclusive language. Here is a quick guide to inform your own copywriting efforts.

What’s the Best Way to Refer to Everyone Who Isn’t Cis: A Few Terms to Consider

First, let’s consider some of the umbrella terms that you’ll hear bandied about… some of which are acceptable and some of which aren’t.

Gender Deviant and Gender Variant

These terms are most common in medical literature and sociological studies. They’re generally frowned upon these days, as both terms imply a sense of abnormality.

Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC)

While this umbrella term is still considered to be an acceptable type of inclusive language, it’s often used to describe gender expression, not gender identity. As such, it can be used to encompass cisgender men and women who simply don’t conform to gender norms.


This term was introduced pretty recently to describe people who don’t identify as cis, but don’t necessarily identify as trans either. So far, the term really hasn’t gained much momentum, and isn’t in widespread use.

Gender Diverse

Gender diverse is a very common and widely accepted term, though it’s important to note that the term means varying, not necessarily non-conforming. In other words, you would use “gender diversity” to define a larger group, even humanity as a whole. It’s not just about those who are or aren’t cis.


This is probably the term that works best here in the American context. The use of the slash denotes an “and/or” mentality, meaning that the terms trans and non-binary aren’t mutually exclusive.

Why Do We Need Inclusive Language Beyond Saying “Trans?”

The term trans is widely accepted to describe individuals who have a gender identity that differs from the one they were assigned at birth. While the term is very useful, it’s inadequate for describing all people who aren’t cisgender. Here’s why:

  • Trans and cis don’t represent a binary. There are plenty of folks who might consider themselves to be somewhat cis, for example, or somewhat misaligned with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Trans is widely considered to be a descriptive term, but not necessarily one that conveys an identity. Some folks could be described as trans but identify as queergender, agender, etc.
  • The term trans can also dredge up traumatic memories of gatekeepers, particularly those within the medical community who make proclamations about who is “trans enough” to receive gender-affirming care.

These are just a few of the reasons why the term trans, though useful in some contexts, cannot be considered an umbrella term for all people who aren’t cisgender.

Best Practices for Using Inclusive Language

There are obviously some complex considerations here, so what are the best practices for ensuring inclusive and compassionate language? Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

Consider Context

Language always has a context, so determining the right verbiage is always going to come down to immediate surroundings. For example, TGNC is widely used in many communities of color, and may be the best language to use for addressing certain audiences. “Trans and gender creative” may be fine for referencing children or youth but is less appropriate for older demographics.


Before you write or speak, take the time to listen. If you’re addressing a particular person or community, be aware of the types of identifying language your audience employs.

Be Accurate

It’s also important to think through what you’re actually saying (or trying to say) with your language. One common error is referring to “LGBT and GQNBT” people, which is sloppy and redundant: LGBT already encompasses trans people.

Be Welcoming and Descriptive

When in doubt, be extra intentional in spelling out exactly who you’re referencing. For example, if you use a term like transgender, articulate the full range of people you’re referencing, denoting that the term encompasses genderqueer, gender fluid, intersex, and non-binary individuals.

What’s the Best Language to Refer to Everyone Who Isn’t Cis? The Answer is Evolving.

The bottom line? The language we use to talk about gender is constantly adapting, and it’s important for writers and marketers to be nimble, compassionate, and responsive. As you consider the best ways to ensure inclusive language in your work, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion. At Grammar Chic, Inc., our team boasts ample expertise writing for diverse audiences. We’d love to talk further. Contact us at www.grammarchic.net or 803-831-7444.