Here is a short list of terms and what they mean. PLEASE to not take this as a comprehensive list as things change in a very quick manner in our society. Also please take into account as most groups of LGBTQ are isolated and sometimes develop their OWN definitions to terms, be mindful if someone says that is now what a term means, they were just told differently usually.
Pronouns: very important to use the pronouns they prefer: chosen name and he/she/they. It is never impolite to ask if you are just trying to learn.
CIS: one of the more controversial for some, it is the MEDICAL term for someone who is NOT transgender, born with a body and psyche that match. They generally fit into the stereotypical gender binary.
Gender Dysphoria: This is the medical term that basically defines someone who is a transsexual. They are psychologically distressed by the fact their body does NOT match their gender identity. This was originally called “Gender Identity Disorder” or GID and was before they finally could say for certainty that being trans was NOT a mental disease, which is why they changed it. Just like being gay was once considered to be a mental illness, and was finally found to be just a variation in humanity, just like in a lot of species.
Transition: there are two types of transition, see the definition below
1. Social Transition: this is when a child who has been through enough therapy that both the parents AND the therapist feel it is in the best interest, medically and psychologically, of the child to be allowed to present as their proper Gender. A LOT of people misunderstand this and think it is a MEDIC transition, which a lot of groups, who are using outdated information or propaganda, feel is basically child abuse. The opposite is the truth of course. NO CHILD is EVER given any drugs or surgeries to start transition until at LEAST puberty.
- Medical Transition: This is when the Medical Doctor comes into the picture, after all three, the parents, therapist AND MD agree it is safe for the child, at puberty they might be started in Puberty Blockers. Despite claims by those who oppose this, there is a LONG medical history for this, not just Trans kids, but children who have incurable aging conditions, etc. There are NO lasting side effects, the only “negative” is that they MIGHT lose some height, etc if they prolong the use of blockers for more than a few years. Usually by then, they are sure that the child is truly a transsexual (not all transgender persons use medical procedures or prescriptions to change their body) and can then proceed to using HRT to “induce” the proper puberty for the child. This keeps them from developing unwanted secondary sexual charactistics like body hair, an Adams apple or breasts (if they are a Female to Male transition), thus removing the need for expensive, and only marginally successful, procedures later in life.
This is what I give as a first, basic set of information for those who are trans, supportive of trans, or questioning persons.
- Transgender is intended to be an umbrella term, it basically covers anyone who does NOT fit the Gender Binary, and even someone who is a “tomboy” could be transgender. Most children in that kind of situation are not, and grow out of it, which is the basis of the “it’s a phase” denial by parents.
- The various “segments” that generally fall under this umbrella are:
Transsexuals – those who feel their body/mind/soul do not match. (Note: some do NOT like this term as it is felt to focus on the act of sex, not the physical sex of a body. The medical/legal term is Transsexual though, but usually safe to just use trans or transgender)
Cross dressers – persons who dress in the other sex’s clothing, purely because the like the feel, etc, but take no other action (some use the term transvestite, mostly older persons)
Drag Performers – persons who dress up in the opposite sex’s clothing, primarily as a performer, sometimes in caricature, sometimes not. (Note: some transsexuals have used being a drag performer as a way to be in the proper clothing for their gender expression and avoid some harassment, or just because they are still trying to see exactly WHERE on the Gender Spectrum they fit. Also can be a decent way to make money towards medical costs for some)
Intersex – some do NOT feel they are part of this umbrella, some do. Due to their circumstances at birth, sometimes the doctors make mistakes and “chose” the wrong physical sex for the child, thus making them Transsexuals by default. Some are CIS, their body/mind/soul match so have no issues.
Various – there are a lot of newer forms of transgender coming out as time progresses. They include Agender, Gender Fluid, non-binary and Gender Queer. There are likely others but whatever someone asks you to use as a term, it is polite to do it, even if YOU do not understand. This has caused some consternation as those who think it is a “mental illness” will use comparisons like “I feel like a giraffe today” or “I feel like a space alien” etc. It is up to you to choose how you deal with them, but I always just advice ignoring them unless they get violent or threatening. Then contact authorities and try to get to a safe place with a lot of people. Also some of these new groups/identifications do NOT like being associated with transgender, so again, just use what they ask you to use.
- The best way to deal with anyone who is transgender, or you think is, is to just ask their name and their pronouns. Use them, it costs you nothing but it gives a LOT to those who are young and just trying to find themselves. Being kind and supportive of ANYONE, especially a child is always the best way to act. If you don’t know how to help someone, ask for help. Every town usually has at LEAST one group that can help, PFLAG, Some LGBTQ coalition group or a specific Trans group. We have all three, as well as some that groups that specialize in Trans youth, etc. Please go to the contact us page if you have any need of help or know someone who does. Contact any of the groups if you are not sure who is best to help, we can help figure it out for you.