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TransActive Gender Center provides a holistic range of services and expertise to empower transgender and gender diverse children, youth and their families in living healthy lives, free of discrimination.

Transgender Spectrum-Related Vocabulary, Slang & Terminology

Like any marginalized group, the lives of transgender people are rife with phrases and terms that may not be familiar to non-transgender people. These definitions may help you better understand and communicate in a respectful and accurate way on transgender issues and experiences.

Abbreviation for Assigned Female At Birth or Female Assigned At Birth. Refers to the assigned gender role a person is given at birth. Some transgender people use them in describing their gender history. They are also helpful in avoiding being pinned down to an essentialist narrative about their sex.
Abbreviation for Assigned Male At Birth or Male Assigned At Birth. See above for further definition.
Affirmed Female:
Someone with a female gender identity, though they were assigned male at birth. This is more accurate and respectful than some alternative descriptors (such as male-to-female) because she is AFFIRMING the gender she knows herself to be, rather than changing from one gender to another.
Affirmed Male:
Someone with a male gender identity, though they were assigned female at birth. This is more accurate and respectful than some alternative descriptors (such as female-to-male) because he is AFFIRMING the gender he knows himself to be, rather than changing from one gender to another.
Some agender people would define their identity as being neither a man nor a woman while others would define agender as not having any gender.
As a gender identity it can overlap with an androgynous gender expression but not always. Androgynes may define their identity in a variety of ways, feeling as if they are between man and woman or a totally separate identity.
Having neither a clearly masculine or feminine appearance or blending masculine and feminine.
Assigned Gender Role:
Our social status as a boy, girl, man or woman – correlated to our birth sex. Includes a shifting set of masculine or feminine stereotypes, behaviors or interests an individual is expected to conform to. This can be particularly problematic for transgender people.
Birth Sex/Assigned Sex:
Birth sex is defined exclusively as male, female or intersex. This is most commonly established by a prenatal ultrasound or postnatal external examination at birth, though intersexuality may not be apparent until adolescence or later. Assigned Sex refers to a (discredited) medical practice in which an intersex infant with what is subjectively judged to be ambiguous genitalia is surgically altered to conform to a more typical male or female appearance and subsequently expected to live in the gender role associated with their altered genitalia.
People who feel they are two, three, or all genders. They may shift between these genders or be all of them at the same time.
Intolerance towards people who identify outside of the gender binary (man/woman). The belief that man/woman are the only legitimate genders.
A term used in a variety of ways by a variety of communities, though it generally communicates a level of identification with maleness and/or masculinity. However, the versatility of the word means this isn’t always the case.
Blockers/Pubertal Suppression:
Puberty delaying medical interventions (GnRH analogues) designed to relieve the psychological trauma and unwanted physical changes associated with wrong-gender pubertal development in transgender adolescents. The treatment allows transgender youth time to actively participate, via informed consent, in their medical care. Initiated at or after Tanner Stage 2 and often prior to the administration of cross-sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc.)
Compressing or concealing the breasts so as to present a more male or androgynous appearing chest.
Bottom Surgery:
A variety of gender related genital surgeries, including: vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, vaginectomy, metoidioplasty, orchiectomy, clitoroplasty, scrotoplasty and others.
Butch / Femme:
Adjectives used to describe ones gender expression characteristics. A masculine-spectrum person (of any gender) might be described as butch; a feminine-spectrum person (of any gender) might be described as femme. Butch and Femme can also be gender identities unto themselves.
Someone whose gender identity matches the gender role they were assigned at birth; a person who is not transgender. The Latin prefix 'cis' means "on the same side of." Cisgender is preferable to "biological," "genetic" or "real" male or female.
Cisgender Privilege:
The privileges cisgender people have because their gender identity matches their assigned gender role and because they are considered ‘normal.’ For example, cisgender people don’t have to worry about violence and institutionalized discrimination simply due to the fact they are cisgender.
Cissexism/Cisgender Supremacy:
The institutional and societal marginalization of transgender identified persons; expressing hate and bigotry toward transgender people.
Sometimes this term is used synonymously with cisgender, other times it functions as an opposite to transsexual in referring to someone who has done nothing to physically change gendered parts of their body.
Someone who dresses occasionally in the clothing of a gender other than the one they typically identify with. Crossdressers are most commonly adult heterosexual males.
Cross-Sex Hormones/Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):
Refers to treatment that can include, but is not limited to the following hormonal interventions: Estrogen ("E"), Testosterone ("T"), Progesterone, Estrogen Suppressants, Testosterone Suppressants, etc.
Taking on the appearance and characteristics associated with a certain gender, usually for entertainment and often to expose the humorous and performative elements of gender.
Refers to someone with a female birth sex and assigned gender role but who identifies as male. While still commonly used, it is considered a less than accurate and/or respectful description of a transgender boy/man. This term puts the emphasis on changing a physical state or becoming something 'other' than what you already are. (See Affirmed Male)
Slang term for living as and socially presenting as your experienced gender identity 100% of the time. Getting to be a bit outdated, but still used in some gender diverse communities. Now more commonly referenced by saying, "I’ve transitioned."
The experience of being male, female, both or neither in any combination. Gender is a spectrum, not a binary. While gender stereotypes are most certainly a social construct, the self-experience of gender is innate and unique to every individual.
Gender Binary:
The pervasive social system telling us there can only be masculine men and feminine women with no alternatives or diversity in terms of gender identity or expression.
Gender Confirming Surgery/GCS:
Inclusive of a broad range of surgical procedures transgender people may undergo related to affirmation of their gender identity; referred to pejoratively as a "sex-change."
Gender Dysphoria:
The word dysphoria means "a state of feeling unhappy, or experiencing emotional or mental discomfort." Gender dysphoria occurs when there is a ‘disconnect’ on some level with all or some gendered aspects of a transgender person’s body, or in response to social misgendering. It can be argued that all transgender people experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives, though it is not a constant state and it can be relieved or eliminated through transition-related steps.
Gender Expression:
How we express ourselves personally and socially within gendered culture. There is no right or wrong way to express your gender, though gender nonconformity is often seen as social transgression.
Gender Identity:
How we experience our gender. One’s gender identity may or may not align with their assigned gender role, and gender identity is not visible to others. Both cisgender and transgender people have a gender identity.
Gender Fluid:
Someone whose gender identity or expression may vary from day-to-day or for whom gender identity/expression is not fixed on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.
Gender Neutral Pronouns:
Pronouns other than he or she. Examples include ze/hir/hirs and they/them/theirs.
Gender Nonconforming/GNC:
Not fully conforming to gendered social expectations in terms of identity, expression, roles, or performance.
Gender Perception:
The act of categorizing people we come into contact with as male, female, or unknown. Gender perception can lead to unintentionally misgendering people because it’s impossible to know a person’s gender identity just by looking at them.
An umbrella term than can include all gender nonconforming, non-binary people and more; Includes reclamation of 'queer' as a positive expression of identity, rather than an insult.
Gender Questioning:
Someone who is evaluating their feelings about gender identity, gender expression or questioning the very concept of gender in general.
Gender Role:
Cultural expectations for what people should do with their lives, what activities they should enjoy or excel at, and how they should behave, based on their gender.
Getting "Read":
When someone identifies an individual as being transgender. Can lead to misgendering and dangerous or life threatening situations in some circumstances; also known also as getting "clocked." Most vulnerable to this are transgender youth and adults who have gone through pubertal changes that do not match their gender identity.
A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
  • NOTE: While transgender people are not, in general, considered to be intersex, there are indications that pre-natal hormonal and/or genetic influences on brain development can be a factor in gender identity development.
To refer to a person using terms (pronouns, nouns, adjectives, etc.) that express the wrong gender, either accidentally or on purpose. Calling a transgender woman 'Sir' or transgender boy 'Miss.'
Refers to someone with a male birth sex and assigned gender role but who identifies as female. While still commonly used, it is considered a less than accurate and/or respectful description of a transgender girl/woman. This term puts the emphasis on changing a physical state or becoming something ‘other’ than what you already are. (See Affirmed Female above)
A spectrum of gender identities and expressions, often based on the rejections of the gender binary's assumption that gender is strictly an either-or options of male/man/masculine or female/women/feminine based on sex assigned at birth. Terms may include but are not limited to bigender, gender queer, gender fluid, agender, and neurtois.
Short for Non-Operative. Someone who, for medical reasons or personal choice, does not plan to undergo Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS).
To reveal to others a previously unknown aspect of someone’s identity without that individual’s prior permission; usually applies to gender identity or sexual orientation.
Refers to use of a prosthetic or other material to present or enhance the appearance of male genitalia.
Integrating successfully in social settings as one’s experienced gender without question or incident by others. Is seen by some as a negative term as it implies that one is "pretending" to be something they are not, or are, to some extent, “fooling people.” Nonetheless, those who are not questioned about their gender identity generally have an advantage over those who are. Intervention at the onset of puberty can have a tremendously positive effect on a transgender person’s ability to integrate and their quality of life.
Short for Pre-Operative. Someone who has not yet had GCS, but who intends to undergo such surgery.
Short for Post-Operative. Refers to someone who has undergone GCS.
Sexual Orientation:
An enduring personal quality that inclines people to feel romantic or sexual attraction (or a combination of these) to persons of another sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to multiple sexes or more than one gender.
  • NOTE: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are developmentally different and they occur at different stages in the maturation process.
A device that allows individuals to urinate standing up.
A slang term within transgender culture for someone who has made a conscious decision to not reveal or share their transgender history with others. The option of choosing to be "stealth" requires, to some extent, the ability to integrate successfully in social settings (see "passing" above). While making the choice to not reveal one’s transgender history is a matter of personal privacy, the use of the term "stealth" can be misunderstood to mean sneaking or spying in some way.
Tanner Stages:
A scale of physical development in children, adolescents and adults. The scale defines pubertal changes based on external primary and secondary sex characteristics, such as the size of the breasts, genitalia, testicular volume and development of pubic and axillary hair. Tanner 1 is pre-pubertal, Tanner 2-4 is pubertal and Tanner 5 is adult maturation of secondary sex characteristics. Due to natural variation, individuals pass through the Tanner stages at different rates, depending in particular on the timing of puberty.
A slang diminutive of transgender or, in some cases, transsexual. The addition of the asterisk (Trans*) represents an attempt to be inclusive of more diverse gender identities and expressions (too numerous to list).
An umbrella term that encompasses a person or persons who, in one way or another, transcend their assigned gender role. Transgender is an adjective, not a noun and can be both an individual and group identifier; "I am transgender," "She is transgender," "All the youth in that group are transgender."
Top Surgery:
Refers to removal of breast tissue in order to create male chest contours. Puberty suppression at the onset of adolescence followed by cross-sex hormone therapy can eliminate the need for these procedures in transgender males. The term can also apply to breast augmentation surgery for transgender females, though it is most commonly used in relation to transgender males.
To transition can mean a lot of things but a broad definition is the process transgender people may go through to become comfortable in terms of their gender. Transitioning may include social, physical, mental, and emotional components and may not fit into the narrative we are used to seeing. Transition may or may not include things like changing one’s name, having puberty suppressed, cross-sex hormone therapy, having surgery, changing legal documents to reflect one’s gender identity, coming out to loved ones, dressing as one chooses, and accepting oneself among many other things. Transition is an individual process.
Originally coined by the author Julia Serano, this term highlights the intersectionality of misogyny and transphobia and how they are often experienced as a dual form of oppression by transgender women and some other MAAB transgender people.
The fear or hatred of transgender people or those perceived as such.
Someone whose gender identity conflicts with their birth sex, and who seeks congruence between the two through hormonal and/or surgical intervention. This term has fallen out of favor due to its hyper-sexualization of transgender identity. The commonly preferred term is transgender.
A term specific to Native American/First Nations people who are a blend of the masculine and feminine. Some non-Native American gender nonconforming people have adopted it as descriptive of their own gender experience.
The process of folding the penis back between the legs and concealing the testicles by pushing them back up into the inguinal canal. This is done to create a more typical female contour in the genital area.

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