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Gender and Transgender Glossary of Terms

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

Understanding Gender Identity

A person’s innate, deeply-felt psychological identification as a man, woman, or something else, which may or may not correspond to the person’s external body or assigned sex at birth (i.e., the sex listed on the birth certificate).

“Sexual identity” should not be used as a synonym for, or as inclusive of, “gender identity”.

Gender expression

The external manifestation of a person’s gender identity, which may or may not conform to the socially-defined behaviors and external characteristics that are commonly referred to as either masculine or feminine. These behaviors and characteristics are expressed through carriage (movement), dress, grooming, hairstyles, jewelry, mannerisms, physical characteristics, social interactions, and speech patterns (voice).

Those people whose gender expression is (1) neither masculine nor feminine or (2) different from traditional or stereotypic expectations of how a man or woman should appear or behave are sometimes referred to as gender non-conforming.

Cross-dressers generally express the gender that matches the clothing they are wearing when they are cross-dressing. In most cases, their gender expression while cross-dressing does not match their gender identity.


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from their assigned sex at birth (i.e., the sex listed on their birth certificates). Some groups define the term more broadly (e.g., by including intersex people) while other people define it more narrowly (e.g., by excluding “true transsexuals”).

Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.

While “transgender” is a popularly used word and generally seems to be a safe default term to use, some people find the term offensive as a descriptor of themselves. It is best to ask clients which terms, if any, they use or prefer.

Use “transgender”, not “transgendered”.

See Androgyne, Cisgender, Gender, Gender bender, Gender expression, Gender identity, Gender non-conforming, Genderqueer, Intersex, Sex, Transsexuals, Two Spirit.


The process that people go through as they change their gender expression and/or physical appearance (e.g., through hormones and/or surgery) to align with their gender identity. A transition may occur over a period of time, and may involve coming out to family, friends, co-workers, and others; changing one’s name and/or sex designation on legal documents (e.g., drivers’ licenses, birth certificates); and/or medical intervention.

Some people find the word “transition” offensive and prefer terms such as “gender affirmation” or “process of gender affirmation”. It is best to asks clients which terms they prefer.

Many people view their coming out as an affirmation of the gender identity they have always had, rather than a transition from one gender identity to another. They may prefer to call themselves “affirmed females” (or just “females”) or “affirmed males” (or just “males”) rather than “transgender” or “transsexuals” because the “trans” prefix suggests they have changed, rather than accepted, their true gender identity. This is consistent with the concept that people do not need to have any surgery in order to affirm their gender.

Related terms are “process of gender affirmation”; “gender-affirmed female” (or just “affirmed female”); and “gender-affirmed male” (or just “affirmed male”).

Affectional orientation

Affirmed female, Affirmed male

Main Glossary


Refers to someone whose gender identity is both male and female, or neither male nor female. A person might present as androgynous, and/or as sometimes male and sometimes female, and might choose to use an androgynous name. Pronoun preference typically varies, including alternately using male or female pronouns, using the pronoun that matches the gender presentation at that time, or using newly developed gender-neutral pronouns (e.g., hir, zie)

Beyond binary Bi-gender

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Birth defect

Some people who suffer or have suffered with gender dysphoria may refer to their medical condition as a “birth defect”. Other people use the term “variation from the norm”.

Boi/Tranny Boi

Refers to people born female who feel that “female” is not an accurate or complete description of who they are. Other similar terms include “Butch,” “Boychick,” “Shapeshifter,” and “Boss Grrl”.