Glossary of Transgender Terms

Transgender Terms and Meanings

We’ve compiled a list of different important terms to keep in mind while talking with transgender people. Some terms are offensive while others are not. Please always make sure to use proper pronouns and if you’re not sure of them, just ask. They will be happy you did.

Learning Transgender Terms

  • Agender Individuals: People who identify as genderless or gender-neutral.
  • Cisgender Individuals: People who identify with the gender that was assigned to them at birth
  • Cisgender Privilege: The set of conscious and unconscious advantages and/or immunities that people
    who are or who are perceived as gender conforming benefit from on a daily basis.
  • Crossdressers: Individuals who, regardless of motivation, wear clothing, makeup, etc. that are
    considered by the culture to be appropriate for another gender but not one’s own
  • Drag or In Drag: Wearing clothing considered appropriate for someone of another gender.
  • FTM: Female-to-male transsexual people, transsexual men, transmen, or transguys—
    individuals assigned female at birth who identify as male.
  • Gender: The beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that a specific culture attributes to individuals based on
    their perceived sex. It involves gender assignment, gender roles, gender attribution, and gender identity.
  • Gender Affirming Surgery: Surgical procedures that change one’s body to conform to one’s gender
    identity. These procedures may include “top surgery” (breast augmentation or removal) and “bottom
    surgery” (altering genitals). For female-to-male transsexual individuals, surgeries involve a bilateral
    mastectomy (chest reconstruction), panhysterectomy (removal of the ovaries and uterus), and
    sometimes a phalloplasty (construction of a penis) and scrotoplasty (formation of a scrotum) or a
    metoidioplasty (restructuring the clitoris). For male-to-female transsexual individuals, surgeries
    consist of optional surgical breast implants and vaginoplasty (construction of a vagina). Additional
    surgeries might include a trachea shave (reducing the size of the Adam’s apple), bone restructuring to
    feminize facial features, and hair transplants. Gender affirming surgery is sometimes referred to as
    “gender reassignment surgery” or “gender confirming surgery.”
  • Gender Dysphoria: The classification for transsexuality in the American Psychiatric Association’s
    Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition, 2013). It is defined as “a marked
    incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.” Most transsexual
    people strongly object to being listed in the DSM, arguing that their inclusion serves to dehumanize
    and pathologize them.
  • Gender Expression: How one chooses to express one’s gender identity through behavior, clothing,
    hairstyle, voice, body characteristics, etc.
  • Gender Identity: An individual’s sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender
    identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.
    Gender Variant, Gender Diverse, or Gender Nonconforming: General terms for individuals who
    do not fit into traditional “male” and “female” gender categories.
  • Genderism: The societal, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege cisgender
    people and subordinate and disparage transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
  • Genderqueer: People who identify outside of a gender binary by seeing themselves as
    neither male nor female (but as a third gender or as gender fluid) as both, or as somewhere in between.
  • Intersex: Congenital variations in which development of chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex is
    atypical (preferred term to “hermaphrodite”). About one in 1,500-2,000 children are born with an
    intersex variation.
  • MTF: Male-to-female transsexual people, transsexual women, or transwomen—
    individuals assigned male at birth who identify as female. Some transwomen reject being seen as
    “MTF,” arguing that they have always been female and are only making this identity visible to other
    people (instead, they may call themselves “FTF”).
  • Sie or Ze: A non-gender specific pronoun used instead of “she” and “he.”
  • Trans, Trans*, or Transgender People: Most commonly used as an umbrella term for individuals
    whose gender identity and/or expression is different from the gender assigned to them at birth. Trans
    people include individuals who are transsexual, genderqueer, agender, androgyne, demigender,
    genderfluid, individuals who cross-dress or dress androgynously, and other individuals who cross or
    go beyond traditional gender categories.
  • Transitioning: The period during which a person begins to live as their “true” gender. It may include
    changing one’s name, taking hormones, having surgery, and altering legal documents.
  • Transsexual People: Individuals whose gender identity is different from their assigned gender at
    birth. Transsexual people often undergo hormone treatments and gender affirming surgeries to align
    their anatomy with their core identity, but not all desire or are able to do so.
  • Two Spirit People: A Native American/First Nation term for people who blend the masculine and the
    feminine. It is commonly used to describe anatomical women who took on the roles and/or dress of
    men and anatomical men who took on the roles and/or dress of women in the past (preferred term to
    “berdache”). The term is also often used by contemporary LGBT Native American and First Nation
    people to describe themselves.

Learn more about Trans Dating and transgender terms at work by reading our About page!