What’s in a Name?

Seven terms to know and understand

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Pronoun use

Do not use the term “a transgender” or “transgenders.” Transgender should be used as an adjective and not as a noun, such as transgender woman.

Trans-inclusive language

This is written and spoken terminology that acknowledges some people identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. For example: the use of the term “people” versus “men/women.”


This is the umbrella term for those whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. “Transsexual” is an older term that was primarily used by medical and psychology circles and is overly clinical. Transsexual may be preferred by some people who have permanently changed their bodies through medical interventions. According to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide, many transgender people do not identify as transsexual.

Gender Fluid

A person who is not bound by the stereotypical expectations of gender. Interests and behaviors may change from day to day.

Gender Variant

Not matching masculine or feminine gender norms based on assigned biological sex.

Sex-Reassignment Surgery

This is the preferable term to “sex change.” Not all transgender people undergo sex-reassignment surgery. An overemphasis on surgery should be avoided when discussing transgender issues—for many it is financially impossible.


A person who transitions from “female-to-male” or “male-to-female,” meaning a person who was assigned female at birth but identifies and lives as a male, or a person who transitions from “male-to-female,” meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as a female.

For more terms, see GLAAD.org or transequality.org.