When I first started doing my own research about all things gender related, it was like learning a new language. There were so many things I didn’t understand and I’m still learning all the time. This glossary is an attempt to explain some of the words/phrases you may see in my posts that are new to you.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to all gender-related words and phrases. I’m explaining some of the ones I use regularly on this blog, and I may add to it as I go. I’m describing them as I understand them. But if you look them up, there is often variation of the exact meaning.
Also please be aware that when it comes to what words individual trans people use to describe themselves, it’s always down to personal choice. A word/phrase that one trans person is happy using, might be one that another trans person feels uncomfortable with. If in doubt, just ask what the individual prefers.
Transgender: An inclusive term for anyone who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. It should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. It’s okay to talk about “a transgender person.” But not, “a transgender.” Sometimes shortened to trans.
Transsexual: An older and less inclusive term, usually used for someone who has undergone medical transition. Many trans people prefer the word transgender (including me).
Cisgender: The opposite of transgender. A person who does identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Sometimes shortened to cis.
Transman: A transgender man, so someone who was assigned female at birth but now identifies as male.
Transwoman: A transgender woman, so someone who was assigned male at birth but now identifies as female.
Nonbinary or genderqueer: A word used to describe someone who identifies somewhere more in the middle of the gender spectrum, or alternatively completely outside the gender spectrum. Agender is another word with a similar meaning.
Genderfluid: A descriptor for someone whose gender identity is fluid, sometimes feeling more male, other times more female.
Dysphoria: A profound state of unease and dissatisfaction. Gender dysphoria describes the feelings that transgender people experience as a result of their internal gender not matching the sex they were assigned at birth. Dysphoria can be physical (centred on the body) or social (centred on social interactions and the perceptions of others).
Pronouns: For those who weren’t paying attention in English at school… pronouns are the words that we use to substitute a person’s name. They are usually gendered when we’re talking about people. He/him/his or She/hers. Nonbinary people may use they/them or ze/zir/zirs for example.
FTM: Acronym for female-to-male.
MTF: The opposite of FTM, so male-to-female.
Transition: The process of moving away from the sex you were assigned at birth, in order to bring yourself in line with your internal gender identity. Transitioning has many (optional) steps, including social and legal ones (coming out, changing your name) as well as medical ones (hormones and surgery). It’s better to avoid the term sex change, which implies surgery is necessary for transition.
For more detailed information, including words and phrases to actively avoid when talking about transgender issues, please visit: