Glossary of Transgender Terminology

In any conversation, the most important first step is learning what all of the words mean. This glossary of terms is a starting point (terminologies tend to evolve over time) from which we can begin to understand what is being talked about when we discuss all things gender related. The words and meanings provided herein are given as a tool to help us begin thinking about gender, sex, society, culture, and health. We encourage guests to  think about and discuss the ways language can be used to promote recognition, respect, and support.

Glossary (in alphabetical order):

  • AFAB

    • Assigned Female At Birth. Refers to people declared to be female at birth and who are raised within a female gender role that does not match their gender identity. Other acronyms used in place of AFAB: DFAB (Designated Female At Birth) and CAFAB (Coercively Assigned Female At Birth).
  • Ally

    • A cisgender person who supports and celebrates trans identities, challenges transphobic remarks and the actions of others, and willingly explores these biases within themselves.
  • AMAB

    • Assigned Male At Birth. Refers to people declared to be male at birth and who are raised within a male gender role that does not match their gender identity. Other acronyms used in place of AMAB: DMAB (Designated Male At Birth) and CAMAB (Coercively Assigned Male At Birth).
  • Androgynous

    • A blend of many genders. A person who is gender androgynous might refer to themselves as an androgyne.
  • Asexual

    • An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of a person’s identity. Asexuality does not make a person’s life life any worse or any better, they just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently. (More information can be found at Asexuality.org)
  • Assigned Sex (or sex assignment)

    • This is the legal designation of sex, usually made at birth. Differs from Gender Identity.
  • Bi-gender

    • A gender identity of having two full genders which one can move between.
    • One who has a significant gender identity that encompasses both genders, male and female. Some may feel that one side or the other is stronger, but both sides are there.
  • Binding

    • The technique of compressing one’s chest to create a more androgynous or masculine appearance. Most common with Trans Men and AFAB Gender Non-Conforming individuals.
  • Black Market Hormones

    • Hormones purchased without a prescription.
  • Breast Augmentation

    • A gender-affirming, feminizing, top surgery that enlarges one’s breasts.
  • Butch

    • Describes gender and/or social and relationship roles that are perceived as being masculine, or refers to a person who embodies these qualities. Might be trans, but not necessarily.
  • Chest Surgery

    • A gender-affirming, masculinizing, top surgery that removes breast tissue and sculpts remaining tissue into a shape that is typically considered to me masculine.
  • Cisgender (also cissexual)

    • Having a gender that matches one’s assigned sex; non-transgender.
  • Clitoral Release

    • A gender-affirming, masculinizing, lower surgery to cut ligaments around the clitoris, releasing it from the pubis, giving the shaft more length, thus creating a penis.
  • Coming Out or Coming Out of the Closet

    • The process of becoming aware of one’s trans identity, accepting it, and/or telling others about it. Coming out it also used to refer to disclosing one’s non-heterosexual sexual orientation.
  • Cross Dresser

    • A term for people who dress in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by the other sex, but who generally have no intent to live full-time as the other gender. The older term “transvestite” is considered derogatory by many in the United States.
  • Drag King

    • Drag Kings are performance artists who dress and act in a masculine manner and personify male gender stereotypes as part of their routine. Might be trans, by not necessarily.
  • Drag Queen

    • Drag Queens are performance artists who dress and act in a feminine manner and personify female gender stereotypes as part of their routine. Might be trans, but not necessarily.
    • It is also sometimes used in a derogatory manner to refer to transgender women.
  • Endocrinologist

    • A doctor specially trained in the study of hormones and their actions and disorders in the body.
  • Facial Feminization Surgery

    • Surgeries that feminize the face, which include Adam’s apple reduction, nose feminization, facial bone reduction, face lift, eyelid rejuvenation, and hair reconstruction.
  • Female

    • A sex, usually assigned at birth, and based on chromosomes (e.g. XX), gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy (e.g. vagina, uterus). After continued use of anti-androgen and estrogen hormones, trans women can display hormone levels that are consistent with typical genetic female levels. Reproductive/sexual anatomy can be surgically reproduced in trans women during Gender Affirming Surgery.
  • Female-to-Male (FTM)

    • May refer to a person assigned female at birth whose gender identity is male all or part of the time. Transitioning-to-male; female-to-male spectrum.
    • A person who transitions from “female-to-male,” meaning a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male. Also known as a “transgender man.”
  • Feminine

    • Describes socially and culturally constructed aspects of gender (e.g. roles, behaviors, expressions, identities) typically associated with girls and women.
  • Feminizing Hormone Therapy

    • The use of medications (e.g. estrogen, anti-androgens, progestins) to develop physical characteristics that are in line with one’s gender or gender expression, including breast development, more fat on the hips, thighs, and buttocks, and softer skin.
  • Feminizing Surgeries

    • Gender-affirming surgical procedures that create physical characteristics reflective of one’s gender identity and/or gender expression to include: breast augmentation, vaginoplasty, facial feminization surgery, vocal cord surgery, thyroid cartilage reduction, buttock augmentation/lipofilling, and hair reconstruction.
  • Femme

    • Describes gender expressions and/or social and relationship roles that are perceived as being feminine, or refers to a person who embodies these qualities. Might be trans, but not necessarily.
  • Formulary

    • A listing of medications covered by a health care plan.
  • Gaff

    • A garment that flattens the lower part of the male body, concealing the penis* and the testes*.
  • Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA)

    • Student-led organizations intended to provide a safe and supportive environment for LGBT2QIA+ and questioning youth and their allies. See also QSA.
  • Gender

    • Socially and culturally constructed roles, behaviors, expressions, and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and trans people.
  • Gender Affirming Surgery (GRS)

    • Range of surgeries that create physical characteristics that are in line with one’s gender identity, including: vaginoplasty, breast augmentation, chest surgery, and phalloplasty. Sometimes referred to as sex reassignment surgery (SRS).
    • Surgical procedures that change one’s body to better reflect a person’s gender identity. This may include different procedures, including those sometimes also referred to as “top surgery” (breast augmentation or removal) or “bottom surgery” (altering genitals). Contrary to popular belief, there is not one surgery; in fact there are many different surgeries. These surgeries are medically necessary for some people, however not all people want, need, or can have surgery as part of their transition. “Sex change surgery” is considered a derogatory term by many.
  • Gender Binary

    • A view that there are only two genders (girls/women and boys/men) that are separate and unchanging.
  • Gender Creative

    • Refers to people, often children, who identify and express their gender in ways that differ from societal and cultural expectations.
  • Gender Diverse

    • Gender roles and/or gender expressions that do not match social and cultural expectations. Gender non-conforming or gender variant.
  • Gender Dysphoria

    • Emotional and psychological distress resulting from a difference between a person’s gender and their assigned sex, associated gender role, and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics. (WPATH)
  • Gender Expression

    • How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through name and pronoun choice, behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.
  • Gender Fluid

    • A gender that is changeable.
  • Gender Identity

    • An individual’s internal and psychological sense of being male, female, both, in-between, or neither. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.
  • Gender-inclusive Pronouns

  • Gender Marker

    • A term some people use for sex marker on identification/documents.
  • Gender Non-conforming

    • This term refers to people who do not conform to society’s expectations for their gender roles or gender expressions. Another term used for this is ‘gender-variant’.
  • Gender Normative

    • Gender roles and/or gender expressions that match social and cultural expectations.
  • Gender Roles

    • Socially and culturally constructed behavioural norms such as communication styles, careers, and family roles, that are often expected of people based on their assigned sex.
  • Genderqueer

    • A term used by some individuals who identify as neither entirely male nor entirely female.
  • Hair restoration surgery

    • Surgical technique that moves individual hair follicles from a part of the body called the donor site to a different part of the body called the recipient site.
  • Hermaphrodite

    • An outdated and derogatory term that was historically used to label people who have a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not closely resemble typical male or female reproductive or sexual anatomy, which may be related to genitalia, secondary sex characteristics, and/or chromosomal make-up. Replaced by the more respectful term Intersex. Another term commonly used is Disorders of Sex Development (DSD).
  • Homosexual

    • An outdated term that was historically used to describe people who were attracted to other people of the same gender. Replaced by the more inclusive and respectful terms, “gay” or “lesbian”, which are not considered offensive by many.
  • Hormones

    • Chemical substances that control and regulate the activity of certain cells or organs. See also: Sex Hormones.
  • Hormone Therapy (HT)

    • Administration of sex hormones for the purpose of bringing one’s secondary sex characteristics more in line with one’s gender. Also referred to as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Transhormonal Therapy.
  • Hormone Readiness Assessment

    • Evaluation conducted by a healthcare professional to determine if a patient is ready to begin hormone therapy. May include psychological and medical assessments.
  • Hysterectomy

    • A surgical procedure to remove all or part of the uterus, and sometimes the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes. A gender-affirming, masculinizing, lower surgery.
  • Intersex

    • A reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not closely resemble typical male or female reproductive or sexual anatomy. This condition may manifest in genitalia, secondary sex characteristics, and/or chromosomal make-up. Intersex replaced the outdated terms ‘hermaphrodite’. Also referred to as Disorders of Sex Development (DSD). Intersex is different from trans.
  • Lifestyle choice

    • An outdated and offensive term used to imply that trans people make a choice in the way that they live their lives or behave in ways that are according to the attitudes, tastes, and values associated with the gender identity.
  • Lipofilling

    • The surgical transfer of fat removed by liposuction to other areas of the body.
  • Liposuction

    • A surgical technique for removing excess fat from under the skin by suction.
  • Lo-Ho

    • A slang term used by some trans people who take low doses of hormones.
  • Lower Surgery

    • Umbrella term for gender-affirming surgeries done below the waist, including masculinizing (e.g. hysterectomy, clitoral release, metoidioplasty, and phalloplasty) and feminizing (e.g. orchiectomy and vaginoplasty) surgeries.  Also called “bottom surgery.”
  • LGBT

    • Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans people;  GLBT.
  • LGBT2QIA+

    • An evolving acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and additional identities. A common misbelief is that the “A” stands for Ally.
  • Male

    • A sex, usually assigned at birth, and based on chromosomes (e.g. XY), gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy (e.g. penis, testicles). After continued use of testosterone hormones, trans men can display hormone levels that are consistent with typical genetic male levels. Reproductive/sexual anatomy can be surgically reproduced in trans men during Gender Affirming Surgery.
  • Male-to-Female (MTF)

    • May refer to a person assigned male at birth whose gender identity is female all or part of the time. Transitioning-to-female; female-to-male spectrum.
    • A person who transitions from “male-to-female,” meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as a female. Also known as a “transgender woman.”
  • Man

    • A human being who self-identifies as a man, based on elements of importance to the individual, such as gender roles, behaviour, expression, identity, and/or physiology.
  • Masculine

    • Describes socially and culturally constructed aspects of gender (e.g. roles, behaviour, expression, identity) typically associated with boys and men.
  • Masculinizing Hormone Therapy

    • The use of testosterone to develop physical characteristics that are in line with one’s gender identity or gender expression, including: more facial hair, more body hair, increased muscle mass, and deepened voice.
  • Masculinizing Surgeries

    • Gender-affirming surgical procedures that create physical characteristics reflective of one’s gender identity and/or gender expression, including chest surgery, hysterectomy, clitoral release, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty, pectoral implants, liposuction, and lipofilling.
  • Medical Transition

    • To undergo medical steps one deems necessary in order to transition from their assigned gender to their own gender identity. Examples include: Hormone Therapy and/or Gender Affirming Surgery.
  • Metoidioplasty

    • A gender-affirming, masculinizing, lower surgery to create a penis and scrotum, done by cutting ligaments around the clitoris to add length to the shaft, grafting skin around the shaft to create added girth, lengthening the urethra so one can urinate from the shaft, and creating a scrotum.
  • Monthly Bleeding

    • A term for “menstrual bleeding” or “period” used by some trans people.
  • No-Ho

    • A slang term used by some trans people who do not take hormones.
  • Non-flesh Penis

    • Penis made from synthetic materials. May also be referred to as a “packer” or “prosthetic penis.”
  • Oophorectomy

    • A gender-affirming, masculinizing, lower surgery to remove the ovaries.
  • Orchiectomy

    • A surgery to remove the testicles; a gender-affirming, feminizing, lower surgery.
  • Outing Someone

    • Accidentally or intentionally revealing another person’s gender identity or sexual orientation without their permission.
  • Packing

    • A term some people use to describe wearing padding or a non-flesh penis in the front of the lower garment or underwear.
  • Padding

    • Use of undergarments to create the appearance of larger breasts, hips, and/or buttocks. Includes breast forms.
  • Pangender

    • Gender identity that includes all genders; multi-gender; omni-gender.
  • Penis*

    • Penis* (with an asterisk) is used to acknowledge the many different words that are used for this body part: penis, strapless, shenis, etc.
  • Person of Trans History

    • Someone who has transitioned to female or transitioned to male and no longer identifies as trans.
  • Phalloplasty

    • A gender-affirming, masculinizing, lower surgery to create a penis and scrotal sac (phase 1), then testicular implants and implants to obtain rigidity/erection (phases 2 and 3).
  • Primary Care Provider

    • An individual’s main health care provider in non-emergency situations (check ups, referrals): Family Doctor, General Practitioner (GP), Nurse Practitioner (NP).
  • Privilege

    • Refers to the social, economic and political advantages and power held by people from dominant groups on the basis of attributes such as gender, race, sexual orientation, and social class.
  • Pronouns

  • Puberty Blockers

    • A group of medications for youth that temporarily suppress or inhibit puberty by suppressing the production of sex hormones and preventing development of secondary sexual characteristics.
  • Queer

    • A term used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people. Some use queer as an alternative to “gay” in an effort to be more inclusive. Depending on the user, the term has either a derogatory or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used in a negative way.
  • Queer/Straight Alliance (QSA)

    • Student-led organizations intended to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, and queer/questioning youth and their allies. See also GSA.
  • Questioning

    • A term sometimes used by those in the process of exploring their gender or sexual orientation, as well as choosing not to identify with any other label.
  • QTPOC

    • Acronym for Queer and Trans People of Colour.
  • QTIPOC

    • Acronym for Queer, Trans, and Intersex People of Colour.
  • Read As

    • When someone is correctly assumed to be the wrong gender. Examples include: trans women read as women or trans men read as men. This term has replaced the outdated term “to pass” which implied that a person is failing when they are not being read as their correct gender.
  • Real Life Experience (RLE)

    • A former requirement for medical transition, during which one was required to live full-time in their self-determined gender role. This requirement has been removed in the current WPATH Standards of Care (Version 7).
  • Salpingectomy

    • A gender-affirming, masculinizing, lower surgery to remove the Fallopian tubes.
  • Self-Identified Men

    • Term used to be inclusive of trans men or trans persons of history who self-identity as men (e.g. this restroom is for self-identified men).
  • Self-Identified Women

    • Term used to be inclusive of trans women or trans persons of history who self-identity as women (e.g. this restroom is for self-identified women).
  • Sex

    • Biological attributes and legal categories used to classify humans as male, female, intersex or other categories. Primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, genetic expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy.
  • Sex Assignment

    • Legal designation of sex, usually made at birth.
  • Sexual Orientation

    • Patterns of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to groups of people (e.g. men, women, trans people). A person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. For example pansexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, or heterosexual.
  • Sex Hormones

    • Hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, affecting sexual and reproductive development or function.
  • Sex Marker

    • Legal designation of sex (usually male or female) on official documents, such as government issued identification and birth certificates. Sometimes called “gender marker”.
  • Sex Reassignment Surgery

    • See Gender Affirming Surgery.
  • Standards of Care (for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People)

  • Stealth

    • The practice of living one’s life entirely as one’s gender without disclosing past experiences.
  • Social Security/Insurance Number

    • Nine-digit number that is needed to work in the United States or Canada, or to have access to government programs and benefits.
  • Surgical Readiness Assessment

    • Evaluation conducted by a healthcare professional to determine if a patient is ready to be referred for gender-affirming surgery. Includes both psychological and medical assessments.
  • Third Gender

    • A gender other than male or female.
  • Top Surgery

    • Umbrella term used for some gender-affirming above-the-waist surgeries including masculinizing chest surgeries and feminizing breast augmentation surgeries.
  • TPOC

    • An acronym for Trans People of Colour.
  • Transfeminine

    • This umbrella term may describe people who were assigned male at birth, who are trans, and whose gender expression leans towards the feminine.
  • Transgender (Trans)

    • Trans is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of people whose gender and/or gender expression differ from their assigned sex and/or the societal and cultural expectations of their assigned sex. Includes people who are: androgyne, agender, bigender, butch, AFAB, AMAB, cross-dresser, drag king, drag queen, femme, FTM, gender creative, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, gender variant, MTF, pangender, questioning, trans, trans man, trans woman, transfeminine, transgender, transmasculine, transsexual, and two-spirit.
    • A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” (Note: Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun, thus “transgender people” is appropriate but “transgenders” is often viewed as disrespectful.)
  • Transexual

    • An older term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth who seeks to transition from male to female or female to male. Many do not prefer this term because it is thought to sound overly clinical.
  • Transition

    • Refers to the process during which trans people may change their gender expression and/or bodies to reflect their gender identity including changes in physical appearance (hairstyle, clothing), behaviour (mannerisms, voice, gender roles), identification (name, pronoun, legal details), and/or medical interventions (hormone therapy, gender-affirming surgery).
    • The time when a person begins living as the gender with which they identify rather than the gender they were assigned at birth, which often includes changing one’s first name and dressing and grooming differently. Transitioning may or may not also include medical and legal aspects, including taking hormones, having surgery, or changing identity documents (e.g. driver’s license, Social Security record) to reflect one’s gender identity. Medical and legal steps are often difficult for people to afford.
  • Trans Man

    • May describe someone who is trans and a man.
    • A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a man (see also “FTM”)
  • Transmasculine

    • This umbrella term may describe people who were assigned female at birth, who are trans, and whose gender expression leans towards the masculine.
  • Trans-misogyny

    • Transphobia directed at trans women and transfeminine people that reinforces male power and privilege, including harassment, violence and discrimination.
  • Transphobia

    • Ignorance, fear, dislike, and/or hatred of trans people which may be expressed through name-calling, disparaging jokes, exclusion, rejection, harassment, violence, and many forms of discrimination (e.g. refusing to use a person’s name/pronoun, denial of services, employment, housing).
  • Transvestite

    • An outdated term that was historically used to label people who cross dressed as having a mental illness. Replaced by the more inclusive and respectful term, Cross Dresser, which is not considered a mental illness.
  • Trans Woman

    • May describe someone who is trans and a woman.
    • A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a woman (see also “MTF”).
  • Tucking

    • Method of positioning the penis and testicles so as to conceal them.
  • Two-Spirit (2-Spirit or 2S)

    • A term used within some Indigenous communities encompassing sexual, gender, cultural, and/or spiritual identity. This umbrella term was created in the English language to reflect complex Indigenous understandings of gender and sexuality and the long history of sexual and gender diversity in Indigenous cultures. This term may refer to cross, multiple, and/or non-binary gender roles; non-heterosexual identities; and a range of cultural identities, roles, and practices embodied by Two Spirit peoples.
    • A contemporary term that refers to the historical and current First Nations people whose individuals spirits were a blend of male and female spirits. This term has been reclaimed by some in Native American LGBT communities in order to honor their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
  • Vagina*

    • Vagina* (with a asterisk) is used to acknowledge the many different words that are used for this body part: front hole, etc
  • Vaginoplasty

    • A gender-affirming, feminizing, lower surgery to create a vagina and vulva (including mons, labia, clitoris, and urethral opening) and inverting the penis*, scrotal sac and testes.
  • Vocal feminization surgery

    • Feminizing surgery to elevate the pitch of the voice.
  • Woman

    • A human being who self-identifies as a woman, based on elements of importance to the individual, such as gender roles, behaviour, expression, identity, and/or physiology.
  • World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)

    • Professional organization devoted to transgender health, whose mission as an international multidisciplinary professional association is to promote evidence based care, education, research, advocacy, public policy and respect in transgender health.

Many of these definitions are borrowed from the Provincial Health Services Agency of Vancouver, British Columbia.

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