Gender and Transgender Glossary of Terms

Updated: Mar 17

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.


Transgender

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.


Transition

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


Androgyne

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

Bottom surgery


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”.


Cisgender, cissexual

People whose gender identity and gender expression align with their assigned sex at birth (i.e., the sex listed on their birth certificates). Cisgender is a newer term that some people prefer when writing and speaking about transgender and non-transgender people, with the non- transgender people being referred to as “cisgender”. In this manner, a transgender person is not singled out as being different or not normal.


A similar pair of words is “cissexual” and “transsexual”. The cis/trans distinction may have its origins in geometric isomers from organic chemistry. Compare transatlantic and cisatlantic.



Coming out

The process of accepting, and telling others about, one’s theretofore hidden gender identity, gender affirmation, or sexual orientation.

See Outing, Stealth.


Cross-dressers (CD)

People who wear clothing, jewelry, and/or make-up not traditionally or stereotypically associated with their anatomical sex, and who generally have no intention or desire to change their anatomical sex. Cross- dressing is more often associated with men, is more often engaged in on an occasional basis, and is not necessarily reflective of sexual orientation or gender identity.


Cross-dressing may be engaged in for numerous reasons, including a need to express femininity/masculinity, artistic expression, performance (e.g., drag queen/king), or erotic enjoyment.


In the case of persons coming to terms with their gender dysphoria, they may start wearing clothing that matches their gender identity, which some people mistakenly say is the “cross-dressing phase” of their coming out process. These people are not cross-dressing and, therefore, should not be referred to as cross-dressers, because they are wearing the clothing that matches their gender identity.

“Cross-dresser” should be used instead of the term “transvestite” (which is considered pejorative).


Drag king

An anatomical female who cross-dresses as male primarily for performance or show. Drag kings generally identify as female and do not wish to change their anatomical sex. The term is sometimes used as an insult toward a transman.


Drag queen

An anatomical male who cross-dresses as a woman primarily for performance or show. Drag queens generally identify as male and do not wish to change their anatomical sex. The term is sometimes used as an insult toward a transwoman.


FTM

Female to Male

Gender or Gender role

Refers to the traditional or stereotypical behavioral differences between men and women, as defined by the culture in which they live, in terms of, among others things, their gender expressions, the careers they pursue, and their duties within a family.


Gender affirmation,

Affirmed female, Affirmed male

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 6 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.


Gender Affirmation Surgery (GAS)


Gender bender, Bi- gender, Beyond binary, Gender fluid, Gender outlaw, Pan gender, Polygender

Similar to genderqueer and androgyne, these terms refer to gender variations other than the traditional, dichotomous view of male and female. People who self-refer with these terms may identify and present themselves as both or alternatively male and female, as no gender, or as a gender outside the male/female binary.


Gender dysphoria

Some people prefer this term over “gender identity disorder” because it has a less stigmatizing impact.


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.


Gender fluid Gender identity

A person’s innate, deeply-felt psychological identification as a man, 7 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 Identity Disorder (GID)

According to DSM-IV-TR, Gender Identity Disorder is the diagnosis used when a person has (1) a strong and persistent cross-gender identification and (2) persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex, and the disturbance (3) is not concurrent with physical intersex condition and (4) causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

According to DSM-IV-TR, Gender Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified can be used for persons who have a gender identity problem with a concurrent congenital intersex condition.

Many people prefer the term “gender dysphoria”, thus eliminating the negative connotation of the word “disorder”.


Gender minority

Used to describe people whose gender expression and/or gender identity does not match traditional societal norms.

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


Gender non-conforming

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.


Genderqueer

This term is generally used in two ways: (1) as an umbrella term that includes all people whose gender varies from the traditional norm, akin to the use of the word “queer” to refer to people whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual only; or (2) to describe a subset of individuals who are born anatomically female or male, but feel their gender identity is neither female or male.


Surgery

Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS)

Gender Realignment Surgery (GRS)

Genital Reassignment Surgery (GRS)

Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS)

Genital surgery (GS)

Getting Clocked/Read/Spooked

When people are not perceived as the gender they are presenting in (e.g., based on their dress and mannerisms match according to social norms). For example: an anatomical male dressed as a female who is perceived by others as male (e.g., a stranger says “that’s a man in a dress”), or a transman who is perceived as a woman.


Hermaphrodite

Previously used to describe intersex; now considered pejorative and outdated.


Intersex

A spectrum of conditions involving anomalies of the sex chromosomes, gonads, reproductive ducts, and/or genitalia. The most traditional definition of intersex refers to individuals born with both male and female genitalia, or genitalia that are not clearly male or female. A person may have elements of both male and female anatomy, have different internal organs than external organs, or have anatomy that is inconsistent with chromosomal sex. This condition is sometimes not identified until puberty, when the person either fails to develop certain expected secondary sex characteristics, or develops characteristics that were not expected.


According to the DSM-IV-TR, Gender Identity Disorder is not an appropriate diagnosis when a strong and persistent cross-gender identification is concurrent with a physical intersex condition. However, people born with certain intersex conditions may be more likely than the general population to feel their gender assignment at birth was incorrect.


The term “Disorders of Sex Development” (DSD) is currently recommended where the medical care of infants is considered. Sometimes written as “Disorders of Sexual Development” or “Disorders of Sex Differentiation”. These terms are controversial and not widely accepted.


Some people suggest that a better term is “Variation in Sex Development” or “Variability in Sex Development” (VSD), thus eliminating the negative connotation of the word “disorder”.

Some people suggest that gender-dysphoric people may be intersex or have a variation in sex development because their anatomical sex does not match their gender identity, perhaps as a result of cross brain feminization or masculinization.


“Hermaphrodite” is an old term previously used instead of “intersex” and is now considered pejorative.


LGBT

Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. Sometimes written as GLBT.


LGBTIQQAA

There are numerous variations of the basic LGBT acronym used by some people in order to be more inclusive, with “I” for Intersex, “Q” for Queer and/or Questioning, and “A” for Asexual and/or Ally.


MTF

Male to Female (used with and without “transsexual”)

Neo-vagina

While this is the technical term for when a vagina is surgically created and is suitable for use when having a discussion with another medical professional, it is not a term that should be used with a client during routine office visits or routine gynecological examinations. A clinician need not remind a female client that she has a neo-vagina. Simply say “vagina”.


Outing

The unauthorized disclosure by one person of another person’s theretofore hidden gender identity, gender affirmation, or sexual orientation.


Passing

When people are perceived as the gender they are presenting in (e.g., based on their dress and mannerisms match according to social norms). For example: an anatomical male dressed as a female who is perceived by others as female, or a transman who is perceived as a man.

See Getting Clocked/Read/Spooked.

Real life experience (RLE),

Real life test (RLT)

Generally accepted guideline, from the Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders (see www.WPATH.org), that requires clients to live outwardly in the gender that matches their gender identity for a specified period of time (typically one year) prior to being eligible for genital surgery.


Less often referred to as the “real life test” (RLT), which is considered a misleading and offensive term and, therefore, it should be avoided.


Sex dichotomous

In a scheme, the designation of a person at birth as either “male” or “female” based on their anatomy (genitalia and/or reproductive organs) and/or biology (chromosomes and/or hormones).


Sometimes “sex” and “gender” are used interchangeably. For clarity, it is better to distinguish sex, gender identity, and gender expression from each other.


Sex change, Sex change operation, Sex change surgery

These terms are considered pejorative and, therefore, should be avoided. See Surgery.


Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS),

Sex Realignment Surgery (SRS)

The term “sex reassignment surgery” and the lesser-used term “sex realignment surgery” are increasingly falling into disuse.


Sexual minority

Used to describe people whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual only.


Sexual orientation

A person’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional, and/or spiritual attraction to another person. May be lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual. Sexual orientation is distinct from sex, gender identity, and gender expression. A person’s sexual orientation should not be assumed based on the perceived sex of that person’s partner(s). For example, a man who identifies himself as heterosexual may have sexual relationships with men and women.

“Affectional orientation” is sometimes used as a more encompassing term.


Stealth

When a transgender person who has transitioned into a different sex or gender does not divulge the fact of transition. When a person has gone through gender affirmation and does not disclose that fact to others.

The risk or fear of being “outed” may be very distressing to a person who is living stealth.

Some people who considered themselves transgender prior to transition believe that after they transition they are no longer transgender and, therefore, no longer have anything to reveal. Many people believe the information about their medical treatments and surgeries is private and does not need to be divulged any more than anyone else divulges their medical histories to others. Clinicians need to treat such medical information with the same required degree of confidentiality as they would for all of their other clients.