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Ally: Someone who advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own. Reaching across differences to achieve mutual goals.
Androgynous: Gender neutral, from the Greek andro for male and gyno for female. Someone who, when you look at them, you can’t easily tell whether they’re a man or a woman.
Asexual: Not interested in sexual relationships with anyone. It’s not that they just haven’t found the right person yet, they really aren’t interested in sexual relationships.
Cis (also cisgender, cissexual): Not Trans. Trans means across; cis means on the same side. Cispeople’s gender and sex align, e.g. female and woman.
Cissexism: Assuming every person to be cissexual therefore marginalizing those who identify as trans* in some form. It is also believing cissexuals to be superior, and holding people to traditional expectations based on gender, or punishing or excluding those who don’t conform to traditional gender expectations.
Cis privilege: Benefits derived automatically for being (or being perceived as) cisgender that are denied to people who are perceived as trans.
Drag: The act of dressing in gendered clothing as part of a performance. Drag Queens perform in highly feminine attire. Drag Kings perform in highly masculine attire. Drag may be performed as a political comment on gender, as parody, or simply as entertainment. Drag performance does not indicate sexuality, gender identity, or sex identity.
FTM (also FtM, F2M, F-T-M, F-M): Acronym for Female to Male.
Gender: One’s sense of self regardless of external genitalia. Gender is often confused with sex, but this is inaccurate because sex refers to the physical body and gender refers to a person’s sense of being.
Gender binary: The belief that there are men over here, and there are women over there, and there’s a huge chasm in between, and that’s it; all people are either men or women, and nothing else is possible.
Gender conformity: When your gender identity, gender expression and sex ‘match’ (i.e. fit social norms). For example, a male who is masculine and identifies as a man.
Gender expression: This is how a person indicates their gender to others. It includes clothes and hairstyle, as well as mannerisms, ways of walking and talking.
Gender identity: The gender that a person sees themselves as. This can include refusing to label oneself with a gender. Gender identity is also often conflated with sexual orientation, but this is inaccurate. Gender identity does not cause sexual orientation, nor does sexual orientation cause gender identity! For example, a masculine woman is not necessarily a lesbian, and a lesbian is not necessarily masculine.
Gender Identity Disorder (also GID): The term used for a condition defined in the DSM4 by the American Psychiatric Association.
Gender neutral: Non-gendered language to describe relationships, e.g. ‘spouse’ and ‘partner’, ‘child’ and ‘parent’, or when referring to people and places, e.g. ‘postie’ rather than ‘postman’, and ‘toilets’ rather than ‘ladies’ or ‘gents’.
Genderqueer: Someone who identifies outside the gender binary, and/or believes that the gender binary is a social construct and doesn’t really exist.
Gender role: How ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ an individual acts. Societies commonly have norms regarding how males and females should behave, expecting people to have personality characteristics and/or act a certain way based on their biological sex.
Gender-variant / Gender non-conforming: Displaying gender traits that are not normatively associated with their biological sex. ‘Feminine’ behavior or appearance in a male is gender-variant as is ‘masculine’ behavior or appearance a female.
Heterosexism: Assuming every person to be heterosexual therefore marginalizing persons who do not identify as heterosexual. It is also believing heterosexuality to be superior to homosexuality and all other sexual orientations.
Heterosexual privilege: Benefits derived automatically by being (or being perceived as) heterosexual that are denied to perceived homosexuals, bisexuals, and queers.
Hir: Gender neutral pronoun that can be used instead of his/her. See also ze.
Intersex: Person born with some or all of the physical characteristics of both sexes. May or may not have surgery or use hormones. Sexual orientation varies. The existence of intersexuals shows that there are not just two sexes and that our ways of thinking about sex (trying to force everyone to fit into either the male box or the female box) is socially constructed. (Note: See Hermaphrodite below.)
MTF (also MtF, M2F, M-T-F, M-F): Acronym for Male to Female.
MTM: Acronym for Male to Male – a term used by some FTM people who consider themselves to have always been male, just with a birth defect.
On HRT: When a MTF is taking oestrogen.
On T: When a FTM is taking testosterone.
Pansexual/Omnisexual/Queer: Attracted to “people, not parts.” Used instead of bisexual, because bimeans two, and there aren’t two sexes or two genders; indicates the potential to be attracted to anyone regardless of their sex, gender identity, or gender expression.
Sex: Refers to a person based on their anatomy (external genitalia, chromosomes, and internal reproductive system). Sex is biological and involves the physical body.
SRS: Acronym for Sexual Reassignment Surgery, the surgery done by transsexuals to make their bodies and their sex identity match.
Stealth: Not disclosing a trans history or status to anyone that is interacted with on a daily basis, including work colleagues and sexual partners.
Transgender (also Trans): An umbrella term for transsexuals, crossdressers, transvestites, transgenderists, genderqueers, and anyone else who identify as neither female nor male and/or as neither a man or as a woman. Transgender is not a sexual orientation: transgender people may have any sexual orientation. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such.
Transition: A complicated, multi-step process that can take years as transsexuals align their anatomy with their sex identity; this process may ultimately include sex reassignment surgery (SRS).
Transphobia: Fear or hatred of transgender people; transphobia is manifested in a number of ways, including violence, harassment and discrimination.
Transsexual: Trans person who elects to change their physical sex through genital reconstruction surgery (GRS) – and/or chest reconstruction surgery if ze’s FTM – and almost always hormones. Both surgery and hormones, of course, are sometimes temporarily or permanently impossible for some folks because of financial or health issues. Sexual orientation varies.
Transvestite/Crossdresser: Trans person who does not have surgery or use hormones, but dresses in clothing typically associated with the opposite sex. Sexual orientation varies. (Note: The word transvestite is declining in usage because of the connotation of a ‘transvestite prostitute’, and because most people automatically think ‘fetish’ when they hear the word transvestite. A tremendous number of crossdressers really don’t crossdress for sexual arousal at all.)
Two-Spirit: Term used mainly by American Indian/First Nations/Native American people, indicating the presence of male and female spirits in a single body. Used as a term of respect and pride.
Ze: Gender neutral pronouns that can be used instead of he/she. See also hir.
Offensive Terms and Other Terms to Avoid:
Bio-female/Bio-male: A non-Trans person. This is considered to be an offensive term because it implies that a transperson has no biological basis for identifying as their preferred gender.
GG: Acronym for Genetic Girl. Sometimes used to describe non-Trans women. It’s considered derogatory by some transwomen who feel that chromosomes are not the defining characteristic for womanhood.
Tranny: An offensive term usually used to refer specifically to transwomen. It’s derogatory term because it’s implication is of a very masculine-looking woman. There has been some attempt in the Trans community to reclaim it, but as it’s mostly transwomen specific, it’s only transwomen that can reclaim it. At the moment, they tend find it too offensive for that.
Shemale: An offensive term which implies the person is either a sex worker or the object of a fetish. The trans community has been historically linked with both of these in the public consciousness due to the marketing of the porn industry. The trans community as a whole wants to remove the assumed connection that any trans person is also a sex worker, so this term is not to be used when referring to a trans person.
He-she and ladyboy: Generic insults used towards anyone who is assumed to be trans. The reasoning behind these words – which also applies to ‘shemale’ above – is that the first part of the word is the ‘fake’ identity and the second half is the ‘real’ gender of the person in question.
Hermaphrodite: An outdated term for someone who is intersex which can be considered offensive. It’s mostly a medical term and is from Greek mythology. The gods Hermes and Aphrodite had a baby and the baby was born with fully formed and fully functioning – and we generally take ‘fully functioning’ to mean ‘can reproduce’ – male parts, and fully formed, fully functioning female parts as well. So this baby could get someone pregnant, and could also get pregnant, carry to term, and give birth. That’s fine for Greek mythology but it’s not humanly possible! The preferred term now is Intersex.
These definitions are changing all the time, but they serve as a good starting point. Remember, there is no magical surgery that ‘makes’ you a man or a woman. A lot of people have surgery but don’t have SRS. FTMs in particular may have surgeries without having SRS – chest reconstruction, hysterectomy, etc.
Being trans is separate from sexual orientation/ sexuality. Sexual orientation (Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Pansexual, Omnisexual, or just plain Queer) is based on whom you are attracted to. Whether or not you are trans is based on your personal gender identity. An FTM man who is attracted to women is usually considered straight, as is an MTF woman who is attracted to men, because the gender with which they identify is the opposite of those whom they are attracted to.