Back to All Migrated Pages

LGBTQ Youth — The Glossary Of Terms

Remember that people defy labels and not everyone will fit into a definition, label or box, no matter how large we make it.

Here’s a quick reference for some of the most commonly used terms:

biological sex or sex: a term used historically and within the medical field to identify genetic/biological/hormonal/physical characteristics (including genitalia), which are used to classify an individual as female, male or intersex.

cross-dresser: a person who, on occasion, wears clothing considered typical for another gender, but who does not necessarily desire to change his or her gender. Reasons for cross-dressing can range from a need to express a feminine or masculine side to attainment of erotic gratification. Cross-dressers can be of any sexual orientation. Many crossdressers identify as heterosexual.

drag king/drag queen: wearing the clothing of another gender, often involving the presentation of exaggerated, stereotypical gender characteristics. Individuals may identify as drag kings (female in drag) or drag queens (male in drag) when performing gender as parody, art or entertainment.

FTM (female to male): a term used to identify a person who was assigned a female gender at birth (or who is female-bodied), and who identifies as male, lives as a man or identifies as masculine.

gender: a social construct based on a group of emotional and psychological characteristics that classify an individual as feminine, masculine, androgynous or other. Gender can be understood to have several components, including gender identity, gender expression and gender role.

gender identity: the inner sense of being a man, a male, a woman, a female, both, neither, butch, femme, two-spirit, bigender or another configuration of gender. Gender identity usually matches one’s physical anatomy but sometimes does not. Gender identity includes one’s sense of self and the image that one presents to the world.

gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria (GD): Gender identity disorder is the medical diagnosis for individuals who experience a disconnect between their birth-assigned sex and their gender identity. GID is defined as an intense, continuous discomfort resulting from an individual’s sense of the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and resulting gender role expectations. The term gender dysphoria is often used instead of gender identity disorder, reflecting in part skepticism about whether it is appropriate to consider dissonance between one’s gender identity and one’s body as a “disorder.” Use of the term “disorder” is offensive to many members of the transgender community but it is often required in order to receive medical services such as hormones or surgery.

gender expression: how people express or show their gender identity, often through clothing, the name and pronoun (“he” or “she”) they use, how they act, how they speak, and through other personal characteristics.

gender non-conforming: a term used to identify a person whose gender expression differs from traditional or stereotypical expectations of how girls, boys, men, or women should look or act.

genderqueer/fluid gender: a term used by some people who may or may not fit on the spectrum of trans, or be labeled as trans, but who identify their gender and sexual orientation to be somewhere on the continuum in between or outside the binary gender system altogether.

gender reassignment surgery (GRS)/sexual reassignment surgery (SRS): the surgery or surgeries that medically alter someone’s body, especially in regards to genitalia or secondary sex characteristics. Sought to attain harmony between one’s body and one’s gender identity.

gender role: the social expectation of how an individual should act, think and feel, based upon one’s assigned gender, the social expectation that an individual must be defined as a man or woman.

hormone therapy: administration of hormones to develop characteristics of a different gender than the one that was assigned. This is a process, possibly lifelong, of taking hormones to change one’s internal body chemistry. Hormone therapy is safest when administered by a medical professional and after discussion of potential health risks.

intersex: a person born with an anatomy or a physiology that differs from cultural ideals of male and female. Intersexuals may be born with “ambiguous genitalia” and/or experience hormone-production levels that vary from those of culturally “ideal” females and males.

MTF (male to female): a term used to identify a person assigned a male gender at birth (or who is male-bodied) and who identifies as a female, lives as a woman or identifies as feminine.

non-op (non-operative): a term used to describe transgender, transsexual or gendervariant individuals who have not attained and may not desire to attain gender reassignment surgery. For many individuals, self-identification and self-expression alone achieve harmony between one’s body and one’s gender identity.

post-op (post-operative): A term used to describe transgender, transsexual or gender nonconforming individuals who have completed gender reassignment surgery, and/or other surgeries to change their bodies to more closely match their gender identity.

pre-op (pre-operative): a term used to describe transgender, transsexual or gender nonconforming individuals who have not completed gender reassignment surgery but who desire to and are seeking that as an option.

queer: an umbrella term used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, or to the LGBT community generally. The term has been used in a derogatory manner in the past, but many in the LGBT community have reclaimed it as a political statement against binary thinking about sexual orientation and gender identity.

transgender or trans: a term used to describe those who transgress social gender norms; often used as an umbrella term to include transsexual, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, cross-dressers, etc. People must self-identify as transgender in order for the term to be appropriately used to describe them.

transition: the period during which a trans person begins to live more fully as their true gender, this can include the period of full-time living required before gender reassignment surgery. After transitioning and surgery, some transsexuals identify only as a man or as a woman.

transphobia: the irrational fear of those who are perceived to break or blur stereotypical gender roles, often expressed as stereotyping, discrimination, harassment and violence. Frequently directed at those perceived as expressing their gender in a transgressive way, those who defy stereotypical gender norms or those who are perceived to exhibit nonheterosexual characteristics regardless of their actual gender identity or sexual orientation.

transsexual: someone who experiences intense, persistent, long-term discomfort with their body and self-image due to the belief that their assigned gender is inappropriate. This person may then take steps to adapt or change their body, gender role and gender expression to achieve what they know their true gender to be.

zi/hir/sie: Terms used to serve as gender-neutral third person singular pronouns in English. Zi/sie takes the subject position while hir serves as a direct object. Example: It is the student’s right to express the gender of zi’s choice.

As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
© 2024 New York
Civil Liberties Union