The following are terms and definitions to provide us with a basic language for
engaging in a dialogue on gender identity and transgender issues. The terms
incorporate language from numerous sources and will continue to evolve as dialogue
on gender and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues progress. Recognizing
the importance of clarity in communication on gender and sexuality issues, SMYAL
encourages people to openly discuss terminology being used and to seek shared
language in your dialogues.
This definitions list was created by Aaron Hans and is Copyright @ SMYAL 1998.
Thanks to SMYAL, Ken Carl and NYAC for their help and support, as well as the
following individuals who have influenced SMYAL's thinking and the definitions: Kevin
Allison, Kate Bornstein, James Davis-Rosenthal, Dallas Denny, American Educational
Gender Information Services, James Green, Shadow Morton, Leslie Feinberg, Nancy
Nangeroni, Kiki Wlitlock, Riki Anne Wlchins, and Female to Male International.
Androgyny (also androgynous, bi-gendered, no-gendered): A person [a] who identifies as both or neither of the two culturally defined genders; and/or [b] who expresses and/or presents merged culturally/stereotypically feminine and masculine characteristics, or mainly neutral characteristics. May or may not express dual gender identity.
Assigned Gender: The announcement by doctors (It's a boy/girl) based on what your physical anatomy looks like. Based on this, you are supposed to grow up, to be and exist within a certain set of gender roles.
Binary Gender System: A culturally defined code of acceptable behaviors which teach that there are men and women, who are masculine and feminine, and that there is nothing outside this system. The problem that occurs when we talk about gender is that everything is set in the binary system, but the gender issues that we are talking about exist in a multi-gender system and do not neatly fit into a binary system.
Binding: The practice of taping or compressing the chest or "breast tissue" so that one can pass as a man, this is done with extremely tight bras, elastic bandages, and other methods.
Bisexual (Bi): A person who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted to those of either gender (can be seen as a clinical term). A person who accepts their bisexual orientation may identify as bi.
Bottom Surgery: "below the waist", to either create a vagina (for a male-to-female, MTF) or a penis and testicles (for a female-to-male, FTM). There are many different issues that cause each person to make the decision to either have or not have the surgeries. Some factors include: desire, expense, physical health, age, and access to medical care and information. There are also many difficulties that can occur with these surgeries, which will factor into each individual's decision-making.
BoYdyke: (SEE DYKE) A "female bodied" person who intentionally or non-intentionally expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically masculine, particularly boyish, characteristics. Also, one who enjoys being perceived as a young male (passing).
Butch: Used to identify a person who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically masculine characteristics. Often a person who self-identifies to a great degree with the stereotypically masculine end of a gender characteristic spectrum. Can be used either as a positive or negative term.
Coming Out: The process of becoming aware of and understanding and accepting one's own sexual orientation/gender identity. Also the ongoing process of decision-making about the level of openness a person feels in disclosing this information to another person or people.
Cross-Dressing (Also Transvestite, Transvestitism): A person who wears the clothing considered typical for another gender on occasion, but does not desire to change their gender. Reasons for cross-dressing can range from a need to express a feminine or masculine side to attainment of erotic/sexual/fetish gratification. Cross-dressers can be of any sexual orientation, but within this community, there is a large percentage of heterosexually/straight-identified individuals.
Cross-Living: Cross-living is cross-dressing full-time (which is also referred to as 24/7), and living as the gender which you perceive yourself to be.
Drag (also Drag King, Drag Queen, Female/Male Impersonator): Wearing the clothing of another gender, often with exaggerated cultural/stereotypical gender characteristics. Individuals may identify as Drag Kings (female in drag) or Drag Queens (male in drag). Drag often refers to dressing for functional purposes such as entertainment/performance or social gatherings. Drag has held a significant place in GLBT history and community.
Dyke (also Femme Dyke, Butch Dyke, Bi Dyke): A "female-bodied" person or a woman who identifies with other women, and is attracted to women; this is a term that is used by many different types of people often taken back in a positive way for self-identification; can be political; and a term historically used only in a negative context to ridicule and label lesbians who were perceived to express and/or present culturally/stereotypically masculine characteristics.
Effeminate: Used to identify a person (usually male) who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics. This is often viewed as a culturally negative term.
F2M/FTM (Female to Male): Used to identify a person who was female bodied at birth and who identifies as male, lives as a man, or identifies as masculine.
FAG: A "male-bodied" person or a man who identifies with other men or who is attracted to men; this is a term that is used by many different types of people often taken back in a positive way for self-identification; can be political; and a term historically used only in a negative context to ridicule and label gays who are perceived to express and/or present culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics.
Female Bodied: A person who was assigned a female gender at birth, or a person who has had their genitals surgically altered to be a woman.
Femme: A person who identifies with being a woman, who understands the power and seduction of the feminine spirit and one who is willing to be powerful as a woman. Can be used to identify a person who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics. Can be used either as a positive or negative term.
Gay: A person who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted primarily to members of the same gender. A person (usually male) who accepts their same gender attraction and identifies as gay.
Gender-Bender (also Gender-Blender): A person who merges characteristics of all genders in subtle ways or intentionally flaunts merged/blurred cultural/stereotypical gender nonns for the purpose of shocking others, without concern for passing.
Gender Dysphoria: A person with gender dysphoria experiences anxiety, uncertainty or persistently uncomfortable feelings about their birth gender. They feel that they have a gender identity that is different from their anatomical sex. This may lead to a fear of expressing their feelings and a fear of rejection, which may lead to deep anxiety, leading to chronic depression and possibly attempted suicide. Sometimes a person, with gender dysphoria, undergoes hormone and surgical treatment to physically change their sex. This is called transsexualism. It is often reported that approximately 1 in 30,000 adult genetic males and 1 in 100,000 genetic females seek to change their sex. However these figures are now generally accepted to be far too low. Positive publicity has meant that many more people feel that they can now express their transsexual feelings.The Gender Recognition Act 2004 came into force on 4 April 2005. The law now recognises a change of gender ('the acquired gender') as being a person's gender for all legal purposes. If the person who has changed gender has an entry in a UK birth register, they are entitled to have a new entry showing their acquired gender. They are also entitled to have a new birth certificate reflecting their aquired gender.
Gender Queer: 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 their sexual orientation to be outside the assumed norm.
Gender Reassignment Surgery--GRS (also Sex Reassignment Surgery--SRS): Permanent surgical refashioning of genitalia to resemble the genitalia of the desired gender. Sought to attain congruence between one's body and one's gender identity.
Genetic: Often used to refer to the assigned gender at birth. Also used to refer to the discussion of the chromosomal makeup of an individual.
Getting Read (Clocked): Being detected as a person who is cross-dressed.
Heterosexual: An individual who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted primarily to those of the opposite gender.
Hir: Used in place of him/her, a new pronoun for those folks who stand outside the binary system that we have in this society.
Homophobia (also Biphobia): The irrational fear of love, affection, and erotic behavior between people of the same gender. Expressed as negative feelings, attitudes, actions or behaviors against those perceived as non-heterosexuals. Often directed at those perceived as expressing and/or presenting culturally/stereotypically non-heterosexual characteristics and/or blurred gender roles. Biphobia also includes refuting the existence of bisexuality by believing every individual is either homosexual or heterosexual.
Homosexual: An individual who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted primarily to those of the same gender.
Hormone Therapy (also Hormone Replacement Therapy, HRT, Hormonal Sex Reassignment): Administration of hormones to affect the development of secondary sex characteristics of the opposite assigned gender; this is a process, possibly lifelong, of using hormones to change the internal body chemistry. Androgens (testosterone) are used for female-to-males, and Estrogens are used for male-to-females.
In the Closet: Not disclosing (coming out) or being secretive about an individual's own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Internalized Homophobia (also Internalized Transphobia): The belief that same-gender sexual orientation and/or gender identity is inferior to heterosexual orientation and/or masculine or feminine gender identity. The internalization of negative messages, feelings about oneself and one's group, and the beliefs about how people like you should be treated, which often leads to self-hate and difficulty with self-acceptance. Also, irrational fear of breaking cultural or stereotypical gender roles.
Intersexed (also Hennaphrodite): An Individual born with full or partial genitalia of both genders, or with underdeveloped or ambiguous genitalia. Surgery is common in infancy, when a singular gender is assigned. Many who have surgery develop feeling a sense of loss of an essential part of themselves.
Lesbian: A person who identifies as a woman and who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted primarily to members of the same gender. A female who accepts her same gender attraction and identifies as lesbian.
M2F, MTF, Male-to-Female: Used to identify a person who was male bodied at birth and who identifies as a female, lives as a woman, or identifies as feminine.
Male Bodied: A person who was assigned a male gender at birth, or a person who has had their genitals surgically altered to be a man.
Non-Op: Individuals who have not attained and may not desire to attain gender reassignment surgery, and may or may not take hormone therapy. For many individuals, self-identification and self-expression, through cross-living or other methods of gender identity achieve harmony or congruence between one's body and one's gender identity and there is no need felt for surgical reconstruction.
Pansexual (also Omnisexual): An individual who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted to those of any gender or physical makeup.
Passing: The ability for a person to present themselves in another gender than which they live full-time or in which they were assigned at birth.
Pre-Op (also Pre-Operative): Transsexual individuals who have not attained gender reassignment surgery, but who desire to and are seeking that as an option. They may or may not cross-live full time and may or may not take hormone therapy. They may also seek surgery to change secondary sex characteristics.
Post-Op (also Post-operative): Transsexual individuals who have attained gender reassignment surgery, and/or other surgeries to change secondary sex characteristics.
Presentation: The totality of one's appearance when dressing, including voice, behavior, appropriateness of clothing for the situation, etc.
Queer: Used to identify someone who aligns themselves with the trans, bisexual, lesbian, and gay (GLBT) community, a term which is often taken back in a positive way for self-identification, and a term historically used only in a negative context to ridicule and label anyone not conforming to heterosexual persons and societal gender expectations.
Real Life Test (also Life Test): A period of time required of individuals seeking gender reassignment surgery during which they must live full-time expressing and presenting the gender in which they identify. Many doctors require a Real-Life Test of two or more years before advancing to surgery.
Secondary Sex Characteristics: The changes that occur when a person reaches puberty. They include but are not limited to: facial and body hair growth, muscle development, voice changes, breast development, and the ability to reproduce.
Sex Assignment: The declaration, by doctors, based on what your external genitalia looks like, which gender you are; therefore you are supposed to grow up and exist within a certain set of gender roles.
Standards of Care: A set of minimum guidelines formulated by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, Inc. (HBIGDA) for care of transsexual individuals and providing requirements for consumers and service providers.
Shape Shifter (also Metamorph): Used by some people who choose not to identify as transsexuals, to express their belief they are not changing their gender, but changing their body to reflect their inner feelings and gender identity.
Straight: An individual who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted primarily to members of the opposite gender. A person who accepts their opposite gender attraction and who identifies as straight.
Top Surgery: Surgery "above the waist," usually breast augmentation for MTFs and breast reduction for FTMs. There are many different issues that cause each person to make the decision either to have or not have the surgeries, some factors include: desire, expense, physical health, age, and access to medical care and information. There are also many difficulties that can occur with these surgeries, which will factor into each individual's decision-making process.
Trans (also Transgender): Those who transgress societal gender norms; often used as an umbrella term to mean those who defy rigid, bipolar gender constructions, and who express or present a breaking and/or blurring of cultural/stereotypical gender roles. This includes: androgynes, cross-dressers, gender-benders, intersexed individuals, shape-shifters, transvestites, and transsexuals.
Transgender Community (also Gender Community): A loose association of individuals and organizations who transgress gender norms in a variety of ways. Celebrating a recently born self-awareness, this community is growing fast across all lines. The central ethic of this community is unconditional acceptance of individual exercise of freedoms including gender and sexual identity and orientation.
Transgenderist: People who choose to cross-live full time, but who choose not to have Sex Reassignment Surgery/Gender Reassignment Surgery. They may or may not have some surgeries, and they may or may not use hormones.
Transition: The period during which a transgender individual (usually transsexual) begins to live a new life in their gender. Also, includes the period of full-time living (Real Life Test) required before gender reassignment surgery.
Transphobia (also genderphobia): The irrational fear of those who are perceived to break and/or blur cultural/stereotypical gender roles, often assumed to be queer. Expressed as negative feelings, attitudes, actions or behaviors against those perceived as breaking and/or blurring cultural/stereotypical gender roles.
Transsexual (also Female-to-Male (FTM/F2M), Male-to-Female (MTF/M2F), Pre-Operative, Post-Operative, Non-Operative): A person who, through experiencing an intense long-term discomfort resulting from feeling the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and discomfort of their body, adapts their gender role and body in order to reflect and be congruent with their gender identity. This may include cross-living, synthesized sex hormones, surgery and other body modification which may or may not lead to the feeling of harmony between a person's body and gender identity.
Tuck: The technique of hiding male genitals.
Ze: Used in place of she/he, a new pronoun when you need to talk about an individual whose gender does not neatly fit into a particular box.