The Transgender Language

When I first became a part of this community, Holland, as I called it in my first post, I described not knowing the language or the customs. Not having any guidebooks. Or in this instance, a reference book for the Transgender Language.  So I figured, why not create one. For most of you, you may never need a word of it, except if you read my posts.  And that’s perfectly okay, great for you for expanding your knowledge and minds.  But for some of you, this might be the difference between feeling incredibly overwhelmed and feeling like you got this.

Every one of these terms, I didn’t understand at first.  I googled every one of them.  A few I will use all the time, like transgender or cisgender.  I’ll refer to transition and assignment.  I’ll probably talk about blockers and HRT.  I’m still not ready to discuss SRS. There are terms that I’ve left out, both intentionally and unintentionally. If you find yourself confused about a term, or wanting further explanation, feel free to send me an email at  I will be glad to point you in a direction that can explain it, if I can’t.  So without any further ado, I love that the alphabetical list starts with what we need so many more of in this world:

An ally, in regards to transgender, refers to anyone who is not transgender, but who fully supports of trans people, treats them with respect in regards to gender and gender pronouns, and works against transphobia.  The most important step you can take to be an ally is to educate yourself about trans issues and be willing to speak up against discrimination of any kind.

Assignment refers to the assignment of the gender based on the body, and generally based on the body’s physical appearance alone. A vulva-bearing child at the time of birth is Assigned Female at Birth or AFAB. A penis-bearing child at the time of birth is Assigned Male at Birth or AMAB.

Binders are the tight fitting clothing, similar to a sports bra, that trans men wear in order to hide their breasts.  This helps both with gender presentation and with gender dysphoria, but binders are not safe to wear to bed, while doing any amount of physical activity, or for extended periods of time.

Cisgender is a word that applies to any person who is not trans*.  I have been asked many times why use cisgender?  My response is always, then what should I call my son who was born male and identifies male? “Normal” gender?

Coming Out has two means, when referring to trans people.  First, disclosing to someone that you are not the gender you were assigned at birth or disclosing that you are trans, when you have not transitioned.  Or secondly, disclosing that you have transitioned, and that you were not originally assigned as a member of the gender you currently life.

Female-to-Male, FTM, refers to the transition of any person who was AFAB, but identifies as and transitions to the male gender.  FTM individuals will also be referred to as trans boys or trans men.

Gender is the state of being male or female, typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.  When you see a person wearing a dress, with long hair, you judge them to be a girl. You are judging their gender and not their sex.

Gender Dysphoria, simply put, means you don’t feel at home in your gender.  Feeling that your body does not reflect your true gender can cause issues such as distress, anxiety, and depression.  Like any causes of distress, anxiety and depression, it can interrupt your life at school, work, and socially.  Gender Dysphoria used to be classified as Gender Identity Disorder, GID, until it became obvious that it wasn't a mental condition.  In the DSM-5, they changed the classification from a mental disorder to "the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition". This is an important change, though it might seem simple.  It changes the onus that there is something wrong with a trans person's mind and suggests instead that there is something wrong with the body.

Gender Identity describes the psychological and often private recognition of oneself as belonging to a certain gender.  It is subjective and determined by an individual’s internal perceptions.  It is entirely separate from a person’s physical sex.

Gender Presentation refers to the way a person looks, dresses, or acts.  It specifically refers to those subconscious gender signifiers that are a part of the external appearance.

Hormone Replacement Therapy, HRT, is a course of medical treatment to substitute other hormones for naturally occurring hormones.

Male-to-Female, MTF, refers to the transition of any person who was AMAB, but identifies as and transitions to the female gender. MTF individuals will also be referred to as trans girls or women.

Puberty Blockers, or simply Blockers, are a group of medications that inhibit puberty, by stunting the growth of sexual organs and production of hormones.  Many cisgender people have issues with taking “such drastic measures”.  Blockers have been used for over 30 years in other cases, they are 100% reversible, and they prevent the devastating effects of puberty on a child with gender dysphoria.  For more information, please feel free to click here for an article in Medical Daily.

Sexual Reassignment Surgery, SRS, refers to several types of operations, including but not limited to vaginoplasty (vagina creation), metoidioplasty and phalloplasty (penis creation), and mastectomy (breast removal).  Many trans people refer to the different types of surgery as either bottom surgery or top surgery. Whether or not a trans person has had SRS, it is not considered polite or appropriate to ask them. Only a consenting adult may receive SRS.

Stealth refers to trans people who, after beginning to transition, do not reveal their birth-assigned gender.  There are varying degrees of stealth and varying reasons for being stealth.  It in no way indicates that the person being stealth is ashamed of being transgender or is lying or hiding from those around him.

Testosterone is a “male hormone”, giving during HRT to FTM’s.  Many people receiving testosterone refer to it simply as T.

Transgender is one word that covers a variety of folks.  People that do not identify with the genders they were assigned at birth, either completely or partially, are considered transgender.  People who consider themselves members of their birth-assigned genders, but are gender variant, are also considered transgender.

Transition refers to the process of changing one’s living situation in order to suit that person’s identified gender more accurately. It can mean anything from a social name change, to gender pronouns, to SRS.

Phew, so that’s the list.  Except there’s one more that’s a little hard to explain, and involves mentioning a lot of references that I don’t really want to get into.  So I’ll keep it simple.

Trans* (Trans Asterisk) is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum. There are some very diverse terms that fall under that umbrella, and I could fill pages trying to define them, but honestly, I’m not the expert on those.  When you see the term trans* issues, just know that it refers to a lot more than only transgender, because there is a lot more than only transgender out there.

Special thanks to and Trans Youth Equality Foundation, for their amazing glossary of terms.  And a special BIG thanks to Trans Youth Family Allies, for making the whole process so much more approachable to new parents.

Also, another great resource and post: Not Your Mom's Trans 101


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