A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO GENDER
The definitions offered in this glossary of terms are not intended to be the essential definition of Transgender (TG) People, trans issues or Trans complexities or to represent all TG perspectives or lived experiences. The definitions listed here are terms that I presented in my master’s thesis, Deconstructing the bulwark of gender: Social work practices and gender variance in north-eastern Ontario, presented in 2006 at Laurentian University. So, that is why there are many other valuable definitions of other terms that are missing from this glossary. I will leave those terms to be defined by someone else. I also recognize the missing voices of Two Spirit People, Black Trans People, and Trans People who are racialized or who hold a space within a religious community such identifying as Muslim or Jewish. They all have particular difficulties and hegemonic oppressions that limit their ability to be their true selves, and this needs to be addressed within these terms and with other terms that I have not included.
AFAB / AMAB
- Assigned Female at Birth/Assigned Male at Birth
- This is a practice used by F2M’s who have the need to bind their chests to obtain the appearance of having a flat chest. The inexperienced transman may use stretch bandages, which do not work if they have a big chest. The more experienced transman will use specially made or specially adapted for the transman – chest compression vests, which are mainly used for after-surgery care. Most trans people bind and some bind all the time, while some only bind when they are in public spaces. It is extremely uncomfortable to bind, and binding can be uncomfortably hot, because binding rarely relieves dysphoria, so trans people could also be wearing two, three, or four layers of shirts.
CIS - CisGender Male, CisGender Female , CisMan & CisWoman
- Originally “cis” derives from isomerism in organic chemistry. Generally speaking, the same molecule can exist in two chemically identical, but structurally mirrored image forms. The two forms of the molecule are referred to as “cis” and “trans”. Trans people use this term because the word “cis” fits, as it means “on this side of, not across” which basically means not being transgender. So cis recognizes anyone whose gender identity follows the discourse of binary gender identity and thus is considered to be socially acceptable. It is meant to give focus to anyone who doesn’t identify as transgender, it is also intended to remove the focus on Transpeople, as the only gendered people with another name. Thus, the majority gender gets a name as well as the so-called minority gender. Caution must be considered because the majority will still consider themselves the “normal”, much like heterosexuals usually don’t refer to themselves as heterosexuals. In addition, using the term on anyone who does not appear to be or does not identify as transgender becomes problematic because they may transgress gender expectations and behaviors (in other words they have a different gender expression to their gender identity), but do not outwardly identify as transgender. As with any label, this label is problematic, as the term “cis” continues the divide between Transpeople and the others.
- Clearly this term refers to the name gender diverse people were once called. An old name that many Trans People look upon with horror. Trans people still struggle to reclaim their identity through their name. And it still remains a complicated process to get a name change, as there are barriers put up by the ruling relations such as parental control for young people, financial barriers for most people and then the complexity of getting the forms right in the first place. It is completely inappropriate to ask a gender variant person what their dead name is, or to use it in the context of clinical notes. If a trans person uses their new name, but it is not officially changed, it is fine to acknowledge the change in a note and then to continue to use the new name and the proper pronouns and never refer to the other name again. It is inappropriate to ask a transperson, what is their dead name, or what was their other name, or what were they called before they transitioned. It is also inappropriate to say, “I’m sorry, I always knew you as John” and continue to call them “John”. The problem with dead names is many trans people have lost families because families seem to be emotionally connected to names. This is hard to comprehend when most ciswomen (and trans women) change their maiden names when married. I lost the connection with my dearest sister, because her husband, even after twenty years, still refusing to use my proper legal name. There is emotional pain, when someone uses our names, even if it is accidental.
Demigender - Demifluid, Demiboy, Demigirl, Deminonbinary And So On
- As Cisgender and Transgender try to label differences within the spectrum of gender, demigender tries to fill in the middle. So “demi” means half + gender, so technically it can be seen as an umbrella term for nonbinary gender identities. So, they are not neither or, they are seen to have perhaps a more partial connection to a certain gender, and this does not just mean only partly male or only partly female. For some trans people, they might have a strong connection to gender, but not so much to a certain gender. Some demigender people might even identify with more than two genders. It is important to recognize this is a gender identity, so it is a term that some individuals might take on and others might not. And if someone identifies as nonbinary, that does not mean assuming they are demigender. In addition, someone, like me, might say they are not a man or a woman, and that does not mean they are demigender.
- The processes of how cultural meanings are produced. It understands how social relations and practices are produced, understood, and managed – consequently it is an action, not just a representation of what we assume something to be. So, gender is not seen as social or cultural, rather it is seen as biological and hence the truth. So not only do we say, “Men are this and women are that” we use those meanings as truth to organize social relations and accomplish everyday activities. As in “Men use men’s washrooms and stand to pee, and Women use women’s washrooms and sit to pee.” Gendered discursive practices are seen as truth, reality, and common sense, and thus a part of our morality. Another example, we assume all men have penises, when in reality – there are a lot of men out there without penises. A discursive practice can be found when writing about Trans people the focus is often on genitals and essentialist topics rather than opening up a discussion on social inclusion and social determinants of health for Trans People.
- Erasure of Transgenderous people can include the marginalization, the disenfranchisement, and the degradation of TG people. There are three social conventions that support or maintain the erasure of TG people. The first convention is how transgender and transsexual people are erased through administrative discourses that regulate them into categories of male, female or other. Theses discourses are then formed into statements or discursive formations, which purposely exclude them. In other words, when social services conduct needs assessments or do client intakes and the only space that is allowed is for male or female gender identification (or in some cases a space is provided for “other”), you lose any possibility to identify how many Trans People are actually accessing your services. In the case of the gender categories of male/female/other, transsexuals are erased if they do not identify as other and would not check off “other” gender. If they identify as male or female then they are considered for statistical purposes as biologically male or female, but their physical and social needs might/might not be the same, but also different from cisgender identified males or females. So, they classify (Male To Female (MTF Transsexuals) as male, if they are pre/non-operative, and as women, if they are post-operative. And there is no way to keep track the actual number of TG/TS people accessing services, because there is no mention of transgender issues or transsexuality. The second convention of erasure of transgender and transsexual people are discourses that focus on the false dichotomy of sex and binary gender roles. This erasure is maintained by queer theory and queer politics as transgender people are validated when they support or are supported by queer culture. Those transgender or transsexual people who refuse to be queer have their lived experiences erased by possible political allies from the queer culture. In other words, Trans People who identify as heterosexual are erased or excluded from research theory and practice. There is a sense that transgender or transsexual people cannot be political without a queer alliance even though queer theory provides either minor or no recognition of TG/TS communities or networks. The third convention, which occurs particularly with transsexuals, is created through the contextual use of the term transgender as a method of conceptualizing different genders. The term transgender has been adopted to include anyone who lives outside of the boundaries of binary gender regulations. This word does help to include many different genders and to distinguish us from cisgender people. However, it is also limiting because a transgender category provides little space to conceptualize the differences between micro categories within the macro category. For instance, there are political, social, physical, and emotional differences between transsexuals, FTM transsexuals, stone butches, crossdressers, drag kings and gender atypical lesbians. The term transgender does not help to define the socially lived experiences and practices of any of the above-mentioned people. Transsexuals are unique individuals, and their experiences cannot be stirred up in the melting pot of diversity. To combat erasure and in order to ensure the acknowledgment and validation of TG/TS people everyone must consider the presence and the absence of transgender and transsexual people within a sample population. That is why the labels in this glossary will bounce around from transgender to transperson, from gender variant people to Trans People to Transgenderous to Transwomen and Transmen. I want to encourage our understanding and impression of gender and allow it to float from rowboat to rowboat in the ocean of gender possibilities. If I constantly wrote “Transperson” every time I talked about a transgender or transsexual person, I believe people would put the same gendered image to that term, which would once again silence and erase our diversity.
- Namaste, V. K. (2000). Invisible lives: The erasure of transsexual and transgendered people. University of Chicago Press, 2000. I am using the term transsexual in this definition, as that is the terminology that Viviane used in her book. I recognize many people, including myself, find this term to be inappropriate and out of date. At the same time, there are gender variant people who self-identify as transsexual.
- The omission of different gender variations within discourses, research and texts enforces the discourses of binary gender normativity and hetero-gender hegemonic practices. The practice of this oppression is genderism. Some texts refer to this oppression as cisgenderism or perhaps cissexism. This is all part of an ideological matrix of discursive practices that regulates knowledge about gender. A systemic practice that organizes structures of knowledge and controls systems that regulate norms and realities through dividing practices (such as only male or female roles) is a precursor for power. A gender identity that is defined as normal or acceptable but subjugates a gender that is defined as abnormal or unacceptable is oppression. Further, any such practices that are framed within the discursive practices of binary gender are genderist and anyone who supports or maintains such practices would be genderist.
- This concept is similar to transphobia, as it pathologizes how people experience and relate to gender differences that do not reflect their own experience. However, as with transphobia, genderphobia fails to reveal the systemic oppression that TG/TS people and even cisgender people face. For example, this behaviour has been noted among lesbians who actively discriminate against trans people. Is this sexism, genderphobia, or a reflection of how women are taught to compete against each other? The term genderphobia misses systemic oppression and the organization of gender for power. We understand the subjugation, discrimination, and oppression of Indigenous people as colonialism, we understand it as systemic, and we understand how colonialism has caused such pain as inter-generational trauma, but we never call it “Indianphobia” or “Nativephobia”. But because of the hegemonic nature of gender, we do not automatically challenge genderphobia. I suggest this term is never used again.
- What the doctors and nurses told your mother and father you were at birth. What you have been told you are all your life. Determined by the presence of a penis (male) and absence of one (female) as the penis is all that is looked for. If the genitals are confusing, then a gender attribution will not happen until other criteria are checked. If a mistake is made, then a gender reassignment or gender reconstruction is considered. Gender assignment rarely acknowledges intersexed people, if they are intersexed, they are assigned a gender that the medical team has determined to be the most appropriate at the time of birth.
- What we do when we meet someone for the first time. We size them up, check them out and determine what their physical characteristics and mannerisms are and then give them or take away from them their power accordingly – even though we may not be aware that we are doing it. The attribution is based on cues, norms, and values and not on our genital contraptions, such as external/internal criteria, (who has breasts or not, sperm or eggs, who is XX, XY, XYY, XXY, XXXY, XXXXY the list goes on). Once we make an attribution, we assume they “have the right parts”. Even when we find out the “right parts are missing”, as in a ciswoman who had a hysterectomy and therefore is “missing” a uterus, we do not change our attribution we still see that person as a “woman”. But a Transgender/transsexual woman, who does not have a uterus may never be seen as a “real woman”. And, if Trans people have different internal organs, as in an intersexed person, then we see that difference as a mistake that needs correcting. The attribution one makes is never seen as a mistake. Most people are uncomfortable with others until they have made a gender attribution. So, you pass someone on the street, and your mind connects with the image that you just passed a you determine you passed a “man”. And part of that unconscious thought is accompanied by the assumption they have a penis, but “naturally” that is not what you think you are thinking. However, you discover through gossip that “man” doesn’t have a penis, then you flip that gender attribution, and they are no longer a man, they become trans gender or a trans man or a freak or certainly something other than a man.
- While this is similar to gender identity, it is not the same. Gender expression is our performance. It is how we show everyone what we are and who we are, it is also how other people see us and illustrate us. Thus, one’s expression could be masculine, feminine, boyish/boish, girlish/grrrly and one might still hear androgynous. For example, someone with a butch presentation may have a masculine or a NOT-feminine gender expression but identify themselves as a woman or female. A transgenderous person usually needs to show their gender expression to complete their gender identity and this is often done through hair, make up clothes, cars, homes, work etc.
- Are mediated and objectified on paper; these texts are not how gender occurs in the everyday world. Consequently, these discourses may be taken as the truth and that knowledge is applied to transgender and transsexual people. Gender discourses are what you see on television and hear on the radio. Gender is much more subjective. A method of deciphering and decoding gender discourses and breaking down that knowledge is to listen to the First Voice of transgender people and ask them appropriate questions with the intention to learn and read their stories.
- How we defined our gender. It is our internal awareness of how we see ourselves as either male or female, butch, feminine, neither or either, Transman or Transwoman, both, and none of the above. Gender assignment does not equal gender identity because gender functions independently of people’s physical bodies and what is often defined as one’s “sex”. Gender identity is normally taken for granted. Gender identity is personal and can change with how we feel, how we like to dress, any sexual fantasies, or a preference for a different or particular gender role. Gender identity is not influenced in any way by the addition or subtraction of biological criteria, and it also functions independently of sexual orientation, which is who a person might desire or be attracted to.
Gender Reconstruction / Gender or Sex Reassignment
- Gender reconstruction is a better term that gender reassignment, as the gender variant person’s history has to be rebuilt, recreated, or reconstructed. For example, an empty scrotum may be re-labeled as a malformed labium. Often times a transperson wants their name and life “erased” to make room for their real self. They may require further medical intervention and a re-creation of themselves when they hit puberty. This terminology is constantly being rewritten, as the newer discussion is Gender Confirmation because the procedures are “confirming” how we feel about ourselves. However, many MTF Transwomen are claiming their right to use an older term, sex change operation, because to them the saying goes that “Gender is between your ears and sex is between your legs, and they had the surgery, between their legs. The discussion continues.
- This is what people expect certain genders to do or be. This includes how we act, our mannerisms, our behavioral patterns, and what our cultural expectations are. Our gender role is not affected by biological criteria. A good example of this is how at family gatherings or thanksgiving dinners, “men” congregate in the living room to watch sports and the “women” organize themselves in the kitchen to cook the turkey and clean up. So, when I was young and I wanted to be watching sports with the men I was called lazy and unhelpful because I was not contributing to my “role” in the kitchen.
Gendered Text-Mediated Relations
- Refers to the normal social organization of ruling that is imposed upon interactions between people with power, as in cisgender people or social workers, and those without power, as in Trans People or a client or patients (Smith, 1995, p. 85). They are based on discourses that are operated and controlled by the ruling relations through mediated texts. In other words, these texts, which are gendered to refer to men and women only, are a check for what kind of language is used ‘out there in the world to describe all concepts such as gender. So, this is the language of doctors, educators, and everyone else, including social workers. Consequently, these gendered texts influence all the information out there about gender and anyone who reads them, which includes men, women, transgender people, and transsexuals. This causes people who read such texts or are influenced by them to speak in a way that supports the discourse out there, which of course does not support Transpeople. An example of this is parental control over how their children are supposed to dress, play and act. Textual relations with power create the textual organization of cultural and institutional life for transgender people. Gendered text-mediated relations are controlled by gendered discursive practices.
Gender Fluid / Gender Variant
- People who may define themselves as gender variant or gender fluid could include but not be limited to the many different gendered states that move outside of the boundaries of the binary gender system. The names of these identities could be: demigender, unigender, bigender and trigender people, Two-spirited and True-spirited people, masculine females, transfeminine butches, drag kings, fags, transmasculine, tomboys, bois, TG andgrogynes, boy-girl-faggy butch, femme guys, transboys, boychicks, daddy, big leather dyke, grrrl, butch queer, leather daddy, TransHag, bioboys, and feminine males, femmes, demi-girls, fairies, homosexual and heterosexual drag kings and queens, bearded ladies, gender outlaws, male to males, female to females, male and female cross-dressers, female to male crossdressers, male to female crossdressers, (gay, lesbian, bisexual, polysexual or straight), female-bodied or male-bodied people, full-time transgenderists, transgenderous people, transmen and transwomen, intersexuals, third sex people, and pre/post/female-to-male (FTM) or pre/post male-to-female (MTF), M2F, F2M, transsexuals and transitioning transsexuals, transsexual men and transsexual women, and also men and women who have had trans-historical-cultural experiences and men and women. The list goes on and on (For more information See: https://nonbinary.wiki/wiki/Main_Page.It is important to note that some trans researchers identify many of these terms as politically incorrect, and some terms are adopted with different meanings as a gender-diverse person accepts and transitions through their process of gender identity. As a side note, the term “tranny” is a derogatory term and should not be used by anyone who does not claim it for their own. I have included it here, only because some Transwomen have told me they wish to claim that name as their own.
- Homophobia is the term used by most people to describe what is assumed to be the hatred and fear of homosexuals, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, etc. Despite the popularity of this term, it is not an effective way of making visible the heterosexist social structure that queers must navigate through. Homophobia is part of a ruling discourse organized through heterosexist discourses. The notion of homophobia gives the perception that mono-gender/heterosexual people are a ‘normal’ reality, as everyone holds fast to the same model of gender and sexuality. Thus, homophobia is used to question and disrupt the formation and organization of transgender and transsexual positive spaces. Heteronormativity prevents people from understanding how heterosexist social relations are organized to prevent transgender and transsexual people from challenging the system. It is this dimension of heterosexism that requires challenging because heterosexism is used against Transpeople when they are assumed to be gay or lesbian because of a male-defined swagger or a female-defined sashay. Sexual orientation is mostly about who one is emotionally connected to, on an intimate level, but that also might include who they live with or sleeps with, or who they have sex with. When someone shouts “QUEER or DYKE” to someone walking down the street it is because of their gender expression and not their sexual orientation. They have not witnessed who that person is sleeping with or having sex with, and even that does not ensure that person is queer identified. The terms in this glossary should recognize the historical and cultural emergence of heterosexual and homosexual/lesbian gender erotic practices. We must continually resist by remembering that heterosexism is part of a hegemonic/systemic way of being and seeing the world, and coercion and consent is used to enforce heterosexism, thus heterosexuality becomes invisible. Therefore, heterosexuality constantly has to be organized, maintained, and supported, which becomes the “Achilles’ heel” of hegemonic heterosexuality. When any oppression requires the oppressors’ energy to support the oppression, then the oppressed can challenge and resist it. Using the term homophobia as a discourse of oppression against queers, is like using “blackphobia” to describe the social organization of racism. So, homophobia might address the pathologizing of queers by individuals, but it fails to recognize the systemic organization of any sexual orientation that sits outside the margins of heterosexuality, or how text mediated relations that are organized through the church and the state contribute to the actual oppression of Transpeople. So, to start unlearning heterosexism, one might want to start by removing homophobia from their vocabulary, from their computers and from their spell checkers and insert it with HETEROSEXISM.
- Homophobia is tied to homosexuality in a very dark and oppressive way. The term homosexual was “invented” by Karl Kertbeny in 1868, an early gay activist to identify and challenge the oppression that queers were facing at the time. This word was stolen by those people who want to eliminate queers and discriminate against them because of some crazy idea of biological determinism. Homosexuality and homophobia are not good words. It is also used by anti-LGBT organizations to continue the marginalization and discrimination of the LGBT2SQ community.
Intersex People / Intersexuality / Intersexual
- This category includes people who have been diagnosed as intersex. It also includes people who may not be aware they are intersex. It is a biological phenomenon that has been pathologized because of socially defined unacceptable genitals to maintain the notion of a false binary gender (Chase, 1998). The diagnosis is often hidden under the medical construction of gender and maintained through lies and deception (Kessler, 1995). What determination a doctor makes to define a person’s gender is not based on chromosomes, such as X and Y make a male; the real test is the subjective appropriateness of the baby’s genitals. Intersexual People include such labels as: congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), mixed gonadal dysgenesis, androgen-insensitivity syndrome (AIS), Klinefelter’s syndrome (KS), people who have XXY chromosomes, Turner’s syndrome, people who have XO chromosomes, and people with XXX and XYY chromosomes. Often intersex people can/might be/will be transgender, demigender or even cisgender, especially if they were assigned the wrong gender at birth and identify as something else (Cope & Dark, 1999). In addition, some intersexual people with severe Klinefelter’s and Turner’s syndromes have other issues, such as being developmentally delayed (Kessler & McKenna, 1995), but being intersex is not a medical issue that requires emergency medical attention. This group of people have little ability to fight for their rights, but they are working on that. They are encouraging the use of Disorders of Sexual Development (DSD) within the intersex community and medical professionals. As with the other terminology, the discussion continues. Please note the term “hermaphrodite” is inappropriate and derogatory and only mythologizes intersex people.
- When a Transgenderous person (who can pass or is in stealth) is exposed as being Trans (or exposed as being fake, not real, or even a deviant) without their consent. This is also applied to anyone being outed who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous and so on. Outing is one method of maintaining oppressive hegemonic heterosexist practices and consenting with genderism because heterosexuals or cisgender people never risk being outed. In addition to revealing someone’s gendered status or their sexual orientation another form of outing for Trans People is using a pronoun with which they do not self-identify. In addition, it is poor form to ask a Transperson their birth name and even poorer form to use that birth name when referencing the Transperson.
- As with binding, packing is a process that some F2M’s use to get a look and a personal satisfaction that they are looking for, and often intended to assist with their gender dysphoria. In other words, they are looking for the male “basket” that often visible in cismen’s briefs, swimsuits, and pants. For transmen, packing completes the package and is only another clue that the viewed uses for the viewer to register the viewed as a “man”. Transpeople use anything from rolled up socks, to a latex or silicone packer, to a realistic prosthetic device that they can also use as a stand-to-pee device, to a condom filled with hair gel. Packing is also performed by drag kings and sometimes by cislesbians, but this is usually for performance or sexual erotic practices. Please note that not all transmen pack, and so packing is not something that is required to “prove” they have gender dysphoria or to prove they are transgender. In addition, not all transmen will opt for bottom surgery and have phalloplasty surgery just because they pack.
Passing (To Pass)
- Passing is a complex term that is conceptualized in many different ways. Usually, passing is the attempt by a member of one group, in this case one gender or sexuality, to be assumed by others to be a member of the other group, or the other gender or sexuality. Passing is part of the regulated acts of gender imperialism. For example, I have heard (and I acknowledge that I have used it as well in the past) the term used on women who do not “look like lesbians.” For example, lesbians who have long hair, wear make-up and dresses are said to be passing as heterosexual women. They are accused to be passing as heterosexual women because they are seen as trying to avoid the discrimination that “the visible” – hence to be read as those that look “butchy” or “dykey” – that lesbians face; rather than seeing them as lesbians that like to look “pretty” and “feminine”. This is certainly a suppressive discursive practice that is used against femme lesbians, lipstick lesbians and bisexual women to enforce the binary constructions of sexuality. The oppression that people face who “pass” demonstrates the colonialist nature of gender oppression, this is relevant to all those who are “caught” trying to pass because they are often beaten, tortured, or killed. Gender oppression can affect anyone, even those who do not identify as transgender because they cannot be themselves and are pathologized and discriminated against because of their own self-identity and gender expression. A good example of this would be “hockey moms” – women who live in northern Ontario and dress very casual and are busy driving their kids to hockey games. Another example is the actor, Dot Jones, who plays Coach Shannon on the Glee TV series. Dot’s gender expression and the biological features that she has been “given” make her life complicated, as reflected in her character of Coach Shannon.
The dualistic subjugation of gender passing is reflected in the way passing is practiced and constructed by transgender or transsexual people who attempt to pass or succeed in passing as the opposite gender. Someone with an assigned female gender at birth may be able to “pass” as an adult male. This creates a hierarchy of oppressions as those TG/TS people who cannot pass experience more discrimination by cisgender persons and the TG/TS community often devalues their gendered status. In other words, many transgender or transsexual people who were assigned a male gender at birth have physiological structures that would not fall within the stereotypical physiological categories of their desired gender. The consequence of this is that they might always look like “a man in women’s clothes” so their physiological makeup denies or erases their experiences of having their transgender embodiment acknowledged. Passing and assimilation can be synonymous. If someone can pass completely, with little intervention they are said to be “in stealth mode.” Many transgender/transsexual people who can pass are “coming out” as transgender. Some factions within the transgender or transsexual communities are beginning to recognize how their cultural identity has been lost by their assimilation into the binary gender system. However, some transgender and transsexual people who have struggled hard to accept their true gender feel the binary gender system is essential for their self-determination. The discussion is still continuing.
- What pronouns does someone use to reference a transgenderous person and how can they assist or engage in the disruption of gender? Language needs to become inclusive and represent all gendered subjectivities, but there is a question if language inclusion is enough because language and subjectivity does not measure up to the terminology that reflects some transsexuals sense of gender as a binary. Thus, a starting point for moving beyond male/female gender stereotypes would be to omit gender restrictive pronouns. Transgender theory has incorporated gender-neutral terms in order to move beyond the prescribed assumptions created by using the terms “he/him” or “she/her”. Some gender-neutral pronouns that are in use are zee (“see”) to honour the singular butch, queen, female-to-male trans-identity, male to female transsexuals. Another pronoun, s/he (“sea”), is also being used both in writing and discourse. There is also the term hir (“here”), which can be used as a possessive gender-neutral pronoun to replace the pronouns “his or hers”. When writing, it is good to mix them up, so no one picture of gender variance will emerge for the reader. The above terms could be best described as “older pronouns”, but the oldest (approximately 1850) is ne, nim, nis; today there are many more, which is an outcome of how gender is now understood. Some are: E, Em, Eir, Eirs, Emself , or ney, nem, nir, nirs, nemself. I also like the term per, which is short for person, a term that can be used for anyone. Per comes from the novel Women on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy. Pronouns are important because they fix people to a gender and the pronoun also publically announces and validates someone’s gender. Many gender variant people may take exception to being gender restricted and on the other hand, some Transgenderous people want the pronouns, “he or she”, and “him or her” because they believe that is where their gender identity has always been because they identify as a man or woman, and not as a trans person. Remember, it is inappropriate to say “preferred pronouns”; Pronouns are not preferred, they just are. And finally, some trans people do not want to use any pronouns, so in that case you just use their name. The safest rule of thumb is to ask how a person would like to be identified and not to make assumptions based on a binary notion of gender. It is also very appropriate to say, “Hello, my name is “Bob, I am your social worker, I use he, him, and his pronouns. What pronouns do you use? If you do this for every client, you won’t get it wrong
Real Life Experience
- This used to be known as the Real-Life Test and the deal was that a transperson had to live full time (and provide proof of doing so) in the role of the gender that they identify with before they could have access to hormones or surgery. Originally, they had to do this for 2 years then it was down graded to only 1 year. This test is a part of the discursive practices of genderism because trans identified people would have to do this regardless of their presentation. So, if a male to female trans identified person looked like JOHN WAYNE, then they had to live with that presentation and “act” like a woman. It is clear this test does not represent how “women really experience life.” Rather it is a good way to get bashed or killed. In addition, many Transgenderists have been “living” the real-life experience long before they first step into a doctor’s office, so it is redundant to have to do it “officially” for a year. At this point the real-life experience is for 6 months and a transperson can have hormone assistance to help with the “picture”. However, this also remains problematic, as a trans person still has to have 5 sessions of therapeutic counselling before hormones can be prescribed and on top of that they need access to a doctor. The bottom line is gender variant health should not be pathologized, as transpeople know what they want and needed long before they walk through a doctor’s door.
Relations of Ruling
- Dorothy Smith (1991) defines relations of ruling as a concept to describe how power, organization, direction, and regulation are structured in a more organized system than what can be represented by language to represent the discourses of power. Like the languages necessary to describe gender, Smith points out that the current language in sociology inadequately reveals the hidden organization of the state, media, and capitalist society. Relations of ruling effects how our lives are actually lived as our lives are represented as a standardized form of knowledge that is meant to include everyone. And of course, that is not what is happening in the lived experience of transgender and transsexual people. Listening to the First Voice of Trans people, listening to the stories of Trans People, knowing a trans person disrupts the power of relations of ruling. Knowledge lies is in the organization or the discourses that controls us, which in turn are controlled by the relations of ruling. For example, when I retired from the Acute Inpatient Unit of the North Bay Regional Health Centre, one of the psychiatrists approached me and told me I helped him understand gender differently, because he got to know me, and he listened to my story.
- The ruling is the organized practices that work within the “multiple sites of power” that regulates our lives (Smith, p. 3, 1991). The ruling is more than the state or government, it is the legal system and businesses that will not allow transgender people to do business with them, it is management and professional organizations that try and control how we dress and what type of employment we can have, and not least it is educational institutions and the text-mediated discourses in that regulate how gender is going to be interpreted and known. For example, Transpeople used to have bottom sex reassignment surgery before they can have their birth certificate changed to the opposite gender from what it was originally. Now they do not have to do that, they just need a note from a doctor. However, both approaches require access to the medical profession, who are a part of the ruling relations. So, if someone cannot access medical services or they cannot afford such services, well they can look like Beyonce, but their birth certificate will still be male. (It is relevant to note this change came out of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal who issued a ruling that the former portion of the Vital Statistics Act requiring “proof of transsexual surgery” as a pre-requisite before being able to change the sex designation of an Ontario Birth Certificate was a human rights violation. Consequently, there was another ruling that said trans people only needed a doctor’s note saying it is “medically appropriate”, but as I noted above, this simple doctor’s note solution is not the answer when most Transpeople do not have access to any medical services. Additionally, many doctors are declining to write such notes, as they are voicing it is against their religious beliefs, or they have genderist attitudes that leaves Trans people shut out of this process. Doctors and clinics that offer services to anyone, regardless of their geographic location, are opening these doors. In addition, there appears to be complications when your OHIP card says “male” and you go to the hospital requesting a hysterectomy, many doctors turn these patients away, and tell them they have to pay for the surgery. It is important to note all the doctor has to do is fill out a special form. This discussion is also continuing.
- The desire to be sexual with someone, either of the same gender or another gender. Sexual orientation is not always dependent on the gender or the sexual orientation of those to whom we are attracted. For example, a person (John) assigned male at birth is attracted to a person assigned female at birth and that person (John) would be heterosexual or straight according to Webster’s Dictionary. However, if he feels like a she and HER gender identity is something other that the one assigned to her at birth, then her sexual attraction would in fact make her a lesbian. Someone’s perceived sexual orientation is linked to gender attribution, and for most of us (does not necessarily apply to someone who identifies as bisexual), so for many of us, we want to attribute a gender to someone first before we decide if we are attracted to them. As with gender there are many sexual orientations from gay, lesbian, bisexual to transensuous, polysexual, asexual, pansexuals, pomosexual again the list goes on and the discussion continues.
STP, Standing or Sitting to Pee, Washroom Issues and Washroom Social Spaces
- All public spaces are a terrain of danger that all Trans People have to navigate or otherwise they do whatever is necessary to avoid using public spaces. And public washrooms are the most dangerous of any public space. Many transpeople are told to use single room disabled washrooms, or their access to washrooms are organized and they can “use” a specially designated washroom on another floor with little public access. Being able to participate in the culture of the public bathroom space is a part of identifying with another gender. For example, women’s washrooms are bound by a particular discourse, as people who present as “women” (usually) “go to the bathroom together,” they congregate inside and fix their hair and put on makeup and they talk and gossip with other women. This is an activity that Transgenderous women want to be a part of and being denied access to such spaces is part of genderist and heterosexist practices that regulate women’s private spaces. In turn, for many transmen the same can be said of men’s washroom spaces. While men do not engage in the same social relations as women do, there is the social practice of using urinals that many transmen require to validate their sense of self. Naturally to use the urinal transmen have to negotiate the fine practice of peeing standing up and to do that they use an STP, a standing to pee device. Standing to pee for people assigned female at birth is something that all people bodied without a penis can participate in, and this is an example of how genderism inhibits cisgender women from having the same freedoms that people bodied with a penis can experience. An example of this is being able to pee anywhere in case of emergencies, the side of the road, a restroom on a plane, or on the side of Mount Everest.
I should add there is a discourse of oppression coming out from the backlash of our movement forward, and from within “today’s social relations.” This is the movement by conservative legislators trying to pass laws that would force Trans people to use washrooms of their assigned gender at birth. The mislaid believe is this is supposed to prevent male “pedophiles and sexual predators” from accessing women’s spaces, because women will be at risk of being sexually assaulted. This is so problematic that it needs no response, but in fact it does require a response. First, “women” are most at risk of being sexually assaulted in their own home or their own neigbourhood, and by their own significant other, as that is where most assaults occur. Second, “men” already access women’s washroom spaces. In my life experience, I have seen two men, a plumber fixing a toilet and an electrician fixing a hand dryer. Third, all people, including cispeople will have to answer to these new laws, so anyone deemed to “not fit” in the washroom they have entered or deemed to be intruding on someone else’s personal space may find themselves targeted. This rule was designed to keep Trans women who may “appear manly” out of “women’s washrooms.” However, transwomen who pass and identify as a woman, would never be questioned to leave. In addition, no one thought “Well what about Transmen?” If these laws go through, then “male presenting men,” who were assigned female at birth, will be forced to access women’s washrooms. So “men” are “legally” accessing “women’s” washrooms. This discussion in craziness is continuing.
- As transgenderists navigate the terrain of danger found in their everyday experiences, they face one of two positions – prejudice or tolerance. Prejudice is the practiced form of systemic oppression that clouds and hides genderism and for trans people, and when you add racism to the mix, as in the lived experiences of Black Transwomen, it often results in death or severe injury. Tolerance is merely the oppressor’s willingness to accept the oppressed, and for the oppressed to endure the oppressor. For many cisgender people they might believe they are tolerant or accepting or even understanding towards Trans experiences, expressions, and issues. However, this is problematic because the tolerated never quite know where the limits are to this understanding until the tolerance is withdrawn. This is because the boundaries that mark the terrain of tolerance and the borders of prejudice are unknown. So, for many gender-diverse people they have to constantly navigate that terrain without ever knowing when the boundary will be removed. Usually, the border is pulled out like a carpet under one’s feet when the transgenderist is outed and they are deemed to be in a space that is monitored by genderist policies, like women-only spaces or even social work clinical spaces when that trans person is deemed to not fit in. Tolerance also means that many Trans People will not identify themself as having a trans history or trans identity. Thus, all of us who share the lived experience of having diverse gendered identities become invisible to each other, which restricts our ability to apply counter-transformative activism to make positive changes.
Trans, Transgender/Transsexual, Transperson, Transgenderist or Transgenderous, Two-Spirited or True-Spirited, or Gender Variant, Gender-Diverse, Demigender, Unigender, Bigender or Trigender People or Men and Women
- As noted above trans means ‘across’ – Across gender. These terms are only a few of the terms used interchangeably or specifically to represent the amalgamation of a variety of non-conforming gender possibilities that are located outside the notion of a binary gender. The regulations of hetero-gender normativity is controlled by hegemonic gender practices and gender roles, which Transpeople cannot conform too. Because of the complexity and the many possibilities of gendered expressions, some trans-people look for a category with which they feel comfortable enough to claim as their own. It is important to note that these categories are constantly changing, flowing, and attempting to use an umbrella term, such as Trans or Transgender can be problematic because these two terms do not recognize of the diverse array of experiences and of the relationship between sex and gender. Transgender does not adequately recognize that genders are not always chosen. In addition, these terms do not facilitate the understanding of how transgender people manage their genders before they change the physical and social appearances of their bodies or how they manage their gender after they change their bodies. Many people assume we change after we transition, and while some of us might physically change, we really are the same within ourselves. Gender diverse people have a different self-presentation of their gender, which could include any or all of the following: social dress and roles, physical, cognitive, and emotional behaviours, mannerisms, feelings, and life experiences. It is best for TG people to define themselves. Their gender identity may be ambiguous since they could be presenting any number of gender diverse embodiments. This will also include individuals who had (or have not had) reassignment or confirming changes and those who define themselves as “men” or “women.” Lastly, the term transgender should not be used to erase transsexual or transsexual lives or crossdressers who identify as heterosexual. Other gender non-conforming terms can include a multitude of peoples that include but are not exclusive to:
- Butch is a term that is used to describe lesbians who present themselves as masculine or appear to be mannish. I understand Butch to be a noun, as in “I’m a man, I am a woman, I am a Butch.” We need new language that supports butch identities, as simply comparing them to masculine behaviour is misleading. For example, instead of descriptive terms such as masculine or masculinity, I prefer creating updated terms like butchness, butcher or butchlinity. In my past, my way of doing my butchlinity is nothing like the way men do their masculinity. There are problems with Butch identities within the transgender community, as FTM transmen have diverse ways of doing and managing their gender. Consequently, the public discourse between FTM’s and Butches has created a border war as both identities find themselves struggling for recognition. There is also a meme going around that all the lesbian butches are transitioning and disappearing from the lesbian community. There is a flaw in this believe, because most of us are still here, we just became our true selves
- The stone butch was identified in the 1950’s and 1960’s as a butch who gave sexual pleasure but a accepted no sexual touching in return. Many butches who were identified to be stone butches during those times did allow themselves to be touched (known as “flipping a butch”), as they directed the erotic dance. However, today the term stone butch is used in a much more complex manner. Stone butches sit on the borders of gender variance as transgender outlaws. In other words, a person with a butch presentation may be placed within the constructed notion of identity as being perceived as a butch (read as a lesbian) or a female, but only rarely a male; however, a person with a stone butch presentation may be placed within the constructed notion of identity as being a butch (read as a very out lesbian) or being a man, but they are rarely seen as a “woman”. A stone butch “does not have a womanly flipside,” their Butchness is always readable. In public spaces a stone butch is either taken to be male or recognized as a lesbian, for example people would say to me, “Everyone knows you’re a lesbian.” In turn, stone butches are often chastised by some cisgender lesbians for being too out or being too masculine. Butches will speak on how cisgender lesbians shun them because they cross that binary distinction of what a lesbian or a woman is supposed to look like. Luckily for us, Butches have Femme lesbians that love them!
- Crossdressers (CDs) are people who wear clothes that have been socially defined and sanctioned as belonging to the opposite gender. Male-bodied CD’s wear clothes that are defined as women’s clothes and female-bodied CDs wear male identified clothes. There is a perception that it is easier for female CDs to negotiate the terrain of danger produced from wearing men’s clothes because it is more socially acceptable for women to wear pants, shirts, and jackets than it is for men to wear women’s clothes, like dresses and skirts. In fact, it can be a terrain of danger in both cases. This is presented as a false dichotomy as there is a socially sanctioned distinction between men’s clothes and women’s clothes and who is allowed to wear them. “Men’s” clothes and personal items are not marked, until they are found on the body or within the possession of someone whose gender contradicts the perception of what men are supposed to look like. “Women’s” clothes are consistently marked. There are heterosexual CD’s and homosexual CD’s. Heterosexual male-bodied crossdressers were once identified as transvestites (now that term is derogatory and inappropriate) who dress for sexual satisfaction. While in some cases this may be true, I question if crossdressers appear to be “sexually aroused” because of the power they receive from being comfortable and the empowerment that is produced through self-efficacy and self-determination. Historically female bodied CDs were erased from social recognition and thus they were never given the term “transvestite” (another term that is insulting and inappropriate) or a similar gendered term, because the psychiatric system could see nothing sexual in a “woman” dressing to look like a man. Try to avoid using the term crossdresser, as the focus should be on the discursive practices that regulate gender rather than argue whether clothes “belong” to men or to women.
Drag Kings / Drag Queens / Drag Anything Else
- These terms refer to a state of being transgender, as gender is presented in the performance, and it is not necessarily a gendered state. Drag kings can be butches, femmes or heterosexual women or male to female transsexuals or transmen. Drag kings can be women that successfully pass as men, or they can be ciswomen who cannot pass as men at all but do their drag in a parody of maleness or a form of maleness different from female masculinity. Many gender variant people do not identify themselves as a drag king or drag queen or do drag, because it is their life. It is not a parody nor is it rhetorical, as they have real struggles and real celebrations, which are often erased by current gender discourses, and so they will not take the risk of having people laugh at them when they face that oppression everyday. Drag queens may do the same performance as drag kings, but they are highly regulated in the gay world. It is important to contextualize the location of drag performances and how there can be a gender disruption within the gay culture. For example, many gay men look down on drag queens and use their performances for their own benefit. This can also occur within the lesbian community, as many lesbians are critical of lesbians who “try to be men.” Drag queens can identify as gay men or heterosexual men who impersonate women, and they can also be male to female transsexuals or female to male transsexuals.
Female Masculinity / Masculine Females
- This is a gender performance that crosses boundaries between butches and heterosexual women. Masculine females are often the women that someone might falsely identify as being a lesbian. You might see a woman and assume she is a lesbian, then discover she is happily married to a man with 2.5 children, so you might accuse or think she is not out yet. It is her gender expression and presentation that is being misread as a lesbian, not who she has sex with or is in love with. The same applied to me, as I was assumed to be a lesbian, even before I came out as a lesbian and even when people did not know what my sexual practices were or if I was having sex with women. Female masculinity is a socially constructed term that defines women according to a masculine presentation. For example, they may naturally walk “like a man,” or have masculine facial features or be large, aggressive, or strong jawed. All of the above are stereotypes of what it means to be male, because a woman who might have the same presentation, as say Liberace, would never be considered to be a masculine female. I use as an example, Dot-Marie Jones the actor from Glee, one should never assume that Dot identifies as a masculine female.
- Transsexual is an older word originally used to identify people who change their presentation and/or physical bodies in some fashion to match their sense and understanding of their gender identity. They usually use constructed discourses like “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body.” Usually the “sex change” involved genital surgery, as well as hormonal alterations. The term “transsexual” is usually applied to male-bodied people who want female bodies because female-bodied people who wanted male presentations were usually ignored. This may not be the case all the time, since in the past “sex reconstruction surgery” (SRS) was expensive and was out of reach for many transsexuals. The medical profession would diagnose transsexuals with gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder. However, the conceptualization of gender as a social function that has no historical inherent characteristics; so many gender variant people do not support the medical definition of gender self-identity as a medical disorder. This term is part of the requirements for anyone who wishes to navigate the medicalized world of gender identity clinics and what is now termed gender-confirming surgery (GCS) or gender-affirming surgeries (GAS). Some MTF’s and FTM’s prefer the term “transsexed” because they do not approve of the term transsexual. People who identify as transsexed argue the term transsexual focuses on the discomfort transsexed people feel with their sexuality. The term “transgenderous” is also sometimes applied to transsexual and transgender people. Transsexuals may also be men or women because it is important to note for many transsexuals, they will identify as transsexual only as they bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. Once that is done, they identify as men or women. It appears that the term “transsexual” is being used less and less in the trans community as gender variant, non-binary gender, and demi gender and Trans People are organized, and their First Voices are being heard to allow them to express their trans identity however they want.
Female to Male Transsexual (FTM), Male to Female Transsexual (MTF) or Transwomen, Transmen
- These terms are used to identify persons who were assigned a birth gender, yet they feel their own gender identity is the opposite or something different. So someone AFAB and still in their female-bodied person would transition and may call themself a transman, and they would identify as anything but female. This feeling would be so strong they would feel that surgery might be, but not the only method to bring their bodies home. FTM’s or MTF’s might request hormonal treatment and/or undergo gender confirming surgery (GCS) to have their current gender match their self-identified gender. However, the regulations that control GCS and the lack of services available to Transpeople at the best of times often prevent them from accessing or following through with the procedures. In addition, the genital surgery requirements for FTM’s are more complicated than surgery for MTF’s (it is easier to take away than to add), so some FTM’s attempt alternative alterations. Furthermore, altering such characteristics as facial hair, size and height can be difficult, so many young FTM or MTF use hormone suppressants to delay the onset of puberty until they are able to have the necessary treatment. Some Transgender people are labeled as pre-operative transsexuals, who are biological females who identify as men, but they have not undergone GCS. Their genital sex does not conform to their gender identity, like post-operative transsexuals who have undergone the GCS and have the genitals that conform to their gender identity. All these terms are problematic because they focus on a pre-determined understanding of what “men/males” or “women/females” are supposed to look like. This encroaches on the rights of trans people who cannot afford SRS or who choose to remain in their biological bodies. In addition, some transmen or transwomen maintain the “trans” because they want to recognize and affirm their past life as the other gender and for others it is a self-recognition that they are not “men or women” simply because they do not want to be “a man or a woman.”
- Usually refers to someone who was born with a male body but who lives full-time or part-time as a woman. A transgenderist may have breasts as well as a penis. Again, this word is being used in a number of interchangeable ways within the trans community.
Queer / Gender Queer
- Many members of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/non-binary community have reclaimed the term queer in order to recognize our diversity. It is often used as a short cut term to refer to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. It can also be used by anyone who identifies as transgender, but it would most likely not include transgender/non-binary people who identify as heterosexual. Queer, as a noun instead of an adjective, demonstrates a positive acceptance of self through desire or transforming gender differences. The term is also used to reclaim a positive affirmation of the heterosexist oppression that queers have collectively faced, and queer also recognizes the diversity within all our communities. The term “queer” could include Indigenous Peoples who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, non-binary or transgender and they might also refer to themselves as Two-Spirit. However, this usage of the name “Two-Spirit” misinterprets the gendered variance and sacred spirituality that accompanies the notion of Two-Spirit People (Kochems & Jacobs, 1997) because it is usually presented in the context of white-gay organization.
Two - Spirit / True Spirit and Indigenous / First Nations Trans - People
- These terms refer to Indigenous/First Nations Peoples who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or gay. As with the dialogue that is occurring in the European/settler/guest trans community, there is a different understanding and acceptance of these terms. By using First Voice I offer Sky Renfro, of Cree heritage, to present one dynamic of gender identity taken from Leslie Feinberg’s Transgender Warriors: My identity, like everything else in my life, is a journey. It is a process and an adventure that in some ways is bringing me back to myself, back into the grand circle of living. I believe that my life as a two-legged is the same as all other life here, that is, circular. My sense of who I am at any given time is somewhere on that wheel and the place that I occupy there can change depending on the season and life events as well as a number of other influences. Trying to envision masculine at one end of a line and feminine on the other, with the rest of us somewhere on that line is a difficult concept for me to grasp. Male and female – they’re so close to each other, they sit right next to each other on that wheel. They are not at opposite ends as far as I can tell. In fact, they are so close that they’re sometimes not distinguishable. (1996, p. 151)A term that was used for many years to describe Two-spirit or True-spirit Indigenous people was “berdache.” This is a derogatory term that implies a passive homosexual and was coined by Eurocentric standards of homosexuality based on Christian doctrine. For the purpose of this glossary, I will use Bowen’s (1998) understanding of Spirit, “Spirit is not divided in itself but is an integrated whole. It is not a thing in balance, as implied by dichotomies of male/female …” (p. 65). Bowen continues to describe gender as seven cardinal directions and not just a part of a continuum.
Diversity in Cultures - Hijira (India), Vestido (Mexico), Transformista (Spain)
- the list goes on, but as the definition for a Canadian, white, middle-class culture can vary, swing and change, so too can diversity be applied to other cultures and hence, no one word should represent all.
- This is a term that was adopted to identify oppression against TG people much like how homophobia is used inappropriately to describe the oppression experienced by gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals. Transphobia indicates an individual response and usually involves acting out of a negative behavior against a member or members of the Trans community by cisgender people or from people who belong to a non-trans community. Transphobia fails to identify the socially organized oppression that trans-gender variant people face, which to me is better operationalized by the term genderism. For example, we live in a state-controlled world that regulates medical services and the medical services regulate and control trans people, it is all systemic. It is not a bunch of people who are “afraid” of a bunch of Transpeople. Despite the fact that old written rules are being rewritten and getting off the books, for example, if a trans person was married, they had to get divorced before they transitioned, because they could not have two people of the same gender married to each other. After all, the ruling relations would not want to be seen as supporting “homosexuality.” Like the term homophobia, this term should be erased from the blackboard, from your phone, from your computer, and from your memory.
This is a gender expression used by F2M’s, crossdressers and drag queens to “tuck” the penis to create a more “natural” female crotch for the wearing of tight clothes and short skirts. As with packing for Transmen, not all Transwomen tuck and many do it for the occasion or the dress. Tucking is not a requirement of being a transwoman, and as noted drag queens tuck, but most trans people who tuck will consider bottom surgery and have the penis and scrotum removed and the creation of a vagina and labia.
A concluding note about this glossary. This glossary is only meant to help you think outside of the box. To be able to see some of the hidden gender-normative hegemonic practices that Trans people must negotiate every day. It makes me wonder why I hear social workers continue to use homophobia and transphobia after they understand what these words are protecting.
What I am talking about is the same only different to what Black People, Indigenous People, People of Colour, Asian People, Muslims etc., must navigate daily. I was just reminded of this today when I saw the news from Parliament Hill about the Green Party Leader, Annamie Paul, speaking out about systemic racism and the “angry Black Woman trope” within her party because, as a Black Woman, she was described in a leaked confidential paper as being autocratic and hostile.
And then the announcement, which 2SLBGT1Q+ people are very aware of, that hate crimes against us are on the rise. We can get married, we are supposed to be accepted, but we are still at risk of being killed.
And more racist, colonialist bad behaviour – the news of racial profiling within Parliament Hill, Nunavut NDP MO Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, saying goodbye while identifying racial profiling and gathering herself in the safety of bathrooms. I can relate to that, as I have needed to find security in bathrooms, under my desk and even under stairs.