The language of gender can seem daunting.
New terms seem to arise all the time – and there’s no shortage of acronyms! So we’ve created this quick glossary to help you keep on top of the terminology.
“Assigned female at birth”. We recommend that you avoid using this term if you could simply say “female” instead.
A therapeutic and medical approach which argues that adults and children, no matter what age, should be encouraged to transition into their self-reported gender identity.
“Assigned male at birth”. We recommend that you avoid using this term if you could simply say “male” instead.
A diagnosable paraphilia listed in the DSM 5, which refers to a male’s sexual fixation on the thought of himself as a female. A man who has autogynephilia is termed an “autogynephile”.
Denotes people who do have a gender identity, and one which matches their biological sex. It should not be assumed that people are “cis(gender)” simply because they are not trans, as many people have no gender identity at all.
The process of reversing a transition which was only social (e.g. by reverting to an earlier name). Desistance typically implies that an individual who was once seeking medical transition is no longer doing so.
The process of changing a person’s gender presentation back to his or her biological sex, by seeking to reverse an earlier medical transition.
A therapeutic and medical approach which argues that many factors (biological, psychological and social) can lead an individual to experience distress around gender.
DSDs (differences of sexual development) are >40 different conditions where sexual development does not rigidly adhere to the typical male or female pathway. The terms VSD (variation of sexual development) and CCSD (congenital condition of sexual development) are also in use.
Culturally influenced, societal expectations of behavior, aptitudes and appearance based upon sex, and a person’s social or cultural status as male, female, or something else.
An outlook that believes that gender is a social construction, and – unlike biology, which is an objective reality – is neither an innate, essential nor deterministic quality.
The distress caused by the discrepancy between one’s experienced gender and one’s primary or secondary sex characteristics. In its capitalized form (“Gender Dysphoria”), this is a diagnostic category in the DSM-V, with specific diagnosis defined by age-group-specific sets of criteria referring to the clinical and significant psychological distress resulting from gender incongruence.
An internal sense of one’s own gender, which may or may not be at odds with one’s biological sex. Make sure not to assume that everyone has a gender identity, as many people do not ascribe to this notion for themselves.
Gender Identity Disorder
A term that appeared in the DSM-III and DSM-IV to describe what is now termed “Gender Dysphoria”. This term is now disfavored, and should only be used to describe diagnoses made before the shift to “Gender Dysphoria.”
Where an individual’s sex and gender are experienced to be at odds with one another. In its capitalized form (“Gender Incongruence”), this is a diagnostic category in the ICD-11 defined as a marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s sex and experienced gender.
Also known as sex reassignment. Refers to any of the hormonal or surgical interventions undertaken as part of medical transition.
A way of describing gender reassignment procedures. We recommend avoiding this term, as it implies that medical interventions are the only means by which people suffering with gender incongruence or gender dysphoria might address these feelings.
Describes someone who is asking questions about or otherwise exploring his or her own gender identity. We recommend that this term be used in lieu of “trans” or “transgender” for those under 25, whose identity is still in a formative stage.
An umbrella term for the >40 different conditions where sexual development does not rigidly adhere to the typical male or female pathway. Given that this word has entered common parlance, it may very occasionally be necessary to include it in your work. However, if you use this term, we recommend that you include the term “DSD” in parentheses after, as many people with DSDs find “intersex” to be an ambiguous or contentious label.
An acronym which unites same-sex attracted people (i.e. lesbians, gay men, and bisexual women and men).
LGBT (or LGBTQ, LGBTI, etc.)
An acronym which unites same-sex attracted people (i.e. lesbians, gay men, and bisexual women and men) with trans people – and, in some iterations, with other groups, such as people with DSDs or “queer” people. We urge caution when using such terms, as many same-sex attracted people – or indeed, people with DSDs – do not consider themselves to be part of this community, and prefer to remain distinct.
A range of medical interventions (such as hormones and surgeries) undertaken in order to present as a different gender.
The process of referring to someone through the use of a pronoun that does not correspond to the gender they with which they identify.
The process of referring to someone through the use of a pronoun that does not correspond with their biological sex.
A gender identity where an individual’s sense of self is neither male nor female.
While this term is used by some as a general way of describing sexualities and/or gender identities which are seen as counter-normative, we strongly suggest that you avoid using this word. “Queer” is also a slur against same-sex attracted people, and is an offensive word to many homosexuals and bisexuals.
Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD)
A description of a relatively new phenomenon whereby adolescents (and girls especially) are experiencing starkly elevated rates of gender dysphoria, mediated by peer influence, and with high levels of co-occurring mental health conditions.
The system by which humans are classified as male or female, on the basis of reproductive functions and bodily characteristics such as chromosomes and hormones.
The process of changing your name, asking people to use different pronouns to refer to you, or changing aspects of your appearance (such as your clothing or your hairstyle) in order to present as a different gender.
An umbrella term for both transgender people and transsexual people. Given the ambiguity about this term, we advise that it not be used to describe young people (under 25) whose identity is still in a formative period.
“Trans kid”, “trans child”
We strongly advise you not to use this term, as it concretizes a young person’s identity while that identity is still in a formative stage. Instead, we recommend saying “a child who has undergone medical transition” or “a gender-questioning child,” according to the circumstance.
A term which describes people who have a gender identity that does not match their biological sex. We recommend that this term be avoided for young people (under 25) whose identity is still in a formative period.
The process of changing a person’s gender presentation and/or sex characteristics to accord with their internal sense of gender identity. Transition can be social and/or medical.
A natal female who has undergone medical intervention to appear male, and/or who has adopted a male identity.
Transsexual (or “transexual”, with one “s”)
A term which describes individuals who have modified their bodies through hormones or surgery in order to present as a member of the opposite sex.
A natal male who has undergone medical intervention to appear female, and/or who has adopted a female identity.