Glossary of Transgender Terms

Terminology frequently morphs within LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ community.

Basic Definitions

Cisgender/cis:  Someone who identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth.  For example, a woman who was assigned female at birth and identifies as female is regarded as cisgender.

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

Female-to-Male/Transman (FtM):  Someone who was female assigned at birth who now identifies as male.

Gender Dysphoria: Emotional distress about the disconnect between one’s biological sex and one’s gender identity. Gender Dysphoria also refers to a psychological disorder that describes the disconnect between an individual’s biological sex and gender identity.  There are ongoing discussions within the medical and psychological communities to change the definitions and criteria of Gender Dysphoria as a diagnosis, and classifying transgender identity as a mental illness remains largely debated. 

Gender Identity:  The inherent feeling within an individual of what gender they are; encompasses not only male and female, but also anything in between or outside the gender binary.

Gender-neutral Pronouns:  Some people don’t feel comfortable being referred to by male or female pronouns and prefer gender-neutral pronouns or no pronouns.  It’s best to ask what pronouns are appropriate for them. Word choice can range from using they/them or ze/hir (pronounced “here”).

Genderqueer:  A gender identity that denotes someone who does not define themselves under the male/female binary but in between or outside of it.

Intersex:  A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit typical definitions of female or male.  Intersex individuals’ physical body, hormones, and/or chromosomes do not adhere to the medical categories of male or female.  Although intersex has mostly been used as a medical term, recently intersex individuals have claimed the term as a gender identity.

Living Stealth:  A transgender person who passes well where no one is aware of their transgender history.  Some transgender people who live stealth feel no need to disclose their history; others do so for safety or employment reasons.

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

Male-to-Female/Transwoman (MtF):  Someone who was male assigned at birth who now identifies as female.

Non-Op/Non-Operative:  A transgender person who chooses not to get surgery.

Passing:  The act of people in society regarding transgender individuals by their gender identity. Strategies include gendered clothing, gendered haircuts, binding the breasts or stuffing one’s bra, packing (creating a realistic bulge in the crotch for transmen) or tucking (tucking the penis in between the legs for transwomen), adopting stereotypically gendered speech patterns, taking hormones, and surgery.  For many, passing is a matter of safety, especially in gendered spaces, such as lockerrooms and bathrooms.

Post-Op/Post-Operative:  A transgender person who has had surgery (top and/or bottom).

Pre-Op/Pre-Operative:  A transgender person who intends to have surgery (top and/or bottom surgery) but has not yet had it.

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 LGBTQI identities as a whole.  In the Stanford community, the term “queer” also has a political connotation, attached to LGBT activism.  The term “queer may be offensive among older LGBT individuals, so be careful using it.

Sexual orientation describes who you date; gender identity describes who you are.

Sexual Orientation:  What people an individual is sexually and/or emotionally attracted to; trans* people can identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, etc. 

Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS):  Surgical procedures to obtain physical characteristics found in the opposite gender.  SRS may encompass bottom surgery (turning the penis into a neo-vagina or turning the vagina into a neo-phallus) or top surgery (a double mastectomy or  breast implants).  In some states, SRS is required to change one’s legal gender.  In some health care communities, the term for SRS has changed to gender confirmation surgery (GCS) because SRS implies an initial gender as the determining factor.

Transgender:  Someone who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.  Often shortened to trans, the umbrella term encompasses multiple identities, including genderqueer, female to male (FTM), male to female (MTF), and so on.  Transgender* or trans* (with an asterisk) is used to denote both transgender people and all gender non-conforming identities.  (The use of the term “transgendered” is debated, so using transgender is most appropriate.  Never use transgender as a noun.)  

Transgender-specific Terminology:  Some transgender individuals identify with certain identities more than others and can take on one or more terms as descriptions of their own identity, including:

  • Transgender
  • Trans
  • Male
  • Female
  • Transman (or trans man)
  • Transboy/transboi
  • Transgirl
  • Transwoman (or trans woman)
  • FTM
  • MTF
  • Genderqueer
  • Bigender
  • Agender/Genderless
  • Pangender

It’s best to ask how a transgender person identifies.  Be aware that the word “tranny” can be offensive to some trans people.

Transitioning:  The process of transitioning socially, emotionally, and/or /physically from one gender to another.  The process can range from shopping for new clothing to taking hormones and getting surgery.  Some regard transitioning as a period of time from a few months/years to many years; others feel that there is a definite period of transitioning with a point of completion, and  others feel that it is a long-term, ever-evolving process. Some transgender people, post-transition, no longer consider themselves as transgender.  Others feel that they are in a state of transition for the rest of their lives.

Transsexual:  In a medical setting, someone who identifies as FTM or MTF.  Among the younger transgender community the word is considered archaic and is more common within medical discourse.