A little dictionary trying to explain and define transgender-related words in simple terms …
Confused? Not sure what the right terms are? Afraid to offend somebody?
That happens… it is confusing, and it takes some time to get the gist of the vocabulary.
Language uses abstractions, whereas in nature things are often on a spectrum, with infinite variations. Abstractions help us think, they probably are necessary for thinking, but one should be aware that’s what they are – abstractions.
When it comes to using language, one should try to be precise and easily understood. In addition, there is the social element – certain words and labels carry negative, discriminatory or offensive meanings. It is best to avoid them (unless that meaning is intended, of course 😏).
start with word definitions, please check the sexual identity diagram first, if
you haven’t done so already:
Language use relating to transsexual persons: Respect, reason and human dignity dictate that transgendered and transsexual persons should be addressed and referred to as members of their chosen or desired gender role – a male-to-female transsexual is a woman, a female-to-male transsexual a man. When in doubt, ask. If a preference is not expressed or is unclear, use the pronoun and gender consistent with the way the individual lives publicly. Anyway, it should be obvious that the person you are talking to or about knows a lot more about their own identity than you do.
Gender dysphoria (GD); gender identity disorder (GID): A formal
diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who
experience significant dysphoria (discontent, unhappiness) with their physical
sex characteristics and/or gender role they were assigned at birth. Affected
individuals are commonly referred to as transsexual. Gender dysphoria can be
cured by changing the gender role and/or changing the physical sex
characteristics to match the gender identity of the patient.
Transgender (TG); transgenderism: Umbrella term for anybody who doesn’t identify with culturally conventional gender roles and categories of male or female, or has changed or is desiring to change gender roles or physical sex characteristics, or identifies with elements of both gender roles, or having some other gender identity. This term includes transsexuals, crossdressers, androgynous or genderqueer people as well as drag performers. It is independent of sexual orientation and focuses on actual or desired transgressions of the conventional boundaries of gender roles.
Transsexualism (TS); transsexuality: Describes a conflict between gender identity and physical sex characteristics at birth/assigned gender role at birth. For example, a transsexual might have male sex characteristics at birth, is assigned to the male gender role, but has a female gender identity (or vice versa). Transsexual people experience distress about that mismatch and often desire to change gender role and physical sex characteristics to match their gender identity. The persistent and profound unhappiness felt by transsexuals is called gender dysphoria. Transsexualism is independent of sexual orientation. Transsexualism is a subgroup of transgender.
Crossdressing (CD); transvestism (TV): The wearing of clothing designed for the opposite gender role. This term is usually not used for transsexuals. In everyday language, usually no differentiation is made between transvestic fetishism (getting sexual pleasure from wearing clothes of the other gender) and crossdressing (wearing clothes of the other gender with no sexual connotation).
Transvestic fetishism: The wearing of clothing designed for the opposite gender role for sexual pleasure.
Intersexuality: Having the physical features of both sexes or the state in which biological sex cannot be classified as belonging to one gender or the other. This term refers to the physical sex characteristics only, and is independent of gender roles, gender identity and sexual orientation.
Gender-variant; gender-non-conforming; genderqueer; atypical gender behaviour: To deviate from society’s standards of male- and femaleness.
Gender-typical; gender-conforming; gender-normative; typical gender behaviour: To fit into society’s standards of male- and femaleness.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT); cross-sex hormone therapy; hormone therapy: Administration of sex hormones (estrogens for male-to-female transsexuals and androgens for female-to-male transsexuals) to bring the secondary sex characteristics in line with gender identity. The resulting feminisation respectively masculinisation reduces the stressful effects of gender dysphoria.
Sex reassignment surgery (SRS); gender reassignment surgery (GRS); genital reconstruction surgery; sex affirmation surgery; sex realignment surgery; sex reconstruction surgery; gender confirmation surgery; bottom surgery: A term for the surgical procedures by which a person's physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble that of the other sex. For male-to-female transsexuals, this includes orchiectomy, penectomy and vaginoplasty; often also breast augmentation and other procedures. For female-to-male transsexuals it involves phalloplasty and mastectomy; often also hysterectomy and other procedures. The older term “sex change surgery” should not be used anymore, as SRS is seen as more politically correct.
Cissexual man; cisgendered male; cismale; cisman: A male person with matching male sex characteristics, male gender identity and male gender role assigned at birth. This term is used to describe men that are not transgendered. Less precise are the terms “genetic male”, “genetic man (GM)”, “biological man”, “bio boy (BB)” or “natal man”.
Cissexual woman; cisgendered female; cisfemale; ciswoman: A female person with matching female sex characteristics, female gender identity and female gender role assigned at birth. This term is used to describe women that are not transgendered. Less precise are the terms “genetic female (GF)”, “genetic woman (GM)”, “genetic girl (GG)”, “biological woman” or “natal woman”.
Cissexual person; cissexual; cisperson; cis; cisgendered person; non-transsexual; non-transgendered: A person with matching sex characteristics, gender identity and gender role assigned at birth. This term is used to describe people that are not transgendered.
Male-to-female transsexual (MtF TS); (M2F TS); female transsexual; transwoman: A person born with male sex characteristics, typically assigned a male gender role at birth, but with a female gender identity.
Female-to-male transsexual (FtM TS); (F2M TS); male transsexual; transman: A person born with female sex characteristics, typically assigned a female gender role at birth, but with a male gender identity.
Transsexual (TS); transsexual person; transperson: A person born with sex characteristics/an assigned gender role of one gender, but having a conflicting gender identity.
Drag artist/queen/king: A person/man/woman who dresses, and often acts, like a caricature woman/man, often for the purpose of entertaining.
Pre-op transsexual (pre-op TS): A transsexual person who has not had sex reassignment surgery (the genitals do not match the gender identity of the person).
Post-op transsexual (post-op TS): A transsexual person who had sex reassignment surgery (the genitals now match the gender identity of the person).
She-male: Derogatory term for male-to-female transsexuals with both female and male physical sex characteristics.
Tranny: Derogatory term for a transsexual person.
Gynephile: A person, of any gender, who is sexually/romantically attracted to women.
Androphile: A person, of any gender, who is sexually/romantically attracted to men.
Homosexual, gay, queer: A person, of any gender, who is sexually/romantically attracted primarily to other members of the same sex. The term homosexual is often confusing with regards to transsexuals, as it might be unclear whether it refers to the natal sex/gender or the gender identity. If used to describe transsexuals, it’s best to have it refer to the gender identity (for example, a homosexual male-to-female transsexual would be attracted to other women).
Lesbian: A woman who is sexually/romantically attracted primarily to other women (same meaning as homosexual, gay and queer, but this term is used for women only). The term lesbian is often confusing with regards to transsexuals, as it might be unclear whether it refers to the natal sex/gender or the gender identity. If used to describe transsexuals, it’s best to have it refer to the gender identity (for example, a lesbian male-to-female transsexual would be attracted to other women).
Heterosexual, hetero, straight: Sexually/romantically attracted primarily to members of the opposite sex. The term heterosexual is often confusing with regards to transsexuals, as it might be unclear whether it refers to the natal sex/gender or the gender identity. If used to describe transsexuals, it’s best to have it refer to the gender identity (for example, a heterosexual male-to-female transsexual would be attracted to men).
Bisexual: Sexually/romantically attracted to members of either sex.
Asexual: Not experiencing sexual attraction; lacking interest in or desire for sex.
Fag, faggot: Derogatory term for homosexual.
Homo: Derogatory term for homosexual.
Good: Something that improves the well-being of oneself and/or others.
Bad: Something that harms the well-being of oneself and/or others.
Normal: Belonging to the largest statistical group, not being very different from the mean. Not a value judgement.
Illness: Health condition, physical or mental, that reduces the quality of life for oneself and/or others.
Good health: Absence of illness.
Androgens: Group of male sex hormones, such as testosterone (female sex hormones are called estrogens).
Control groups, controls: In a scientific study, research subjects are often split into groups. One or more such groups can serve as the control group (for example, a healthy group not affected by the studied condition, or a group that doesn’t receive a certain treatment). The studied group is then compared to the control group. Studies about transsexualism often compare transsexuals to non-transsexuals or transsexuals before treatment to transsexuals after treatment.
Disorders of sex development (DSD): Formerly called intersex disorders or hermaphroditism. DSDs are medical conditions involving the reproductive system. More specifically, these terms refer to “congenital conditions in which development of chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex is atypical”. Often, the primary sex characteristics (genitals) don’t match the secondary sex characteristics (reproductive organs) or can not be easily classed at birth. Other terms, such “variations of sex development (VSD)” and “differences of sex development (DSD)” have been suggested.
Epidemiology: The study of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in populations.
Etiology, aetiology: The study or investigation of the causes of disease; a scientific explanation for the origin of a disease.
Fetal, foetal: Relating to a fetus (a human or animal embryo).
Intra-uterine: Located or taking place inside the uterus.
Natal: Relating to birth. Natal gender means the birth gender, typically decided by the outward appeareance of the genitals, which determines the gender role the newborn is assigned to.
Perinatal: The time around birth (shortly before, during and after).
Pre-natal: Before birth, in the womb.
Prevalence: The total number of cases of a disease in a population at a given time.
To be closeted; to be in the closet: Not having openly shared one’s conflicted gender feelings. A closeted transsexual appears to others to be a normal cisgendered person, living in the gender role assigned at birth.
To come out; to come out of the closet: To openly declare one’s status as a transsexual.
To be out; to be out of the closet: To live openly as a transsexual.
Transition: The process of changing gender roles (the way the individual presents in public), e.g. from male to female.
Full time: Living full time in the new gender role.
Passing: The ability of a transsexual to be regarded at a glance to be a cisgendered person in the new gender role (i.e. not to be noticed as a transsexual). Typically, this involves displaying physical and behavioural gender cues associated with the new gender role.
Stealth: Living in stealth means hiding one’s transsexual past, living in the new gender role without revealing anything about having changed gender roles/having undergone medical treatment for gender dysphoria. “Deep stealth” means having eliminated virtually all traces of the past or links to the past. Transsexuals living in stealth can be “outed”.
To be read; to get read: Having one’s hidden status as a transsexual found out when presenting in the new gender role, for example because of having noticeable physical characteristics of the other gender.
To out somebody: To discover and reveal someone’s hidden status as a transsexual.
Real-life experience (RLE); real-life test (RLT): Living in the new gender role for a period of time to test and confirm that the transsexual will function successfully in the new role.
To misgender someone: To come to a wrong conclusion regarding someone’s gender; e. g. to identify a female as male.
Sexism; gender discrimination: Prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender. The opposite is “gender equality” or “sexual equality”.
Cissexism: Holding genders of transsexuals to a different standard than genders of cissexuals.
Gendering: The assignment of gender to something or somebody, especially unnecessarily involving gender differences or stereotypical gender roles.
Misandry: (Rarely used.) Hatred, dislike, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against men.
Misogyny: Hatred, dislike, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against women.
Transphobia: Hatred, dislike, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against transgender people.
Trans-misandry: (Rarely used.) Hatred, dislike, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against transsexual men.
Trans-misogyny: Hatred, dislike, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against transsexual women.
The pictures below show typical examples – there can be variations and exceptions, of course.
I’m trying to come up with a diagram for transgender people, but so far the many possibilities have been too confusing for me. ☺
 To be precise and to be understood, one has to use words as they are actually used and understood. Dictionaries typically describe the social consensus on what a word means. To make up your own meanings, to use words differently from they typically mean, is a semantic game, is trying to force your language on others. After Lewis Caroll, this is called the Humpty-Dumpty-Principle, and should be avoided as it obstructs communication.
 Please be considerate when using these terms. Ask yourself what right you have to discuss the genitals of another person, and – similar to other labels – use them only when relevant to the context.
 Milton Diamond, 2008.
 Yes, this is simplified... but can be helpful. ☺
 Sex = female is a simplification. A male-to-female post-op transsexual will have female-appearing physical primary sex characteristics, and some female secondary sex characteristics. Genitals are typically fully functional, but due to the lack of ovaries and an uterus, the person is not fertile.
 Disorders of sex development often cause a mismatch between the outwardly visible sex characteristics, such as penis, scrotum and vagina and the inner sex-organs, such as testicles, ovaries and uterus.
 Female crossdressers are very rare, as our society is more tolerant of females wearing male clothing, and lower testosterone levels in females mean sexual fetishes are less pronounced.