A Transgender Manual Of Style

Hi folks!

So… I’ve been meaning to get some kind of glossary put together for a long, long, long while… but it occurred to me lately that also a lot of people have some additional trouble with knowing HOW to use trans terminology.

So I wanted to make a little go-to reference guide, which I’ll probably set up as a static page (and expand after receiving whatever input or questions come along in the comments).

First of all, a basic glossary:

AFAB / AMAB – “Assigned female at birth” / “assigned male at birth”, sometimes also CAMAB / CAFAB for “Coercively assigned”.

Androgyne – An individual whose gender includes both male/masculine and female/feminine characteristics.

Androgynous – A form of gender expression that has both masculine and feminine elements

Androphilia – Sexual and/or romantic attraction to men.

Asexuality – A sexual orientation in which one experiences diminished or absent interest in sexual attraction to others. Romantic interest may or may not be present, depending on the individual.

Assigned Sex – The sex one is determined to be at birth, that is placed on one’s birth certificate, and in which one is socialized. Typically is assigned on the basis of the genitalia’s external appearance.

Autogynophilia – A proposed but largely debunked theoretical etiology of transgenderism in which an AMAB person is aroused by the concept of themselves as female. Frequently used to invalidate trans lesbians.

Bi-Gendered – A gender identity in which one feels comfortable identifying as both male and female.

Butch – A term of self-identification for a queer person, usually a woman, whose gender expression is interpreted as more masculine than feminine.

Cisgender / Cissexual / Cis – Not trans. This comes from the latin prefix “cis-” meaning “on the same side”, which is conventionally used as an antonym to “trans-“, meaning “across”. It is strongly preferred to other qualifiers such as “bio”, “genetic”, “normal” and so on due to the fact that it isn’t loaded with any kind of value judgment. It means “not trans” or “gender identity and gender expression consistent with assigned sex”, and nothing else.

Chaser – A derogatory term for a man who has an objectifying or demeaning sexual attraction to trans women, and who pursues them often through dishonest means (such as joining trans support groups and forums claiming to be in early transition themselves). Does not refer to all men who are attracted to or fetishize trans women, only those who do so in an objectifying or demeaning way.

Cisnormativity – Attitudes, beliefs and actions that treat cisgenderism and cissexuality as more “normal”, “natural” or “default” than transgenderism and transsexuality, and sets of biases leading people to assume various cisgender standards by which they perceive and interpret the world and others.

Cissexism – Attitudes, beliefs and actions that privilege cisgenderism and cissexuality as being preferable, superior, healthier, or more valid than transgenderism and transsexuality.

Clock / Read – A verb meaning to correctly identify as a trans person as trans.

Cross-Dresser – An individual who engages in temporary acts of cross-sex presentation. Distinct from drag in that it is not done for entertainment or performance purposes, and distinct from other types of trans identities, such as transsexuality, in that the cross-sex presentation is temporary, their gender identity is typically consistent with assigned sex, and the cross-sex persona/identity is usually not regarded as more “true” than the assigned-sex persona/identity. Many transsexual people do, however, go through a period of identifying as cross-dressers prior to full self-acceptance and transition.

Disclosure / Spooking – The act of a “passable” trans person informing someone else (in the case of “spooking”, specifically a sexual partner) of their gender status and history.

Drag – An exaggerated and often campy form of cross-sex presentation for the purposes of performance, entertainment or fun.

Drag Queen / King – A performer who engages in drag.

Femme – A term of self-identification for a queer person, usually a woman, whose gender expression is interpreted as more feminine than masculine.

Femmephobia – A term for hatred, fear, ridicule or other negative emotional responses to that which is culturally coded as feminine, as well as beliefs that people or things understood as feminine are inferior, weaker, less preferable, less natural and less valid than that which is understood as masculine.

Gender Expression – The outward manner in which one expresses or presents one’s gender. This is the concept that is described as “masculine”, “feminine”, “butch”, “femme”, “macho”, “sissy”, etc. It is actually comprised of numerous very individual variables (such as being “rational” or “emotional”, “creative” or “pragmatic”, long hair or short hair, fondness for make-up and jewelry or sports and tools, whether one wears “female clothes” or “male clothes”, etc), and whether an individual’s gender expression is interpreted as masculine or feminine is typically based on a loose aggregation of these individual traits. It is independent from, and non-determinant of, gender identity, sexual orientation and physiological sex.

Gender Identity – The inner conceptual sense of self as “man”, “woman” or other, as divorced from issues like gender expression, sexual orientation, or physiological sex. It is a subtle and abstract, but extremely powerful, sense of who you are, in terms of gender, independent of how you dress, behave, what your interests are, who you’re attracted to, etc.

Gender Presentation – How one is presenting oneself in terms of how your gender is to be interpreted by others. For instance, wearing an evening gown, make-up and jewelry would be “female gender presentation”, and a tuxedo would be “male gender presentation”. Gender presentation is not always distinct and binary.

Genderqueer – A term of self-identification for someone whose gender identity does not fit neatly into the conventional male/female binary.

Gynophilia – Sexual and romantic attraction to women.

Misgendering – The act of addressing or referring to someone by terms or pronouns inconsistent with their gender identity. For instance, referring to a trans woman as “sir”.

Passing – A trans person being perceived by others as a cis member of hir identified sex.

Passing Privilege – The set of physical and social characteristics, typically conferred by good fortune rather than effort, that give a trans person the ability to pass.

Santorum – The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is often the byproduct of anal sex.

Sexual Orientation – A descriptor for the gender or genders towards which an individual feels sexual attraction (or the absence thereof). Distinct and independent from and non-determinant of gender identity, gender expression and physiological, assigned sex.

SRS / Sexual Reassignment Surgery / Lower Surgery / Bottom Surgery / Genital Reconstruction Surgery – Surgery for transsexual people, such as vaginoplasty or phalloplasty, designed to reconstruct genitalia into a workable equivalent of that of their identified sex.

Top Surgery – A term for any form of breast surgery (enhancement, reduction or removal) for a transsexual person.

Trans-feminine- An AMAB individual who feels strong discomfort with the expected male gender expression and strongly prefers a more feminine mode of gender expression. Sometimes refers to all AMAB transgender people.

Transgender- An umbrella term referring to any identity that deviates from the assumed cultural norms of gender, gender identity or gender expression.

Transition- The process by which a transsexual person changes characteristics of their sex and gender presentation so as to feel more comfortable with their bodies and social role. May involve medical procedures such as hormone replacement therapy, genital surgery, facial feminization surgery and top surgery, legal decisions such as change of name, documentation, ID and legal sex, changes in presentation such as clothing, make-up, accessories, voice training, mannerisms and body language, etc. Each transition is unique, and there is no one prescriptive path people choose to follow.

Trans Man- The preferred noun for a female-to male transsexual person, regardless of the point at which he is in his transition, or what decisions he made about the precise nature of his transition.

Trans-masculine- An AFAB individual who experiences strong discomfort with expected female gender expression and strongly prefers a more masculine mode of gender expression.Sometimes refers to all AFAB transgender people.

Transphobia- Fear, hatred or ridicule (or any other negative emotional reaction) towards transgenderism and transgender individuals.

Transsexual- Someone whose gender identity is in conflict with their assigned, physiological sex and pursues transition, on an intended permanent basis, in order to feel a greater sense of harmony and congruence with their body, presentation and social/interpersonal role. May be at any point in the process of transition.

Trans Romanticism-  Term for specific attraction to transgender individuals. Much less derogatory than “chaser”.

Tranvestic Fetishist- Someone who feels an erotic, sexual thrill or arousal from cross-sex presentation or dress.

Trans woman- The preferred noun for a male-to-female transsexual person, regardless of the point at which she is in her transition, or what decisions she made about the precise nature of her transition.

Two-Spirit- A concept of gender variance in North American indigenous cultures in which a person is regarded as having both a male and female “soul”, “spirit” or identity.

Queer- A term of self-identification for an individual who in some way deviates from the assumed cultural norms of sexuality and gender.

Now, about the style thing…

First of all, pronouns.

It is NOT THAT DIFFICULT. Anyone who claims it’s too confusing or too hard and you can’t be arsed to get this shit straight is a cis-privileged doofus who does not deserve any respect or consideration.

As a general rule, go with pronouns consistent with someone’s presented gender. Remember that presented gender has fuck all to do with passing. If they are presenting as female, regardless of whether or not you think they look like a “real” woman, you use “she” and “her”. If they are presenting as male, you use “he”, “him” and “his”. If in the unlikely event that you truly, honestly can’t tell their gender presentation, go with “they”/”them”/”their” until you get a chance to respectfully, discreetly ask their preference.

Never, ever, EVER use “it”. EVER. That is so dehumanizing it’s not even funny. Anyone who can’t see that has fundamentally failed at human empathy and comprehension of basic respect for others.

Also, do NOT use things like “s/he” or “shim”. Almost as offensive as “it”.

(The exception to this is ONLY if you get a specific individual’s express consent and statement of preference, and then it is to be understood that that consent / preference applies ONLY to the individual who offered you it, nobody else)

“Transgender”, “transsexual” and “trans” are adjectives, not nouns. They are descriptors for a particular characteristic a person may have. Using them as nouns, as in a category of human, like “some of my best friends are transgenders!” is othering and offensive.

Also, since “transgender” is already an adjective, saying “transgendered” is a bit redundant.

Also, try to use them as adjectives, not things from which to construct new compounds. Use “trans woman”, “trans men”, “trans people”, not “transwoman”, “transmen”, or “transpeople”. The latter are offensive in more or the less the same way “blackwoman” or “gayman” would be.

The following are slurs. DO NOT USE THEM, unless you are a) one of the people directly referred to by the term and are doing so ironically or as an act of reclamation in reference to yourself, or b) using the terms to speak about the terms themselves:

– Ladyboy

– Shemale

– Trap

– Tranny

– He/She

– Chicks-With-Dicks

It’s also worth noting that the terms “sex change” and “sex change operation” have ended up becoming very archaic and outdated, and do have some trivializing connotations.

Please don’t ever refer to someone’s op-status unless it’s actually immediately relevant to whatever it is you’re talking about. Also, don’t use “post-op” or “pre-op” as nouns. Seriously.

Please don’t describe us like “Natalie, who was born a man but believes she’s a woman”. Just treat us as our identified sex, please?

Please don’t mention our being trans AT ALL unless it’s relevant to what you’re talking about. If it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, and we ought to just be accepted as women, men, or however we identify.

Please don’t use “clever” pithy little stand-ins for the terms “men” and “women” that end up excluding trans people, like “XX chromosomer” for women, “people with dangly bits” for men, “vagina-havers” for women, etc.

NEVER EVER PUT QUOTE MARKS around our preferred name, pronouns or gender. Example: “Natalie” likes to go around saying “she” is a “woman”.

Never, ever make references to our birth-name unless it is absolutely impossible to avoid.

Please don’t make references to our assigned sex’s anatomy, even in jest, like “Natalie got caught up in a dick-size contest with Loftus”. It really stings.

Please remember that something that may not be triggering or a problem for cis people of our identified sex, such as referring to women as “dude”, may indeed be very triggering and hurtful for a trans person of that gender.

And basically? Just accept that we are our genders, and treat that fact with some sensitivity (while doing a little to bear in mind we live in a world constantly trying to invalidate that gender). It really is that easy.

Thanks for listening!



  1. McKenzie says

    I like it. It might be worth adding aromantic and intersex to the glossary (unless I’ve missed either of them, I was going to ask why there wasn’t a genderqueer definition then I noticed that, so it’s totally possible).

    Especially thank you for this bit:
    “Please don’t use “clever” pithy little stand-ins for the terms “men” and “women” that end up excluding trans people, like “XX chromosomer” for women, “people with dangly bits” for men, “vagina-havers” for women, etc.”
    This is my absolute biggest annoyance (not telling people not to do it obviously), and it’s surprising how little a deal seems to be made of it even on blogs that talk about cissexism.

    I think I might be linking this to a couple of my friends when I come out, it will be very useful.

  2. Anders says

    Looks good. Thanks. Minor quibbles

    Androgynous – A form of gender expression that is has both masculine and feminine elements

    Transsexual- Someone whose gender identity is in conflict with their assigned, physiological sex and pursues transition, on an intended permanent basis, in order to feel a greater sense of harmony and congruence with their body, presentation and social/interpersonal role. May be at any point in the process of transition.

    All transsexual people seek transition? There are none who don’t feel it’s worth the time? I suppose we wouldn’t notice them.

    Is there such a thing as Transsexism? Like some LBG people referring to heterosexuals as ‘breeders’.

    Genderfluid – what is that? I used it refer to someone whose gender identity was in (a slow) flux – changing back and forth with time. That was apparently wrong.


    Queer is in the wrong place alphabetically.

    Shim is a derogatory term, yes? Is it derived from she-male or from the sense of “something in-between” (which apparently it can also mean).

    • says

      “All transsexual people seek transition? There are none who don’t feel it’s worth the time? I suppose we wouldn’t notice them.”

      No. That’s covered under “may be at any point in the transition process.”

      • Anders says

        Read it again.

        Someone whose gender identity is in conflict with their assigned, physiological sex and pursues transition

        As it stands, all transsexuals wants to transition to some degree.

          • Anders says

            Good point. Anyway, the passage needs clarification because, as it stands, I don’t think it says what Natalie wants it to say.

            But I’ve been wrong before.

          • David Bergkvist says

            I think you’re right. Nobody is pursuing transition before they realize they’re transsexual, but they’re still transsexual.

          • says

            Actually, when I was in high school, I had a classmate that told me I was transsexual, but I was too stupid to listen to her. You could of course say that she was rude to say this and shouldn’t have. But she was right, I was transsexual even then.

            (And I don’t think she was wrong to tell me. The worst that could have happened as a result of her telling me this was that I was cis and was offended for having my gender questioned, whereas the best that could have happened was that I realized I was trans. Clearly, the potential benefits outweighed the risks.)

          • tort says

            Anders I think the mistake you are making is in the word transition, check that definition it’s not just people seeking SRS. Natalie has a pretty thorough list there and the wording indicates that it is not exhaustive. The only thing excluded by the definition are people who are doing nothing about their gender identity and I assume that is intentional.

          • says

            Right, and if they’re not actually doing ANYTHING and have no intent whatsoever to do anything, then they would not be transsexual. They WOULD, however, still be transgender, in so far as their experience of gender deviates from socio-cultural norms. Did I remember to include a definition of transgender? I wrote this really late at night. :p

          • David Bergkvist says

            Natalie, I must admit you have me confused now. Are you saying that being transexual, as opposed to being transgender, is a choice (since it revolves around intent)? So when I was born, I was transgender (but didn’t know it) and then when I did realize it and decided to alter my body, I became transexual? But if I had changed my mind and decided to live in the closet I would have ceased being transexual and reverted into only being transgender? But since I now have had FFS I will remain transexual even if I were to stop my transition?

          • says

            NO. Jeez. You’d be the same, regardless, but we’d use different terms to refer to you. If you choose not to transition, you fall under the transgender umbrella, but “transsexual” refers specifically to those who change or modify their SEX to be congruent with their gender.

          • David Bergkvist says

            So when I wrote “I became transsexual” what I really should have written was that “the word transsexual became applicable to describe me”. It is of course perfectly reasonable that you belittle me for this paramount mistake of mine, and I obviously greatly apologize for it.

          • delphiomally says

            No single issue or definition will ever satisfy everyone…this is part of the cost of human uniqueness. However we MUST, as a T-community get beyond this phase. We simply must. We must remember that every word is defined in two ways: common usage and self-preferred definition. It is absolutely critical that the public understand our language with respect to being respectful to us. So long as we remain confused, so will they.

  3. IslandBrewer says

    Thank you for that. I was confused – there’s something about Santorum and the Republican primary that I wasn’t clear on, but now it makes sense.

    One question out of my personal cis-ignorance: how or when is assigned gender at birth coercive (CAFAB/CAMAB)? Is this specifically a reference to inter-sex infants? I always thought the assigned birth gender was just a binary checkbox of Penis: (Yes/No)[ ].

    • mcbender says

      I’m not entirely sure, but my assumption was that it had to do with intersex people who have (or had at birth, before some kind of surgery) ambiguous genitalia and are more or less arbitrarily assigned to one category or the other. There have been cases where the word “coercive” definitely applies: who was that doctor who infamously said “it’s easier to dig a hole than build a pole”? (or am I misremembering the quote?)

      Regardless, it’s certainly not as simple as “Penis? Yes/No”, despite many people obviously wishing it were…

      • IslandBrewer says

        I certainly didn’t mean to imply that gender is a simple binary, but as someone who has filled out birth certificates before, assigning gender on a form certainly is.

      • IslandBrewer says

        Point taken.

        So, are you suggesting that there be no gender box on birth certificates? Or does society just accept the fact that all those boxes checked on a birth certificate are coercive and live with it?

        • says

          I think there should be a third box for intersex, but my point isn’t “we should get rid of gender assignment”, because that’s sort of much more trouble than it’s really worth. I think it’s okay to assign a gender, as long as you also make it clear to the child, over and over again, that it is okay if they want to redefine their gender for themselves. And to encourage them to explore their feelings about gender. As in my post today on Gendering Children, and Raising Trans Kids.

          • says

            Are you really sure it would be all that much trouble? All it would mean is that there is one less field to bother with, databases wouldn’t record it, and any birth certificate reprints wouldn’t mention it. I don’t really see any compelling reason for gender to be listed on any form of ID, birth certificate included. Driver’s Licenses (and other official forms of photo ID) over here don’t record this, and there has been some talk of removing it from passports (although, this is harder since passports have a degree of international regulation). I’m not convinced there is any good reason for the concept of “legal gender” to exist at all, beyond propping up restrictions on same sex marriage and women working in certain professions (or, in the case of trans people, allowing those restrictions to be ignored, but creating new, nonsensical requirements).

  4. David Bergkvist says

    I’d like to point out that you wrote “Bi-Gendered”, as if “Bi-Gender” is a noun. I guess you don’t respect bigender people… Also, why the hyphen? There’s no hyphen in “cisgender” or “transgender”.

    • says

      Pangender, agender are also missing. With bi-gender I suspect the hyphen is there to prevent an ambiguous reading: compare what happens when the hyphen is omitted or shifted:
      bi-gender, bigender, big-ender

      Also, some entries should clearly declare grammar, e.g.
      Transgender (adjective, never as noun)

  5. David Bergkvist says

    Why would the term “chaser” have to refer to a heterosexual man? Aren’t there any women who objectify trans people, or gay men who objectify trans men?

      • David Bergkvist says

        Do chasers really have to be cis? Couldn’t a trans person be objectifying other trans people?

        • Sullen Bess says

          So long as there’s a systemic power differential between trans and cis people, that can be exploited only by one of them…yeah, chasers kinda do have to be cis. There’s more than just objectification, which anyone can do.

          • David Bergkvist says

            But according to the glossary, objectification is enough to be a chaser.

            Also, according to privilege theory, there are other causes of power differences. For example, I happen to have a high income, and therefore have class privilege, which, again according to privilege theory, means I could exploit unemployed trans people. (No, I’m not saying I would, if anything, I’d prefer to be the objectified rather than the objectifyer).

          • Sullen Bess says

            According to the glossary, being cis and objectification are necessary. The power differential is implicit and inescapable. The other contexts wherein ‘chaser’ is applied (c.f. rice queen, chubby chaser, and more than I have the patience to list) also require a power differential.

            there are other causes of power differences

            I don’t know what you mean by privilege theory, but that’s certainly true. But what of it?

          • David Bergkvist says

            What I mean is that that if one has to be cis to be a chaser, that means that I could get away with abusing my class privilege to obectify and chase trans people as much as I wanted and still not be a chaser, just because I also happen to be trans. That’s hardly fair, now is it?

          • Sullen Bess says

            I could get away with abusing my class privilege

            That’s covered under “sexual solicitation for prostitution” and “sexual harassment,” or “intimate partner violence, psychological, denying access to basic resources” among others.

            If there’s some other representative category of wealthy trans people exploiting poor trans people on account of trans status but with money and without cissexism you’d be the first to notice it. And a lexicon that gives equal weight to serious problems and Ye Taxonomy of Counterfactual Chimaerae isn’t much use.

    • says

      It’s a default. One assumes “chaser” means a certain type of cis guy as above, in the absence of other information; one can use it on other people in context. I.e., words have meanings, but usage changes those meanings.

      • David Bergkvist says

        Wouldn’t that be a very heterocisnormative definition then? Everyone is a hetero cis man, unless specifically stated otherwise. Would you also say that chasers by default are white middle class?

          • David Bergkvist says

            But hetero cis people are the most common people by far, and it’s still heterocisnormative to assume cis is the default (at least according to the glossary). So then it must be heterocisnormative to assume that the default is that chasers are hetero and cis men.

          • Dalillama says

            The particular set of characteristics that define a chaser, particularly as opposed to someone who is trans-romantic, later on the list, tend to exploit the intersection of male gender privilege vs. female and cis privilege vs. trans. For instance, the definition Natalie gives includes both objectification and deceit, and in practice, there are heavy behavioral overlaps with PUAs. As Anders notes above,there’s also the numbers. It’s hypothetically possible for e.g. you to take on most of the traits that would define a chaser, it’s just highly unlikely for you to do so, and the same goes for most people who are not cis men (also most people who are, obviously, but the proportions are distinctly higher).

          • says

            But I demand equal treatment! If a cis person who misbehaves in a certain manner is to suffer the punishment of name calling, then I demand to be punished in the same way if I were to engage in the same misbehaviour. Otherwise, you’re basically saying that I’m less capable of taking responsibility for my actions than cis people are.

  6. starskeptic says

    When I saw that listing for ‘Santorum’ I rested assured that this list was as up-to-date as humanly possible…

  7. says

    A great idea. You might want to include demisexual in the glossary, though, since I know most people have no idea what that means. (Or is it in there, and did I just miss it?)

      • says

        I only asked because I saw asexual was included. As Natalie has answered my question, I can see why this is. It was just a question/suggestion you know.

    • says

      It’s a transgender glossary, not a queer glossary. Asexual is included because I’ve had to frequently deal with being asked what it means, or otherwise deal with people misunderstanding the concept. I don’t have this problem with demisexual.

    • says

      I would oppose the inclusion of “demisexual” even if it were a more comprehensive glossary, on the grounds that it often leads to derailment much like the thread going on up there.

      Since you included asexual, I would replace “interest in sexual activities with others” with “sexual attraction to others.” Depending on who you ask, framing it as sexual attraction is important. Probably not the most important of corrections, but FYI.

    • says

      At most it would be worthy of a one-line cross-reference hyperlinked to a different glossary – on asexuality. And only if it were being questioned on as frequent a basis as to justify an entry in a list of FAQs. (Also, this may be a trans* focussed blog, but that should be no reason to bash asexuals as special snowflakes; the whole thing about trans spectrum identities is that they are largely orthogonal to sexual orientations, so T* can intersect hetero, GLB, or A. I get the snark, but it’s a derail.)

      • Happiestsadist says

        I think queer and trans* asexuals are queer, but I really cannot accept hereto and aromantic aces as queer. I think it’s disgustingly appropriative when straight people claim queerness.

        • says

          But asexual people aren’t “straight” in any meaningful sense.

          Queer, as I’ve defined it, is any significant deviation from socio-cultural norms of sexuality and gender. Asexuality CLEARLY falls within that definition.

          HappiestSadist, I like you, but you and Ms. Daisy are getting really hostile in a lot of comments today and it’s really bothering me. I don’t want this to be an intimidating space. I want people to be able to be free to discuss and think about and work through various ideas about gender and sexuality and related issues without having to worry about being attacked.

          I mean, if someone comes in and says something horribly cissexist or homophobic or misogynist then sure, rip them to pieces, but just expressing alternate interpretations does not deserve the level of hostility you and Ms. Daisy have been demonstrating today. That kind of thing is going to make people afraid to comment and talk. And I am NOT OKAY with that. That is NOT the kind of tone and environment I’m trying to set, or the community I’m trying to create.

          • Happiestsadist says

            I apologize, then.

            I disagree with the definition of “queer” that you’re using, but again, your space. Perhaps I’ve had more/worse experience with homo/transphobic and slut-shaming aces, as well as the whole triangle thing. But I shall drop it.

          • says

            Yeah, well I’ve dealt with a shit ton of transphobic gay men and lesbians, and trans-misogynistic trans men, and hierarchy-imposing HBSer trans women, but I don’t think that magically makes THEM not queer.

        • says

          I didn’t actually say anything about how A identities intersect with LGBT, but FWIW I agree with you about (mis-) appropriation of ‘queer’. It’s still a derail, alas.

        • says

          How is it appropriative exactly? Going by the above definition of queer, hetero, and especially aromantic (I’m not sure you could even formulate a anything approaching a convincing argument for that one), asexuals certainly fit. If you claim that they don’t, then you may as well also claim that hetero trans people don’t either.

          • says

            The issue is complicated by queer having been reclaimed from being used an anti-gay, anti-trans epithet, so that its re-use is divisive, intersectionally. (Natalie is using the broader umbrella term)

  8. Anders says

    Is there a term for people who want transsexual people as friends or lovers as accessories? To be able to say “I’m so tolerant, just look at all my trans friends!” Or that does not happen?

  9. Yellow Thursday says

    When I saw “Manual of Style”, I expected it to be suggestions of what trans people should wear. But it’s actually so much better.

    Regarding misgendering, is it common for it to be accidental? I don’t think I’ve ever done this to anyone in person based on their physical appearance (that I’m aware of), but I’ve done it based on a name that is traditionally assigned to one gender when the person was another gender.

    • michaeld says

      You’re not the only one that expected to see something on fashion 😛 This turned out much better though.

      While I can’t claim to be an expert on misgendering I was misgendered a bit when I started growing my hair out in middle school (I’ve seen photos since and I did look androgynous). I vividly recall one teacher trying to explain to me I couldn’t sit next to a girl because she wanted everyone to sit (boy girl …). I kept saying I understood her and she finally turned beat red and was quite apologetic when she realized I wasn’t a girl. So if it happened to me then on my physical appearance I would not be surprised if happened to at least some trans people sometimes.

    • Sas says

      It may be complete cynicism on my part, but I think misgendering is claimed to be accidental far more than it actually is accidental. If the misgenderer knew the person pre-transition and is used to using old pronouns, or the person has an androgynous presentation, then I can kind of see how it can happen accidently, but I suspect far more often it’s the misgenderer doing it deliberately to let us know we aren’t “getting away with it”.

      • Vicki says

        I know it’s accidental in occasional very transient interactions, because I’m a cis woman who is occasionally misgendered. Note that nobody who has misgendered me has ever insisted that they were right about my gender and I was wrong.

  10. Sebastian says

    Seconding the call for a genderfluid entry. I also think that gender dysphoria would make a good addition.

  11. David Bergkvist says

    Misgendering is said to be “The act of addressing or referring to someone by terms or pronouns inconsistent with their gender identity”. Shouldn’t that be “gender expression”?

    As it stands, I’m misgendering myself. And trans people in the closet are constantly being misgendered. Which would mean that misgendering is the proper cause of action in these cases, since you shouldn’t out people living in the closet.

    • says

      Misgendering can be done by mistake, or by request from a person who is not out and is presenting their assigned sex. The point is that it’s something you do to other people, because you can’t usually avoid gendering them some way or other.

      Reading your comment, I realized that though it’s a little more obscure, “gendering” would make a good addition to the glossary. That is, to actively gender a person is to assign a gender and sex category to someone upon meeting them, and this usually happens as quickly as the brain can process gendered cues. Gendering also refers to the use of gendered pronouns to declare your perception of someone else’s gender.

      From that definition, I think the meaning of “misgendering” is a bit clearer, as it is similarly active.

    • Anders says

      Isn’t it understood that they are presenting as one sex and you refuse to acknowledge this? Referring to a trans woman in a dress as ‘he’?

  12. Rieux says

    Good and useful stuff, Natalie; just a minuscule nitpick:

    until you get a chance to respectfully, discretely as their preference.

    I think you mean “discreetly ask.”

  13. Bob Jase says

    Maybe I’m just still smarting over getting ripped by he folks at Skepchick a couple of years ago but I have to ask – is he/she is acceptable when referring to an person whose gender is simply unknown because the person is unknown?

    Please let me know, I really don’t want to insult anyone by mistake again.

    • thaismcrc says

      You can use “they/them” or “ze/hir” in those cases. (Which is a hell of a lot better than what we have in Portuguese)

      • wilsim says

        I asked this down below too, but can someone go over the pronouns for us who had bad habits in the past of using mis gender or cis male pronouns.
        Ze, Hir, and all?
        I do not want to insult anyone by mistake.

      • lrah says

        I always use *they* for hypothetical people whose gender doesn’t matter or people whose gender I don’t know yet (because I’ve not seen/heard them, read their name, or know anything about them that would reveal their gender), but I don’t quite understand why he/she is unacceptable in these cases. Would “he or she” (which is how I’d read it in this context) be problematic too?

        Is it because it excludes those who don’t identify as either female or male?

        (It’s not like I need to be *convinced* of not using he/she, so if the question is too ignorant/irrelevant/cis-clueless/derailing, please ignore. It’s just that I’m curious.)

        • says

          I’m guessing he/she (as opposed to “he or she” is unacceptable because it’s easily confused with the insulting noun usage, referring to an individual as “a he/she”?

          • Timothy (TRiG) says

            Well, he/she, or (s)he, are not quite as inclusive as truly gender-neutral pronouns, because they enforce the gender binary.

            One interesting thing about one of my Internet hangouts is that most people there use zie a lot, to refer to themselves, their spouses, and others. We have some genderqueer and some trans people, but most there are straight and cis, and yet that’s still the community norm.

            I like that.


  14. sjrosewater says

    Thanks for writing this, Natalie! I’m adding it to my Weapons of Trans Instruction inventory.

    Just two things:

    “Please don’t mention our being trans AT ALL unless it’s relevant to what you’re talking about. If it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, and we ought to just be accepted as women, men, or however we identity”

    I think maybe you should add an exemption here for those for who specifically identity as trans*. I’m speaking mostly of genderqueer people.

    And a little subject/verb agreement nitpick:

    “The process by which a transsexual person changes characteristics of their sex and gender presentation so as to feel more comfortable with their bodies and social role. May involve medical procedures such as hormone replacement therapy, genital surgery, facial feminization surgery and top surgery, legal decisions such as change of name, documentation, ID and legal sex, changes in presentation such as clothing, make-up, accessories, voice training, mannerisms and body language, etc. Each transition is unique, and there is no one prescriptive path people choose to follow.”

  15. says

    Two-spirit, yes, but Kathoey, Hijra, etc no?

    Terms that decline such as androphilia > androphilic, gynophilia > gynophilic should be spelled out; then a term such as trans lesbians (see AGP, which isn’t there! Abbr. for autogynophilia) can be parenthetically redefined as gynophilic trans women, which is clearer for not leaving ambiguity in the conflation of gender identity and sexual orientation.

    Umbrella terms should refer to the terms they encompass; if the glossary has HTML anchors placed for each heading the individual terms can be linked.

    • says

      As FAAB and MAAB are common alternates to AFAB / AMAB these should be listed at the appropriate alphabetical list with a cross-reference definition: see AFAB / AMAB (with hyperlink).

      Some extra suggestions particularly where abbreviations are concerned, seeing as these are rife:

      FT – full time, indicating that a trans person presents as their preferred gender in all social and private settings.

      F2M, FTM – both an adjective for the spectrum of trans people transitioning from female to male-identified, or applying to an individual genderqueer/trans man.

      Gender binary – the social and cultural practices and coercive pressures assigning individuals to either male or female gender identities and associated gender expression.

      HRT should have at least one main entry (defining the term) and two run-on entries for the differing types of effects or processes involved with M2F or F2M spectrum trans people.

      M2F, MTF – both an adjective for the spectrum of trans people transitioning from male to female-identified, or applying to an individual genderqueer/trans woman.

      Third gender – referring to the existence of gender in societies and cultures that do not follow a strict gender binary.

      Tranvestic Fetishist – first word should be Transvestic. And, following on…

      Transvestite – no definition! Surely the assumption that transvestism is always interpreted as fetishistic is disparaging and offensive, seeing as some trans people prefer to identify with this word as compared to cross-dresser. And explicitly linking it with fetishism buys into the deeply problematic notion that a category of trans people are sufferers of a paraphilia.

      More to follow…

    • says

      Drag – if it pleases you, add the etymology parenthetically after the definition – this allegedly entered the Polari (Palare) vernacular by way of the Romany word indraka, meaning a skirt. (And you can link it to your Piccadilly Palare thread.)

      GID – Gender Identity Disorder, indicative of a trans person suffering gender dysphoria of varying degree such as chronic distress at their biological sex or discontent with their gender role in society. A formal diagnosis of GID is usually required for an trans person to be able to access medical treatment, such as HRT or SRS; because of this, psychologists and medical practitioners often function as gatekeepers in preventing or delaying some transgender people from receiving treatment.

      Questioning – a person exploring their gender identity and/or sexual orientation but unwilling to label themselves as a particular LGBT identity may wish to call themselves questioning to indicate being unsure of their identity or unwillingness to establish it openly – or their unwillingness to facilitate the pigeonholing of their identity. Sometimes the Q in LGBTQ is interpreted as Queer/Questioning.

      Trigender – a transgender identity that embraces male and female identity as well as a genderless or androgynous third gender.

    • says


      These should be obvious, but the first one of these is most at risk of being misunderstood and often required to be explained – there being a number of reasons why a person with GID may not wish to go through with SRS, and stereotypical media representations of trans people ignore most of them. Someone who needs to consult the glossary will likely have been exposed to misinformation so it’s worthwhile correcting it. (It’s comparable to a heterosexist assumption that all gay men always have anal sex. Fact: some gay men don’t like anal sex.)

  16. says

    Women-born women / womyn-born womynoffensive, trans exclusionary term to indicate AFAB women only, usually intended to articulate a policy that excludes or denies access by trans women from using women-only spaces. Also used to denote the different birth status of trans women. (There is not a comparable term to identify cis men to the exclusion of trans men).

  17. says

    David, your pickiness and aggressiveness with your points is not very endearing and doesn’t make me want to be all that accommodating. It seems like you’ve completely forgotten to a) actually think through why I may have made certain choices (like the hyphen for “bi-gender”) and b) that I’m a human being hurriedly writing a blog post, not a fucking LGBTQA committee containing representatives of every possible iteration of gender and sexuality scrambling over ever nuance of the language to make sure it doesn’t contain any possible negative implication for anyone. I make mistakes. Deal with it. If you want them corrected, make POLITE suggestions.

    • says

      The hyphen isn’t about pickyness. To me it looks like you are implying that it’s not a real gender identity if you have the hyphen there. Just like when you correct someone who writes “transman” instead of “trans man”, it’s not about you being picky.

      But if you found my tone aggressive, I apologize. English isn’t my first language, so I’m not very good at it.

      • secha says

        Both Wikipedia and WikiQueer mention the hyphenated versions of bigender (bi-gender and bi+gender) as alternatives. So whilst it doesn’t match other gender identities, a hyphen does seem to be okay for bigender. At least according to those sources.

        It would of course be great to have someone who actually is bigender clarify that, but so far I don’t see anything wrong.

      • says

        Well, that’s not what I’m implying or why I included the hyphen. The hyphen is there because of a) clarity, and b) the fact that the term “bi” as a modifying adjective refers to bisexuality, whereas bi as a prefix (compounded into the term) implies duality. Would you prefer that bisexuality be rendered bi sexuality, for instance? “Bi-gender” is comparable to “transgender”, not to “trans man”. And we don’t write trans gender either.

  18. says

    Why do some people spell trans with an asterisk? Also, do you think it’s reasonable for genderqueer people to insist that they be referred to by a specific gender neutral pronoun? For instance, wanting ze and zahn and getting upset by ze and zir or Spivak pronouns or singular they?

  19. thaismcrc says

    Great list!

    I think I caught a small typo: “Clock / Read – A verb meaning to correctly identify as a trans person as trans.” should be “…to correctly identify a trans person as trans”, no?

  20. Vigs says

    Great list, thanks! I know you can’t include absolutely everything on one list, but I’d like to support the suggestion to add “genderfluid.” As a long-time reader who identifies that way, I feel a bit left out.

  21. says

    Good glossary overall, but for asexuality, you really should define it in terms of lack of sexual attraction, because some asexuals actually ARE interested in having sex with others, for various reasons. We just don’t feel sexual attraction for anyone. So defining it as a lack of interest in sex is very confusing and excludes a lot of us.

    (For the record, no, I don’t think you need to include other words related to asexuality, but if you’re going to include asexuality, you should at least strive for clarity.)

  22. says

    The part about santorum made me smile.

    Also, I’m glad you pointed out the part about dude. I tend to use dude towards people regardless of sex, but I’d never considered how that might come off to a trans woman… I’ll have to keep that in mind now.

    • says

      Worth noting, that guy often functions quite generically as a non-gendered term in the plural, e.g. “hey guys, what’s up?” – and at a linguistically-awkward stretch, can be interpreted in some contexts as a non-gendered singular term, whereas dude is more often totally restricted to men (especially as there is a horrible feminine form, dudette). Thus dude in the singular form is offensive, and even in the plural form, someone addressing a group with “hey dudes, how’s it hanging?” would be exponentially more offensive if the group included a trans woman or femme genderqueer person. (Such a phrase might even be a compliment to trans man to be regarded as “one of the dudes”, but I won’t make any claim to personal knowledge there.)

  23. says

    I’m confused because I recently asked a friend, who is trans-masculine, if the term described gender identity or gender presentation. They said it was about gender identity, but usually indicated less strong feelings than a trans man would feel. Here in this glossary, you say it is about gender presentation rather than identity. A quick search supports my friend’s description. Is it simply an error, or am I misunderstanding somehow?

    • says

      Maybe I’m the one misunderstanding. Frankly, I haven’t seen the term very often, and I never really use it. But the way I’ve typically seen it used is in the context of someone not feeling comfortable with assigned gender ROLE, which is an aspect of gender expression, not gender identity, which relates more strongly to body and sense of intrinsic selfhood, as removed from role. If “trans-feminine” were about gender identity, then even an extremely masculine AMAB individual could still be described as such, but that’s not the way I’ve seen the term used.

      • says

        I speculated below it could encompass several different transgender identities; to enlarge on that, it might mean a person of any gender assuming a butch presentation, so while I’d be a little surprised by a butch trans woman (i.e. AMAB) self-identifying as “trans-masculine” it isn’t my job (or anyone else’s, in fact) to play the role of gender police. This is why we need people to talk about a spectrum.

    • says


      this is where defining terminology runs smack into the wall of vernacular usage. Your friend isn’t wrong… but if ze were to turn up here, ze would find some definitions to be the wrong way round or confusing. And part of the confusion lies in trying to make pinpoint determinations for an entire spectrum of people with feelings and experiences that differ in multitudinous different ways from the rigidity of the traditional gender binary.

      For example, we have words such as female, woman, feminine and male, man, masculine – so to avoid some difficulties and ambiguities it is frequently preferable to map these to specific areas:

      Biological sex: female and male, so we have terms such as AFAB or AMAB (assigned female/male at birth) rather than AWAB / AMAB which don’t make

      Gender identity: a personal identifier for ones’ sense of self, e.g. I am a woman, or I am a genderqueer person, or I am a man (note that elements of biology don’t necessarily enter into identity, e.g. a trans man having a uterus or a trans woman having a penis doesn’t invalidate a sense of identity).

      Gender expression: traits of gender identity that are regarded as normalised as belonging to a gender or to neither/both/all gender(s); e.g. I express myself as a feminine man, or I express myself as an androgynous woman, etc.

      This is not to say trans-masculine can’t be descriptive of gender identity, but because of the ambiguity of language I would say your friend’s preferred presentation is presumably male (yes, contextually that word perhaps should be masculine!) but that may harmonise with several different gender identities, and the term by itself can’t resolve which one applies or if your friend even wishes for that gender identity to be pointed out.

      • says

        Lost half a paragraph:

        Biological sex: female and male, so we have terms such as AFAB or AMAB (assigned female/male at birth) rather than AWAB / AMAB which don’t make linguistic or chronological sense. (There are specific gendered terms for infants at birth, so substituting the adult terms there would be odd.)

  24. Paul says

    This is great, I’ve always wanted one of these. Although I knew most of the basic stuff anyway. I have a couple of questions about pronouns. I don’t think it’s always as simple as you say it is.

    1. I’ve always been told that when you’re referring to someone in the past, before they came out or started transitioning, you should still use the same pronoun as they currently use as well as their current name. For example, “when Natalie was 5 years old, she…”

    You didn’t mention this in your post, so I was wondering if I’ve got this right. Maybe you’d like to include it?

    2. I met someone (D) who is secretly a trans man and still presenting as female. D asked me to always use “she” because otherwise she might be outed. I very rarely see this person but we have a few mutual friends.

    My girlfriend wants to use “he” when talking to me in private about D, because we’re both aware of trans issues and we always use the right pronouns. It does seem more natural and comfortable that way, but I’m worried that if we use “he” in private we might slip up when D’s friends are around. It seems to me that D’s desire for safety and secrecy trumps my desire to be politically correct. What do you think?

    • says

      Brilliant post, Paul, you’ve reminded me of a couple of extra terms that are needed:

      Stealth – (1) the guarding of one’s transgender identity before coming ‘out’;
      (2) the concealment and guarding of one’s pre-transition (i.e. birth name and gender) identity after transitioning to one’s preferred gender.

      Which leads us on to:
      Deep stealth – a trans* person who has cut off all ties to their past life while they transition and their life afterwards; in some cases severing themselves from all family, friends, and acquaintances, and physically moving to and establishing a new life in a different location.

      As to your questions, yes it can be very awkward. Unless I were to employ some form of deep stealth, I am not likely to have the luxury of drawing a line between my preferred gender expression and my past history. I think in the case of transition where friends know them before and after, it’s each individual trans person’s right to set the acceptable limits and point out what is out of bounds.

      In my case, one of the awkwardnesses is having stuff published under my birth name. So talking of past me, I prefer to either anachronistically attribute such stuff to Xanthe – or otherwise, then we’re talking abstractly about a third person who is not me. It sort of works…

      What doesn’t work for me is someone saying “When Xanthe was …” followed by a deliberate misgendering noun, pronoun, or outing of my past identity, which I jump on as quickly as possible.

      Your friend D’s request is entirely pragmatic – until he is ready for you to be able to call him by his preferred gender, in a variety of social situations it will be appropriate as both a courtesy and in view of his safety, for you to use feminine pronouns. I think in private discussion – if it really is private! (e.g. not Facebook) – there should be no difficulty in (1) using male pronouns, partly to get you into the habit of thinking of your friend as he/him, since even with the best will in the world people make unconscious associations (2) using female pronouns, knowing there is a shared subtext with your g/f that to do so misgenders your friend.

      My A$0.02…

      • says

        Deep Stealth can ALSO mean the stage BEFORE transitioning where you’ve acknowledged to yourself that you are trans, and planning on transitioning, but are keeping that fact completely and totally secret from everyone in your life.

    • says

      It’s risky. Really, it’s risky to use the correct pronouns before your friend wants you to. If the consequences of you slipping up are bad (according to him obviously), then don’t do it. If they’re not so bad, you probably could do it, if you separated out the mental contexts. I did this for a friend of mine while she was part-time, referring to her as “she” in out contexts and “he” in others. It wasn’t actually that hard, though I almost used her new name once, but ironically I think it caused a problem for her: she slipped up a couple times when she was around me in the not-yet-out context. I can’t remember how she managed that in first-person, hm.

  25. wilsim says

    Can you go over the pronouns a bit, so that I can explain to my wife or have her read them?
    I don’t know them all, but Ze, Zir, Zis, etc

    You’ve really opened my eyes to some things I had been doing, and I appreciate that. I feel like I am an empathetic and understanding person, but I had been using male pronouns as default for far too long.


    • says

      Quick pronoun tute!

      Problem: misgendering people causes unnecessary offense; trans people clearly presenting themselves as men and women would obviously prefer to be identified as such and not be insulted by having their gender questioned. Since language uses pronouns in place of calling people by name all the time, the traditional first person singular pronouns decline like this:

      Nominative (subject): he or she
      Objective (object): him or her
      Possessive determiner: his or her
      Possessive pronoun: his or hers
      Reflexive: himself or herself

      However, these don’t suit everyone.

      First problem: using the neuter gender first person singular in English is highly offensive; people are not things. It may be permissible to use ‘it’ for a baby of unknown gender, but it is almost never* appropriate to use the neuter pronouns for adults (i.e. it/it/its/its/itself).

      Alternatives words:

      Using ‘one’ to stand for a pronoun: one/one/one’s/one’s/oneself — sounds very mannered, and there is potential for grammatical confusion between subject and object.
      Singular form of ‘they’: they/them/their/theirs/themself — the singular they is a little clumsy (the reflexive themself), and is very easily confused with the plural they in many contexts.

      Historical words and conventions:
      Using male pronouns (he/him/his etc) to stand in lieu of a person of any gender as a ‘default’ gender (the ‘universal he’) obviously misgenders anyone who is not male.
      Some dialects of English used to have gender neutral pronouns, e.g. “ou”, but these have all fallen into disuse.

      Alternative usage conventions:
      Alternating use of she/her followed by he/him, etc — doing this explicitly misgenders a person at least 50% of the time.
      Use of double-barrelled pronouns, s/he, her/him, his/hers, etc — again offensive for misgendering a person

      Alternative constructions: the defects of these are that (1) most of them are not well-known, (2) many of them have ambiguous pronunciation creating confusion with existing words, and (3) have would have ambiguous pronunciation even if there wasn’t confusion with existing words.
      Spivak (old form, dropping letters from he and she): e/em/eir/eirs/eirself
      Spivak (new form dropping the ‘th’ from they): ey/em/eir/eirs/emself
      Xe**: xe/xem/xyr/xyrs/xemself
      Ze (or zie or sie): ze/zir or zem/zir/zirs/zirself

      … and numerous other constructions cited as further reading at Wikipedia.

      * At least one trans person might prefer it, so you never know.
      ** Being an X person myself, I quite like Xese.

      • wilsim says

        Ty for the link to wikipedia, and especially for explaining the pronouns, their uses and problems.
        I’m going to have to read through them all. Words are powerful, and I do not want to use them in an abusive way, even in ignorance.

      • Anders says

        Minor nitpick – that would be third person.

        Minor rant – there is currently a debate in Sweden about introducing ‘hen’ as a gender-neutral pronoun. People are worried that this will confuse the poor children, probably leading to the downfall of society if this goes on (I may be guilty of slight hyperbole here :)). Apparently they’ve never heard of Finnish, where ‘hen’ is the indigenous word meaning… he or she depending on context. *sigh*

        • Arctic Ape says

          I suppose “hen” is the Swedish spelling of Finnish “hän”, with the wowel pronounced as in “hat”?
          It might be more logical to describe it genderless rather than context-dependent gender. Then again, that might be just my Finnish perception since we don’t have gendered options at all 🙂 Works generally just fine, except in straight erotica it would be handy to be able to identify two characters as genders.

          • Rasmus says

            That would depend on your Swedish dialect. I’d pronounce it exactly as I pronounce the English word ‘hen’ (the domesticated bird). 🙂

            Nobody knows exactly how ‘hen’ supposed to be used. There’s no way of mandating that a word is used in a certain way, but you can try to come up with a word that you think will catch on and try to convince people to use it.

            Swedish feminists have successfully introduced a child-friendly name for the female genitals, similar to the child-friendly name for the male genitals that we’ve had since time immemorial. They modeled it after the male one. (snopp – penis; snippa – vagina/vulva)

            Snippa began to catch on in the late 00’s and it has become popular and accepted to the point that recently, when a far-right extremist youth group left an angry message at a gender-aware pedagogy preschool, it read [my translation] “Boys have a snopp. Girls have a snippa.”

  26. Sas says

    Would it be useful to expand the entry for “sexual orientation” to explain that a trans person’s sexual orientation should be labeled based on their gender identity, not their assigned sex? I mean, androphilia and gynophilia are great terms and I wish they had wider use, but since people are going to be using “gay/straight” anyway, it’s worth a mention just for clarity. I’ve heard even people who claim to be trans-accepting calling straight trans women “gay” for being attracted to men, for example.

    • says

      Seconding this.

      I’ve already pointed out the problematic use of ‘trans lesbians’ under autogynophilia, but I subsequently realised my objection was itself, slightly inaccurate: the offensive BBL etiology of AGP erroneously categorises all trans women as either (1) ‘true’ transsexuals if they are androphilic – what we would term as a hetero trans woman, but which the medical literature confusingly terms as “homosexual transsexual women”, or (2) autogynophiles if they are non-androphilic – which can include asexual and bisexual as well as lesbian-identifying trans women. Again, for autogynephiles the medical literature confusingly uses a term of non-homosexual transsexual women, which spells out in loud and clear transphobic terms that the writers cannot admit that transsexuals should be identified by their preferred gender.

  27. daenyx says

    This is a ridiculously specific circumstance, but it’s come up more than once because I like to babble to people about music I like, and is likely to do so again: There’s an artist I really enjoy who is transgendered, and performed music both when he was still presenting as a woman, and now after transition. I’ve found myself tripping up on pronoun and name when referring to him in context of his older music (performed and distributed under his birth name). Is there… any sort of convention for this kind of thing? When trying to recommend his music to someone, I tend to speak as if I’m talking about two different artists, but that doesn’t quite seem right even though it avoids the confusion of trying to look up the older music by his chosen name.

    • says

      Where there is an obvious continuity between a transgender musician’s previous work and zir current work, you should always endeavour to use zir current name and gender, even if it is an obvious anachronism for the older part of zir œuvre.

      Incidentally, this is something I’m personally facing the prospect of, since I have numerous published compositions and editions of other music under my birth name – and no, I’m not going to provide a link!

      For example, you may come across the name of Walter Carlos browsing through old 1960s records, but there is no reason now why searches for artists should use her assigned birth name, except for finding instances where transcribing old info hasn’t been updated to include her real name, Wendy Carlos.

    • Dalillama says

      What Xanthe said is generally true, but if the artist to whom you refer is Alexander James Adams, he continues to refer to his pre-transition works as being by Heather Alexander, and the albums are sold as such. He generally refers to his pre-transition identity as though she (Alexander’s word) was a completely different person, as do his associates.

      • daenyx says

        I was, actually. Thank you – I’ll use Xanthe’s advice by default, but if that’s Adams’ expressed preference then that makes it easy.

        • says

          Yeah – it sounds like Adams is drawing a clear dividing line marking off his older work rather than establishing continuity. Speaking about his past identity as though he were talking about a separate person seems odd, but there is a certain logic in it.

  28. Anders says

    There’s been a lot of discussion – sometimes heated – about this dictionary, so I just want to say that the basic structure is great. And you have done a fantastic work clarifying things for me. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


    • says

      Oh, but without bishoujo we’ll be accused of sexism… ;D

      Let’s not get into the many, many terms used in other languages and the greater fan-verse. They are legion.

  29. Sithrazer says

    I didn’t read through all the comments, so someone may have pointed this out already.

    I don’t know for sure where it originated in this useage, but in MMO’s when someone plays a character of the opposite gender it’s referred to as being a ‘shim’. I didn’t even realize until seeing it in your list that it’s structure is s/him, because it’s not used as a pronoun. The sentence usually goes something like this:
    “[character name] is a shim.”

    Whether or not the words arose from the same place (they probably did) the MMO useage is considered (by some) an impolite way to say a character’s gender isn’t the same as the player’s gender.

    • says

      It hasn’t been touched on, up-thread.

      Shim is arguably a derogatory word, being an obvious contraction of she-him. This is not to say that there aren’t some trans people might use it as an okay usage; it’s still rather likely to be viewed as problematic for most.

      I also think the usage of it in MMOs that you cited argues against it is a positive word, since I rather doubt the people likely to be using it are either intersex or trans people, and if not are unlikely to be aware of the language issues: “[person] is a [noun]” is a clearly reductive construction which diminishes transgender identity to being on the level of the gender pigeonhole, compared to “[person] is [adjective]”.

      • sithrazer says

        I’ll be honest, I don’t get the relevance of the sentence structure comparison. Maybe I just don’t understand what point you’re trying to make with it.

        That said, sometimes it’s very clearly being used in a derogatory fashion, other times it’s not. Personally, I just refer to others as the gender of the character they are playing unless/until informed otherwise.

        • says

          The linguistic argument: compare “Natalie is female” with “Natalie is a female”; in the first sentence, female functions as an adjective, while in the second Natalie is defined as a noun, “a female”. Nouning a person reduces a person to the level of the category, rather than the category being an attribute of the person. In fact the second sentence would be better written as “Natalie is a woman”, since that’s the appropriate noun to use to not objectify a person.

          Anyway, that’s the usual argument why the word transgender is properly used as an adjective, not a noun; if Natalie is also transgender as well as being female, then “Natalie is transgender” is descriptive and inoffensive; “Natalie is a transgender” is conflating a person with the category.

          • sithrazer says

            Okay, I see the distinction you’re making there. I’m typically not that nuanced about my grammar and word choice. It feels like it’s being over-thought and over-analysed most of the time, especially if I’m trying to make the distinction myself.

      • Orakio says

        Gender and MMO tend to intersect very strangely, due to the level of disconnect between player and avatar, and the major differences in sexuality and social structure in the MMO world vs the physical world.

        There is no reproductive act. There isn’t really such a thing as a family line. With few exceptions, you don’t need to rely on other people for day-to-day life in an MMO. What’s left over tends to be what we drag in for ourselves from the physical world… prejudices included.

        I will freely admit that I haven’t played on a fully ‘public’ server for a couple years, but I did spend about 8 years as an avatar that was not the same gender as my birth assignment. During this time, I preferred to call it “crossplaying”, by analogy to crossdressing, though I didn’t really discuss it with many people. Sometimes, some (surprisingly rarely) guildmates would come out to be crossplaying, for reasons wide spread, and since I was positioned to, I generally tried to guide people to use the appropriate pronoun for the gender being presented, that is, the gender of the avatar. I never ran into the “shim” term myself, but probably would have found it insulting.

        What I did run into, and which didn’t help things much when I was embroiled in the process of figuring out my sexuality for myself was when people floated the question, “Are they really a boy or a girl?” There were days I found it amusing, and days that I really, really didn’t even want to know what was driving people to debate what my birth assignment was. Some people did look down on me for it, though thankfully, I faced less of this online than the typical transgender person would in the physical world. And yes, one or two harassers.

        So, if you’re in the MMO world, please do treat people as the gender they present there, too, and have some tact.

  30. Sebor says

    I was wondering why you included Femmephobia in the list but not Misogyny? I’m sometimes confused which of the two is more appropriate for a given situation, so I would like some clarification.

    Also the corresponding term for Misogyny is Misandry, but what would be the equivalent in the case of Femmephobia?
    Probably not entirely relevant to this glossary, but I’ve seen accusations in the context of education and ADHD that typical masculine behaviour is often seen as disruptive so maybe a masculine counterpart of Femmephobia could be useful. Somehow I don’t see “Hommephobia” catching on though.

  31. says

    Thank you, Natalie. I learned a lot from this. In the past I was often confused about the correct terminology, due to ignorance on my part, and I sometimes worry about inadvertently insulting trans people. (And I’m not the only one; I’ve sometimes seen even well-meaning cis journalists get the terminology really wrong when writing about a trans person, for example.) Your lexicon is very helpful for avoiding these problems, and I’ve bookmarked it for reference.

    (Unfortunately, even in progressive circles I’ve also come across many idiots who think that transphobic slurs are acceptable. There’s so much ignorance and prejudice out there. Here in Massachusetts, normally a progressive state, it wasn’t until last year that the Transgender Equal Rights Act was finally passed – and even now, it still doesn’t include protection against discrimination in public accommodations.)

  32. says

    Thank you. Please do make this a permanent page, because it would be useful to anyone who’s new to this. It would have been fantastically useful to me 15 years ago when my cubicle mate started to look rather different. I was totally clueless at the time, and she wasn’t much better informed either. We’ve both learned a lot since then.

    • says

      Some trans people being opposed to a given term or use doesn’t immediately render it “inaccurate”, it simply means my definition isn’t definitive or all-encompassing. When people say “passing”, they generally mean the sense I described.

      Again, I’d like to make it clear that my priority in writing this glossary was clarity for those who do not yet understand these words, not appeasement of those who do and have formed opinions about them.

      • says

        Most people don’t intend to be misogynist when they call someone a “bitch”. Does that remove the misogynist aspect of the word? Do you think it would be a good idea to teach others–who don’t know about “bitch” being a misogynist term–that it’s perfectly acceptable to use?

    • says

      While I can understand that perspective, this seems to be a classic case of differing connotation. If the sense described in your post can be shown to the be the preeminent understanding, then I would recommend changing it. This is the first time I’ve seen it given such a negative and oppressive outlook, though admittedly it also makes sense from that viewpoint.

      • says

        Connotation doesn’t change the inherent cissexism behind the term, nor does a lack of awareness among the trans community. Just because it is in widespread use, doesn’t make the term less problematic.

    • says

      What?! There is sometimes one pop-up ad that occasionally comes up when clicking on an FTB page (if you haven’t set your browser to disable pop-ups), but certainly there aren’t a multitude of them, nor are they “so intrusive” as to make reading this network impossible. You’ll notice other people are able to do so no probs. If you were dealing with a bunch of annoying pop-ups (plural), it’s not on account of FTB. More likely because of malware, or some other window you had open.

      • Timothy (TRiG) says

        Yes, Natalie. It is FTB. On some browser combinations (I’ve had it on Firefox/Ubuntu, the pop-up ad (singular) appears multiple times, possibly up to fifty or more times. All the same ad. It’s crashed my browser more than once.

        I don’t have the same problems on Windows.


  33. Ralph Wiggam says

    Thank you. I had no idea that I would have to expand my vocabulary so extensively just so that I can understand the issues that are important to you. It was worth it. I now have the basis for understanding. You’ve done a great job.

  34. K says

    Uh, not to cheapen the point, but ‘Genderqueer’ is one of many non-binary identities, and a lot of non-binaries feels that using genderqueer to describe all of us – the genderfluids, the neutrois, the agender, the genderfucks etc – is fairly erasive.
    It’s like using ‘gay’ to refer to all queer people, you know?
    Other than that this is very well put together, although the inclusion of asexuality but not other non-mono sexualities kind of confuses me.

  35. julie says

    Oh god, I never realized “vagina havers” is this exclusive! I’ve used it many times when referring to being treated in a sexist way, as in: “well they liked our ideas until they realized we were just a bunch of vagina-havers”. Seriously, thanks for pointing that out, I’m genuinely sorry and I can only hope I’ve never used it in front of or referring to someone who could have been triggered or plain offended. It’s one of the instances when we don’t realize our cis priviledge and end up being unintentionally offensive due to being ignorant and unaware.

  36. Emmers says

    I have a question about a term that I’ve heard that is *bad* do use — “male-bodied” or “female-bodied.” I saw it criticized in a place that is explicitly *not* a 101-level forum, so I didn’t want to get into it there, but a friend recommended your site and I thought I might ask here. If it’s not appropriate for this site, that’s completely okay!

    Disclaimers stated, my question is: Is it appropriate to use these terms when referring to an individual’s physical sex (vs. their gender), and if not appropriate, what terms *should* be used? For example, if you’re talking about Pap smears, which are an important medical procedure for both cis women and many trans men, what is an appropriate term for “cis women and trans men” ?

    I have seen “persons with uteri” used in the context of childbearing (e.g. Thomas Beatie), but I don’t know if that would be appropriate here either.

    Thanks for any advice you can give!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *