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Term and Definition:
Transgender woman (or trans woman): Refers to a person who was assigned by a cultural authority (usually a medical professional) to the gender category “male” at birth, but who experiences her gender identity as “female.” (Trans- is the Latin prefix for “to move across.”) Transgender women are also referred to as “Males-to-Females” (MTFs) or as “trans women” to indicate the transition from birth-assigned category to current gender identity. We prefer the term "trans women" to emphasize current identity. Moreover, referring to trans women as MTFs may place unwarranted emphasis on an assumed identity. Think about calling "lesbians" HTLs: "heterosexuals-to-lesbians." This was likely not the case for many lesbians. Similarly, many trans women never identified with being male. Instead, other people assume that they did. Almost all trans women prefer female pronouns (she/her/hers) to communicate their gender identity to others.
Trans women vary in their visual appearance. Some trans women have appearances that are common for women in their society. Other trans women have appearances that are less common for women in their society (including appearances that are associated with men in that society). In any case, being a trans woman is about the psychological experience of being in a female gender category. Visual presentation is often an easy way for other people to categorize the person into a gender group based on cultural standards, but this visual presentation may not necessarily the person’s individual psychological feelings about her gender category because visual appearance is gender-expression (based on cultural stereotypes for groups), not gender identity.
Return to Glossary of Gender-Related Terms
Go to our Definition List of Gender-Related Terms (all terms; alphabetically listed)
Note: This glossary of terms was compiled by Charlotte Tate, Ph.D. (who publishes under "Charlotte Chuck Tate" to have female, trans, and butch lesbian visibility simultaneously), and Jay Ledbetter, M.A., in an attempt to provide quick, concise definitions of gender-related concepts to a general audience. Most of the definitions are paraphrased and expanded from manuscripts and published articles by these two authors. All of the definitions were inspired by and summarize existing work on gender identity in gender studies. Accordingly, the point of the glossary is not to provide definitive definitions of the terms listed; instead, the point of the glossary is to help people understand the various experiences of gender that people have and how these experiences are related to psychological science.
On a practical level, this means that some scholars and activists may disagree with some the definitions within the glossary (esp. concerning the meaning of “genderqueer”). Nonetheless, we offer the glossary as a starting point, and, an admittedly incomplete, compendium so that readers of Dr. Tate’s websites can have some understanding of the terms used. This is a living document and will change over time with additional research, findings, and feedback.
For those interested in further discussions (both academic and popular) of the gender categories and concepts presented in this glossary, we may find this bibliography helpful.