regular basis. Barb and I would like to
give a shoutout to Marsha Botzer of the
Ingersoll Center for help on this article
and educating us on transgender-related
competency, because the first lesson of
transgender competency is to understand that even gay and lesbian people
do not necessarily understand all of the
issues in the transgender community
just because we all get grouped into the
LGBT label. We would also like to give a
shoutout to Denise Diskin of the QLaw
Foundation Legal Clinic for her assistance regarding the legal issues and primary practice pointers in representing
Lawyers, like other members of the pub-
Glossary of Terms
lic, sometimes face the challenge of how
to use language when talking with or
referring to transgender people. Anxi-
ety about appropriate language may
prevent people from openly discussing
issues with transgender people because
they may feel it is taboo or they worry
they may use the wrong words. The sec-
ond lesson of transgender competency is
to respectfully ask when in doubt about
someone’s gender identity. Below are
some of the most common and accepted
definitions that apply to transgender
dialogue, though these are by no means
exhaustive. However, if in doubt, re-
member the second lesson and never
be afraid to ask a client or witness what
terms they are comfortable with.
Cisgender — a term used to describe
people whose gender identity or expression aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Female-to-male transsexual (FTM)
or “trans man” — someone who was
born female and transitions to a male
Gender expression — how a person
behaves, appears, or presents oneself
with regard to societal expectations of
Gender identity — one person’s innate, deeply known psychological identification as a man, woman, some other
gender, or no gender. 3
Gender variant, gender diverse, or
gender queer — terms people use to
describe their own nonstandard gender
identity or expression.
GLBT or LGBT — acronyms for “gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgender” or
“lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.”
Male-to-female transsexual (MTF)
or “trans woman” — someone who
was born male and transitions to a female gender identity.
Sexual orientation — a person’s enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, and
relational attraction to someone else,
which is different from an innate sense
Transgender — an umbrella term describing a broad range of people who experience and/or express their gender differently from what most people expect.
It includes people who describe themselves as transsexual, cross-dressers or
otherwise gender nonconforming. 4
Transition — a process through which
some transgender people begin to live
as the gender with which they identify,
rather than the one assigned at birth.
This may or may not include hormone
therapy, sex reassignment surgery, and
other medical components.
Transsexual — an outdated medical
term used to describe people whose gender identity and birth assigned sex do
not match. Many people prefer the term
“transgender” to describe themselves.
Transvestite — an outdated term, often
considered pejorative, used to refer to
people who cross-dress.
A Note on Pronouns
Transgender people should be identified with the pronoun that corresponds
with the gender with which they identify.
If you are unsure of someone’s gender,
it’s appropriate to respectfully ask their
name and what pronoun they prefer you
use. In general, it’s considered insensi-