Trans Identities & Lives Glossary

Note: These definitions are a part of our Advanced Safe Zone track, Trans Identities & Lives. For a more basic understanding of LGBTQ issues and concerns, please refer to our Safe Zone Terms Glossary.

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
Endocrinology: The area of study in biology and medicine which directly relates to hormones
and the glands which produce hormones.
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.
Genderbashing: Physical and/or verbal violence directed towards an individual or group based
on the target’s gender identity, gender expression, or the perception of these identities.
Gender Affirmation or Gender Confirmation Surgery: A social, medical, and/or surgical
process that one undergoes for the purpose of having their body and expression be more
consistent with their gender identity. It may be quite costly, and not everyone who desires
surgery has equal access. Also known as Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) or Sexual
Reassignment Surgery (SRS), although these phrases are more outdated now. As with any
identity term, every individual will have a preference in word choice to describe this process for
Gender Conformity: An investment and participation in the social expectations of the
constructions of gender identity and gender expression, particularly in alignment with assigned
sex. This often means identifying and communicating one’s own gender within a binary and
cisgendered way.
Gender Dysphoria: A psychiatric/medical diagnosis included in the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMV)
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 Recognition Act (GRA): An act of parliament in the United Kingdom passed in 2004
that gives trans identified individuals the right to legally change their gender on a birth certificate.
This is done by presenting evidence of their identities to a Gender Recognition Panel, which
may then issue a Gender Recognition Certificate. There is no requirement to have undergone
gender confirmation surgery prior to this application.
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 lived 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.
Hyperfemininity / Hypermasculinity: Refers to an exaggerated performance, behavior, or
investment in gender expression in an extreme binary way. This can often be seen in gender
exclusive spaces, in which masculinity or femininity are exclusive from one another (ex. sports
clubs). Often these spaces can be exclusive, and emotionally or even physically dangerous for
gender non-conforming and trans identified individuals.
Masculinization / Feminization: The development of primary and secondary sex
characteristics in prepubescent adolescents. Also referred to as an aspect of some gender
confirmation processes in which hormones and surgical procedures are used to reflect the
aesthetics of an individual’s desired gender identity or expression.
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.
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. Can also be used as 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
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.
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 gender affirmation surgery
and worked very hard to distinguish transgenderists from transsexuals. 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.
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”.
Transgenderist: 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 Jurisprudence: The theory and method behind the legal reasoning of litigation regarding
trans and gender non-conforming issues that are brought within this system. Historically, this
meant a preoccupation with the biological and aesthetic functionality of trans folks, particularly
in regard to (hetero)sexual functionality.
Trans man: A trans man is a person who identifies as a man and has been through a gender
affirmation process of some type.
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”.
Transmisogyny: The confluence of the definitions of transphobia, and misogyny. It is the
negative attitudes, expressed through cultural hate, individual and state violence, and
discrimination directed toward trans women and trans and gender non-conforming people on
the feminine end of the gender spectrum. Transmisogyny targets trans women, trans and gender
non-conforming people who may not identify as women, but who present feminine
characteristics and/or identify along the feminine end of the gender expression spectrum.
Transphobia: The irrational fear of people who identify, or are perceived to be, trans and/or
gender non-conforming.
Trans woman: A trans woman is a person who identifies as a woman and has been through a
gender affirmation process of some type.