The Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) brings together a wide range of historical materials related to gender identities, expressions, and experiences that depart from cultural norms. The term transgender is used here to coalesce gender identities and/or expressions that do not align with the social and cultural expectations of people’s birth-assigned gender. Though this is a U.S.-based project, the DTA uses transgender in an expansive and inclusive sense, not simply as a fixed identity category, in order to collect a trans-historical and trans-cultural array of materials related to trans-ing gender.
This glossary offers brief definitions a few of the key terms that visitors may encounter while exploring the DTA. To learn more about the origin of the term transgender, please visit the Trans+Gender Timeline. For a more thorough primer on trans-related terminology, please consult GLAAD’s Media Guide. We also encourage you to visit the Global Terms page to learn more about trans-related terminology around the world.
If you are new to the DTA and need a place to start, check out the DTA Starter's Guide.
Androgynous: Individuals possessing both masculine and feminine characteristics, which do not clearly identify them as men or women.
Bottom Surgery: A colloquial term describing surgical procedures that result in external genitalia and internal reproductive organ function that better align with an individual’s gender identity. Specific procedures include: hysterectomy, phalloplasty, metoidioplasty, scrotoplasty, penectomy, and orchiectomy, among others.
Cisgender: An individual whose gender identity aligns with the gender assigned to them at birth.
Crossdresser: An individual who engages part time in wearing clothes stereotypical to a gender other than their predominantly-identified gender. Individuals often develop a persona they engage with while crossdressing.
Drag King: A female-identified performer who dresses in stereotypically masculine attire and enacts a male persona for the purpose of entertainment.5
Drag Queen: A male-identified performer who dresses in stereotypically feminine attire and enacts a female persona for the purpose of entertainment.5
FTM/Transman/Trans Man: A person assigned female at birth who identifies as male or has a masculine gender identity.
Gender: An element of personal identity developed through the interaction of social roles and expectations, one’s response to those expectations, one’s physiology, and one’s internal sense of self.
Gender Binary: A system of gender categorization that defines gender in oppositional terms of strictly woman or strictly man. Some individuals identify with a gender outside of this binary.
Gender Dysphoria (previously Gender Identity Disorder): A term coined by the American Psychological Association and used within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders to describe gender variant individuals who meet a certain set of diagnostic criteria.
Gender Expression: How a person performs gender within a spectrum of femininity and masculinity.
Gender Neutral Pronouns: An alternate to binary gender pronouns (her, his, she, he), gender neutral pronouns can include ze/hir, they/them/their, and s/he, among many others.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): The use of masculinizing or feminizing hormones (testosterone or estrogen) to bring an individual’s secondary sex characteristics and internal sense of self into better alignment with hir/her/his gender identity.
Intersex: Individuals with an organization of internal and/or external sexual anatomy that resists classification into traditional definitions of what is biologically male or female. Note: terms such as “hermaphrodite” and “hermaphroditism” are scientifically outdated and stigmatizing.3, 4
MTF/Transwoman/Trans Woman: A person assigned male at birth who identifies as female or has a feminine gender identity.
Nonbinary/Genderqueer/Agender: Individuals who cannot or do not wish to define themselves within or in relation to the gender binary.
Sex: Sex refers to biological indicators such as reproductive anatomy. Current understandings of sex categories include intersex, female, and male.
Sexual Reassignment Surgery: Various medical procedures used to alter the appearance and function of individuals’ bodies to better align with their gender identity. Also referred to as gender reassignment surgery, sex affirmation surgery, gender confirmation surgery, sex realignment surgery, and colloquially, as sex change.
Sexuality: How and with whom a person prefers to experience erotic pleasure. Sexuality is often used interchangeably with the term sexual orientation.4
Top Surgery: A colloquial term describing surgical procedures that result in breast or chest appearances that better align with an individual’s gender identity, including breast augmentation to feminize one’s appearance or chest reconstruction to masculinize it.2
Trans/Trans*: A broad term used to describe individuals who identify and/or express their gender in ways beyond sociocultural gender norms. Variance may be expressed through self-presentation, behavior, dress, body modification, and social interaction.
Transgender: As an identity term, describes individuals whose gender identities and/or expressions do not align with the sociocultural expectations of their birth-assigned gender.
Transsexual: Often, though not always, individuals who undergo Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) to transition their physical bodies into alignment with their gender identities.
Transition: The personal, social, and physical process of gender identity development and expression for individuals whose birth-assigned genders are incongruent with their self-identified gender.
Transphobia: Feelings of antagonism, fear, or disgust directed towards trans individuals due to their gender identity and/or expression. Transphobia often results in sociopolitical inequalities, discrimination, verbal harassment, physical violence, and sometimes death.
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1. “GLAAD Media Reference Guide - Transgender Issues.” GLAAD. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.
2. Hudson. Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.
3. Intersex Society of North America. 2008. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.
4. Stryker, Susan. Transgender History. Berkeley: Seal Press, 2008. Print.
5. “Transgender Terminology.” TransEquality. National Center for Transgender Equality, Jan. 2014. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.