Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Great Journey Part 6

My Great Journey Part 6

The Language of Trans

In this blog entry, I'm taking a different approach, and exploring the language of trans. I have not set this up as a Wiki, but I would like to make this interactive as much as possible, to keep it accurate and up to date.  So, if you see something that is out of date, or needs correction, or if you see something that should be here but isn't please comment below.  

The language surrounding the transgender world is a constantly shifting target.  In this post, I would like to address some of the common language found in the transgender world, and hope that this is a helpful resource.  

First off, we use the term Transgender.   NOT transgenderED.  There is also the term Trans-sexual.  In the past these terms carried differing meanings to different people.  These days, we mainly use Transgender.

A Transgender person is one whose Expressed, or true gender, does not match their birth gender.  Conversely, a Cisgender person is one whose expressed gender DOES match their birth gender. The term Trans-sexual is also sometimes used.  There are different understandings about the two terms, but for purposes of general education, Transgender is the better term to use.

Gender Identity refers to the expressed, or true gender that a person lives.  This may be male, female, or somewhere on a spectrum from a-gender to gender fluid, Intersex, etc. Simply, this is who a PERSON IS.

Sexual Orientation is to whom a person is romantically or sexually attracted.  If the person is attracted to a person of the opposite sex, that is Heterosexual. If they are attracted to the same sex, that is Homosexual.  Gay usually refers to men who are homosexual, but often times homosexual women are also referred to as gay.  Lesbian always refers to homosexual women. Simply, this is who a person is attracted to.

IT IS IMPORTANT to note that Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are completely unrelated.  Identity is who you are; Orientation is to whom you are attracted.  People who undergo gender transition may or may not change their sexual orientation.  Labels such as gay/lesbian become confusing when dealing with a transition.  Thus it is much simpler to say, for instance that as a Transwomen, I am attracted to women.

Intersex, previously called Hermaphrodite or Androgyne is a person who is born with some physical characteristics of both male and female genders. The possible combinations of genetic variations are too myriad to detail here.  Anyone with possible genetic variants should consult with their doctors for possible genetic testing, as appropriate.

          There are various sub-categories of Intersex people. These can include people whose external genitalia at birth do not match their genetic markers. An example of this is women with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS). Women with CAIS are born with the 46 XY marker of males, but due to inability to respond to androgens, develop female, rather than male, sexual characteristics. 

Genderqueer refers to someone whose gender expression does not fall on the binary state of male or female, but rather somewhere on the spectrum.  It can also refer to their sexual orientation. It is an umbrella term.

Non-binary any gender identity which does not fit the binary state of male OR female.

Gender-Fluid is an identity under the multigender, nonbinary, and transgender umbrellas. Genderfluid individuals have different gender identities at different times. A genderfluid individual's gender identity could be multiple genders at once, and then switch to none at all, or move between single gender identities.

Agender is also called genderblank, genderfree, genderless, gendervoid, non-gendered, or null gender. Agender is an identity under the nonbinary and transgender umbrella terms. Agender individuals find that they have no gender identity, although some define this more as having a gender identity that is neutral.

Asexual is a lack of sexual orientation.

Bisexual is someone attracted to men and women.

Pansexual is someone who is attracted to any person, irrespective of their gender identity or orientation.

Gender Questioning refers to someone who is aware that they do not fit the cis-hetero mold but are not sure where they sit with regard to gender identity or sexual orientation.

Ally is a family member or close friend of someone who is LGBTQ. The term “ally” is used because allies support the right of their LGBTQ family member or friend to live an authentic life, rather than trying to fit someone else’s artificial mold.

Correct pronoun: (often referred to as preferred pronoun). Some people identify as male and want to be referred to as he/him/his. Some as female; thus she/her/hers.  Others still prefer they/them/theirs.  And others use many of the new pronouns that are being tried out.  If you do not know what a person’s preferred pronouns are, please ask.

Gender Confirming (or Confirmation) Surgery (GCS) also called various names such as Sexual Reassignment Surgery and Gender Reassignment Surgery. GCS is the umbrella term for the various operations transgender people may seek in order to express their gender.  Surgeries MAY include:

          For Male to Female (also called transwomen): Vaginoplasty – the creation of the neo-vaginal vault.  Associated with this are orchiotomy (removal of the testicles) and penectomy (removal of the interior tissue of the penis).  In vaginoplasty, the outer skin of the penis, and the scrotum, are used in creating the neo-vaginal vault. If additional tissue is necessary a skin graft or colon section may be needed.  Along with vaginoplasty is labiaplasty, the forming of the outer labia of the neo-vagina.  These procedures may be done together or in one or more stages.  


                    Transwomen may also seek various procedures considered cosmetic, including hair removal (facial and body), facial feminizing surgery, breast implants, hip or buttock implants, trachea shave, etc. Some women may seek vocal feminizing surgery, but it is rarely effective.  Statistics show that less than 25% of all transwomen end up getting GCS.  There are many reasons for this, including financial, legal, health, and the choice by some to seek a non-binary end point.

          For Female to Male (also called transmen): Bilateral radical Mastectomy and chest reconstruction (removal of breast tissue), hysterectomy (removal of uterus), oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) and phalloplasty. Statistics show that less than 10% of transmen seek GCS.


  1. I really laughed out loud when I read, ". . .for many in the cis-hetero normative world especially, putting labels on people is the only way to make sense of things." Do you not see the irony of writingcthat in the middle of an entire column about trans labels?

  2. I really laughed out loud when I read, ". . .for many in the cis-hetero normative world especially, putting labels on people is the only way to make sense of things." Do you not see the irony of writingcthat in the middle of an entire column about trans labels?