Some Gender-Related Terms
These are short working definitions to create basic understanding and to help provide a common language for discussing gender identity and transgender issues.
Androgynous: A person who may appear as and exhibit traits traditionally associated as both male and female, or as neither male nor female, or as in between male and female.
Assigned gender:declaration by doctors of what one’s gender is based upon what one’s genitalia appear to be.
Crossdresser: A person who, regardless of motivation, wears clothes, makeup, etc. that are considered by the culture to be appropriate for another gender but no one’s own (preferred term to “transvestite”).
Drag or In Drag: Wearing clothes considered appropriate for someone of another gender.
Drag King and Drag Queen: An FTM crossdresser (typically a lesbian) and an MTF crossdresser (typically a gay man), respectively, who employ gender-marked clothing, makeup, and mannerisms for their own and other people’s appreciation or for entertainment purposes.
Female-Bodied: A term used to recognize a person who was assigned a female gender at birth or who has/had a female body.
FTM (Female-to-Male):Term used to identify a person who was assigned a female gender at birth or is female bodied, and who identifies as male, lives as a man, or identifies as masculine. Some transsexuals reject this terminology, arguing that they have always been male and are only making that identity visible. Others feel that such language reinforces an either/or gender system.
Gender:The social construction of masculinity and femininity in a specific culture. It involves gender assignment (the gender designation of someone at birth), gender roles (the expectations imposed on someone based on their gender), gender attribution (how others perceive someone’s gender), and gender identity (how someone defines their own gender).
Gender Expression:How one chooses to express one’s gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, body characteristics, etc.
Gender Identity:An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.
Gender Identity Disorder (GID) / Gender Dysphoria:A psychological diagnosis, recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, of severe distress and discomfort caused by the conflict between one’s gender identity and one’s sex at birth. Some people who experience this condition are transsexual, but not all transsexual people experience gender dysphoria or are diagnosed with GID. Furthermore, not all people with GID are transsexuals. Some transsexuals reject the idea that transgenderism is a psychological disorder, yet it is a necessary diagnosis to seek medical transition.
Genderqueer:A term which is used by some people who may or may not fit on the spectrum of trans or be labeled as trans but who identify their gender and sexual orientation to be outside of the binary gender system, or culturally proscribed gender roles.
Harry Benjamin Standards of Care:A set of ethical guidelines published by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association concerning the care of patients with gender identity disorders. These can be found at www.hbigda.org.
Hormone Therapy: Administration of hormones to affect the development of secondary sex characteristics of the opposite gender than the gender assigned at birth.
Intersexed: One who is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia or an internal reproductive system that is not considered “standard” for either male or female. At least one in every 2,000 children is born with mixed sexual anatomy that makes it difficult to label them male or female. Sometimes, such people are termed hermaphrodites, though “intersex” is the preferred term. Although many intersexed people do not identify as transgender, many of the workplace issues relating to transgender people overlap with those that affect intersexed people.
Male-Bodied: A term used to recognize a person who was assigned a male gender at birth, or who had/has a male body.
MTF (Male-to-Female):Term used to identify a person who was assigned a male gender at birth or is male bodied, and who identifies as female, lives as a woman, or identifies as feminine. Some transsexuals reject this terminology, arguing that they have always been female and are only making that identity visible. Others feel that such language reinforces an either/or gender system.
Passing:The ability to present oneself as any gender other than that assigned at birth and be accepted as such.
Pronouns: There are several non-gender specific pronouns that some people opt to use to describe themselves. “Hir” is used to replace “her” and “him.” “S/he” or “ze” is used instead of “he” and “she.” If you are unsure of how a person identifies or what pronouns to use, it never hurts to ask politely.
Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS): Surgical procedures that change one’s body to conform to a person’s gender identity. These procedures may include “top surgery” (breast augmentation or removal) and/or “bottom surgery” (altering genitals). Contrary to popular belief, there are many different surgeries that may be undertaken to transition (preferred term to “sex change surgery”). Sometimes referred to as “gender confirming surgeries,” to recognize that one’s gender does not change – it is only being made visible to others.
Sexual Orientation: The preferred term used when referring to an individual’s physical and/or emotional attraction to the same and/or different gender. Sexual orientation is not the same as a person’s gender identity.
Trans or Transgender: An umbrella term for someone whose self-identification or expression challenges traditional notions of “male” and “female.” Transgender people include transsexuals, crossdressers, drag queens and kings, genderqueers, and others who cross or transgress traditional gender categories.
Transgender Man:A transgender individual who identifies as a man (see also FTM).
Transgender Woman: A transgender individual who identifies as a woman (see also MTF).
Transitioning:The period during which a person begins to live as a new gender. It may include changing one’s name, taking hormones, having surgery, and altering legal documents.
Transphobia:The fear, hatred, or intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as transgender.
Transsexual:A person whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth. Transsexuals often undergo hormone treatments and sex reassignment surgery to align their anatomy with their core identity, but not all desire or can afford to do so.
Two Spirit: An American Indian/First Nation term for people who blend the masculine and the feminine. It is commonly used to describe individuals historically who crossed gender boundaries and were accepted by American Indian/First nation cultures (preferred term to “berdache”). It is also often used today by transgender and sometimes gay, lesbian, and bisexual American Indians to describe themselves.
-Some definitions edited from Transgender Issues in the Workplace published by the Human Rights Campaign
-Definitions also edited from Brett Genny Beemyn, GLBT Student Services, Ohio State University. 614.688.8449, email@example.com, http://multiculturalcenter.osu.edu/glbtss