This is a reference page explaining terms that are used in conversations around gender. I’ll be adding to it over time as I learn more.

Before we dive into the vocab list, here are some general concepts to understand about gender.

Gender is different from orientation

This page is specifically about gender, which is different from orientation.

The orientation of a person is all about sexual attraction. People can be sexually attracted to the same gender (e.g. gay, lesbian, straight), multiple genders (e.g. bisexual, pansexual), or not attracted to any (e.g. asexual).

I talk more about the differences between this things in this article.

This article does not cover orientation beyond what you just read. Instead I focus on gender, which has to do with a person’s sense of self.

There’s lots of overlap between terms

Many of the terms fit together and overlap with each other. Multiple terms can describe the same person at once. Gender identities aren’t just a huge list of individual terms—think of it more like a very interlinked network with parent terms, child terms, and terms that overlap with each other.

Here’s an example of some of that at work. This chart is a little bit oversimplified, especially considering the fact that there are nonbinary people who aren’t transgender, but for basic context it will help you see that there are taxonomies to how these terms fit together. Just remember, this is a complex subject, so not everything fits into a tidy box with a tidy label!

transgender vocab adrien converse

Gender identities aren’t just male, female, and in-between

Gender doesn’t fall on a strictly male–female spectrum. There are aspects of the spectrum outside of that. For example, agender people (like me) lack gender altogether. On the other hand, some people experience a combination of genders, or multiple different genders at once.

It’s not just a line from male to female. This chart gives you a little bit of an idea of how some of that works together.

Transgender vocabulary

AFAB & AMAB: These are abbreviations for “Assigned Female At Birth,” and “Assigned Male At Birth,” respectively. These terms reference the sex designated by medical professionals and placed on a person’s legal documentation when they were born.

Bioessentialism: An outdated and unscientific belief that someone’s “biological sex” dictates their gender.

Binarism: A prejudice against nonbinary people—people who aren’t strictly male or female.

Binary genders: Genders that are either man or woman. (A binary person may or may not be transgender.)

Cisgender: A person whose gender aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth; not transgender. Sometimes shortened to “cis.”

FTM & MTF: Abbreviations for “Female to Male” and “Male to Female” respectively. FTM (sometimes FtM) is typically used in reference to trans men who are undergoing a transition (either socially, medically, or both), and MTF (sometimes MtF) is used in reference to trans women undergoing a transition. These terms are slightly controversial; use with caution.

Gatekeeping: The act of creating laws, regulations, and criteria for people to comply to before allowing them to identify as transgender or receive transgender healthcare.

Gender dysphoria: A profound sense of unease coming from the fact that the person you are is being distorted beyond recognition.

Gender identity: a person’s gender identity is who they are. I’ve created a page dedicated to listing and describing different gender identities.

Intersex: a person who has a combination of male and female sex characteristics.

Medical transition: Various medical procedures that help align a person’s physical body with the person they know themselves to be.

Misgendering: When a person is referred to as a gender that is not accurate to who they really are.

Neopronouns: a word that literally means “new pronouns.” These pronouns are used to reference people of different genders with a higher degree of nuance.

Social transition: The act of shifting a person’s life to align more with their gender. Includes things like changing your name, changing the gender on your birth certificate, adjusting how you dress, asking people to use different pronouns in reference to you.

TERF: stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. These are folks with anti-trans beliefs who don’t acknowledge transgender women to be women.

Transgender: A person who was assigned a gender at birth that doesn’t match their true gender.

Transgender man: a person who was assigned the female gender at birth, but whose gender is actually male.

Transgender woman: a person who was assigned male at birth, but whose gender is actually female.

Transmedicalism: The false belief that you’re only trans if you have body dysphoria and physically transition.

Truscum: a group of people who hold the dangerous belief that there are true transgender people and fake transgender people.

I’m still learning, too

Our understanding of gender as a society is growing at a rapid pace. I’m doing what I can not to just bring others along, but to keep up with that growth in how I explain terms and concepts. Everything I write on this site is part of my learning process.

This means that all of the pages here, including this one, are regularly being revised as I learn new things. If you have resources with more advanced perspectives to share with me, I always appreciate them.

Other resources on this site: