Understanding Trans*

Transgender Identities Overview

Transgender (trans·gen·der, tranzˈjendər,trans-/) is an umbrella term for a wide variety of identities describing an individual’s embodiment or gender presentation challenging the cultural or societal norm of their assigned sex at birth. An individual can identify as one or many of these identities. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” Terminology has changed over time so we need to be sensitive to usage within particular communities.

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, or something beyond the binary. Gender identity is internal; ones gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Gender Expression: How a person represents or expresses their gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.

Intersex: Term used for people who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome pattern that dos not align with typical definitions of male or female.

Transsexual: An older term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth and who seek to transition from male to female or female to male. Many do not prefer this term because of the clinical sound and history connection.

Genderqueer: A term used by people who do not conform to the binary and do not identify as entirely male or female.

Gender Non-Conforming: Individuals whose gender presentation is different from societal expectations.

Bi-Gendered: One who has a significant gender identity encompassing both male and female genders. Some may feel one side is stronger, but both sides are engaged.

Two-Spirit: Contemporary term referring to the historical and current First Nations people whose individuals spirits were a blend of male and female spirits. This term has been reclaimed by some Native American LGBT communities to honor their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Cross-Dresser: A term used for an individual who dresses in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by the other sex, but generally does not have an intent to live full-time as the other gender. The older and derogatory term no longer used, “transvestite”.

Drag King: A term referring to female performers who dress as men for the purpose of entertaining.

Drag Queen: A term referring to male performers who dress as women for the purpose of entertaining. Derogatory term if used in relation to a transgender woman.



  • Transgender Man
  • Transman
  • FTM (Female to Male)
  • Drag King

Typical Preferred Gender Pronouns: He / Him / His


  • Transgender Woman
  • Transwoman
  • MTF (Male to Female)
  • Drag Queen

Typical Preferred Gender Pronouns: She / Her / Hers

Gender Neutral and Gender Non-Conforming

  • Cross-Dresser
  • Genderqueer
  • Gender Non-Conforming
  • Bi-gendered
  • Two-Spirit

Typical Preferred Gender Pronouns: They / Their or Ze / Xe / Zir / Hir

Pronoun rule of thumb

Please always ask!