In talking with my mom and grandmother about my relationship with Sweet, it became very clear to me that many people who are generally accepting (and I use that word quite consciously – I’m embracing; they’re accepting) of the trans community have little grasp on the terminology. That’s not a dig. Of course people aren’t going to be aware of definitions if they’re not a part of the community or if they haven’t studied trans issues academically.
With that in mind, I would like to provide a bit of a trans dictionary. The following is adapted from transproud.com and an article by Warren J. Blumenfeld of the Univesity of Massachusetts, combined with my academic and Sweet’s acquired knowledge. This at least provides a baseline, though not every trans person will agree with every definition.
Definitions of Transgender Terminology
Biological Sex (or Chromosomal Sex): An individual’s sex as determined by their chromosomal makeup, which hormones predominate in the individual’s system, and internal and external genitalia. The distinction commonly made is that between male and female, but between 1% and 4% of the population is born intersexed, with biological aspects of both sexes to varying degrees.
Cross-dresser: An individual who sometimes wears clothing considered inappropriate for that person’s biological sex. Cross-dressers generally want to “pass” as their target gender.
Cross-living: A TG person who lives full-time in their preferred gender image, whether in preparation for a sex-change operation or not.
DRAB: DRessed As a Boy
DRAG: DRessed As a Girl
Drag Queen: Generally refers to a gay man who sometimes puts on women’s clothing in a performative capacity, without necessarily attempting to “pass.”
Drag King: Generally refers to a lesbian who sometimes puts on men’s clothing in a performative capacity, without necessarily attempting to “pass.”
FTM: Abbreviation for Female-To-Male cross-dresser or transsexual.
Gender Dysphoria: Medically, refers to extreme discontent with the individual’s biological sex.
Gender Identity: An individual’s innermost concept of self as male, female, intersex, travesti, hijra, two-spirit… and the list goes on. Take your pick! Gender identity is about how we perceive ourselves and what we label ourselves, and it doesn’t have to be consistent with biological sex.
Gender Image: The individual’s gender-presentation out in the world.
Gender Role: Socially/culturally-defined roles and behaviours assigned to individuals based on their gender.
Genderqueer: An umbrella term describing individuals who don’t subscribe to the binary identities of male and female, who fall outside gender definitions, or who see themselves as both male and female.
Hijra: A member of the venerated (at least historically) “third sex” of India. Most hijra are biologically male or intersex, and dress and identify in a way reserved for women in that culture.
In Transition: A transsexual in the process of changing sex. This including taking hormones, cross-living, and finally surgery. A practical minimum for this process is about two years, but usually it takes longer.
Intersex: An individual born with the full or partial sex organs of both male and female, or with underdeveloped or ambiguous sex organs. This word replaces the politically incorrect hermaphrodite.
MTF: Abbreviation for Male-To-Female cross-dresser or transsexuals.
Non-surgical Transsexual: A transsexual who may seek sex reassignment through hormones and/or cross-living, but stops short of surgery.
Pass: To exist convincingly in one’s preferred gender image.
Post-op: Transsexuals who have had sex-change operation(s), and now have the physical anatomy they desire.
Pre-op: Transsexuals who have not yet had their reassignment operation(s), but who are working towards it.
Sex reassignment surgery (SRS): Sex-change operation.
T-friendly: An organization, institution or individual that embraces transgendered peoples and their needs.
Transgender (TG): Frequently used as an umbrella term encompassing all those people who transgress society’s gender norms. A transgender person may feel society is limiting that individual’s personal expression by maintining two distinct gender constructs. This term often includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, two spirit, etc.
Transphobia: A form of oppression exercised against the trans community; the fear and hatred of TS/TG people, as well as those gender-transgressive element that exist in all people.
Transsexual (TS): A TG individual who wants to or has changed their body to be more in line with their gender identity.
Two-Spirit: A traditional role in Native American and Canadian First Nations societies, this term describes both the feminine and masculine spirit co-existing in one individual.