Glossary of gender related terms
A quick note on ’trans’ and ‘minorities’
1. We say ‘transgender,’ or ‘trans’ as catch all terms for all sex and gender minorities, including intersex, transsexual, takataapui and other indigenous genders.
2. Sometimes people ask, ”Why do you say Gender Minorities instead of Gender Diverse?”
The answer is that ”Diverse” means there is much variety, while a ”Minority Group” is a category of people who are seen as different to the social majority, and are discriminated against on that basis.
We feel that this language acknowledges struggle and honours resilience.
Gender Minorities Aotearoa acknowledges that language is always evolving, thus some of the terms here will not fit with how people know themselves to be.
This glossary is a guide only, please see links at the bottom of the page for other glossaries and interpretations of gender language.
Gender or Gender Identity (same same)
One’s actual, internal sense of being male or female, neither of these, both, etc. Everyone has a gender, including you. In some circles, gender identity is falling out of favour, as one does not simply identify as a gender, but is that gender.
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is culturally typically associated with the gender/sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms or may simply use transgender. Some of those terms are defined below.Some people who fit this definition may not consider themselves to be under the transgender unbrella or transgender. Use the descriptive term preferred by the individual.
Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will want to take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures. The term transgender is not indicative of sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.
An older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. Still preferred by some people who have changed or seek to change their bodies – this can involve hormone replacement therapy (HRT), genital reconstruction surgery (GRS), top surgery (removal of breasts), permanent facial and other hair removal, and/or other medical treatments.
In some circles, the term has started to fall out of favour due to its perceived focus on medical transition, however, those who prefer transsexual often see it as an important distinction due to the definitive experience of incongruity/dissonance/dysphoria with one’s body, which is often the cause of specific medical needs.
Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and many transsexual people do not identify as transgender. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers. If preferred, use as an adjective: for example transsexual woman or transsexual man.
Cis, Cisgender and Cissexual
Prefix or adjective that means not trans. Cisgender people identify more or less with the gender assigned to them at birth. In discussions regarding trans issues, one would differentiate between women who are trans and women who aren’t by saying trans women and cis women. Cis is not an insult, but a neutral descriptor – much like heterosexual is to homosexual.
Trans is used as an abbreviation of either transgender or transsexual, or as an umbrella in the same way that transgender is used.
Some non-binary and other gender non-conforming people use trans* (with the asterisk, pronounced tran-star) to indicate that they’re definitely not cis, but not necessarily a trans woman/man either. Some use it as a broad umbrella of inclusivity.
Others see trans* as unnecessary due to trans and transgender already existing as umbrella terms which capture all non-cis identities. In some areas trans* is gaining popularity while in others popularity is rapidly declining.
Gender Expression / Presentation
The physical expression of one’s gender through clothing, hairstyle, voice, make up, body shape, etc. Most transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender (who they are).
The assignment and classification of people as male or female based on imprecise perceptions of their physical anatomy. Sex is not fixed or immutable, and no single criterion (e.g. genitals, chromosomes, hormones, fertility) definitively describes one’s bodily shape or configuration.
The Sex Binary
An incorrect system of viewing sex as consisting solely of two categories, termed male and female, with two sets of matching chromosomes, hormone levels, reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics.
The sex binary assumes that sex is immutable biological fact and asserts that no other possibilities or anatomy are believed to exist, or should be allowed to exist.
This system is oppressive, and is the cause of marginalisation for people who do not fit within the sex binary.
AFAB/AMAB (sometimes CAFAB / CAMAB)
Acronyms meaning assigned female at birth or assigned male at birth. When the ‘C’ is added, it stands for ‘coercively’. In cases when it’s necessary to refer to the birth-assigned sex of a trans person, this is the way to do it.
The Gender Binary
Similar to the sex binary, the gender binary is an incorrect system of viewing gender as consisting solely of two categories, termed male and female, in which no other possibilities for gender or anatomy are believed to exist. Gender is not fixed or immutable, and no physical criterion (e.g. genitals, chromosomes, hormones) defines one’s gender. Gender is experiential, and only the person themself can define their gender.
The gender binary system is oppressive, and is the cause of marginalisation for people who do not fit within the gender binary.
Trans woman refers to a woman who was assigned male at birth.
She may or may not be identified by others as trans, and may or may not identify herself as trans. It is grammatically and definitionally correct to include a space between trans and woman.
Trans man refers to a man who was assigned female at birth.
He may or may not be identified by others as trans, and may or may not identify himself as trans. It is grammatically and definitionally correct to include a space between trans and man.
Takataapui refers to Maori who are not heterosexual and/or not cisgender.
It is used both as a primary gender identity (similar to transgender), as a primary sexual orientation (similar to Lesbian, gay, bi, or pansexual), and as an umbrella term for all non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender Maori people (similar to ‘Rainbow Community)’.
A takataapui person may fit the definitions or behaviours of a lesbian, pansexual, transgender, gay, intersex, bisexual, asexual, or any other identity, but may or may not identify with western concepts or English words for these.
Used as an adjective to describe the genders female/male or woman/man.
Preferred umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man, used as an adjective (e.g. Elsa is a binary trans woman and Jesse is non-binary).
Transitioning from being seen as one’s birth assigned gender to one’s actual gender. Transition generally initially includes social elements, and may also include medical treatments such laser hair removal, hormone therapy, or various surgeries.
Social elements may include changing one’s clothes, hair, name (socially and maybe legally), changing the gender marker on one’s legal documents, binding breasts or wearing breast forms, etc. There is no wrong way to transition, and no one right way.
A person’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to others. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same.
Trans people can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, pansexual, queer, etc. just like anyone else. For example, a trans woman who is primarily attracted to other women may identify as lesbian.
A person’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to others.
An asexual person is not primarily motivated by sexual drive and sexual attractions, though they may experience sexual attraction in some circumstances or have sexual relationships for a vast number of different reasons other than primary sexual attraction.
Currently being redefined to mean that one is attracted to both their own gender, as well as other genders, or to genders similar to their own and different from their own. This better reflects the common experience of bisexual people (rather than simply attracted to binary men and binary women).
Open to attraction to any genders.
Similar to bisexual or pansexual, but with a stated heterosexual preference.
Commonly used to indicate that one is primarily interested in heterosexual relationships but is “flexible” when it comes to physical sexual activities. The same concepts apply to homoflexible.
A person who sees trans people (usually trans women) as inherently sexual, and sexually objectifies them. As opposed to someone who simply is predominantly attracted to trans women; a chaser does not view trans women as whole people with agency, but rather as players in a sexual fantasy.
Heteronormative / Heteronormativity
This refers to the deeply held institutional beleif that relationships between heterosexual masculine cis men and heterosexual feminine cis women are normal/natural/right, while all other relationships are viewed as abnormal/inferior/wrong.
Broadly used to indicate that one rejects heteronormativity and is not heterosexual – though sometimes queer is also used by heterosexual transgender people.
Queer is sometimes used as an umbrella term to mean not heterosexual, or sometimes not cisgender. Because of the non-heterosexual connotation, many heterosexual trans people do not like to be called queer and may see this as being misgendered and called homosexual. The word queer has long been used as a slur, so although it is commonly reclaimed, be a little cautious with its use.
Similar to queer, but more specific to rejecting binary genders.
Those who identify as genderqueer may identify as neither male nor female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, or may simply feel restricted by gender labels. Some genderqueer people do identify within the binary (e.g. “genderqueer woman”), but reject the conventions and expectations associated with that gender.
A rejection of labeling one’s physical body as female or male. Being sexqueer is not indicative of one’s current anatomy, birth assignment, or birth anatomy, and should definitely not be confused with intersex.
Describes a person whose natal physical sex characteristics (e.g. anatomy, chromosomes) are ambiguous in the context of the male/female sex binary. A person may not know they have intersex anatomy until they reach puberty and their body changes differently than expected, or until they find themselves infertile as an adult.
When an intersex infant is born with ambiguous external genitalia, parents and medical professionals typically assign them a binary sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant’s body to that assignment.
This practice is oppressive and is increasingly recognised as unethical and abusive; as intersex adults are speaking out against having been made to undergo potentially harmful medical procedures which they did not consent to.
Being intersex does not necessarily imply anything regarding one’s gender, orientation, or trans status.
Transvestite’ was once used to mean transsexual prior to the word ‘transsexual’ being coined in the 1970’s, however now it’s usage is more similar to ‘cross dresser’.
Do NOT use this term to describe someone unless they self identify with this word.
Most commonly used to describe someone who primarily identifies with their birth assigned gender, but enjoys dressing as other genders. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and for many, this is an integral part of their identity. Coros dressing is not necessarily tied to erotic activity, nor is it indicative of one’s sexual orientation.
Do NOT use this term to describe someone unless they self identify with this word.
Queens, Drag Queens, Drag Kings, Drag
Drag queens and drag kings are cross-dressing performers who take on stylised, exaggerated gender presentations for show, however for many, this is an integral part of their identity.
Historically, before the term ”transsexual” came out in the 1970’s, the term drag queen or simply Queen referred to trans women, whereas men who cross dressed as women for performance only were called butch queens. Many older trans women in New Zealand still prefer the term Queen, however others may see this as an insult. Use with extreme caution.
Gender Fluid, bigender
These are non-binary gender identities that indicate shifting between different genders or presentations. They are similarly used by those who feel they have both male and female sides to their personalities, such as some drag queens, some drag kings, and some cross-dressers.
Do not confuse these terms with Two-Spirit, a gender identity specific to Native American and First Nations cultures.
Neutrois and Agender
One who feels neutral in their gender or who rejects the influence of gender on their person. Sometimes the term nongendered are used in a similar fashion.
Identifying as neutrois or agender is not indicative of one’s anatomy, birth assignment, or pronoun preference, and can be used in conjunction with another gender signifier, for example neutrois woman
A peson who feels both masculine and feminine, or who has a gender expression with both masculine and feminine characteristics.
An identity or presentation of non-heteronormative, reclaimed, queer masculinity.
Butch can be an adjective (she’s a butch woman), a verb (he went home to butch up), or a noun (they identify as a butch).
Although commonly associated with masculine queer/lesbian women, it’s used by many to describe a distinct gender identity and/or expression, and does not necessarily imply that one also identifies as a woman.
An identity or presentation of non-heteronormative, reclaimed, queer femininity.
Femme can be an adjective (he’s a femme boy), a verb (she loves to femme up), or a noun (they’re a femme).
Although commonly associated with feminine lesbian/queer women, it’s used by many to describe a distinct gender identity and/or expression, and does not necessarily imply that one also identifies as a woman.
Clinical term referring to dissonance between one’s assigned gender and/or one’s body, and one’s personal sense of self. Prior to the DSM-V, the term “gender identity disorder” was used, but that was removed as it often led to gender variance being stigmatized and misdiagnosed as a pathological condition.
Fear, discomfort, distrust, or hatred directed towards trans people or trans concepts. This word is used similarly to homophobia, etc.
The unique combination of misogyny, or hatred of women, with transphobia, or hatred of trans people.
Cissexism / Cissupremacy
Bias in favor of cis people over trans people, or beliefs that cis people are inherently superior to trans, more real, more natural, etc. This often refers to systems which advantage cis people over trans people or unconscious systems of thought, rather than transphobic individuals.
Being read is the gender one wishes to be read as (usually used in a binary cisgender context).‘Passing’ is falling out of fashion as it is seen to imply that one should desire to look cisgender.
Sexual Reconstruction Surgery / SRS
or Genital Reconstruction Surgery/GRS
Refers to several different types of surgical procedures.
These terms are both preferred over “sex change operation” or anything with “reassignment.” Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have GRS.
Overemphasising the importance of GRS to the transition or affirmation process should be avoided.
Gender Minorities Aotearoa’s Glossary is free to use – please reproduce it in full with original credits.
Erin’s Trans Glossary
New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective‘s Doing it in Style
GLAAD Media Reference Guide (9th addition)