Transgender Terminology

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The Genderbread Person. Click on picture for full-sized. Thanks to Sam Killermann at itspronouncedmetrosexual.com for the use of graphic! Please visit his site and see what the “half-comedian, one-hundred-percent-metro social justice advocate” is up to now.

This is a list of commonly used terms within the transgender community. This list is meant to be a starting place, not an exhaustive list.

Transgender: Someone whose gender identity different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is an accepted but broad term. Transgender is often shortened to “trans” or “trans*”, with the asterisk used to show the inclusivity of this umbrella term.

Note: Transgender is an adjective, not a noun. So, while “transgender people” is fine, “transgenders” is considered by many to be inappropriate.

Transgender Man: A transgender person who is currently identifying as a man (see also “FTM”).

Transgender Woman: A transgender person who is currently identifying as a woman (see also “MTF”).

Gender Identity: Maybe male, female, or something else, depending on the sense of being of the individual. A person’s gender identity is not necessarily externally visible since gender identity is internal.

Gender Expression: How a person expresses their gender identity to others, often involving behavior, hairstyles, clothing, voice, or body characteristics.

Transsexual: A transgender person who seeks to medically transition from one biological sex to the other via hormones and/or surgeries.

Cross-dresser: Individuals who generally have no intent to live full-time as the other gender, but dress in clothing stereo-typically worn by the other sex. The older term “transvestite” is considered inappropriate.

Queer: Refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people. Some use queer as an alternative to “gay” in an effort to be more inclusive.

Note: Depending on the user, the term may be derogatory or affirming, as many within the community have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used negatively.

Genderqueer: Individuals who identify as neither entirely female or male.

Gender Non-conforming: People whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Bi-gendered: A person that has a significant gender identity that encompasses both male and female genders. One side or the other may be stronger, but both sides are present.

Two-Spirit: Individual spirits within the historical and current First Nations communities who were a blend of male and female spirits. Often, members of the transgender community who are also Native American identify this way.

Note: This is a term that has been used to honor the heritage of Native American LGBT communities to provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

FTM: A “transgender man”, a person who transitions from “female-to-male”, meaning a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male.

MTF: A “transgender woman”, a person who transitions from “male-to-female,” meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as a female.

Sex Reassignment Surgery (or, SRS):  The group of surgical procedures that change a person’s body to better reflect a person’s gender identity. Contrary to popular belief, sex reassignment surgery involves multiple procedures. Often, procedures include “top surgery” (breast augmentation or removal) or “bottom surgery” (altering genitals). These surgeries are medically necessary for some people, however not all people want, need, or can have surgery as part of their transition. “Sex Change Surgery” is now considered by many to be inappropriate.

Note: Gender Confirmation Surgery, or GCS, is more accurate and preferential terminology for many trans*folk.

Sexual Orientation: Based on a person’s attraction to members of the same sex and/or a different sex. This is usually defined as lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, or asexual.

Transition: The time when a person stops living as the gender they were assigned at birth and begins to live as the gender with which they identify. This may include dressing and grooming differently and the changing one’s first name. There may be medical (like taking hormones, having surgery) and legal aspects (changing identity documents e.g. driver’s license, Social Security records) to transitioning that may be difficult for people to afford.

Intersex: Also known as differences of sex development (DSD). A person who is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that does not fit the typical definitions of male or female.

Drag Queen: Male performers who, for the purpose of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events, dress as women. It is also sometimes used to refer to transgender women in a derogatory manner.

Drag King: Female performers who dress as men for the purposes of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events.

Cisgender: People who identify with their birth assigned sex. Someone who is not transgender.