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Trans language

There is a whole vocabulary specific to when we talk about trans or non-binary people. Knowing the correct words to use is very important because it sends a signal that you have some knowledge about the topic, or at least that you respect the identities of trans and non-binary people. This list is organized by theme (for example, which terms to say trans person, etc.).


Some word on this list can be discriminatory towards trans and non-binary people. Some trans and non-binary individuals use these terms to refer to themselves, however the majority of the community considers them to be discriminatory. So, they should not be used by people who are not directly concerned. These words are indicated by a ❌.


Sex refers to the sexual characteristics which are purely physiological. Amongst these characteristics are chromosomes, hormones, genital organs, gonads, and secondary sexual characteristics. These characteristics can be categorized as male or female, or a combination of both.

Sex assigned at birth​

When a person is born, the medical personnel assign them a sex based on their genitals. So, we say this is their sex assigned at birth.


Gender is a social role, for example masculine or feminine, and an identification to the class of individuals that play this role. It is not necessarily linked to sex.

Gender identity​

Gender identity represents the personal experience, the feeling of being or belonging to a gender, be it woman, man, trans, non-binary, genderqueer, and many others.

Gender expression​

Gender expression is the gender communicated by someone's appearance, the image they present to the world. This can include their haircut, clothes, or way of moving. It is linked to gender codes and stereotypes of the individual's culture or the culture in which the individual finds themselves.


An umbrella term often used for people who have a gender identity that is not aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth.


A person who has a gender identity which is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Transsexual βŒβ€‹

This is a word which has been used in the past to refer to trans people, but now is not used because it is based in the medicalisation of trans people, and reduces the experience of trans people to their sexuality and sexual reassignment (gender affirming) surgeries of the genitals.


Some trans people continue to use the word transsexual to refer to themselves, especially those who had experience using this word before other vocabulary was developped.

Transvestite βŒβ€‹

An old, stigmatizing term used to indicate people who wear the clothes of the "other sex".


The process a trans person undergoes, who transitions to better assume their gender identity as a trans person.


The discrimination towards trans people, which can also present as a hatred or desire to reject trans people.

Trans man/woman​

These terms highlight the current identity of the person, instead of emphasizing their past.

Trans man​

A trans person who currently identifies as a man but who was assigned female at birth.

Trans woman​

A trans person who currently identifies as a woman but who was assigned male at birth.

Trans masculine​

This describes a trans or non-binary person who currently identifies as masculine or non-binary, but who was assigned female at birth.

Trans feminine​

This describes a trans or non-binary person who currently identifies as feminine or non-binary, but who was assigned male at birth.


  • Male-to-Female
  • Female-to-Male

These terms indicate a trans person, the first letter refers to their sex assigned at birth, to, and then their current gender identity.


A cisgender person is someone who has a gender identity which is aligned with their sex assigned at birth.


Intersex people are born with physical sexual characteristics which cannot be classed as male or female. Varations can exist in the chromosomes, hormones, genitals, gonads, secondary sexual characteristics, or a combination of any of these elements.

Hermaphrodite βŒβ€‹

A term which describes a person, animal or plant which has both male and female sexual characteristics.

Drag βŒβ€‹

A performative art in which a gender role is played extravagantly. It can combine make-up, costumes, wigs...


This is not a term used to refer to trans or non-binary people, except in the case that they are doing a drag performance. By dressing for everyday life, trans and non-binary people are not doing drag.


Androgynous describes a person whose appearance (clothes, body appearance, etc.) does not fit the typical expression of any single gender.

Coming out​

This is the act of telling someone that one is trans (or LGBTQIA+) and telling them one's gender.


Misgendering is when you use the wrong gendered words (pronouns, etc.) to refer to a person, especially someone who is trans or non-binary.


A deadname is a trans or non-binary person's old name. This can cause a person to experience psychological distress, especially if they are forced to use it when they would prefer to use their new (chosen) name.

Become βŒβ€‹

Do not use the word "become" to refer to a trans or non-binary person, we don't say a person "becomes" a man/woman because they already are and always have been, even if we haven't always known that. This word is not suitable to refer to a transition.

Expressions to use and avoid​

This table separates the words and expressions that are okay to use from those to be avoided.


Any trans person can use any word they would like, from either side of the table, to describe themselves. People always have autonomy when it comes to how they choose to describe themselves.

Chosen genderGender identity
Born a man/womanSex assigned at birth
Biological man/woman
A transTrans man/woman
A real man/woman
HermaphroditePersonne intersexe
Woman born in a man's body
Become a man/womanTransition
Real nameNew name