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Trans Glossary

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Trans Glossary

Post by MyLittleCarouselPony on Mon May 21, 2018 5:06 pm

Really Awesome Trans Glossary

   Compiled and edited by Erin Houdini (erinhoudini@gmail.com) and genderhack (genderhack@gmail.com)

   Revisions and expansions written by Erin Houdini


   Keep in mind that this is not a bible and language continually evolves.

   Feedback is always welcome! Please put "Trans Glossary" in the subject field of any email you send us. Erin primarily handles communication.


   Sources: GLAAD Media Reference Guide (7th Edition); Whipping Girl, Julia Serano (2007); Modified Gender Glossary, Sailor Alecs


   General Social Etiquette

   Use their chosen name. Often trans people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to change their name legally. Never put their name in quotes. It's sarcastically derogatory, as is “girl,” “his,” etc.


   If you’re unsure, ask which pronoun they prefer. Don’t be afraid! Simply ask, “What pronoun do you prefer?” Note that many genderqueer people usethey/their/them as gender-neutral singular pronouns. Be tactful when asking about pronouns; it's pretty rude to do so without at least involving yourself a conversation first.


   If it is not possible to ask someone which pronoun they prefer, use the pronoun that is consistent with their appearance and gender expression. A person who identifies as a certain gender, whether or not they have taken hormones or had surgery, should be referred to using the pronouns appropriate for their identity. For example, if the person wears a dress and uses the name "Susan," feminine pronouns are appropriate.


   If you make a mistake once, accept being corrected gracefully, and move on. You don't have to be terrified of accidentally offending someone. That just makes things awkward. If you make a mistake and dwell on it, that's even more awkward. Even worse is starting an argument defending ignorance or assuming you know better than someone with obviously more education and experience on an issue. Being corrected is ok, and it doesn't make you stupid or insensitive.


   General Terminology

   Sex: The assignment and classification of people as male or female based on natal physical anatomy.


   Gender Identity: One's actual internal, personal sense of being male or female, man or woman, genderqueer, etc. For transgender people, their birth-assigned sex and their own internal sense of gender identity do not match. Be conscious of the way you talk about gender identity; if a trans person internally identifies as a woman, you'd say "she is a woman," not something like "she identifies as a woman," which can be taken to imply that her identity is not real.


   Gender Expression / Presentation: External manifestation of one's gender identity through clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics, etc. (typically referred to as masculine or feminine). Most transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex.


   Sexual Orientation: Describes an individual's enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to others. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same and not necessarily related. Trans people can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, pansexual, queer, etc. just like anyone else. For example, a trans woman who is primarily attracted to other women would probably identify as lesbian.


   Specific Trans Terminology

   Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB) / Assigned Male at Birth (AMAB): If it’s necessary to refer to the birth-assigned sex of a trans, genderqueer, or genderfluid person, this is the way to do it. Also phrased female-assigned at birth, FAAB, or CAFAB, with a C for "coercively." A general reference to one's birth assignment is sometimes done using the term CASAB, meaning coercively assigned sex at birth.


   Bigender: Refers to those who feel they have both male and female sides to their personalities, most commonly used by cross-dressers.


   Binary Gender / The Gender Binary: A system of viewing gender as consisting solely of two categories, termed male and female, in which no other possibilities for gender or anatomy are believed to exist. This system is particularly oppressive to gender-variant people who do not fit neatly into one of these categories, but also to anyone who defies their coercive birth assignment.


   Butch: An identity or presentation that leans towards masculinity. Butch can be an adjective (she's a butch woman), a verb (he went home to butch up), or a noun (they identify as a butch). Although commonly associated with masculine queer/lesbian women, it's used by many to describe a distinct gender identity and/or expression, and does not necessarily imply that one also identifies as a woman or not.


   Chaser: Refers to a cis person who fetishizes trans people.


   Cis: Prefix or adjective meaning not trans, derived from the Greek word meaning “on the same side.” A cisgender person is not transgender, and a cissexual person is not transsexual. You may differentiate between women who are trans and who aren’t by saying trans women and cis women. It's important to remember that cis is not a derogatory term.


   Cross-dressing: The act of dressing and presenting as the “opposite” gender. One who considers this an integral part of their identity may identify as a cross-dresser. Transvestite is an obsolete term with the same meaning as cross-dresser; although some still self-identify it, the term has generally fallen out of favor due to its association with the DSM and pathology. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not necessarily tied to erotic activity, nor is it indicative of one's sexual orientation. Do NOT use these terms to describe someone who has transitioned or intends to do so in the future.


   Drag Queen / Drag King: Drag is exaggerated and theatrical gender presentation, most commonly used to describe cross-dressing performers. Doing drag does not necessarily have anything to do with one’s sex, gender identity, or orientation.


   Femme: An identity or presentation that leans towards femininity. Femme can be an adjective (he's a femme boy), a verb (she feels better when she femmes up), or a noun (they're a femme). Although commonly associated with feminine lesbian/queer women, it's used by many to describe a distinct gender identity and/or expression, and does not necessarily imply that one also identifies as a woman or not.


   FtM / MtF: Abbreviated adjectives describing the process of transitioning from one binary classification to the other. While some do feel these are the best terms to encompass their whole identities, they are not nouns and their meaning is generally expressed better by terms like AFAB or trans women. Sometimes seen written as FTM, M2F, etc.


   Gender Dysphoria: Anxiety and dissatisfaction over one’s assigned gender/sex.


   Gender Identity Disorder / GID: A controversial DSM-IV diagnosis given to transgender and other gender-variant people.


   Genderfluid / Gender Fluid: A general term for non-binary gender identities. Overlaps with genderqueer and bigender, implying movement between different gender identities and/or presentations.


   Genderqueer: A general term for non-binary gender identities. Individuals who identify as genderqueer may prefer not to identify as either male or female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, and may feel restricted by gender labels, categories, and pronouns. One may identify genderqueer but also be comfortable identifying as female or male.


   Heteronormative: Referring to the stereotypical dynamics between primarily heterosexual masculine men and primarily heterosexual feminine women.


   Heteroflexible: Similar to bisexual, but with a stated heterosexual preference. Commonly used to indicate that one is interested in heterosexual romance but is “flexible” when it comes to sex and/or play. The same concepts apply to homoflexible.


   Intersex: Describing a person whose natal physical sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations which make a person's sex ambiguous (e.g. Klinefelter Syndrome, Adrenal Hyperplasia). Parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant's body to that assignment. This practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults are speaking out against the practice, accusing doctors of genital mutilation.


   Pansexual: Open to and accepting of all genders and sexualities.


   Passing: Being perceived by others as a particular identity, gender, age, race, etc., regardless of how the individual in question identifies, e.g. passing as straight, passing as a woman, passing as a youth.


   Queer: Umbrella term for gender identities and sexual orientations that are not heteronormative.


   Sexual Reconstruction Surgery (SRS): Refers to several different surgical procedures, and is only one small part of transition. Also occasionally referred to as genital reconstruction surgery (GRS) or gender confirmation surgery (GCS), these terms are all preferred over "sex change operation" or anything with "reassignment." Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have SRS. Overemphasizing the importance of SRS to the transition process should be avoided.


   Trans: Prefix or adjective used as a simultaneous abbreviation of eithertransgender or transsexual, derived from the Greek word meaning “across from” or “on the other side of.” Because it avoids the political connotations of both those terms, many consider trans to be the most inclusive and useful umbrella term.


   Trans Woman / Trans Man: Trans woman refers to a transgender person who self-identifies as a woman. Unless it actually makes a difference that they are trans, and it usually doesn't, you should just stick with woman or man; there is no need to constantly be outing people. Though sometimes spelled other ways, it is grammatically and definitionally correct to place the adjective (trans) spaced before the noun (woman). The same concepts apply to trans man.


   Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex/gender they were assigned at birth, and for those whose gender expression differs from what is culturally expected of them (TG on FetLife). The term transgender is not indicative of sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or what one is perceived as in their daily life. You'll sometimes see "transgendered" also, but this is grammatically incorrect; transgender is an adjective, not a verb, and you don't append -ed to adjectives. You wouldn't say "Erin is prettied," you'd say "Erin is pretty."


   Transition: The lengthy and complex social, physical, and psychological process of leaving behind one's coercively assigned sex for their actual identity. Transition includes some or all of the following cultural, legal and medical adjustments: telling one's family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one's name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgical alteration. Transition usually implies changing from one binary assignment to the other, but can be applied to the changes undergone by non-binary folks as well.


   Transphobia: Fear, discomfort, distrust, or disdain directed towards trans people. It's used similarly to homophobia, xenophobia, etc. The particularly virulent intersection of transphobia and misogyny directed towards trans women is often referred to as transmisogyny.


   Transsexual: Similar to transgender in that it indicates a conflict between one’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth, but with implications of hormonal/surgical transition from one binary sex to the other. Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term, as many transgender people do not identify as transsexual.


   Terminology to Avoid

   Problematic: transgenders, a transgender, a transsexual, a trans, an MtF
   Preferred: trans people, transgender people, trans men, trans women


   Trans and its variations are adjectives, not nouns. Using them as nouns strips trans people of their identities and reduces them to this one characteristic. Do not say, “Jesse is a transgender,” or “The party included many transgenders.” Instead say, “Jesse is trans,” or “The party included many trans people.”



   Problematic: sex change, pre-op, post-op, non-op
   Preferred: do not reduce trans people to their genitals


   Genitals are not the defining trait of one’s identity. If you do need to talk about surgical options or techniques, be as medical and specific as possible, e.g. “Erin underwent vaginoplasty in July 2009.” Be tactful and aware when asking trans people about their medical history. It's usually none of your business.



   Problematic: hermaphrodite
   Preferred: intersex person


   The word “hermaphrodite” is an outdated, stigmatizing and misleading word used to sensationalize intersex people. Occasionally, it's (mis)used as a slur against trans people.



   Problematic: transwoman, transman, trans-woman, trans-man
   Preferred: trans woman, trans man


   Aside from being grammatically incorrect, the one-word “transwoman” or hyphenated “trans-woman” imply that trans women are a “third gender,” distinct from woman. By including the space, trans is just an adjective modifying a particular type of woman, just like Asian womanor young woman or liberal woman. While some self-identify with these terms, they are not generally accepted.



   Problematic: real, bio, genetic, GG, natural, born
   Preferred: cis


   Trans people are not fake, artificial, unnatural, they have genes, and were born to be who they are just as much as cis people were. Cis is also preferable to "non-trans," which would make for a labeled group and an unlabeled one.



   Problematic: female-bodied, male-bodied
   Preferred: AFAB, AMAB

   Defining bodies by their medical assignment at birth strips trans people of their gender and reduces everyone to genitals, rather than letting individuals define their relationships with their bodies. If you need to refer to a trans person's assignment at birth, be explicit about the assignment part.



   Problematic: T-Girl
   Preferred: varies


   This term is popular within some circles of trans people, particularly the feminine spectrum party scene and its associated community. Various feminine spectrum claim folks claim it as their identity, especially cross-dressers, but its meaning is vague and it is not generally accepted outside those circles. Its use should be avoided unless specifically asked for.



   Problematic: tranny, she-male, he-she, it, trap, dickgirl, best of both worlds
   Preferred: nothing


   These are all derogatory. "Tranny" is a slur that has been used for decades to degrade feminine spectrum trans people; although many trans people have reclaimed it, it is still a hurtful slur to many others. "She-male" and "dickgirl" are degrading terms commonly used in pornography. Some self-identify with these terms, but they should never be used unless specifically asked to.


   Trans and Cis Summary

   In most cases, trans and cis by themselves are sufficient descriptors. This brief summary describes the subtle differences between subcategories for when distinctions are necessary.


   * Transgender = umbrella term
   * Transsexual = describes someone who undergoes binary transition
   * Cisgender = umbrella term for "not transgender"
   * Cissexual = describes someone who does not undergo any form of transition


   Transsexual usually overlaps with transgender, but there are a lot of trans people (even transitioning ones) who don't consider themselves transsexual, and while uncommon, some gender-normative transsexual people don't consider themselves transgender. The distinction between cisgender and cissexual is usually inconsequential, unless discussing issues specific only to transsexual folks.


   Debunking Prejudices Against Dating Trans People

   Many people claim they could only seriously date cis partners. There are a few common reasons for this, and they're all nothing but ignorance.


   * I want a partner with [male/female] genitals.


   There are many trans people who do have what you'd consider "matching" genitals. There are many more trans people who want "matching" genitals who can't afford the $20,000+ price tag. Of those who don't or have yet to surgically transition, most usually do not relate to their genitals in the same way that cis people do. So stop making generalizations about what bits trans people have and their relationships to them.


   * I want "biological" children.


   Many trans people unfortunately can't reproduce, but many also can. There are plenty of cis people in the same situation, hence the popularity of fertility clinics. A lifetime relationship with a trans person does not preclude having a family; sperm banks, egg donors, and even adoption are all viable options. Advances in genetic research may even one day allow one to include an infertile trans partner's DNA in their children.


   * I only connect with people who had a [male/female] childhood.


   Does anyone here really believe there are exactly two universal gendered childhoods? I hope not. A trans person's relationship to gendered social conditioning is far different than a cis person's, and it's not like all cis people relate the same way to gendered social conditioning either. It's very common for trans people to feel "genderless" growing up, outright resist certain attempts at conditioning, or awkwardly exaggerate them to try to "compensate" for their gender identity not matching their assignment.


   * I want a manly man or girlie girl, not someone androgynous.


   This is a ridiculous assumption about the appearances and presentations of a very diverse group of people. Many trans people are in fact quite gender-normative and/or are perceived as their identified gender without any stupid questions attached.


   * Corollary


   The supposed preferences of cis people for or attractions towards trans people are based similar prejudices and stereotypes. That's what makes someone a "chaser."


   Reading List

   Whipping Girl, Julia Serano (2007)

   The Riddle of Gender, Deborah Rudacille (2006)

   Transgender Warriors, Leslie Feinberg (1997)


   Spread the Word!

   Please email me (Erin) before doing so, but if you'd like to link to this elsewhere, credit us as Erin Houdini and Genderhack, and list our emails, erinhoudini@gmail.com and genderhack@gmail.com. When you email us, put "Trans Glossary" in the subject of any questions or comments sent to us.


" It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to;
You would cry, too, if it happened to you ! "

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