The following words and phrases are some of the more common terminology that you'll hear in discussions at PFLAG support meetings . . . and on your television, in newspapers, on your radio, and just about anywhere.  Unfortunately, these words and phrases are often misused or used incorrectly when presented by mainstream media.  To help clear up the confusion (or lack of education) regarding these terms, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) has prepared the "NLGJA Stylebook Supplement on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Terminology" to assist the mainstream media in using these terms correctly.  Below are selected words and phrases excerpted from their stylebook, and the corresponding definition and proper use notation where denoted.  We have also incorporated terminology defined by the Washington State Safe Schools Coalition to add to the list of terms below.  We hope these definitions and use notations will also help you to better understand these common words and phrases. 
[Note:  The terms listed below are not arranged alphabetically; they are arranged logically so that related terms are grouped together and, where applicable, one term builds upon another.]



"Advanced Terms Related to Gender Identity and/or Gender Expression:

The following terms fall under the umbrella of "Transgender", as also defined below.  In this section, we've incorporated some additional terms from a "Trans for Doofuses" we found that gave some quick definitions for some common terms.


(adj) An umbrella term that can include preoperative, postoperative or nonoperative transsexuals, female and male cross-dressers, drag queens or kings, female or male impersonators and intersex individuals. If an individual prefers to be called transsexual, drag queen or king, intersex, etc., use that term.

Transgender UmbrellaAnother definition:  An umbrella term increasingly preferred by people whose appearance, personal characteristics or behaviors are gender role nonconforming … individuals who might otherwise call themselves transsexual, cross-dressing or gender-bending. Also preferred by some people who are emotionally neither sex or both sexes or whose gender role expression is significantly different from what society expects of people of their sex or changes from time to time. Transgender people may be heterosexual or gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Some people self-identify as trans rather than transgender.

One more definition:  This term is a used to signify someone who transgresses the man/woman dichotomy and rejects the binary gender system. Transgender in this way can mean cross dressers, butch/fem, transsexual, third genders, androgynes, queergenders, genderbenders, genderblenders, and whatever other terms folks prefer.

Note:  The image on the right is an image we found on the Internet.  While it helps to depict many of the terms/conditions that may fall under the general "transgender" umbrella term, we recognize that some people might disagree with some of the terms included here.  That debate, if any, is for another time and place.  We're just trying to get across that the term "transgender" can and does encompass many different people and conditions.

Found along with this image:  According to the Trans Activist Network:

In simplest form, "trans" refers to transgender, transsexual,  intersex, cross-dressing, drag, butch, femme and all other forms of gender variance. Trans individuals seek gender rights allowing them to present their gender identity as best suits them. "Trans" is not limited to individuals who change their "sex" or their bodies, but includes everyone who desires a greater freedom of gender expression.

Gender Identity

One’s understanding or feeling about whether one is emotionally or spiritually male or female or both or neither.  A person may be congruent (i.e., his/her gender identity and physical gender are consistent) or transsexual (born biologically one gender; but emotionally and spiritually, the other) or not quite either one.

Gender role

One’s gender expression and one’s beliefs and feelings about the appropriate and/or comfortable expression of one’s gender. To some degree, gender role is clearly learned (socially constructed and culture-specific). To some degree, people are probably biologically predisposed to be more “feminine” or “masculine.”

Omnisexual or Pansexual

One whose romantic, emotional, or sexual attractions are geared towards others regardless of sex and/or gender expression.

Transexual (or Transssexual)

(noun) An individual who identifies himself or herself as a member of the opposite sex and who acquires the physical characteristics of the opposite sex. Individual can be of any sexual orientation. To determine accurate use of names or personal pronouns, use the name and sex of the individual at the time of the action.

Another Definition:  A person (pre, post or non-operative) who is biologically one sex (at birth), but emotionally and spiritually another.  Female-to-male transsexual (FTM) people are born with female bodies, but identify as male. Male-to-female transsexual (MTF) people are born with male bodies, but identify as female.


Acronym for “female to male.” A transgender person who, at birth or by determination of parents or doctors, has a biological identity of female but a gender identity of male. Those who have undergone surgery are sometimes described as “post-op FTMs” (for post-operative). See gender identity and intersex.


Acronym for “male to female.” A transgender person who, at birth or by determination of parents or doctors, has a biological identity of male but a gender identity of female. Those who have undergone surgery are sometimes described as “post-op MTFs” (for post-operative). See gender identity and intersex.


This refers to the level and/or stage of physical transition an FtM or MtF transexual might go through. A pre-op person has not yet have had any surgeries to alter their body to fit their gender. A pre-op may also be not yet be on hormone therapy to change their secondary sex characteristics. A post-op person has had operations. A non-op person does not intend to surgically alter their body, but rather live in the body they have as the gender they are.


The process by which one alters one’s sex. This may include surgery, hormone therapy and changes of legal identity.

Basic Terminology . . .