Tag Archive: gender identity

TwitterAre you a UK based trans* identified man, a man with trans* history or someone with experience of the NHS as a person assigned female at birth who identifies as male, trans*, genderqueer or questioning your identity? The NHS are hosting a twitter club for trans* men on Wednesday, asking people to participate in a live debate about how the NHS and GICs can improve services for us.

This looks like an interesting opportunity to have our say. More information can be found here  http://aedanjwolton.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/nhsgenderid-nhs-england-host-gender-identity-twitter-clubs-to-improve-services/

Check out what Aedan has to say about this, and please pop along to Twitter to take part this coming Wednesday – 20th November 2013. Oh, and spend a bit of time looking at Aedan’s blog while you’re over there – it’s good stuff.


You mention ‘masculinity’ in your blog on a number of occasions (being comfortable with it, not wanting to be on one side of a binary, embracing the masculinity you feel, masculinise my body, true masculinity, masculinity I am claiming etc.). I’m interested in how you see/construct masculinity and, in particular, the masculinity you claim.

Some time ago I asked people if they had any questions for me about transitioning. Whilst I’m happy talking about myself at length, I am interested in finding out what, if anything, people would like to know about what I’m doing. My cousin sent me a question (above) that I’ll admit completely stumped me. It’s true that I talk about masculinity a lot – more so than talking about being a man, for reasons I’ll elaborate on later. Thinking about this made me realise I’ve probably been using the word as shorthand for something else entirely. I decided to enlist the help of others on this one – people from a variety of backgrounds, some transgender, others cisgender, some genderqueer, some who do not necessarily identify with any of those labels. This post is intended as a way for me to explore the issue of masculinity through both my own thoughts, and those of others.

Being sent these contributions has been quite scary, and I’ve worried endlessly over how to do them justice. As I said to my partner recently in the wee small hours “but they say these things so much better than I do. How do I write anything that won’t seem like a waste of their effort?” I didn’t want to trivialise the issue, but there have been times when this looked like it was going to turn into an academic tome. You don’t want to read my academic writing – it’s dull and pretentious. I have proof in the shape of 15,642 words comparing literary treatments of the Faust legend from the 16th Century to the Present. Yuk. So being reluctant to turn this into a school essay, please forgive me for what may have ended up as a twisty wander through my thoughts.

One thing to which I refer occasionally is ‘masculinisation’, as in ‘masculinise my body’. This is a word commonly used to describe the physical changes that the body goes through when transitioning from female to male. Testosterone leads to masculinisation, eg: lower voice, greater muscle mass, clitoral growth, increased body hair, and so on. Chest surgery is also often put under the heading of masculinisation.

I think that over time I have come to associate the word masculinisation in the context set out above with ‘the experience of becoming more masculine’ in general, and this may be where my use of masculine starts to get a bit rocky. I am often reluctant to say “I am a man”. Partly as I don’t see gender as a binary situation (see earlier posts), partly because whilst I know I don’t identify as ‘a woman’, I’m not sure I identify as ‘a man’, and lastly, and this is me being very honest here, because I am not yet (will I ever be?) comfortable with having been born female-bodied and being able to say categorically ‘I am a man’. That’s me, not many others. A lot of transguys have no problem self-identifying as a man from very early on, because that is absolutely, categorically how they feel. Whilst I “know myself” and, as mentioned earlier, know I am absolutely not a woman, I have a lot of issues that prevent me from slipping easily into being a man.

But I digress, the short version is that discomfort with saying ‘I am a man’ has led me to adopt the word masculine to describe how I feel, as it’s a more general term, and I guess has more room for gender manoeuvre. I have always felt comfortable with masculinity as, I suppose, a general area of behaviour, social context and expectation. But it doesn’t take a lot of deconstruction to know that the word masculinity is just as contentious as ‘man’ is for me.

My own masculinity is something I’m hardly ever aware of. I never look at myself and think “I feel masculine”. However, when I think about it, I have some very obvious and immediate ideas about what constitutes masculinity in others (Leighton Williams)

One of the first questions people tend to ask me when they hear I’m transitioning is “how do you know?” How do any of us know what gender we are? From an early age, of course, we are neatly divided into girls and boys by the way we are treated and spoken to, the toys we are given, the expectations placed on us, and this continues long into adulthood:

From cradle to grave, our culture stamps its definition of what makes a man or a woman upon us. When you’re a boy it’s all blue clothes and Action Man and not crying and later, when you’re presumably a man, prodigious beer consumption, football and lighting your own farts. It’s owning a flash car, having a lucrative (or exciting, or dangerous) job and shagging a sexy woman. (Leighton Williams)

We learn very early on, from parents, TV, shops, peers, everyone and everywhere, the things that are considered acceptable for men and women to do, say, wear, and so on. With the best will in the world, these things become so ingrained that we don’t see them as socially constructed, but as ‘true’ characteristics of men and women. We are then left to define ourselves based on a set of rules rigidly set along gender lines.

I don’t like football or fighting but I love guns. I like subtitled films, flowers and long walks, I bake my own bread and like driving fast, I really don’t know if masculinity can be defined unless it is in context with stereotypical views on what it is to be male as thrust at us in the majority of medias (AW)

Any child that is different either has to face the social music, or learn to hide their differences. I don’t think anybody would want our children to grow up as homogeneous Stepford-style children, but I believe that in any society there is a limit to how much ‘rule-breaking’ you can get away with before alienation, bullying and discrimination start, at whatever age.

The fear of not meeting the expectations of being a man, a ‘man’ or A MAN ran through my childhood, particularly amongst my peers (rather than family). I was never interested in sport – well, not ‘manly’ sport, anyway – and anything oily, greasy or muddy held no interest for me. The thought of being pigeon-holed as ‘effeminate’ or ‘gay’ in the changing rooms at high school scared me (despite the fact that, by that age I knew perfectly well which team I batted for) (Richard Cooper-Knight)

I’m not suggesting that somewhere in the world there is a secret society of rule-makers dictating gender stereotypes as a means of social control, but there doesn’t need to be – we have become self regulating, penalising those who step outside of what is considered normal and acceptable. It is important to us, in order to avoid dissent, that certain people behave in a certain way.

Masculinity to me is a concept that society has a great deal of investment in defining-what it IS and what it IS NOT, who is allowed to embody values that are signified as masculine and who is not. When I was perceived as a woman I was constantly told that I was too masculine-meaning I took up space and behaved in ways that only men were permitted. Now that I am perceived as a man I have to watch myself so that I don’t take up space that belongs to people who are not granted the same amount of license as I am, someone perceived to be a white, middle aged man. I perceive myself as a ‘herm’ and someone who has zero investment in propping up patriarchal dominant masculinity (Del LaGrace Volcano)

So society has a stake in reinforcing particular behaviours.

But what of physical characteristics? Whilst socially constructed differences can be seen as such if you pick them apart enough, men and women are certainly physically different, though even these things can come into question to a degree.

To me masculinity is not much to do with gender. As you can get masculine women and feminine men (later category I fall under). For me, when I think of masculinity I tend to think of the below although obviously not everyone who possesses any of these traits is necessarily masculine – it’s more having lots of the traits combined which gives that impression I think:

Deep voice, confidence, assertive manner, little interest in clothes, make-up, etc. Interest in stereotypically ‘male’ things, like maybe sport, work, out-doorsy things. Being one of the lads or enjoying the company of other masculine men, being direct. Physically, I would say having masculine features rather than pretty or delicate features, having a muscular physique possibly, facial hair, large prominent features like brow and nose and chin (Anon)

It’s certainly possible to put men and women into loose physical groups, based on perceived differences, and as someone using testosterone therapy in order to achieve a more stereotypically male body, I’m as guilty as the next person. The thing is, a lot of statements about men/women start along the lines of “All X have this…”, then graduate to “All X except those have this…”, then “Many X have this, but a lot have that”, “X can have this or that…” and so it goes. And let’s not forget how much physical appearance and perceived appropriateness of behaviour are used to categorise and judge, and pull rank.

I think that there can be a tendency generally…to construct a ‘true’ masculinity as physically strong, self-assured, often more aggressive with higher sexual drive – those that possess these features seen as being more masculine (and biological determinism / testosterone claims almost let them off the hook when they behave like utter wankers in the name of maledom). Indeed, for some, such behaviour becomes a rite of passage. All too often the primarily social construct of masculinity is conflated with sex and physical appearance (Anon)

But what about genitalia? Reproductive paraphernalia? Ask a lot of people how they know if they’re a man or a woman and they’ll probably refer to their bits. The thing is that as with my “All X have this…” point above, you really cannot say “All men have a penis” any more than you can suggest “Women are women because they have wombs”. Many men do not have a penis, and I’m not just referring to the John Bobbitts of the world. And even if I were, he didn’t suddenly become ‘not a man’ any more than a woman ceases to be a woman after a hysterectomy. Many people have different biological characteristics from the gender with which they identify, but that doesn’t make them ‘less of…’ or ‘not a…’ so whilst genitalia in particular may be some indication of gender, that’s not the whole story. As Stephen Whittle explained to his oldest child.

When the twins were about three months old, we were both feeding them at the living-room table, and Eleanor turned round and said, “Mum, Dad, how do you know Lizzie and Pippa are girls?” And Sarah and I just looked at each other and went, “Mm”, and I answered, “Well, we don’t actually know whether they are girls. What we do, just like every other family does, we make an approximate guess. We know that most people born with fannies will grow up to be girls, and most people born with willies will grow up to be boys. So we start off somewhere.(p90)

Self, W. and Gamble, D. Perfidious Man Viking, 2000 

We all have to start off somewhere as children, and whilst I’m no psychologist, it’s fair to say that our experiences of our parents go a long way to help us understand ourselves, and choose (whether consciously or subconsciously) the traits we wish to emulate.

Seriously, I would have to say that masculinity to me is working hard to provide for the people you love, putting your own feelings and reactions aside for the sake of consoling those around you in a time of crisis (not to reject your own feelings but to deal with them at a later time when the situation has been handled), providing a feeling of security and protection to those close to you and being a source of reliable practical knowledge and good humour to those around you. I hasten to add that my attributing those things to masculinity does not suggest they are absent in femininity. Also, I recognise that those are all things I have come to consider masculine purely because they offer a very accurate description of my father and my father has always been the biggest influence on my idea of masculinity (EH)

We learn young. Watching kids TV a couple of days ago (yes, for pleasure, not research!) it was interesting to see how behaviours are perpetuated and somehow made desirable to the point where absence of these behaviours is seen as strange or unusual. To summarise, group of female characters are in tree house having tea party, won’t let in boy characters because ‘they will be noisy’. Boy characters build castle, fight and shout abuse at girls. One girl wants to go play with the boys, but is shouted down and shunned by the other girls until she goes back into the tree-house. Boys have skull and cross bones flag, so girls make themselves a flag…pink and flowery. The girls eventually get bored and want to go into the castle. Why? Because then they can be fairy princesses in the castle. None of this stuff is wrong, but it is drawn very much along the lines of what constitutes acceptable behaviour for a girl/boy.

When it is implied that masculine behaviour ‘must be’ a certain way, the pressure to conform for those who don’t toe the stereotype (and really, who does?) is huge.

Welcome to the world of different body dysmorphia and body fascism, lower life expectancy, reduced likelihood of health-seeking behaviour, pretending to like football in order to fit in, higher suicide rates and, oh yes, the eternal elbow-scramble at bars while calling one another ‘mate’ (Anon)

As a transman, do I have any advantage in *not* having been expected from an early age to ‘man up’? Arguably, yes, in some ways. Any urge to ‘fit in’ largely amounts to the desire/need for social acceptance from the point of view of a grown-up. However, 39 years of socialisation as a woman leads to some very odd juxtaposition of needs and behaviours. That said, I feel I am in an interesting position with regards to being able to analyse my own reactions to the expectations and acceptance of others.

So much of my contemplations on masculinity have been focused around how to divide out what is innate to being male and what is socially learned. I think that trans people have a unique experience to be able to speak to this divide since we were not socialized as the gender we identify with. There is a lot of my own feelings of being masculine that have been with me my whole life, but now that I am finally being socially accepted and socialized as a man, there are other aspects of my masculinity that have been influenced or shaped by that social recognition (abeardedgnome)

So this masculinity of mine, the more I consider it, is a house of cards. If you try and base any definition of masculinity on physical characteristics, genitalia or behaviour, there will almost always be a hefty ‘yes, but…’ involved. The more tentative these ‘traditional’ assertions become, the more it becomes clear that what is considered to be masculinity is largely a social construct. Which poses problems for my next argument. Masculinity as an absence of femininity.

I guess masculinity to me means un-feminine. It’s unfortunate, but most of the time I define things as what they are not (HK)

This ‘absence of’ has been a useful mental position for me going into and experiencing transition. Having experienced years of dysphoria in a female body, despising the sexual characteristics that oestrogen had gifted me, my main aim in embarking on this course was to free myself from the femininity I had grown up with and been socialised into. But then, if we’re unable to pin masculinity down as a solid concept, the same must be true of femininity. Dammit.

Traditionally and historically treatment of trans people has been based very much on the understanding that they identify very strongly as ‘the opposite sex’ (sic) and this is certainly what many of us have had to tell doctors in order to access appropriate treatment. Whilst ‘we as a society’ often have very fixed ideas about gender, ingrained practically from birth, I believe that as individuals it is rare to see anyone that actually embodies the stereotypical view of ‘femininity’ or ‘masculinity’, regardless of gender identity or sexuality. It seems all the more ludicrous, therefore, that we should ever have to define ourselves so rigidly to others.

What does masculinity mean to me? It’s my animal side, my hunter, my dispassionate observer. It lives side by side with my femininity of course. A cross dresser I spoke to recently told me his ‘girl’ side allowed him to be a better man, and I think that’s the trick, so keep both sides in balance, though that balance is different for us all. (Vince Laws)

I see the masculine/feminine qualities as extremes that no one should aspire to embody as much as strike a balance between…The trick is to transcend the stereotypes and find the worth in containing an equal balance of both. (Leighton Williams)

I’ve had it suggested to me that if we could raise all children completely without gender, no social expectations based on perceived gender, no associations of behaviour, emotional response etc., that there would be no transgender people. I guess the argument is that what “we” are seeking is to get away from the gendered role we have been handed at birth. A small part of me can see the logic there, but speaking personally, despite everything I’ve said here, there is more to gender identity than we can define.

I don’t think I can understand masculinity in isolation, but only as compared to femininity. It’s a bit like temperature – you can’t really say what is “hot”, without comparing it to what is “cold”. I think these clichés apply: masculinity is hard where femininity is soft; it’s penetrating where femininity is embracing; it can be analytical compared to emotional etc. But these are just terms that describe the opposite ends of a sliding scale of characteristics, of which most people seem to have a fascinating, ever-changing combination. And I think an individual’s behaviour fluctuates around a unique point on the scale, more often gravitating towards one end, which feels like “home”. I feel out of place when people try and pin me to the feminine side. I instinctively “know” my home is toward the masculine. I use the word “instinctively” because this “knowing” can’t easily be intellectualised. My sense of my own masculinity originates at some deeper, more basic level of my being, It’s not a creation of my conscious intellect (jmj)

I like this idea that we ‘instinctively know’ where we are at in terms of gender. Looking at this issue of how I define ‘masculinity’ serves to make me realise that it is a word I have chosen to describe a set of quite personal, and probably very ill-defined feelings. Unfortunately it comes with a number of connotations that reflect society’s obsession with pinning everybody down. However, whilst I can be a bit of a doom-monger when it comes to the woes of this world in which we live, I do believe that increasingly there are a lot of people who are willing to see the individual, rather than the category.

I am a gay man, though it is never something I consider any more important a part of my identity than that I’m an artist and have a dog…it’s never the first thing I’d ever mention or consider primarily important when introducing myself. As such, I generally view others in similar ways (RK)

A lot of time and mental and emotional space is spent as a transgender person trying to work out ‘who you are’, when actually I’d say that most of us KNOW who we are already, but in stepping out of an accepted social role, there is a lot of pressure (and incentive, in terms of acceptance) in stepping back into another one.

Any attempt to define what [male and female] ‘means’ seems more and more to me like a clichéd construct, burdened with what society apparently expects of those ‘roles’. We’re all human beings, that’s the key thing and we are what we are. There’s a lot of unnecessary misery in the trans community caused by the perceived pressure to ‘conform to the (gender) norm’ (ZG)

In all honesty, I think I have done more of a job of deconstructing what I mean by masculinity, rather than explaining how I construct it as a concept. And I’ve not even mentioned hegemony once. I think the main issue that I’ve had here is that whilst fully aware of the connotations of using the word masculinity, and the flimsy nature of the assumptions on which it is most often based, it has been the easiest word to use, and consequently I have been doing a bit of connotational cherry-picking to justify my choice.

I have spent a long time trying to write a pithy ending to this, neatly summing up my feelings without resorting to using language laden with a meaning and context that instantly negates what I am trying to say. I guess if I saw things in black and white, it would be easier to justify using particular language or ideas to describe my feelings, but all I really have to go on are a gut-feeling and a generalised sense that being and becoming different from what I was is right for me. To finish with a final quote:

I am always very troubled by these types of questions. I’m forced to express my deep, un-examined beliefs, whilst also knowing full well that they are the product of my experiences rather than being any kind of objective account of things (EH)

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this post.


For further reflections on this subject by a friend, please take the time to look at Homebase and Handcream.

20th November 2011 is the 13th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a sobering day on which we remember the hundreds of trans people across the world who have been killed because they were transgender. According to statistics summarized in a 2010 report by the Transgender Europe (TGEU) Trans Murder Monitoring Project, every second day a homicide of a trans person is being reported. According to the same group, 116 transgender people were murdered globally in the first nine months of 2011.

Reports of the deaths are often horrifying. Trans people have been raped, stoned, stabbed, shot, strangled, burned to death, because someone somewhere did not like their gender identity or presentation. More often than not, someone they knew, even a family member.

Many of these people’s murderers are never caught. Sadly, in a lot of cases, not a great deal of effort seems to go into finding the perpetrator, or charging them appropriately. If they are caught, some are proud of their actions, others claim that they have restored family honour, and more again claim a “trans panic” defence. In this, a defendant claims that when discovering that someone was transgender, he or she acted in a state of violent temporary insanity because of a little-known psychiatric condition called “Trans Panic”. Give me a break. Fortunately, this defence is rarely upheld in court, but the fact that it even exists as a defence in the first place sickens me to the core.

You want to know how many trans people have been reported as murdered since 1998 (when records were started by concerned organisations)? Please spare a couple of minutes to look at this list: Remembering Our Dead 1998-2011

Now bear in mind that these are only the murders that have been reported. And that it doesn’t include suicides. Thousands of trans people globally have committed suicide over a similar timescale. Because of fear, harassment and lack of understanding from their families, friends and those they come across day-to-day. Because of rejection, sexual abuse, violence and being made to feel that they are perverted, freakish and crazy.

We need to see an end to the objectification and villification of trans people. We need to see an end to the idea that being transgender is just about your genitalia. We need to see an end to the idea that somehow some trans people deserve to be killed, for crossing whatever social or religious line someone thinks they shouldn’t have. We need to see a radical change in police attitudes towards the deaths that are going on, and the seriousness with which reports of harassment, abuse and threats are treated.

More to the point, people need to realise that it’s not just the murders that are the problem. It’s the trans people who are afraid to leave their homes because of threats of violence. It’s those who lose out on work when people realise they are trans. It’s those who are beaten because they don’t fit in with society’s rules of what it’s ok to look like. It’s people who are rejected by their families for being honest about themselves. The ones who have names shouted at them by people who think that’s ok, because they’re not, somehow, “proper people”.

People like me are being victimised, abused, murdered and left believing that the only way out is suicide, every day. We are just people, like anyone else. The senselessness of these crimes is that a lot of people actually think they’re justified.

For more information about the Transgender Day of Remembrance, please take a look at the TDOR website.

Much is made of the idea of a trans person “passing”. I’m not crazy about that term, as it implies that trans people are pretending to be whatever they say they are, and that only the really clever or lucky ones succeed in ‘fooling’ people into believing they are a particular gender. At the same time, I acknowledge that ‘passing’ is used a lot to describe the situation where you are read as the gender by which you identify, not that which was assigned to you at birth.

Purely by that definition, I don’t pass. Just in the last three days I have been referred to as ‘the lady’ by a stranger and ‘she’ and ‘her’ by people who know me, but just seem to have made an honest mistake.

Part of me understands this. I look at myself in the mirror, and see the same old me, even though I know that my interpretation of my reflection comes more from my poor battered psyche than a true reading of how I look. So I can really see where folk might look at me and see a woman. Damn, but they must think I’m butch.

I suppose that what upsets me when people get it wrong is that I have made a lot of progress, both mentally and physically, since the day I finally (reluctantly at first, that’s for sure) recognised my masculine nature. I’ve come so far along my personal road that to be “she’d” or referred to as “the lady” almost comes as a surprise, and a hideous reminder that I am this person in transition, not the person I want to be. A pretender. One who tries to pass.

Now if you look back at some of my previous posts, you will realise that whilst I do not identify as a woman, I also do not necessarily identify solely as “a man”, in the sense of being ‘a man trapped in a woman’s body’, or someone who just needs to alter their body to become the man they know they are. This is tricky territory. My understanding of gender has changed, even since I started this blog, and whilst I strive to be able to embrace my masculinity, that does not mean I wish to be pinned like a butterfly at one end of a gender binary.

So why should it matter so much to me when people read me as female? Surely identifying as genderqueer should mean I am happy to accept that people will read different facets of my gender identity different ways, and will then address me or refer to me in a way built upon their gender context?

That’s the thing. Whereas I am not happy to cling to a social norm which places men firmly at one end of a line, and women at the other, that does not mean that I do not have a particular picture of myself: a way that I want the world to see me. I am very comfortable in masculinity. Testosterone is the fuel I wish I’d discovered years ago. Chest surgery is the best thing that I have ever done. I vastly prefer to be read as a guy, because that is where I am at my most comfortable. That does not mean I wish I’d never identified as female. Nor does it mean that I am not happy to hold onto some of the habits that grew out of 39 years of socialisation as a woman. On forms I am delighted to be able to tick ‘male’ (in the absence of a third choice). None of these things detract from my view of gender as a kaleidoscope, nor my horror of being stuck in a set gender role.

So about the ‘passing’ thing. Actually, yes, I want people to read me as male, because, as I’ve said, masculine is where I’m comfortable. But just because I do not always necessarily look, move, or speak, or react in ways that are traditionally associated with men, I’d rather people didn’t automatically think that if I don’t tick all the right boxes for ‘man’ that I am ‘the lady’, or ‘she’ or ‘her’. I realise that for pretty much everybody, if they do not see ‘male’, their brains default to ‘female’, even if they know my name and story. I wish I could change this – wouldn’t it be great if my blog could start a change in the way people perceive gender? No such luck, I fear.

There is a lot to be said for being true to onesself, and I know that I am finally being truer to myself than I ever have before. I probably haven’t chosen the easiest of routes, nor the easiest for others to understand. I heard someone once talking about another trans person I know, saying “I don’t think he really knows what gender he is. I wish he’d make up his mind”. I would argue that someone who has thought hard enough about their own gender identity to conclude that actually neither end of a gender binary fits, has already made up their mind. Similarly, I am not confused about who I am, know how I wish to be perceived by others, and know who I am inside. Is this me having my cake and eating it? Perhaps. But who doesn’t like cake?

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