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Trans* Identities and Lives Glossary

  • Agender: Not identifying with any gender; the feeling of having no gender. This is a gender identity term
  • Bigender: A self-imposed gender identity term which reflects feeling like both a man and a woman. This can be interchangeable and fluid for many.
  • Biological Sex/Assigned Sex: The physiological and anatomical characteristics of maleness and femaleness with which a person is born or that develop with physical maturity. These markers including internal and external reproductive organs, chromosomes, hormones, and body shape. Infants are usually assigned to a sex category (usually male or female) at birth on the basis of such characteristics (primarily the appearance of the external genitals) (Bornstein, 1994, 1998). We therefore use assigned sex to refer to the sex designation that appears on birth certificates and other legal documents. See also intersex.
  • Cissexism: The assumption of legitimacy and preference for people whose gender identity and biological sex align along the binary. In other words, cissexism assumes that all people identify their gender identity and expression with the sex that they were assigned at birth. See heterosexism.
  • Demigirl: A gender identity term for someone who was assigned female at birth but does not fully identify with being a woman, socially or mentally. In other words, while female is the sex designation and the person identifies somewhat with the gender identity, “woman”, the person does not consider themselves as only in those binaries.
  • Demiguy: Someone who was assigned male at birth but does not fully identify with being a man, socially or mentally. In other words, while male is the sex designation, and the person identifies somewhat with the gender, “man”, the person does not consider themselves as only in those binary capacities.
  • Epicene: This is a historically-bound term, which indicates a lack of distinction with regard to gender expression. Androgyny is a synonym. Often, it has been used to refer to males with feminine qualities.
  • Genderfuck: This can be both a gender identity and gender expression term. This was coined by the trans* community and refers to a gender identity or expression that is intentionally fluid, so as to present no clear designation in terms of perceived gender.
  • Genderism: A belief system in which the male/female; man/woman binaries are preferred and held as the only legitimate identities. Moreover, assigned sex is determined to be inextricably linked to gender. This serves as the basis to exclude all who do not fit into this spectrum.
  • Harry Benjamin Standards of Care: In 1966, Harry Benjamin created the Standards of Care as ethical guidelines for the care and treatment of transsexuals. Benjamin’s guiding principles dictated the requirements necessary for a person to be considered transsexual and to qualify for medical transition, as well as the scope of therapies, treatments and surgeries that a transition would include. Although many therapists and medical providers still rely on the Standards of Care, the guidelines are often adhered to less rigidly than in the past.
  • Femininity/Masculinity: Ideological constructions whose human manifestations (women and men, girls and boys) are recreated in each generation according to the intermeshing requirements of social, cultural, economic, and biological necessities. People rely on cultural constructions of these to indicate their membership in their sex or gender category.
  • Gender Fluid: A gender identity which describes a person who feels as though their gender is changing and dependent upon many factors and circumstances. This is a different identity concept than genderqueer or gender variant. Being gender fluid speaks to the changing nature of one’s gender and not seeing it as fixed.
  • Gender Identity Disorder and/or Gender Dysphoria: A psychiatric/medical diagnosis included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMIV) to describe when a person assigned one gender based on their birth sex identifies as a different gender, or does not conform with the gender roles associated with their birth sex. This can manifest in many ways, including varying levels of body dysphoria, and general discomfort living as the assigned sex and/or gender.
  • Gender Variant: Someone whose combination of legal sex, birth sex, gender identity, gender expression and perceived gender do not line up according to societal expectations. The term “genderqueer” is similar, though “gender variant” is preferred by those not comfortable using the word “queer”. This is a gender identity term.
  • Girlfag: A self-identified woman who is attracted to bisexual or gay men. The woman may even feel, to varying degrees, as though she is a gay man living in a woman’s body.
  • Guydyke: A self-identified man who is attracted to bisexual or lesbian women. The many may even feel, to varying degrees, as though he is a lesbian living in a man’s body.
  • Hijra: Culturally connected to South Asia and India in particular, Hijras are biological males who have woman-identified gender identity and expression. Historically, for more than 4,000 years, Hijras have lives in well-structured communities together and been led by a guru. Since the 1900’s, Hijras have created a social justice movement in an effort to be seen in a third gender category, as opposed to either male or female.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): The process of taking hormones to achieve the secondary sex characteristics of a particular sex. For example, taking testosterone in order to achieve more male-identified features is a type of HRT.
  • Intergender: A gender identity in which a person feels as though their gender is either in between genders or a combination of gender identities and/or gender expressions. Intergender challenges the binary man/woman; masculine/feminine strain of thought
  • Medical Model: A clinical view of gender variance, rooted in biological and psychological orientations, with an understanding that transsexuality and transgender identity are medical and mental health conditions, in need of diagnosis, treatment, and cure.
  • Pangender: A gender identity that describes a person whose gender identity and/or gender expression are multiple and varied. Literally meaning “all” gender, pangender can manifest itself in a person feeling as though their gender identity/expression encompasses many facets.
  • People of Transgender Experience: Used in some parts of the country for people who have transitioned and now identify as man or woman rather than transgender. More commonly, an overarching term for anyone in the trans* community.
  • Queer: An umbrella identity term taken by people who do not conform to heterosexual and/or gender binary norms; a reclaimed derogatory slur taken as a political term to unite people who are marginalized because of their non-conformity to dominant gender identities and/or heterosexuality.
  • Sex: It is the designation of the biological differences between females and males. This is the scientific term for what makes males and females different; remember, though, that not everyone fits into the two categories of male and female. There are a number of other different factors that determine sex, not just chromosomes.
  • Sexual Orientation: Determines the focus of our sexual/erotic drives, desires, and fantasies, and the inclination or capacity to develop intimate, emotional and sexual relationships with other people. Sexual orientation is usually quantified in terms of gender — both an individual’s own gender and the gender(s) of the people to whom that person is attracted and/or with whom they engage in intimate relationships and/or sexual behavior.
  • Sexual (or Gender) Reassignment Surgery (SRS) OR Gender Confirmation Surgery: A medical and surgical process that one undergoes for the purpose of having hir body be more consistent with hir gender identity. SRS may be quite costly, and not everyone who desires SRS has equal access. Also knows as Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS).
  • Third Gender: This is a term rooted in anthropological studies and is often used to refer to people in cultures throughout history who identified outside of the male/female binary. The most commonly accepted, current definition of third gender implies a category that is not connected to or rooted in male/female, but something else entirely, as opposed to being in between male and female or being both male and female.
  • Trans*: This is a gender identity term that was coined by trans* activists in an effort to create language that the trans* community could feel connected to and really own. Transgender was a term that many believe is related to the history of the word transgenderist. The activist who coined transgenderist was adamantly and controversially opposed to sex/gender reassignment surgery and worked very hard to distinguish transgenderists from transsexuals. As such, many trans* people do not feel connected to the word transgender.  Within the last 10 years, trans or trans* has begun to appear in literature as an umbrella term for the gender non-conforming community. Trans* is so new as a term that its definition is still developing, but can be seen as a within-community umbrella term.
  • Transfag: A transman who is attracted to other self-identified men.
  • Transfeminine: A self-identification term for gender identity or gender expression in which a person who is born male does not feel connected to a sense of being a man. Rather, someone identifying as transfeminine would likely feel much closer to the culturally identified woman, female and feminine identified expressions, and yet, not identify as “woman”.
  • Trangenderist: A person who lives full time in the gender of his or her choice (different from the body type) without desiring gender reassignment surgery. Some transgenderists consider themselves to be “non-operative” transsexuals. Transgenderists may or may not choose to take hormones to permanently alter their appearance.
  • Transition: The process of moving from one gender to another. For example, “I transitioned from male to female in 1996”.
  • Trans Man: Female-to-male. Trans man refers to an individual who identifies as male. Often the media, police, or scientific community may incorrectly use this language. They will base the individuals identity based on their sex assigned at birth and the gender associated with it.
  • Transmasculine: A self-identification term for gender identity or gender expression in which a person who is born female does not feel connected to a sense of being a woman. Rather, someone identifying as transmasculine would likely feel much closer to the culturally identified man, male and masculine identified expressions and yet, not identify as “man”.
  • Trans Woman: Male-to-Female. Trans woman refers to an individual who identifies as female. As with trans man, this term is often misused due to ignorance.
  • Trigender: This is a gender identity term that most often means one of two things. First, a trigender person may feel as though they are not man or woman, but are also not in between those two labels. As such, a trigender person defines their gender identity in a third category, which is not situated in between man/woman. Second, trigender can also mean a person who feels that they are a blending of three gender identities.
  • Tryke: A transwoman who is attracted to other self-identified women.
  • Two-Spirit: A term some Native American cultures use for people whose gender identification includes both male and female. Traditionally, two-spirited individuals are respected and celebrated.

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