The Social Perception, Attitudes, Mental Simulation Lab

Gender Glossary: Transgender Experience




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Term and Definition:

Transgender experience (or transgender identity): Refers to the combination of birth-assigned and current gender identities that are different. Further, transgender identities always mark in language the gender identity that the person currently has. For instance, if a person was assigned to the female gender at birth (based on external genitalia) and identifies as male now, then this person is considered a transgender man (or, trans man). Virtually all trans men prefer male pronouns (he/him/his) to communicate their identity. Similarly, if a person was assigned to the male gender at birth (based on external genitalia) and identifies as female now, then this person is considered a transgender woman (or, trans woman). Virtually all trans women prefer female pronouns (she/her/hers) to communicate their identity.

It sometimes happens that people who were medically classified as “intersex” (based on genital appearance at birth) do not identify with the gender category given to them at birth by parents or others (for the purposes of filling out the birth certificate). These individuals may then self-identify as the other gender category that was not assigned at birth.

Transgender identity is also a large enough concept to capture transitions to less commonly represented gender categories. Consequently, some people use the terms "transgender spectrum" or trans* to indicate the inclusiveness. This class of less common categories can be referred to collectively as genderqueeer identities. Genderqueer identities can include experience of gender that are: (a) a combination of the female and male categories (e.g., two-spirit identity), or (b) a rejection of both female and male gender categories (e.g., post-gender).

Importantly, pronoun use is also related to these genderqueer identities, though unevenly so. Some number of genderqueers who have a combined sense of male and female categorization may use co-pronouns such as “ze” (combination of the sounds for “she” and “he”). (“Ze” can conjugated as “hirs” [his+hers] and “hir” [her+him].) Some genderqueers who identified as both gender categories may use “she” or “he” alternately. Other genderqueers who identify as neither male nor female, may be interested in using pronouns such as “they” (conjugated in the common manner in English) to indicate that they identify with neither gender category. Still other genderqueers who do identify as neither male nor female use “ze” to indicate gender neutrality.

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.