'Trans 101' Glossary

Transgender (adjective, not a noun) An umbrella term for most terms associated with gender nonconformity – those for whom identity, expression, and/or behavior does not conform to expected gender norms. (The use of "transgender" as a noun or "transgendered" as an adjective is often considered derogatory.)

Trans (adjective) Acceptable shorthand for "transgender."

Sex The classification of people as male or female – assigned at birth.

Transman (also FTM) Female-to-male identifying individual.

Transwoman (also MTF) Male-to-female identifying individual.

Gender Identity Internal sense of being male, female, or something else.

Gender Expression External manifestation of being male, female, or something else (often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body characteristics).

Cisgender Cis- (Latin), meaning "on this side of," an antonym for Latin-derived prefix trans-, meaning "across from" or "on the other side of." Cisgender implies one for whom gender expression and gender identity match sex assigned at birth.

Transsexual One for whom gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth and who seeks to transition. Term is out of favor; thought to be overly clinical.

Cross-dresser One for whom gender expression is manifest in clothing (etc.) different from that stereotypically worn by those of their assigned sex at birth. Term should never be used when describing a person who is transitioning or has transitioned.

Transvestite A cross-dresser. Term is currently out of favor; considered derogatory.

Queer (adjective and noun) Reclaimed term to include a sensibility as well as indication of gender/sexual nonconforming status. An inclusive alternative to "gay." Use varies and can be taken as derogatory or affirming depending on context.

Genderqueer A term used by those who identify as gender nonconforming and sometimes those who intentionally challenge expectations.

Sex Reassignment Surgery Procedures that change one's body to reflect gender identity, including top surgery (breast removal or enhancement), bottom surgery (genital removal or reconstruction).

Sex Change or Sex Change Surgery Considered derogatory terms.

Sexual Orientation A person's attraction to members of the same sex and/or a different sex (lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, or asexual).

Transition The period when a person begins living their gender identity rather than their gender assigned at birth. Process is unique to the individual and includes any combination or order of name change, change in dress and grooming habits, taking hormones, having surgery, or changing identity documents (e.g., drivers license, Social Security records) to reflect one's gender identity. Medical and legal steps are often prohibitively expensive.

Intersex People born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome pattern atypical to definitions of male or female. Also known as differences of sex development (DSD).

Drag Queen (Usually male) performer who dresses in stereotypical and often exaggerated garb as women for entertainment purposes. Sometimes used as a derogatory term to diminish transgender women.

Drag King (Usually female) performer who dresses in stereotypical and often exaggerated garb as men for entertainment purposes.

Problematic or Derogatory Terms to Avoid

she-male, he-she, it, tranny, shim, gender-bender, transgendered, transgenders, pre-op, post-op, sex change

Sources: various, including GLAAD, TENT, and National Center for Transgender Equality

  • More of the Story

  • Anatomy of an Understanding

    How an unfortunate fitting room encounter brought Petticoat Fair to a session called 'Trans 101'

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