Skip to content

Glossary of transgender words

These are some words, phrases, and ideas you might hear or read when learning about transgender people. Words are like living things. New ones are born, and old ones can change over time.

Because transgender people are still finding our voices, many of the words used about us and by us change quickly. That means dictionaries can’t always keep up. That includes this one.

See also this list of acronyms and this list of slang, slurs, and controversial words.

Last revision: June 2019. Longer list to come.

Key terms to know

cisgender: non-transgender.

crossdresser: someone who enjoys wearing clothing and accessories intended for a different gender role. This can be done for both sexual and non-sexual reasons.

drag: a type of expression that typically involves exaggerated performance of gendered characteristics. A performer is called a drag queen if they perform as a feminine persona or a drag king if they perform as a masculine persona.

feminine: characteristics or behaviors associated with women in a culture.

feminization: adapting mannerisms or a phenotype deemed feminine in a culture.

gatekeeping: beliefs and practices of any professional caregiver who regulates access to transgender health services. Many caregivers consider the term pejorative.

gender: a concept that means type or kind. Some languages have a gender for some words (masculine, feminine, neuter). The concept of gender is also used for how types of people look and act. Some cultures think of gender as having only two types: masculine and feminine. This is called a gender binary. Some cultures have a third gender, so gender does not always match up with sex.

gender role: The behaviors, traits, thoughts, and dress expected by a culture of members of a particular gender classification.

gender aschematic: Identity and behavior that does not consider gender an important factor. For instance, if your responses to a person are the same regardless of gender, you are “gender aschematic.”

gender schematic: an internalized pattern of responses based on gender roles. Behavior that considers gender an important factor in one’s behavior. For instance, if your responses to a person are different depending on gender, you are gender schematic.

genderqueer: identity and behavior where one can’t or won’t follow a culture’s rules about gender roles.

intersex: physical characteristics with an overlap of sex differentiation. The value-neutral term is differences of sex development.

queer: an overarching term for anyone outside sex and gender norms.

sex: processes in the body related to the production of gametes.

t*: an abbreviation for trans.

trans (adjective): transgender: “She’s trans,” or “That is a trans-friendly business.”

transfolk: also trans folk, a gender-neutral term for trans people collectively, regardless of gender.

transgender: An umbrella term for anyone whose gender identity or expression does not fit with the gender role they were assigned at birth.

transition: changing social, legal, or medical aspects of your gender expression. Also a verb: “I transitioned when I was in high school.”

transman: also trans man, a trans person with a male or masculine gender identity.

trans-attracted: someone attracted to transgender people.

transphobia: fear and hatred of transgender people.

transwoman: also trans woman, a trans person with a female or feminine gender identity.


The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality (2019)



Julia Serano (