When you start transitioning, you are plunged into a world with a different language. I am used to bandying about terms like ‘Cisgender’ and ‘Queer’, but I recognise that it would be useful to include a bit of a glossary with my blog. I’ve chosen words that I either use regularly, or are likely to crop up in future posts. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I have cherry-picked information from a number of sources, and added bits myself. Language is political, and I know that some people won’t agree with the explanations I have given. I welcome comments and additions to this list.

Androgyne or Polygender (other words are also used to describe this)
These are terms used to describe people who find they do not feel comfortable thinking of themselves as simply either men or women. Instead they feel that their gender identity is more complicated to describe and non-binary. Some may identify their gender as being a form of combination between a man and a woman, or alternatively as being neither.


This is the opposite of transgender. That is, someone whose gender identity matches up with their recognised biological gender. This word is used a lot in trans circles, in my experience, but is not without its critics.

This is a term used to describe people who dress, either occasionally or more regularly, in clothes associated with the opposite gender, as defined by socially accepted norms. Cross-dressing people are generally happy with the gender they were labelled at birth and do not want to permanently alter the physical characteristics of their bodies or change their legal gender.

Gender dysphoria
This is a recognised medical issue for which gender reassignment treatment is available. Gender Dysphoria is distress, unhappiness and discomfort experienced by someone about their biological sex not fully matching their gender identity. Transsexual people usually experience intense gender dysphoria and other transgender people may also experience various degrees of gender dysphoria, especially when unable to fully express their gender identity.

Gender expression
This is an individual’s external gender-related appearance (including clothing) and behaviour (including interests and mannerisms). A person may have masculine, feminine or androgynous aspects of their appearance or behaviour.

Gender identity
This is an individual’s internal self-perception of their own gender.

This is a term used to describe people born with external genitals, internal reproductive systems or chromosomes that are in-between what is considered clearly male or female. There are many different intersex conditions. In many cases, an intersex person will simply self-identify as a man or as a woman. However, in some cases, an intersex person may self-identify as being neither a man nor a woman.

This is the acronym most commonly used to talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Transgender people can be lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight. Having the T in with the LGB is subject to a lot of debate, as sexual orientation and gender identity are such different things, but as groups of people facing similar prejudices and struggles there is strength to be found in working together.


This acronym includes Intersex and Queer people.


A political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid. As a word, ‘queer’ has a loaded history but many people identify with it as a positive statement, with inclusive implications. I like the word queer, and use it to describe myself.

This is an umbrella term used to describe a whole range of people whose gender identity or gender expression differ in some way from the gender assumptions made about them when they were born. Often shortened to Trans. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such. I use the word ‘transgender’ to describe my overall gender position and philosophy, though I also consider myself transsexual. You will often see the word ‘transgendered’ used, particularly in my blog. It is, however, considered grammatically incorrect (my bad) so I’ll be trying to drop the ‘ed’ in future!
This is a term used to describe people who consistently self-identify as the opposite gender from the gender they were labelled at birth based on their physical body. A transsexual sometimes undergoes medical treatment to change their physical sex to match their gender identity through hormone treatments and/or surgically. Not all transsexuals desire surgery. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transsexual, they may not identify as such.

With thanks to:

Gender Equality Resource Centre

NHS Scotland website