中文 | English
Unsure of what terms to use? Whether you’re a copywriter seeking to be more inclusive in your writing, or a journalist covering trans issues, or someone who’s just curious about the words we use to call ourselves, we’ve got you covered:
Here are some definitions of terms:
Transgender (adjective), commonly abbreviated as trans: Describing a person whose gender identity differs from what is expected for the sex they were assigned at birth.
It is sometimes simplified as “a woman trapped in a man’s body” or “a man trapped in a woman’s body”. The dissonance between that sense of self and body often leads to distress, referred to as gender dysphoria.
A transgender woman is someone with a female gender identity who was assigned male at birth (or AMAB). An older term for this would be male-to-female (MtF).
A transgender man is someone with a male gender identity who was assigned female at birth (or AFAB). An older term for this would be female-to-male (FtM).
The word transgender should be used solely as an adjective; it is not a noun. It is also not an ideology, way of thinking, or condition; the word transgenderism should be avoided.
Transsexual (adjective): An older term preferred by some, used to describe a person who experiences body dysphoria and is planning to medically transition. The word transgender is more commonly used due to the historical stigma associated with the word.
Transfeminine (adjective): An umbrella term used for transgender women and non-binary people assigned male at birth. Some may identify with the binary label of “woman”, while others may opt for labels like genderfluid or non-binary.
Transmasculine (adjective): An umbrella term used for transgender men and non-binary people assigned female at birth. Some may identify with the binary label of “man”, while others may opt for labels like genderfluid or non-binary.
Gender identity (noun), alternatively just gender: an internal and social identity a person has. Gender is part of a spectrum, and not a binary that corresponds with sex. It varies by society (think of the Bugis people, who recognise 5 genders). A person’s gender identity can also change and evolve over time.
In cisgender people, this gender identity often corresponds with the sex they were assigned with at birth. Cis is a Latin prefix that means ‘on the same side of’, while trans means ‘across’ or ‘on the other side’.
Gender expression refers to the way a person presents themselves outwardly; this often includes how they wish to be seen and referred to, as well as what they wear.
Some gender terminologies:
agender (adjective): A term that describes someone who falls under the trans umbrella and does not have a gender identity. Some describe this experience as having a “lack of gender”, while others describe themselves as “gender-neutral”.
bigender (adjective): A word to describe someone who has two gender identities. These may be (but are not always) man and woman. Not to be confused with bisexuality – which refers to a sexual attraction between two or more genders.
cisgender (adjective), alternatively cis: A term that describes someone whose gender identity is typical for the sex or gender they were assigned at birth.
non-binary (adjective), alternatively genderqueer: this word is commonly used to describe people who do not identify as either men or women. Not all non-binary people experience body dysphoria and choose to transition; they may opt to change their gender expression and adopt a more androgynous presentation. Genderqueer is often used as an alternative umbrella term to describe trans and non-binary people as a whole.
genderfluid (adjective): used to describe people who experience a fluctuating gender identity. For instance, someone with a typical female body may sometimes be perfectly content with their body and being seen as a woman, but experience periods of gender dysphoria and identifying as another gender.
gender non-conforming (adjective): a term that denotes a person whose behaviour, appearance and presentation does not conform to cultural or social norms. People who are gender non-conforming may engage in behaviour like crossdressing, but still identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Sex (noun): used here commonly to refer to biological characteristics, like their reproductive anatomy.
Some people are intersex – meaning they exhibit ambiguous sexual characteristics of both sexes.
On this website we will often refer to the above definition of sex with the following terms – assigned female at birth (AFAB) or assigned male at birth (AMAB) – as these terms are more inclusive of intersex people and are more relevant today.
We will also use the term legal sex to refer to gender markers on legal identification.
Dysphoria (noun): A state of discomfort or incongruence experienced by having a gender identity at odds with a person’s physical body or lived gender.
In instances where a diagnosis is required to obtain gender-affirming healthcare, the distress has to be deemed clinically significant by a doctor and is sometimes called gender incongruence.
Read more about dysphoria here.
Pronouns: English – the language most people speak here – use she, he, or they as pronouns. In Mandarin, 他 (he) and 她 (she) (both pronounced tā or ta1) are used; Malay uses the gender-neutral dia; while Tamil uses அவன் (he) or அவள் (she).
Neopronouns: Some non-binary people do not wish to use they or them as pronouns, and may ask you to use another pronoun to refer to them. Non-binary experiences are often varied, with some people never really identifying with he, she, or them. Popular instances in the English language include ze/hir, e/eir, or fae/faer. There has also been a push for non-binary pronouns in Mandarin, where the use of TA or X也 has risen in queer online communities.