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Terminology

14.07.20 5mins

Terminology concerning the trans community varies over time and across cultures. Whilst not exhaustive, we’ve created a list of some of the more common words that care providers might come across when working to support trans/non-binary people.

Gender identity: This refers to person’s internal sense of self and whether they are male, female, neither male nor female, or a combination of the two.

Sex: Sex is often considered to be based on the sex-assigned-at birth, based on assessment of external genitalia, and/or chromosomes and gonads. Whilst often conflated with gender identity, there are differences. In the case of trans/non-binary people sex and gender are often incongruent

Gender expression: The external expression or display of a person’s gender. This may be noted in a person’s choices of clothing, hairstyle, or speech and mannerisms. Gender expression and gender identity may differ for a number of reasons; for instance, trans women may prefer a butch or masc appearance and trans men a soft or femme expression. All variations of gender expression are equally valid.

Transgender: An umbrella term used to describe any person whose gender identity differs from the sex that was assigned at birth in some way. This is often commonly shortened to ‘trans’. E.g. trans women (those with a female identity that was assigned male at birth), or trans men (those with a male identity who were assigned female at birth).

Cisgender: A term used to describe any person whose gender identity is congruent with the sex they were assigned at birth. I.e. the opposite of transgender. Commonly abbreviated to ‘cis’.

Nonbinary: A trans person who identifies as neither male nor female.

Trans-masculine/trans-feminine: Terms that are often used to describe where on the gender spectrum a trans/non-binary person positions themselves. A person may identify as trans-masculine but not male, or trans-feminine, but not female.

They/Them/Theirs: Non-gendered pronouns that are often used by some who have a trans, nonbinary or genderqueer identity in place of words like she/her/hers and he/him/his.

Transsexual: A term which originated in psychiatry to distinguish between trans people who sought medical transition and those who did not. It is viewed by many trans/non-binary people as outdated or athologizing. Whilst it is used less commonly contemporarily, there are still a number of people of who may describe themselves as transsexual. We suggest avoiding this term unless your service users specify that they use the term for themselves.

Cross dresser: A term that generally describes people who may wear clothing of a gender that differs from their sex assigned at birth, but do not identify as being that gender themselves. E.g. A cis gay man may dress or perform in drag but does not identify as a woman himself.

However, some cross dressers and people who dress in drag may demonstrate an overlap with certain elements of a transgender identity.

Sexual orientation: Describes the ways people experience a sexual attraction towards others. Trans/non-binary people may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or straight/heterosexual. E.g. a trans woman who is attracted to other women (cis or trans) may describe herself as a lesbian