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All About Transgender Terminology

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Understanding Transgender Terms

The terminology that’s typically used within the transgender community can vary widely. Language is fluid and the meaning of a term can change considerably over time.There’s often some confusion in the general public regarding transgender terminology.The following is a brief guide to prevent any confusion and provide some clarity as you move forward in the FTM transition process.


Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity conflicts with the sex they were assigned at birth.Transgender is used as an adjective as in “transgender man” for a person who identifies as a man and “transgender woman” for an individual who identifies as a woman.

Gender Identity

Gender identity refers to your inner sense of identity in regards to being female, male, non-gendered, or another designation.Because each person’s gender identity is determined internally on an individual basis, it’s not established based on external physical features.

Gender Expression

Gender expression describes how a person displays their gender identity externally.Transgender men and women often make tangible, external changes to align their gender expression with their gender identity.These can include changes to your voice, gestures, clothing, hairstyle, body language, and other aspects.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s attraction to the same or opposite sex.Common terms describing sexual orientation include gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, and asexual.


FTM is an acronym that stands for “female to male” and is a term that can be used to describe transgender men.MTF stands for “male to female” and is a term that refers to transgender women.

Transgender Surgery

There are a number of procedures that help transgender men and women change their physical features to match the sex with which they identify.Examples of transgender surgery include breast augmentation for transgender women and breast removal or reconstruction for transgender men. Transgender surgery can also be performed on the genitals to confirm gender identity.Transgender surgery is also known as gender confirmation surgery or gender reassignment surgery. The term “sex change” was prevalent in the past, but its usage is now discouraged.


Transitioning is the process that a transgender person goes through to make the gender with which they identify into a physical reality.There are many steps that a transgender man or woman can take during their transition.Steps that are usually taken early in the process include a new name or hairstyle along with wearing clothes that more closely match their gender identity.Further steps may include hormone therapy, having transgender surgery, and changing legal identification documents.There is no right or wrong way to transition. The exact steps taken can vary depending upon the needs of the individual.These are some common terms related to the transgender community. Understanding them will help you become more familiar with the various aspects and considerations that you may need to make throughout your transition process.