What Is…TGNC?

Pride flags

My “what is” series was initially designed to understand terms that are sometimes viewed as social justice jargon. However, as this series has gone on, I’ve come to realize that it is not just terms, but also acronyms, at times, that make people feel a little confused or lost.

One such acronym is TGNC. This acronym stands for transgender and gender nonconforming.

Before going any further in this post, it is worth defining what the terms transgender and gender nonconforming mean, as well as defining what birth sex, gender, and gender identity are:

  • While gender can be a challenge to define, the best definition I’ve heard about gender (in relation to one’s birth sex) is that birth sex is “between the legs” while gender is “between the ears.” In other words, birth sex refers to the sex one is assigned at birth, based on one’s body parts (e.g. seeing a penis and determining that it is a boy; hence, between the legs). As for gender, it refers to one’s own sense of how they align internally with masculinity, femininity, a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither masculinity or femininity (hence, between the ears).[1]
  • A person’s gender identity is a person’s sense of what they understand their gender to be.
  • A transgender individual is someone whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • A gender nonconforming individual is someone whose gender doesn’t conform to the norms expected of them based on the sex they were assigned at birth.

This acronym is that it is meant to cover people who do not have the experience of feeling like they have a gender identity that falls perfectly in line with the sex they were assigned at birth. In other words, it’s an acronym that covers transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Even though not everyone who identifies as transgender also identifies as gender nonconforming, and even though not everyone who is gender nonconforming identifies as transgender, the TGNC acronym can still be useful. The reason is that many TGNC individuals, regardless of whether they identify as transgender or gender nonconforming, have that shared experience of being treated awkwardly or poorly, in one way or another, because of their gender identity. And, speaking as someone who knows a number of people in that community, many of those experiences are similar, whether you are transgender or gender nonconforming. In a way, the TGNC acronym is one meant to capture people with two different identities who have, in many cases, similar experiences.

A few of my readers may ask the following: What about people who identify as non-binary? After all, individuals who are non-binary—people who feel they don’t fall into one of the typical “binary” categories for gender (male and female)—also have that experience of feeling like their gender does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth (an experience shared with transgender and gender nonconforming people). To answer this question, TGNC is usually the acronym I see when talking about people with the aforementioned experiences, which is why my “what is” post is on what TGNC stands for. However, some prefer to use the acronym of TGNCNB (transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary), in order to include individuals who identify as non-binary. Regardless of which acronym you prefer, we should not lose sight of the use of this acronym, which is to talk about people with a shared experience not held by people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

So, with all of this in mind, I wish individuals in the LGBTQ+ community a Happy Pride Month in June, and I hope individuals not in the LGBTQ+ community come away from this post a little better informed than they were before reading this.

[1] I should note that how one presents oneself in terms of clothes, makeup (or a lack thereof), hair, etc., doesn’t necessarily determine one’s gender identity, though for some how they present themselves can relate to how they identify themselves gender-wise.

16 Replies to “What Is…TGNC?”

    1. You’re welcome, and I am happy to clarify. Gender is complex, but once again, humanity itself is also complex.

      As to how our growing gender diversity will affect our species, I’m not sure that it’ll be our growing gender diversity that will have an impact on things as much as our understanding of said diversity. That is my guess, but we’ll see if I’m right. That lack of understanding seems to be a major factor in family rejection (and the subsequent mental health issues) that many people who identify as transgender, gender nonconforming, non-binary, etc. face.

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Hello Brendan. I love your post. I was wondering if I could repost your post in its entirety with credit to you and your blog? I am unable to do a reblog currently and I think the subject needs as much exposure as possible. . Also if you would could you email me at Scottiestoybox@gmail.com as I have a question I would like to ask you on this subject. Thank you. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting, I hadn’t heard this term before. I just googled it because I was curious about the gender nonconforming element, and I couldn’t get a clear sense of whether the term refers to queer gender identities or gender expression. Has what you’ve seen about it leaned more towards one or the other?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s a good question.

      What I’ve seen is that the term can refer to gender identity and/or gender expression (I say and/or because for some people, their gender expression or desired gender expression can influence their gender identity).

      Hopefully, that answers your question!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Helpful summation and very clear. I spend a lot of time talking with, preaching for folks who are older than sixty, who desperately try to stay on top of new language for experiences as old as being human. For them often skipping the acronyms and using all the words is easier (and faster since trying to remember if one has left out a letter is a longer pause). But knowing the acronyms is so important since once hair is gray a little confusion is often assumed to be disapproval.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this nuanced post. As a parent of a nonbinary child, who has learned A LOT in the last 20 months since they came out, I will share that nonbinary is a category beneath the transgender identity umbrella. So my kid is both nonbinary AND trans. Here is an excellent glossary of terminology. Still so much to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, as well as the glossary, as I imagine the glossary may be helpful to some readers too.

      And thank you for noting that nonbinary is a category beneath the transgender identity umbrella too. Transgender is an umbrella indeed, and many nonbinary people (including your kid) identify as being within that umbrella.


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