Terminology

This is a living page – I’ll add to it as new terms need to be defined.

Words are important.  Sometimes words have many definitions – in the interest of clarity, I’ll define how I use words on this blog.

Terminology in sex and gender can be complex.  I do my best to try to respect everyone.  That means:

  • When I refer to a specific individual, If I know what they prefer, I use the terms, names, and pronouns they prefer.  Even if I normally would use other words for people in their group.  Even if I’m a member of their group.
  • When referring to a group or characteristics that a group has, I try to determine, as best as I can, what terms are respectful. This means seeking out voices of people with first-hand knowledge and determining what agreement among many voices might exist.  This can be hard and we can make mistakes.

This isn’t political correctness!  It’s simple respect and consideration.

With that in mind, some terminology – as always, please let me know if you feel any of these may not be the best definition or terms.  Note that none of these are universally agreed upon, although I think most in the relevant communities would agree with my definitions.

  • Asexual: Someone without sexual attraction or interest.  Not someone who wants sex but circumstances prevent, but someone who has no desire for sex.
  • Ally: Someone who is not a member of a community but supports members of that community.  For instance, a straight person might be an ally of  the LGBT community if they are supportive of LGBT equality.
  • Autistic: Someone who is autistic.  “Autistic”, not “person with autism”, is the preferred term by most autistic adults (including this one!) for autistic people.  See Autistic Hoya’s excellent article. I mention this as I, myself, am autistic.
  • Cis*: A prefix applied to “male”, “female” – cismale / cisfemale to indicate that the person has always been considered of a given sex/gender by others (I.E. never considered trans).  Both are considered “cisgendered”. I’m not personally a fan of this term.
  • Cross Dresser: Someone who identifies in a way that matches expectations of their sex, but sometimes wears clothing of associated with a different gender.
  • FTM (Female to Male): A person transitioning from female to male. Provided their gender expression is that of a man, they should generally be referred to as a man (not a transman or otherwise), unless they inform you otherwise.
  • Gender: Whether someone is a man or woman (or other). This term is not a synonym or more polite way of asking for someone’s sex! Gender is independent of a person’s body. Typically, males (sex) are men (gender), but not always.
  • Gender Expression: How a person presents themselves to the world.  Generally, this should be your cue for pronouns and titles unless you know the person prefers otherwise. A person may have a masculine or feminine or other type of expression (not to be confused with male and female, which are terms used for sex).
  • Gender Identity: How the person identifies themselves, internally. This can be in conflict with the person’s gender expression.
  • Intersex: Someone who has ambiguous biological sexual characteristics. See Wikipedia. This is distinct from transsexual or transgender in most peoples’ usage.
  • LGBT (or GLBT): An acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. Sometimes has additional letters, such as LGBTQ (Questioning and/or Queer) or LGBTI (intersexed) to be more inclusive.
  • MTF (Male to Female): Someone transitioning from male to female. Provided their gender expression is that of a woman, they should generally be referred to as a woman (not transwoman or otherwise), unless they inform you otherwise.
  • Non-Trans: People who are not trans. This can include people who have transitioned and no longer feel their sex is in disagreement with their identity.
  • Sex: When not referring to sexual acts, refers to the biological sex – typically male or female. Sex on this blog refers to biological traits, including chromosomes, gonads, hormone levels, genitals, secondary sex characteristics (muscle, fat distribution, hair, etc). Sex determination is extremely complex, particularly for intersex individuals, and is not without controversy, as many people do not fit neatly into one box or the other (nor should everyone be forced into one of two boxes if their body doesn’t agree with either box). A specific sex does not imply a gender. Males (sex) can be men (gender) or women (gender), for instance. A transsexual desires to change sex. Sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) is a means of changing sex and their sex should be considered to be the destination sex of their surgery.
  • Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS): Might also be referred to as Gender (or Genital) Reassignment Surgery (GRS). This is what it says – changing the body of a person. Not all trans or intersexed people seek this option, while others who would choose it lack the resources to obtain it. For the curious, a search for “sex reassignment surgery” will provide answers to questions about what this might involve.
  • Sexual Orientation: A simplified way of explaining who someone might be attracted to. Can include asexuality, bisexuality, gay, lesbian, or other sexualities. Note that trans/transgender/transsexual/intersex is not a sexual orientation, as the gender someone sees themselves as has nothing to do with whether or not they are attracted to the same gender or the opposite gender!
  • Trans (or trans*): A group encompassing both transgender and transsexual people, and often also cross dressers.
  • Transgender: Someone who violates gender stereotypes, but may or may not desire to change their body through surgery. This is seen as distinct by many from transsexual, in that transsexuals feel a strong desire to change and to be someone different then their current sex. Transgender is sometimes used as an umbrella for all gender diversity, but some people will object to that usage. For that reason, this blog uses “trans” for that purpose.
  • Transman / Transwoman: A man (transman) or woman (transwoman) that is trans. Note that it is generally most respectful to refer to someone by their gender identity alone, without the trans prefix, unless they identify that way. So, if I was talking about a friend that was MTF (see above), I would generally refer to that person as a woman unless she wanted people to know she was trans, in which case I might say transwoman.
  • Transsexual: Someone who identifies with the other sex and desires (whether it is achieved or not) to align their body with that sex. Many people who have had sex reassignment surgery feel they have successfully transitioned and thus are not “trans” anymore, but simply a man or a woman (depending on their destination sex). In this context “trans” is often seen to mean “transitional” with an ending point that can be reached.
  • Transvestite: When someone doesn’t self-identify this way, this word is offensive.  See cross dresser, transgender, transsexual, and trans for appropriate words.

2 thoughts on “Terminology

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