This alphabetized list of definitions is my way of holding your hand through your screen while you read this blog. I’ll frequently link to this page to help you out, though sometimes the locational links are really glitchy.
A quick disclosure: these are definitions as I use them in my blog. Many of these words or phrases would be defined differently by other people.
This is also a living document. Because there are certainly things that I have not defined, I will add to the list as time goes on. I am also sure I will continue to learn about gender throughout my life, so I may very well update the way I have worded some of these definitions later on. If you feel that some part of this is factually incorrect, outdated, or insensitive, please feel free to comment or contact me privately through one of my social media accounts.
“Assigned Gender at Birth”, “Assigned Male at Birth”, and “Assigned Female at Birth”. When a person is born, they are given either the marker of “male” or “female” on their legal and medical documents. This does not necessarily line up with their gender identity, but it does inform how they are treated by those around them, such as whether their parents give them barbies or toy trucks. These terms do not simply apply to transgender individuals; they were originally used to refer to intersex people.
Biological sex is a bit complicated. At its most basic, it is the anatomy of the reproductive system in conjunction with secondary sex characteristics–chromosomes, ovaries, testes, breasts, the works. The problem with this simplified definition is that it doesn’t work for transgender and intersex individuals, along with a variety of other cis-identifying people. Not all chromosomes are XX and XY, some cis women are born without uteri, sometimes cis people experience a trauma that forces the removal of their genitalia. I’ll give you a personal anecdote for why the concept of biological sex is basically useless: I’m on a medication called isotretinoin (it’s a skin care thing). It’s currently in testing, so it’s really complicated to acquire it. One part of this process is that, because the medication can cause birth defects, there is a separate system for males and females. Because of my chromosomes, the fact that I have working ovaries, and the fact that I could in theory become pregnant, I got placed in the female system and have to take a pregnancy test once a month before picking up my prescription. However, there’s a pretty big problem with this: if I got pregnant, any baby I were to give birth to would have birth defects anyway. Why? Because I take testosterone. And yet, I still have to sit through my blood being drawn, fill out a quiz online talking about my contraception choices, and take pills out of a package with 15+ images of pregnant ladies with a red X over them. I asked my doctors, and they said I would still have to do this even if I had my ovaries removed. I wouldn’t even be able to become pregnant! This is only one example of many, but I think you can get the picture that biological sex can be majorly changed due to the marvels of modern medicine and that the way society treats biological sex as a be-all-end-all dichotomy really doesn’t make any sense at all.
Also known as Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS), this takes two shapes depending on the genitalia and reproductive organs the patient begins with. If the person begins with a penis, they undergo vaginoplasty, in which (often, but not always) the skin of the penis is inverted to create a neovagina. If the person begins with testes, they may use the skin of scrotum to create the neovagina, but the testes themselves are removed. If the person begins with a vagina, they may undergo phalloplasty, wherein the urethra is extended through a penis constructed of a graft of skin from another place on the body (such as the stomach or arm) which is mounted on the clitorus. They may alternatively undergo metoidioplasty, in which a neophallus is created entirely from the clitoral tissue and the urethra. If the person begins with ovaries, they may undergo a hysterectomy, in which the ovaries are removed, and a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, in which the fallopian tubes are removed. Many of these procedures are actually commonly used by cisgender people who have had some kind of trauma to the genital region or who wish to not be able to procreate.
Anyone who identifies with the gender and biological sex they were assigned at birth.
Chasers are individuals who, consciously or not, actively seek out sexual encounters or relationships with transgender individuals. They often are not as good of an ally as they claim. What they do is a good example of fetishization.
When a person rapes an individual to “prove” to the victim that they were wrong about their sexuality or gender identity.
Cross-dressing is an act by a person of one gender to dress as a different gender. It is a performance that does not align with the person’s true identity. It is most often seen by a cis man dressing as a woman or a cis woman dressing as a man, but it can be done by trans people as well. It occasionally has sexual implications behind it, but not always. Cross-dressing is not the same as being transgender.
Deadnaming is the use of a person’s former name in a way to target the person with harassment. It is considered hate speech in many situations. Really just a dick move, honestly. It’s not like you go around calling Snoop Dogg by the name Snoop Lion.
Drag is a flamboyant performance of gender, often for entertainment purposes. When doing drag, the person takes on a persona other than their true identity. Cis and trans people alike can do drag, becoming drag queens & drag kings. Drag is often a form of cross-dressing, but a woman can also become a drag queen and a man can become a drag king. It is sometimes referred to as “gender-clowning.” Doing drag is not the same as being transgender.
Fetishization, in the context of marginalized groups, is the sexualization of a certain kind of individual. A person may fetishize another based off of their race, religion, body type, gender identity, disability, and more. One example of fetishization could be flirting with or, in many cases, sexually harassing one marginalized group specifically (google “yellow fever”). Another could be creating a character from a marginalized group whose role in the narrative is predominantly a sexual one. Minor cases of the latter form of fetishization may involve specific words chosen to describe a character, by highlighting their otherness as sexy or subversive. There are some common tropes to look out for in that case, such as using food (caramel, chocolate, etc) to describe skin tone.
“Female to Male” and “Male to Female”. They are common terms to describe trans people in such a way that identifies the direction of their transition. These monikers are beginning to shift towards being outdated because they uphold a binary structure and imply that transgender individuals must biologically transition in order to be transgender.
This is the name for the legal argument defending people who attack and/or kill LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly after having a romantic or sexual encounter with them. The gist of it is that the defendant would claim that their own fears surrounding their sexuality incited by attraction to the victim drove them to harm the victim. It’s still successful at decreasing punishment for such acts today in some areas of the US.
Gender binary is the gender system in place in most modern countries today (particularly western ones), in which the general view of society is that there are only two genders: man and woman. It is a restrictive and oppressive system that ends up forcing gender roles on people and does not allow space for transgender individuals.
The feeling of one’s gender identity not matching what they were assigned at birth. This is categorized as a disorder–not because trans people are “mentally ill” and “wrong”, but because trans people are correct in a society where people do not believe them. That’s why being transgender was taken off of the DSM.
The personal sense of an individual’s relationship to characteristics such as masculinity and femininity. Gender itself varies from civilization to civilization, which is why you will often hear that it is a “social construct”. Gender informs the expression of one’s gender identity because of a desire to be seen and addressed by the rest of society appropriately, which often makes gender performative.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Also referred to as HRT, it was initially created to treat aging cis men who were experiencing drops in testosterone and to treat aging cis women who were beginning to experience menopause. However, it is now used to treat transgender people as well. For feminizing hormone therapy, transfeminine, nonbinary, and intersex individuals may take estrogen, which has feminizing effects as well as anti-masculinizing effects. They may instead take antiandrogen, which has minimal feminizing effects, but is very powerful at blocking testosterone. Antiandrogen may be used to inhibit the onset of puberty for trans youths. Sometimes, estrogen and antiandrogen are taken simultaneously. They may also be aided by progestogen, which has a lesser effect than the former two. Feminizing hormone therapy can help take off the pressure of gender dysphoria, slow the growth of hair, change muscle and fat distribution as well as muscle mass, and grow breast tissue. As for masculinizing hormone therapy, transmasculine, nonbinary, and intersex individuals generally take testosterone, though there are some alternatives such as androgen, anti-estrogen, and dihydrotestosterone to encourage masculinization and block feminization. Masculinizing hormone therapy can also help ease gender dysphoria and change muscle mass, muscle distribution, and fat distribution. Testosterone can also grow hair all over the body including the face, and it can lower the voice of the individual taking it. In both the case of feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy, it can be expensive and difficult to acquire the hormones needed. Some places require that a transgender person get two letters from psychiatrists and have “proof” of living as a different gender for at least a year before being able to get it prescribed.
Intersectionality is a feminist theory regarding the overlap between different marginalized identities. Discussion of intersectionality can include how a white trans person and a black trans person’s experiences are wholly different, but it can also include how the needs, terminologies, and discussions about one marginalized group conflicts with another. “Intersectional feminism” is a term most often used in contrast to “white feminism”.
Anyone who was born with some variation of biological sex characteristics that may involve genitalia, hormones, chromosomes, and internal reproductive organs. Intersex individuals may not even know that they are intersex, because they may exhibit only a chromosomal difference or because doctors and family members may have pushed surgery on them at a young age in order to hide it. In the past, intersex people were referred to as “hermaphrodites”, but that word is out of date, scientifically inaccurate, and used insultingly, so say intersex instead.
LGBTQIA+ is the collective word I generally use for the community of sexuality- and gender-variant people. The letters stand for Lesbian, Gay/Genderqueer/Genderfluid, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Agender/Asexual/Aromantic/Ally. Not all sexualities and gender identities are listed (including pansexual, which is my own sexuality), so they are represented with the + sign. A common replacement for this word nowadays is “queer”, as a way of taking back the term that has been used as a slur. I use LGBTQIA+ because I know that 1) there are some people in the community who feel incredible discomfort with the word “queer”, and 2) this blog is also meant for cisgender allies, who should not use the word “queer” in reference to the community because of its status as a slur. I should briefly note that there are some intersex individuals who do not like the association with intersex as part of LGBTQIA+, and that their flag is an organization symbol, not a pride flag. I chose to include intersex because there are intersex individuals who do want the “I” to be a part of the community.
Misgendering is the act (intentional or unintentional) of incorrectly addressing or referring to a person with respect to their gender. This may mean using the incorrect pronouns or calling them by their deadname. If done unintentionally, the best response when correct is to apologize briefly, move on, and take time on your own to fix the issue completely. If done intentionally, it’s transphobic hate speech.
Nonbinary, often shortened to “enby”, is an umbrella term for individuals who do not identify solely as “man” or “woman”. They may experience some combination of masculinity and femininity or something completely different. Nonbinary individuals most often also identify as transgender, but some enbys do not feel a connection to the idea of being transgender for a variety of reasons.
This is a term for when a person of a marginalized group writes about that marginalized group. My writing about trans people is an example of #ownvoices, but my writing about people of color is not. This came up because there are many of great authors of color out there, but some white people’s mediocre books still get chosen by publishing companies, book stores, readers, and conventions more than their best works. #ownvoices became a rallying cry for diversity in publishing, urging people to read works written by people who are able to use their own diverse experiences in the craft. This is especially important because even if a white person (myself included) were to research for many years and write a well-thought-out novel with main characters of color, we would still not be able to fully comprehend and convey the true experiences of those characters. This also means that my writing about a trans person of color does not count as #ownvoices, because I have not experienced the intersection of those two identities. #ownvoices has been taken up by a wide variety of marginalized groups because it’s a common thread of marginalization that privileged outsiders will believe they know better than the people actually experiencing that life.
Passing is a term used to refer to a marginalized person who does not appear or otherwise is not identified by others as that marginalized identity. This may mean that a light-skinned person of color passes as a whiter person, a person with an invisible disability passes as an abled person, a trans person passes as a cis person, etc. It often comes with a certain amount of privilege, but can just as easily end up harming the person passing. For instance, while a binary trans man who passes as a cis man has the privilege of being seen as a man and all that entails, a nonbinary trans person who ends up passing as a cis person is misgendered.
Perisex refers to anyone who is not intersex. Perisex : Intersex :: Cisgender : Transgender.
Primary/Secondary Sex Characteristics
Sex characteristics are the things used by society to sort between genders and biological sexes. Despite their name, primary sex characteristics are not usually used to determine someone’s gender at a glance. They are the genitalia and reproductive organs, so people don’t usually see them. Secondary sex characteristics are what people use on a day-to-day basis–things that develop during puberty and some things that can be easily changed. For instance, breasts are considered secondary sex characteristics, and so is short hair. A rigid jawline is, and so is nail polish. Humans generally use secondary sex characteristics to separate people into men and women, though we are now learning that a dual system for gender identity and biological sex just doesn’t make much sense.
In a transgender context, “pronouns” or “personal pronouns” refers to the third person singular pronouns used to identify a person. In many languages, these are gendered, which makes them a point of contention for people who believe that transgender individuals don’t exist or aren’t valid in their experience. This often comes up in conversation around the use of “they/them/their” as a singular pronoun. I won’t get into the thick of it, but there are some prescriptivists who argue that it can’t be used as a singular pronoun because it’s plural, even though for hundreds of years “they/them/their” was used as a singular gender neutral option and many dictionaries today, such as the reputable Oxford English Dictionary, have listed it as singular as well as plural. You can google it if you don’t believe me. You may have heard of the term “preferred pronouns”, which has quickly lost favor because it implies that an alternative to a person’s pronouns can be used, that the misuse of pronouns would only cause some mild discomfort, and that the identity of the person using those pronouns is not completely valid. Misuse of pronouns–one of the ways of misgendering a person–is, when done intentionally, considered a form of hate speech in many situations.
Sexuality refers to the gender or genders a person is attracted to, if any.
When a transgender person, for a number of possible reasons, chooses to transition and hide their transness.
The struggle narrative is the exploitation of the difficulties that a marginalized individual may face by people outside of that person’s community. An example of this would be when a trans character is consistently misgendered, deadnamed, and harrassed, only to overcome it in the end as the be-all-end-all of the character’s development in the story.
TERF, or Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist, is a term actually coined by the very people it refers to: people (usually cisgender women) who believe a variety of anti-transgender sentiments. This can include believing that trans women are just men in disguise ready to sexually assault any “biological” or “natal” woman. It can also include believing that trans women exist, but their “male privilege” means that they are encroaching on women’s spaces and resources. Sometimes it includes lesbians who believe that transitioning is a form of conversion therapy for gay people, which is both factually incorrect (I’m pansexual, yet somehow I’m supposed to be trying to be straight by transitioning, according to this argument), and diminishes the traumatic experiences of those who went through conversion therapy. Often, TERFs will harass trans people by misgendering and deadnaming them, among other forms of targeted hate. TERFs nowadays are calling the word a slur, even though 1) a slur requires that it be targeted at people along with violence, and 2) they created the term themselves. A fun alternative is to call them a FART, or a Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobe, which is more accurate to their ideals because there are plenty of pro-transgender feminists out there. (like me!)
Also called a mastectomy, it is the removal of breast tissue and the reshaping of the chest area to be in line with a masculine contour. I have had this surgery and am willing to answer personal questions about it.
Usually directed at trans women, the word “Tranny” is a slur, because it has been used in an insulting way often alongside acts of violence and hate. Don’t use it.
A transgender person is anyone who does not identify with the gender or biological sex they were assigned at birth. It is an adjective, not a noun–transgender people are not “transgenders.” It is also not a verb/participle–trans people are not “transgendered people.”
The fear, hatred, or mistrust of transgender identifying people.
Trauma porn is is the exploitation of the most traumatic things in a marginalized community by people outside of that community. An example for this would be when a cisgender person writes about the graphic corrective rape of a trans person.
Truscum, who sometimes call themselves transmedicalists, are individuals-some transgender, some not–who argue that a person isn’t transgender unless they feel like they cannot live without medically transitioning. They often harass trans-identifying individuals who, in their mind, do not have enough gender dysphoria to be transgender. Often, they refuse to accept when medical transition is impossible for an individual at a certain point in life because of money or medical reasons.
Tucute and transtrender are words used by truscum to deride people they believe are faking their transness. This is most often applied to nonbinary individuals and any trans person who does not intend to get surgery/go on testosterone/change their name/etc. It is often said online by a number of truscum all at once as a harassment tactic.
Like I said before, this list is still growing. If you have anything you want me to add, or if you have any concerns with how I defined something on this list, please comment or shoot me a private message on one of my social media accounts.