All subcultures tend to build up a vocabulary of terms that have a specific meaning to members of that culture and that is particularly so in the gay and transgender communities where for many years oppressive legislation meant that men especially often spoke in a coded language called Polari to enable them to speak openly about gay issues without being overheard by informants.
Throughout the 20th century the academic and medical interest in sexual behaviour, further expanded the glossary of terms in use. Following decriminlasiation of homosexuality in 1967 and the Gay Rights campaign that followed many terms have moved into common language, though in the process often the meanings of terms have become confused.
This glossary of terms in a growing project. Unfortunately there is a lack of conformity even over the meaning of many terms and therefore whilst we have tried to explain the most common use of terms, it is important to remember that people may use terms differently. The descriptions fgiven on this page are relatively short. I am also adding extended articles on some of the terms and will link them as these articles are published.
If you have any views on any of the discriptions or would like to suggest other terms I might add to this page - please send me your comments using the form at the bottom of the page.
One of the greatest difficulties with all terms that describe a group of people is that these labels create a stereotype or generalisation and these stereotypes can often be interpreted negatively. For example the terms Cross Dresser and Transvestite are often uses
synonymously, but both terms have negative associations – eg. the Oxford
English Dictionary defines Transvestism as "the practice of wearing the clothes of the opposite sex, esp. as a sexual stimulus" which causes many to prefer to describe themselves as Cross Dressers because most do not cross dress for any sexual purpose even though they may consider themselves to be transvestites.
Let me start with this term. In most countries today Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender people tend to be grouped as a community using the letters LGBT because they are gender variant and do not conform to stereotype expected of men and women.
Not everyone likes this and there is a strong feeling by some that because Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity issues are different, that tacking the T onto the end is wrong. Others have extended the acronym further adding I for Intersex, Q for Queer, F for Friends of LGBT people etc...
Infact it is not just transgender issues that are different. Whilst LGBT people
share common experiences of discrimination and often socialise in LGBT
friendly venues, each of the sub groups on the commuinty has issues unique to that subculture.
In the USA the term GLBT is more commonly used
All other terms are listed below alphabetically and linked to the listings fruther down the page also listed alphabetically.
Presenting both genders either simultaneously, or separately but without concealing both identities eg Pete Burns of Celebrity Big Brother fame.
To wear the clothes usually associated with the gender opposite to one’s birth gender, usually implying a male wearing female clothing.
Usually a man who dresses as a woman. Often in the closet and married with partners who are unaware of their cross-dressing. They dress as a woman when they get the chance mostly in private at home. Some occasionally venture out, often late at night at high risk, but considered less risky than being spotted in daylight. Through access to online forums many now have joined local groups and may venture out on nights out with other Cross-Dressers.
(In the) Closet
Keeping one’s gender identity secret and cross-dressing at home, i.e. in the closet or wardrobe – Although originating in the trans community this term is used extensively though out the entire LGBT community to describe keeping one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity secret.
Coming out (of the closet)
Disclosing one’s gender identity to others – usually a slow steady process of revealing the secret to people – often started by attending trans social functions cross dressed.
Usually, but not always a gay man or lesbian women who present stereotypical and larger than life images of the opposite gender for entertainment. The term Drag is reputed to originated from DRAAG – Dressed as a Girl, but that is disputed. DRAG is a highly stylised form of cross-dressing. Some trans people in the entertainment business do DRAG. MtoF (Male to Female)DRAG is often referred to as Female Impersonation.
FtoM – Female to Male
Describes someone who presents or plans to present a male gender but was ascribed a female gender at birth.
Describes the perceived or projected masculinity or femininity of a person. A person's gender is complex, encompassing countless characteristics of appearance, speech, movement and other factors not solely limited to biological sex. The term is frequently used as a synonym for sex. In feminist theory gender is used only to describe socially constructed behaviour, although there is considerable controversy regarding what behaviour is socially constructed and what is biologically essential.
Refers to the indicators of a persons gender - the way a person walks, talks, interacts, dresses, and appears all enables us to determine a persons gender - Male gender attributes tend to carry more weight than female ones. A person may appear to present female gender but acts in a way that makes us attribute male gender.
Mixing gender signifiers in an overt way, eg – wearing very feminine clothes with very masculine footwear or wearing a male suit accessorised with high heeled shoes and jewellery.
An Inner sense of self that defines the gender with which a person identifies which may or may not align with the gender ascribed at birth on the basis of genitalia.
Coined by Riki Wilkins to describe anyone who transgresses the boundaries of the gender binary.
Signifies all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively. It includes, but is not restricted to, sexuality in the sense of eroticism. Certain occupations and behaviours are or were socially considered to be appropriate or reserved for specific genders, eg women in the home, men as head of household. These gender roles are increasingly challenged and attitudes are slowly changing.
GIC – Gender Identity Clinic
These are the primary NHS source of professional support and access to surgery for trans women unable to access private treatment.
I use the term GRS to mean Genital Reconstruction Surgery as a personal preference, however it is a term used in the medical profession usually to mean Gender Reassignment Surgery and occasionally people refer to SRS - Sex Reassignment Surgery although this is falling out of use.
Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA)
Important legislation which allows a Trans person to legally change gender subject to strict conditions.
MtoF – Male to Female
Describes someone who presents or plans to present a female gender identity but was ascribed a male gender at birth.
To have one’s gender identity or sexual orientation publicised to the world by someone else or the media. Within the LGBT community outing someone is considered to be totally unacceptable behaviour.
To present a female gender identity that is accepted unquestionably as female by other people and not draw unwanted attention, or visa versa.
The act of gathering up all evidence of female clothing and accessories and destroying them or donating them to charity in an attempt to rid oneself of the temptation to cross dress and suppress the feelings. There is no evidence that this ever works.
To be identified as have a male birth gender when presenting a female gender identity or visa versa.
Real Life Experience (Test) (RLE)
The requirement under the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care that a candidate for genital reconstruction surgery should demonstrate their ability to live in the gender opposite to their birth gender for at least a year – two years for NHS treatment
Usually describes a transsexual or trans women who has undergone breast enhancement and/or hormone treatment but retains her male genitalia. She-males are a colourful feature of the sex industry especially in Thailand and Brazil and are found on many internet pornography sites.
Having transitioned, living in an acquired gender without disclosing one’s past gender identity. (Living in Stealth)
The preferred umbrella term used to describe anyone whose gender identity does not fit with society’s fixed binary view of natal gender.
This term is used primarily to refer to the growing online community of trans people internationally – It is not a community in the geographic sense because trans people in the main live in a virtual world. In the real world the majority of trans people live to a large degree in the closet or in stealth, however there are a growing number of local trans communities often part of the general LGBT scene were trans women meet and socialise regularly.
Usually someone ascribed male at birth but who comfortably presents both male and female gender identities. They often are out in public as a woman but their male and female social lives may be entirely separate and they may not allow people to know their two identities. Many have personal web sites which can sometimes result in them being outed at work.
Originally coined by Virginia Prince when she began living full time as a woman to describe someone living or planning to live in the gender opposite to that ascribed at birth but not committed to using either chemicals or surgery to change their bodies permanently. This term is also often used as an umbrella term to describe all gender diverse people though there is strong pressure within the community to use Trans as the umbrella term. Trans-Woman
An umbrella term to describe someone who is somewhere on a continuum between male and female and presenting a female gender identity some or all of the time.
An umbrella term to describe someone who is somewhere on a continuum between male and female and presenting a male gender identity some or all of the time.
Transsexual – Pre-operative
Someone who is living or planning to live in the gender opposite to their birth gender and undergo hormone and surgical treatment to change their body to match their gender identity.
Transsexual – Post-operative
Someone who has undergone Gender reassignment treatment and now lives in their acquired gender – they may still be openly transsexual or may now consider themselves to be a woman/man and no longer transsexual.
We are steadily increasing this Glossary of Terms and would welcome and suggestions you have. If you feel there is a term that should be added or would like to suggest alternative definitions of terms already here, please send your comments using the form below.