Jargon Buster

Here is a list of some of the more commonly used words and terminology within the trans-community.  But it is worth pointing out that terminology relating to gender is constantly evolving, and even amongst professional gender specialists (doctors, endocrinologists, psychologists) their interpretations of any particular word differ.

  • Agender - someone who does not feel a belonging to any gender category
  • AMAB and AFAB - Assigned male (or female) at birth.  This is the rather formal but universally accepted terminology that should be used by doctors when a baby is born, instead of the more traditional, but scientifically inaccurate, "it's a boy!" or "it's a girl!"
  • Bottom surgery - surgery to the lower body, usually phalloplasty (new penis) or vaginoplasty (new vagina). Not surgery to the bottom!
  • Cisgender - a non-transgender person. It's an unflattering word, but doctors like to use latin just to confuse the rest of us, and "cis" means "on the side of"; i.e not trans-gender
  • Dead name - this a trans-person's name before they transitioned; it causes many trans-people great distress if it is used
  • Gender - the World Health Organisation definition is: "Refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. The concept of gender includes five important elements: relational, hierarchical, historical, contextual and institutional. While most people are born either male or female, they are taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and work places. When individuals or groups do not “fit” established gender norms they often face stigma, discriminatory practices or social exclusion – all of which adversely affect health".
  • Gender Dysphoria - this is a medical term used by doctors for the negative feelings a transperson experiences when they are not comfortable with their gender presentation.  On the one hand it can be a mild anxiety, or on the other a debilitating depression, or any other myriad of negative feelings in between. Dysphoria is Greek for "unhappy" and the opposite of euphoria "happy".  It can be powerful and all-consuming or in it's mildest form just an annoying distraction; for some trans-people it drives them to total despair, and in many cases, attempting (and sometimes succeeding) suicide
  • Gender Identity - this is how a person feels internally in respect to their gender, whether extremes of masculinity or  femininity, or anything in between
  • Gender Expression - this is how a person presents their gender to society, but importantly it may not be the gender with which they identify, and this causes gender dysphoria
  • Gender fluid - someone who moves between gender categories, for health, lifestyle or relationship reasons
  • Gender queer - someone who does not really feel they belong to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of masculine or feminine genders.
  • Genital plastic surgery - another phrase used for bottom surgery.  Some references use "gender affirming surgery", "gender re-assignment surgery", "genital reconstructive surgery", and the media still use "sex change surgery"
  • Gender Spectrumit is now accepted by the scientific and medical community that gender is a state of being, like being born short or tall, pretty or not so pretty, academically gifted, athletically gifted or musically gifted. And like these other "states of being", gender is a spectrum of infinite gender categories
  • Intersex - someone who has ambiguous genitalia, but the more accepted terminology is DSD (difference in sexual development)
  • MTF, FTM (transwoman or transman) - a trans-person who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) but identifies as a woman is a trans-woman and the transition is referred to as male-to-female, and vice versa for a person assigned female at birth (AFAB)
  • Micro assault or micro aggression - these are the transphobic and seemingly minor comments that cisgender people make that are so damaging and insulting to a trans-person
  • Non-binary - in our binary gendered western society, the two binary genders are man and woman, and - the logic is overwhelming - any gender that is not a binary is.....drum roll...non-binary. Facebook allows you to select over 50 different gender categories (not that you should use Facebook as a font of peer-reviewed knowledge) 
  • Post op or pre op - these terms refer to genital plastic surgery and are out of date and offensive to a trans-person
  • Pro-nouns - trans-people are very sensitive to the use of correct pro-nouns and are offended if they are mis-gendered, for example by calling a trans-woman "he" or "him, when they are "her" or "she".  Non-binary pro-nouns are also used, for example "they" or "zie"
  • Puberty blockers - young people are not allowed by medical practice to begin physical transition until they are in their later teenage years.  Puberty blockers are hormones that delay the onset of puberty until the child has decided if they want to pursue physical transition processes (hormones and surgical interventions), some of which are not reversible
  • Purging - many older trans-people who, for lifestyle, health or relationship reasons, cannot present their gender as they would like, described as "in the closet", go through phases of acceptance then denial, known as purging.  This refers to the process of buying and wearing clothes that match their gender identity (acceptance) then throwing them away in disgust (denial)
  • Top surgery - surgery to the upper half of the body, normally breast enlargement or reduction surgery, but also vocal cord shaving and facial feminisation surgery
  • Transition - the process of moving away from the unwanted gender presentation to one that is more "congruent" with a person's gender identity:
    • Social transition describes processes which are non-surgical and reversible, for example wearing clothes and make-up of the preferred gender
    • Physical transition describes the process of making physical changes to the body (e.g hormones and a variety of surgical interventions)
    • Legal transition refers to those processes undertaken to legally change gender identity, for example changing name by deed pole, obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate under the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004
  • Transgender - a person whose gender identity and/or presentation is different to the accepted gender categories of the particular society or community. It is an umbrella term to refer to anyone who does not conform to the restrictive conventions of a binary gender system
  • Transgendered - this is an unacceptable phrase as it implies something has happened to a person to make them transgender, but transgender is not a choice, it is a state of being, it is in our DNA.  A gay person is not "gayed" and a person of colour is not "blacked", so a transgender person is not "transgendered"
  • Transgenderism - this phrase implies pathologisation and again is incorrect terminology
  • Trans - shorthand and acceptable terminology for transgender
  • Transsexual - transsexuals are those transgender people whose transition has included physical as well as social or possibly legal changes 
  • Transvestite - this term is still used by older transgender people. It is the same as "crossdresser" (latin for "cross" is "trans" and latin for clothes is "vestis"). But for younger transpeople it is regarded as offensive, especially its slang derivative "tranny"
  • WPATH - World Professional Association for Transgender Health.  This is the formal institution that identifies transgender medical care pathways