- "I use the phrase genderqueer to describe my gender
identity in the same way that I use queer to describe my sexuality.
When I tell people that I'm queer, I do so in order to withhold access
from intimate knowledge about my sex life. In the same vein, with the
word genderqueer, my intention is to obfuscate any assumptions people
would make about my physical body, either past or present (or future).
Of course, people will make judgments based upon appearance, voice and
body movements, but by using genderqueer I am refusing to confirm or
deny their appraisal.
Unfortunately, this is not always practical or possible in everyday life. I would like for gender neutral language to be established and used universally. This could help remove some of the stigma for anyone who doesn't easily fall within the range of acceptable gender expression."
Trans Basics: Glossary of Terms
Here we identify and explain differences between the separate continuums of sex, gender role, gender identity, and sexual orientation; in addition to articulating basic transgender terminology.
We want to try to use language that people consider affirming to themselves. Based on the understanding that this is actually a more accurate way to speak about people, that transgender individuals are experts on their own lives and we’re going to try to sustain language in the same level of expertise. We’re also confirming the NYC Human Rights law.
The following terminology is taken from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) as well as various Gender Identity Project materials. The original GLAAD text may be found on GLAAD's website.
- An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term (transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.
- Transsexual (Transexual)
- An older term which originated in the medical and psychological communities. Many transgender people prefer the term "transgender" to "transsexual." Some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe themselves. However, unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term, and many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.
- Gender Non-conforming
- A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from the societal expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. Gender Non-conforming individuals may or may not pursue any physical changes, such as hormonal or surgical interventions. Gender non-conforming individuals may or may not identify as trans, male or female.
- A term used by some individuals who identify as between genders, or as neither man nor woman. Genderqueer identity may be seen as an identity under the gender non-conforming umbrella. Genderqueer individuals may or may not pursue any physical changes, such as hormonal or surgical intervention. Genderqueer individuals may or may not identify as trans.
- DEROGATORY see Cross-Dressing
- Altering one's birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition includes some or all of the following cultural, legal and medical adjustments: telling one's family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one's name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgical alteration.
- Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS)
- Refers to surgical alteration, and is only one small part of transition (see Transition above). Preferred term to "sex change operation." Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have SRS. Journalists should avoid overemphasizing the importance of SRS to the transition process.
- To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. "Cross-dresser" should NOT be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex, or who intends to do so in the future. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not necessarily tied to erotic activity. Cross-dressing is not indicative of sexual orientation.
- Gender Identity Disorder (GID)
- A controversial DSM-IV diagnosis given to transgender and other gender-variant people. Because it labels people as "disordered," Gender Identity Disorder is often considered offensive. The diagnosis is frequently given to children who don't conform to expected gender norms in terms of dress, play or behavior. Such children are often subjected to intense psychotherapy, behavior modification and/or institutionalization. Replaces the outdated term "gender dysphoria."
Transgender Terminology to AVOID
- Problematic: "transgenders," "a transgender"
- Preferred: "transgender people," "a transgender person"
- Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. Do not say, "Tony is a transgender," or "The parade included many transgenders." Instead say, "Tony is a transgender person," or "The parade included many transgender people."
- Problematic: "transgendered"
- Preferred: "transgender"
- The word transgender never needs the extraneous "ed" at the end of the word. In fact, such a construction is grammatically incorrect. Only verbs can be transformed into participles by adding "-ed" to the end of the word, and transgender is an adjective, not a verb.
- Problematic: "sex change," "pre-operative," "post-operative"
- Preferred: "transition"
- Referring to a sex change operation, or using terms such as pre- or post-operative, inaccurately suggests that one must have surgery in order to truly change one's sex.
- Problematic: "hermaphrodite"
- Preferred: "intersex person"
- The word "hermaphrodite" is an outdated, stigmatizing and misleading word, usually used to sensationalize intersex people.
- Defamatory: "deceptive," "fooling," "pretending," "posing," or "masquerading"
- Gender identity is an integral part of a person's identity. Please do not characterize transgender people as "deceptive," as "fooling" other people, or as "pretending" to be, "posing" or "masquerading" as a man or a woman. Such descriptions are extremely insulting.
- Defamatory: "she-male," "he-she," "it," "trannie," "tranny," "gender-bender"
- These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be used (See GLAAD's Defamatory Language section).
About Trans Basics
Trans Basics is an online educational tool created by the Gender Identity Project (GIP) at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Trans Basics contains information about and resources for trans, genderqueer, gender non-conforming people and their allies, co-workers, partners, families and friends. Return to the Trans Basics homepage.