terminology and labels

The choice of labels that we attach to things can be a bit of a minefield; some people might object to the labels we attach to them, and some people might object to the labels we attach to ourselves. And particular words might mean different things to different people. And the meaning of words can change over time; ‘gender’, for instance, has come a long way since it was a purely grammatical term.

Sometimes, though, you need to put some sort of a label on things in order to discuss them.

With those caveats, these are some terms as I understand them.

Sex is what we are.

Gender is what we perform– our social interaction, how we present ourselves to and interact with the world. (Some people interpret ‘perform’ in this context as meaning something artificial, or theatrical; I don’t;  Julia Serano doesn’t like it,  I see, though I think we’re singing from the same hymn sheet really….)

Transsexuality is a condition where the self-identification of our sex is at variance with the sex assigned us at birth.  A transsexual person may choose to modify their body through hormonal and surgical intervention, to attain a greater congruence.  They may also adopt a gender role in line with that self-identification.

Transvestism is the act of wearing clothes of your opposite gender.

Genderqueer is a rejection of the gender binary, and can express itself as an adoption of multiple genders, or a rejection of gender, or pretty much any mix you like. For instance…

Neutrois is a non-gendered identity.

By the way, there are some alternative, gender-neutral pronouns that some people employ, such as zie and hir

Transgender is an umbrella term which includes (but is not necessarily limited to) all the above.

Some people object strenuously to being grouped together. They are usually the sort of people who distinguish between ‘classic’ or ‘true’ transsexuals, and secondary ones, etc, etc. There will always be people who want to draw lines in the sand. I’m not entirely sure that the dividing lines between groupings are all that clear cut…

Cis /Cisgender / Cissexual terms used to describe people-who-aren’t-trans, for those occasions when you need a term for them. They derive from the Latin cis meaning ‘on this side of’, ‘within’. A direct antonym for ‘trans’. As in Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul, as you will recall from your De Bello Civile.…  I find the term useful, but would suggest you use it carefully; the term ‘cis privilege’ has been bandied about quite a lot as an insult in the angrier parts of cyberspace, and it may become difficult to use it in an unloaded way, before too very long.

…which would be a shame, when you consider other terms that have been used to distinguish non-trans from trans people. Such as

GG genetic girl

RG real girl (this one is mostly used by TVs, I think)

FAB female at birth

Normal well, quite

…and so on.

Note that I haven’t listed equivalent terms for cis males. That’s because I’m not aware of any equivalents. I’m happy to be told if I’ve missed anything out, though.

And here are some common abbreviations that you may find helpful

TS transsexual
drag queen
Sex Reassignment Surgery or Sex Realignment Surgery
GRS Gender Reassignment Surgery or Gender Realignment Surgery
GCS Gender Confirmation Surgery

…which all mean the same thing….
FFS Facial Feminisation Surgery
SOC Standards of Care
GIC Gender Identity Clinic
CXH (also CHX, CX) Charing Cross Hospital

….and then there are words used to describe trans people that are not usually considered polite or acceptable

ladyboy ….really, just don’t!

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