Skip to content Skip to navigation

Glossary of Terms Related to Transgender Communities

Terminology frequently morphs within LGBTQIA communities, and a word that means one thing in one community may mean something else in another community. The terms used here are commonly used in the Stanford LGBTQIA community.

Basic Definitions

Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB) or Female-Assigned-at-Birth (FAAB): An individual assigned female at birth.

Assigned Male At Birth (AMAB) or Male-Assigned-at-Birth (MAAB): An individual assigned male at birth.

Assigned Sex or Sex Assigned At Birth: The sex (typically M or F) that is assigned to a person based on external genitalia at birth.

Cisgender, Cis: Someone whose gender identity corresponds with expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a person who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman is regarded as cisgender or as a cisgender woman.

Gender-Affirming Surgery: Any surgical procedure that aims to increase a sense of congruence with one’s gender identity and physical body. Gender-affirming surgeries may include: chest reconstructive surgeries (e.g., double mastectomy, feminizing mammoplasty), genital reconstructive surgeries (e.g., orchiectomy, vaginoplasty, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty), facial feminization surgeries (e.g., tracheal shave, rhinoplasty, brow lift), or other procedures (e.g., vocal cord surgery). In California, surgery is not required to change one’s legal gender marker. Note: This term is preferred over the outdated term Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS). It is also preferred over the term gender confirmation surgery (GCS) because gender cannot be “confirmed” by having surgery. A person’s gender is to be respected regardless of surgical history/status or what kind of genitals they have or had. It is best to avoid terms such as “pre-op”, “non-op”, or “post-op,” as they reinforce the assumption all trans people want to or will have the opportunity to have surgery.

Gender Dysphoria: Emotional distress related to the sense that one’s assigned sex is not in line with one’s gender identity. Gender Dysphoria is also a medical and mental health diagnosis that may warrant treatment in the form of gender-affirming medical interventions.

Gender Expression: The ways in which a person outwardly expresses their gender, often through hair, makeup, clothing, and other aspects of appearance. Gender expression does not always correspond to gender identity.

Gender Identity: The inherent feeling within an individual of what gender they are; a person may identify as a man, woman, neither, in-between, both, or fluidly moving between these two binary categories.

Gender-Neutral Pronouns: Pronouns that a person may use when they do not fully identify with binary gender categories. Examples of gender-neutral pronouns include singular they/them/their, ey/em/eir, zie/hir/hirs, or no pronouns. It’s best to ask what pronouns are appropriate for them.

Genderqueer: A gender identity that denotes someone who does not fully identify with the binary genders of male/man/masculine or female/woman/feminine. A genderqueer person may identify as neither a man nor a woman, in-between, both, fluidly moving between these two categories, or as a third/alternate gender. Related to the term nonbinary, which has become more popular in the 2010’s.

Intersex: A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a physical characteristics (e.g., gonads, chromosomal makeup, external genitalia, internal reproductive or urinary organs) that do not fit typical medical or social definitions of female or male. Some people use the term DSD (Disorders of Sex Development) to describe intersex people, but this is not seen as affirming by intersex communities.

Nonbinary: A gender identity that denotes someone who does not fully identify with the binary genders of male/man/masculine or female/woman/feminine. A nonbinary person may identify as neither a man nor a woman, in-between, both, fluidly moving between these two categories, or as a third/alternate gender. Related to the term genderqueer, which was used more often prior to the 2010’s.

Passing: Being perceived as cisgender or as a gender in line with one’s gender identity. This term is not considered affirming to many, as it implies that trans people are deceptive or are not truly the gender they say they are. Passing is important to some people (e.g., for safety reasons), but it is not the goal of every trans person.

Queer: Used to describe non-normative identities (both sexual identities and gender identities) that might not easily be classified under other terminology (gay, lesbian, etc.). Queer can also be used as an umbrella term to describe LGBTQIA identities as a whole. In many communities, the term “queer” also has a political connotation that is connected to LGBTQIA activism. The term queer may be offensive to older LGBTQIA individuals, so it is best to use caution and only use this term when you know that someone uses it as an affirming term to describe themselves.

Sexual Orientation: A way to describe a person’s romantic and/or sexual attractions to others. Sexual orientation may consist of attraction, behavior, and identity, and not all of these factors need to be aligned/consistent. For example, a person may have attractions towards trans women, be sexually active with cisgender men, and have an identity as heterosexual. Some labels to describe sexual orientation include: heterosexual, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, or fluid.

Transgender, Trans: An adjective to describe someone who does not fully identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. These terms are often used as umbrella terms for more specific terms that people within trans communities use to describe themselves (and sometimes a person may use several to describe themselves). Some of these terms include:

  • Man
  • Woman
  • Transgender man, trans man, trans masculine
  • Transgender woman, trans woman, trans feminine
  • Genderqueer
  • Bigender
  • Gender neutral
  • Demi-boy
  • Demi-girl
  • Agender
  • Genderless
  • Neutrois
  • Pangender

It’s best to ask how a transgender person identifies. Be aware that the word “tranny” is considered offensive.

Transgender Man, Trans Man, Trans Masculine: Someone who was female assigned at birth who identifies as a man or on the masculine spectrum. Note: The term FTM is no longer considered affirming.

Transgender Woman, Trans Woman, Trans Feminine: Someone who was male assigned at birth who identifies as a woman or on the feminine spectrum. Note: The term MTF is no longer considered affirming.

Transition: The process of shifting one’s gender identity and/or expression. Transition is a process that occurs over time, varies greatly among individuals, and may consist of physical/medical, emotional, social, and legal components. There is no uniform or set path for how a person transitions, if at all. Some transgender people consider themselves post-transition, and some no longer consider themselves to be transgender. Others feel that they are in a state of transition for the rest of their lives.

Transsexual: A term that was commonly used before the term “transgender” came into more popular usage in the 1990’s. Some people still identify as transsexual, but this term is no longer considered affirming.