Terms for the topic
FTM (female to male)
MTF (male to female)
Preferred gender pronouns
*Less commonly used today; sometimes used in misguided ways. It is always appropriate, however, to use the terminology preferred by an individual.
Trans* people face high rates of violence and harrassment—upwards of 60% among high income trans* people, and higher rates for lower income trans* people—many hurdles in legal and medical establishments in getting their genders institutionally recognized, and disproportionate burdens of mass incarceration, mental health issues, and workplace discrimination. Trans* people have also often been understood under clinical or medical lenses rather than as whole people. However, trans* people are also gaining increased recognition and visibility, with successes of young trans* people fighting for the right to use the restroom corresponding with their gender in schools and critical acclaim given to Laverne Cox for her role in the television series Orange is the New Black. Although gender nonconforming people have been historically linked to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate things, and it is important to understand how trans* lives differ from cis queer people's. This guide is meant to provide resources and definitions for students interested in beginning research on trans* identity, trans* lives, or social issues affecting trans* people.
Trans* (or trans) is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity—their interior understanding of themselves as a man, woman, neither, or both—or gender expression—their demonstrated masculine or feminine traits—do not match up with dominant understanding of the gender they were assigned at birth. Trans* is used to be inclusive of people who fall anywhere across the spectrum of gender, including transgender, transsexual, cross-dressing, genderqueer, and other gender non-conforming people.
Transgender is used by people to self-identify as not conforming, identifying, or presenting as the gender assigned to them based on their assumed sex at birth. A transgender person may identify and present with traits commonly associated with male or female genders, elsewhere on a gender continuum, or outside of traditional gender spectra. Transgender is solely used as an adjective.
Transgender pride flag (public domain)
Cisgender (or cis, cissexual) is a term used to refer to people whose gender identity and expression mostly align with the gender assigned to them at birth; a positive way of saying "not-trans."
Genderqueer is a term used by many people whose gender identity and expression does not fit stable, normative categories of male or female (man or woman). Genderqueer people may identify themselves as distorting or merging conceptions of gender and orientation (e.g., androgyne, genderf*ck), moving between genders (e.g., gender fluid), as two or more genders (e.g., bigender, pangender), without gender (e.g., gender neutral, agender), or as a separate gender (e.g., third gender). Genderqueer people may prefer to use gender neutral pronouns (e.g., ze/hir/hirs or they/them/theirs).
Transsexual is used most generally to refer to a person who identifies and wishes to be known as the sex and gender "opposite" to the one they were assigned at birth and may take steps to align their gender presentation with their identification through a process of transition. After transitioning, a person may not identify as transgender or transsexual any longer but as a man or woman. Transsexual is thought by some to be an overly clinical term, and since it is sometimes used in misguided ways, its use is less frequent than it once was; it is always appropriate to use the terminology preferred by any one individual.
Transphobia is the term used to describe aversion toward, fear of, or hatred of people whose gender identity or expression does not match the gender they were believed to have been assigned at person or who are gender variant or gender non-conforming. Transphobia can manifest as violence, misgendering, lack of access to adequate and appropriate health care, employment discrimination, and social exclusion.