Glossary of Terms

Androgynes: In contrast with transgenderists, androgynes are individuals who intentionally create ambiguous gender presentations by adopting characteristics o both genders or neither. Examples of individuals who self-identify as androgynes include those who present bi-gendered mannerisms, those who intentionally wear androgynous or gender-neutral clothing, and those who do not wish to be identified as either male or female. An individual who self-identifies as an androgyne may wish to be identified as both male and female. Some individuals may self-identify as androgynes to fulfill identity needs; others may do so to challenge social stereotypes. 1

Biological Sex: Biological sex is established by a medical assessment of genitalia in utero or at birth; subsequently, individuals are typically reared according to their biological sex, with little additional thought given to an individual's psychological and behavioral self-identification. Many transgender individuals report having experienced conflict over such gender assignment throughout childhood and puberty, while it is also common for conflict to arise later in life. 1

Crossdresser: A person who, on a part-time basis, dresses in the clothing typically attributed to the opposite sex for the emotional satisfaction of expressing the characteristics of his or her gender identity. (Transvestites, a type of crossdresser, primarily dress for erotic pleasure.) Crossdressers wishing to permanently retain their biological sex express little or no desire for hormones or genital reassignment surgery, and live most of their public lives presenting the gender they were assigned at birth. Frequently, a recurring desire to crossdress provides an outlet for the individual to explore feelings and behaviors associated with the opposite gender. At times, a sexual fetish may be emphasized or an individual may wish to completely crossdress and discreetly pass as a member of the opposite gender for a limited time. These Individuals are generally heterosexual and less frequently bisexual, gay, or lesbian. 1

Drag Queens, Kings, and Performance Artists: Drag queens, kings, and performance artists are individuals who crossdress for entertainment, for sex-industry purposes, to challenge social stereotypes, or for personal satisfaction. These persons are stereotypically associated with gay and lesbian society. However, it should be noted that a proportion of gays as well as lesbians identify as gay male or lesbian crossdressers and, as such, have needs paralleling the heterosexual crossdresser. 1

Gender Dysphoria: Gender dysphoria is a discomfort characterized by a feeling of incongruity with the physical gender assigned at birth. Frequently misunderstood by the individual, these feelings can remain suppressed and hidden from others. Unhealthy coping mechanisms include self-abuse, addiction, relationship difficulties, and suicidal tendencies,' these behaviors may mask gender dysphoria, making it difficult for care providers to detect. When conflict with one's gender identity is triggered (such as by a life change or personal crisis), the discomfort for many may reach crisis proportions. Gender dysphoria may be experienced by genetic males or females of any cultural, ethnic, or socioeconomic background. 1

Gender Identity: This term refers to an individual's innate sense of maleness (masculinity) or femaleness (femininity), or both, as well as to how those feelings and needs are internalized and how they are presented to others. Rather than being fixed opposites, masculinity and 'femininity may gradate markedly, depending on individual and social interpretation. Gender identity does not necessarily correspond with biological sex. 1

Gender Presentation: The manner in which an individual expresses their gender identity to others. Clothing, speech patterns, physical movements, and postures of the body are all aspects of gender presentation. 1

Gender Pronouns: Despite an obvious change in gender, many people still refer to transgendered individuals by their biological sex at birth. Others, when meeting transgendered individuals for the first time, wonder: "How do I refer to this individual? What pronoun should I use?" Following the premise that transgendered individuals (like their nontransgendered counterparts) have the human right to individually explore and determine self-identification, one should refer to them on the basis of their current presentation or their specified pronoun preference. If you are unsure, ask!

H-Y antigen: A substance in males that triggers transformation of embryonic gonads into testes. 2

Intersexed: Intersexed individuals are those with medically established physical or hormonal attributes of both the male and female sexes. Some, but not all, of these individuals self-identify as transgendered. Though these conditions are relatively rare, they are well documented in the literature of general medicine and endocrinology. 1

MTF and FTM: MTF and FTM are acronyms that refer, respectively, to "male-to-female" and "female-to-male" transitions. These designations identify which direction of transition-or which established identity-a transgendered individual has chosen. For example, a biologically determined male who self-identifies as female would be known as an MTF transsexual, crossdresser, or transgenderist. The acronym FTM is seen more often in print, because MTF issues have largely dominated professional and transgender consumer resources, with the result that readers frequently assume that materials referring to transgendered individuals or concerns refer to MTF individuals or concerns, when not otherwise specified. 1

Pseudohermaphrodite: Those who possess ambiguous internal and external reproductive anatomy, but are born with gonads that match their chromosomal sex. 2

Sexual Orientation: The term sexual orientation refers to the gender(s) or sex(es) of persons to whom an individual is sexually attracted. This could be the same, the opposite gender, sex, or both. Sexual orientation is often confused with a person's gender identity, but they are distinct characteristics. The sexual orientation of a transgendered person is classified by their preferred gender identity. For example, a male-to-female transsexual who is attracted to biological women might self-identify as a lesbian. On the other hand, a female-to-male transsexual who is attracted to biological 'women might identify as heterosexual. There are also transgendered men and women who are attracted to other transgendered persons, as well as those who are asexual or not attracted to anyone.

Shemale: Derogatory slang used in the porn industry and escort services to wrongly describe an intersexed, transsexual or third-gender person. In some cases, intersexed, transsexual or third-gender portrayed in pornography are actually women with prosthetic penises adhered to their body. Shemale does not accurately describe intersexed, transsexual or third-gender persons. This slang is embraced by some, but not by all, transsexuals. Related words include she/he, he/she, shim.

Transgender: An umbrella term used to describe anyone who differs from gender and sex norms. This includes drag queens/kings, pre- and post-op transsexuals, intersexuals (but not every intersexed person identifies as transgender because not all intersexuals go through transition), crossdressers, and people who are androgynous. Another term for transgender is gender variant.

Transgendered man/woman: This term, frequently confusing for nontransgendered individuals, refers to a transgendered person's gender identity, NOT the gender assigned at birth. For example, a transgendered man (sometimes called transman, for short) is a person who was assigned the sex female at birth and has a male or masculine gender identity. 1

Transgenderists: Transgenderists are individuals who live in role part- or full-time as a member of the opposite gender. Sometimes, their transgender identity is carried into the workplace; more often it is not, Emotionally, these individuals need to maintain certain aspects relating to both their masculinity and femininity. Understanding this process can be difficult, particularly in situations where an individual's gender identity constantly fluctuates or where he or she is unaware that the transgenderist identity exists. Transgenderists are frequently interested in hormones and occasionally in cosmetic surgery and castration, but not genital reassignment surgery. 1

Transsexual: Transsexuals are individuals who feel an overwhelming desire to permanently live their lives as members of the opposite gender. For such persons, an interest in crossliving, sex hormones, and often (but not always) genital reassignment surgery is most often paramount. Transsexuals commonly experience the most acute effects of gender dysphoria. This phenomenon generally commences during early childhood and remains throughout an adult's lifetime. If suppressed, gender- identity issues may be brought to the surface during intense periods of change or personal crisis. 1

True hermaphrodite: Those who have both avarian and testicular tissue in their bodies; their external genitals are often a mixture of male and female structures. Very rare. 2

We Transition Too groups: Support groups for partners and family of transgendered people. These groups are usually used to help partners and families to cope and understand their position in their loved one's life. These groups also help teach about transgendered and intersexed issues. In some cases partners of transgendered people are loosely labeled transgendered because they transition too, emotionally and in some cases monetarily.


Adapted from various sources including:

1 Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines, Practical Information, and Personal Accounts, by Gianna E. Israel and Donald E. Tarver II, M.D, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA: 1997).

2 Our Sexuality: Fifth Edition, by Robert Crooks and Karla Baur, The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company (New York, 1993).

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