It is really important to understand the difference between gender and sexuality. Gender identity is who you are, sexual orientation is who you love. This is also well explained in the infographics of the Genderbread Person and the Gender Unicorn. Another great resource is the comprehensive The Gender Book and its condensed version, The Gender Booklet. GLAAD maintains an excellent Media Reference Guide for journalists who want to report with integrity.
LGBT. This is the alphabet soup to define those who don’t fit the ‘normal’ spectrum: LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), LGBTI (adding intersex). The bowl has been made a little larger, expanding it to LGBTQ+, or LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual/a-romantic/a-gender/ally/advocate). A bigger bowl version, LGBTQIAPD (where Q stands for queer and questioning, and pansexual and demisexual have been added). LGBTQ2S (2S is for two-spirited), LGBTTIQQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, intersexual, queer, questioning, two-spirited). A little stirring of the bowl comes up with TBLG (original letters mixed up), GLBT (used by men's groups putting the gay man category first), and LBTQ (used by women's groups, deleting the gay man category. The African-American/Black queer communities use SGL (same-gender loving).
AMAB/AFAB. Assigned male at birth/assigned female at birth.
Androphilic, Gynaecophilic, Ambiphilic. These terms describe a preferred erotic or love interest. Androphilic (male-loving), gynaecophilic (female-loving), or ambiphilic (both-loving, instead of bisexual). These terms reduce confusion with trans people who have maintained their sexual orientation through transition. The term sexual preference is avoided—it implies a choice which can be easily changed.
A-gender. This is for those people who don’t clearly identify with as either male or female gender or who identify as ‘neutral’, with no gender. Similar terms include gender neutrois, gender neutral, genderless, non-binary or NB (enbies). It is always appropriate to ask what pronouns people use. Note that 'they' is now acceptable to refer to a single person.
Asexual. This term, or Ace, is used for people who lack sexual attraction to anyone, of any gender. Another term, a-romantic, is used for people who have no romantic feelings for others. Asexual people are not necessarily a-romantic, and may all have different experiences or levels of comfort in regards to relationships, attraction, or arousal. This term is not applicable to people who choose abstinence.
Autogynaephilia. This is a theory to describe the ‘other’ gender identity disorder experienced by males—the first being homosexuality. It describes a male's propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female (‘love of oneself as a woman’), and is thus a cause of gender dysphoria. The theory has been debunked by a number of researchers, due in part to the conceptualisation of trans women as ‘sexually deviant men’ (because they identify as women) and the appropriation of the term by people wishing to stigmatise and invalidate trans identities.
Baby Trans. This a term applied to newly transitioning trans women, who are just beginning to find their own way of expressing female gender and go overboard in the adoption of gender-stereotypical feminine markers: most notably, long hair and short skirts.
Binary Sex. The classification of sex and gender into the two distinct, opposite, and rigid categories of female or male.
Biological Sex. This relates to the physical anatomy (genitals, sex chromosomes, gonads, hormones, reproductive structures) one is born with. Typically male, female and, more recently, intersex. This term is often confused with gender.
Cisgender. This means that one’s gender identity aligns with the gender one was assigned at birth. It does not correspond to sexuality at all. So a gay man can be cisgender if he identifies as male. Cisgender is the default, unless someone identifies as transgender. Cisgender is preferred to terms such as ‘natal male/female’.
Clocked. To be noticed, or uncovered—the opposite of passing.
Cross-dressing. ‘Cross-dressing’ is preferred over the older ‘transvestite’. It relates to people dressing as another sex. It cannot be attributed to a specific cause, gender or sexual orientation. Cross-dressing may be a coping mechanism for those who have not yet ‘come out’ as transgender. Cross-dressing men may also be heterosexual, happy within their sexuality and have no desire to be female. Cross-dressing may be related to fetishism. Gay men who cross-dress for performance or entertainment are referred to as drag queens. Trans women are not cross-dressers or drag queens.
Dead name. A transgender person’s name assigned at birth and no longer identified with, especially if it was gender-specific. Dead-naming is using a transgender person’s former name. This can be unintended or unconscious. Often dead-naming is intentional, as a form of shaming, outing or gaslighting a transgender person.
Demisexual. Demisexual is somewhere between sexual and asexual, where one might be asexual until the right emotional or romantic bond is formed with another, leading to sexual attraction.
Eggmode. A transgender person lives in eggmode before they realise that they may have gender dysphoria or may wish to transition. On Twitter, #eggmode describes situations or behaviours before being hatched.
Gaslighting. This is a more general term from psychology, applied to a person who manipulates others using psychological means, to lead them to question their own sanity. A gaslighter might say, ‘Oh, he really needs to wear a longer dress’, being corrected with ‘Um, you should use she when referring to her’, with the gaslighter responding with ‘But I did. I said she the first time.’
Gatekeeping. This term relates to controlling or limiting access to resources, products or services. Medical gatekeeping in relation to trans people involves imposing strict requirements and/or exceptionally high standards on trans people before medical services or interventions will be permitted. While some gatekeeping may be necessary to ensure treatments are appropriate and suit an individual's needs, standards can be far higher than those required for cis people. High standards applied may not be congruent with an individual's level of comfort at a particular stage of transition and may be responsible for 'extreme' displays of gender.
Gender. This term was originally grammatical (particularly in Indo-European languages). It began to be used English to mean ‘male or female sex’ in the early fifteenth century but did not come into common use until late in the twentieth century, when the word sex took on an erotic sense. Gender is the complex interrelationship between the dimension of body, identity, and expression.
Gender dysphoria. Quite simply, the conviction that one is not the gender assigned at birth.
Gender expression. How one presents to the world, consciously or subconsciously, in regards to dress, appearance and behaviour. Gender stereotypes describe how men/boys and women/girls are expected to act. Gender expression is separate from—and does not influence or imply—gender identity. Sometimes known as gender presentation, the term applies to masculine, feminine or androgynous expression (including effeminate men and ‘butch’ women, etc.)
Genderqueer/Gender nonconforming/GNC. See A-gender. This term relates to those who do not identify within the gender binary and who do not wish to be seen as strictly male or female. Genderqueer people prefer to use neutral pronouns including: ze, zhe, zed, hir, hirs, they, and them.
Heteronormative. This term relates to the belief that there are two distinct genders (male and female), each with associated and distinct roles. The term was popularised in the early 1990s and extends into the belief that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation. Thinking rooted in a heteronormative state is a cause of homophobia and heterosexism. Heterosexism is the discrimination in favour of people living a heteronormative lifestyle, i.e. relationships and sexuality between members of the opposite sex.
MTF/FTM. MTF or M2F represents male-to-female: those who were assigned male at birth and transition to female. FTM or F2M represents female-to-male: those who were assigned female at birth and transition to male.
Pansexual. A recently coined term, pansexual (also known as polysexual, omnisexual, ambisexual, bisexual-plus, humasexual, gender-blind or gender-fluid). This term extends further than bisexual, referring to those whose attraction is not limited to gender or sexual orientation—attraction is to all types of people, without labelling them by gender.
Passing. As the name suggests, passing is to not be noticed at all for being transgender in a social situation —to pass convincingly and without doubt for the gender one has transitioned to. The desire to pass can create an enormous amount of anxiety for the trans person in social settings.
Queerplatonic. This is a committed and significant relationship that is not intimate—more than a simple friendship but not romantic. With an origin based in humour, the term for the queerplatonic partner is a zucchini.
Repression. According to the psychiatrist and professor George Vaillant, ‘Repression consists of an unconsciously motivated forgetting or unawareness of external events or of internal impulses, feeling, thoughts or wishes. Although the repressed is not recognised consciously, its effects remain.’ This word carries a certain stigma due to controversy surrounding ‘recovered-memory therapy’. It is important to note the distinction between repressed memories recovered spontaneously and those memories that may be ‘recovered’ as a result of suggestions made during therapy.
ROGD. Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria. Coined in 2016, this term was created to sound like a diagnosis. It likens gender dysphoria in teens to a 'social contagion' influenced through access to social media. The term appeared in several blogs written with an overt bias against trans people. Read more here.
Stealth. ‘Going stealth’ is to be transgender without anyone being aware and without informing anyone. While some like to wear their transgender label and are proud of it, there are many who it prefer never to be noticed at all. Some prefer to use terms such as 'low or no disclosure' with the belief that 'going stealth' can have connotations of secrecy or deception.
T. Testosterone, taken as a hormone for FTM transition. The hormone can be administered several different ways including: intramuscular application via injection; transdermal via a skin patch or cream/gel; or orally via a pill.
TERF. This is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. The term is applied to those feminists who believe that gender transition is invalid, and a political or social action. TERFs express a transphobia, particularly against trans women, whom they refuse to see as anything other than men. TERFs believe that trans surgery is body mutilation. TERFs practise their own form of prejudice and misandry. The term has been created to distinguish this group from Radical Feminists (RadFems), who see the approach of the TERFs as abhorrent.
Third Gender. This term can be used in the same way as Genderqueer, but the term has a historical context for those societies recognising three or more genders.
Transgender /Transsexual. Some firmly identify as transsexual, but this older word has fallen out of favour because of its implied emphasis on surgery and genitalia. The umbrella term 'transgender' is preferred, and relates to those whose gender expression differs from the gender assigned at birth. The word is an adjective, and not a noun. So the correct use is, ‘he is a transgender man’, or the ‘party included a number of transgender people’—never ‘he is a transgender’ or ‘they are transgenders’. There is no such word as ‘transgendered’—it is not a process. Trans is used as an abbreviation as in 'trans man' or 'trans woman'. Ask an individual which terms they prefer.
Transvestite. See Cross-dressing.
TWOC. Trans Women of Colour.
Two-Spirit. This term bridges the binary. It has been used in Indigenous American communities as a term for third gender, and where people identify as having both masculine and feminine spirits.