Since the open and regular discussion of transgender people is relatively recent in our society, there’s a staggering amount of people who are still naïve to the concept. Many people are unaware of the vocabulary that has developed to describe the ins and outs of transgender life. People’s thoughts and feelings about their gender can be complex. Having a variety of words and labels to describe the various ways you might think about your gender helps you communicate who you are. While there are many more than just 5 words, it’s important to understand the basics and how to better understand people today. Ask people what language they want you to use. It’s okay to ask someone for their preferred name and pronouns. Always use the name and pronouns they tell you.
Today, we're talking about 5 words in the transgender world you need to understand!
1. Gender Dysphoria
Gender dysphoria is a medical term used to describe the feelings of discomfort and distress people struggle with when it comes to the gender they were assigned with at birth. A person may be formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria in order to receive medical treatment to help them transition. It’s arguably the key phrase of the transgender community and goes a long way to explaining what being transgender is and where many people start on their journey to determining their true selves.
MtF is an abbreviation of Male-to-Female, which is the terminology used when someone transitions from their assigned male gender into becoming a female. However, while this term is meant to be used in order to clear the confusion, it can be problematic due to the fact that a lot of trans women are unlikely to have ever identified as male in the first place. You’ve probably worked this one out by now, but FtM stands for Female-to-Male. Unsurprisingly, this refers to the transitioning from a female to a male. However, much like MtF, this term can also be problematic due to the fact that a trans man is unlikely to have ever identified as female in the first place.
A lot of people still assume that transvestites, crossdressers and transgender people are all the same thing; they’re not. The word transvestite, which is an older and outdated term, is a person who enjoys wearing clothing associated with the opposite sex for personal comfort and pleasure – they do not identify themselves as female. A more commonly used term today for a transvestite is a crossdresser. Only refer to someone as a transvestite if they tell you that’s how they identify as many today consider this term offensive.
A crossdresser is a term that refers to the clothes a person is wearing without making any comment on which gender the person identifies as or to their sexuality. Some place crossdressing on a spectrum of transgender identity whereas others simply see it as the act of wearing clothing that is the opposite of what society determines as male or female. Crossdressers may identify solely as such or as part of another gender identity.
5. Gender Fluid
A sense that one’s gender identity or expression is not one or the other, and it can change over time. For some people, gender fluid is a gender identity. A gender fluid person might also identify as genderqueer, gender non-binary, or bi-gender.
Approaching transgender people and people on the transgender spectrum with respect, awareness, and a desire to learn about gender is an important step in making sure you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Most people want to treat others with respect. But sometimes even someone with good intentions can still cause pain, embarrassment, or offense. These are opportunities to listen to a transgender person’s concerns, learn more about gender identities and language, and work to improve how you use language that may be inaccurate or offensive.
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