Terms, concepts, and acronyms used by our authors in their transgender discourse. Words in bold are glossy terms. Suggested citation:

Glossary. TransAdvocate. (2014, March 15). Retrieved June 21, 2024, from

1st Wave:

Feminism from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, which tended to focus on women’s suffrage. Racism was a significant issue and genderqueer individuals were shut out of the movement.

2nd Wave:

Feminism from around 1945 – 1980. This wave of feminism was focused on Women’s Liberation. To the dismay of intersectional 2nd Wave feminists, privilege-blind optics became a problem within 2nd wave feminist discourse. At this time, Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male gained some measure of favor.

3rd Wave:

Feminism from around 1980 – 2010. Focused on addressing the exclusionary practices of previous feminist waves. Sandy Stone, a trans woman, and victim of Janice Raymond’s harassment published The Empire Strikes Back, which was well received. In the name of liberation, some within 3rd wave feminism participated in promoting “raunch culture“, giving rise to the so-called “Female Chauvinist Pig.”

4th Wave:

Intersectional feminism. Feminism from around 2010 – the current. Focused on inclusivity (explicitly trans-inclusive) and embraces significant (especially online) discourse. Websites like Autostraddle (4th wave lesbian culture) and Feministing (4th wave youth culture) exemplify 4th wave discourse.1 Unfortunately, sex essentialist activists have begun using “4th Wave Feminism” as a euphemism for their brand of anti-trans feminism.


A set of beliefs or practices at the individual, community, or systemic level that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities.


Not exclusively male/masculine or female/feminine.

See genderqueer.


One who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege and work in solidarity with oppressed groups for justice.


A term fascists created to normalize fascism through a “both sidesdialectic, suggesting that there is a movement similar to fascism on the left. The popularization of the term “alt-right” in the 2010s saw the increasing use of “alt-left” to describe leftist causes and concerns; among the press sources that did so was Fox News in December 2016 and Vanity Fair in March 2017. After the Unite the Right Rally later that year, Trump commented that some counter-protesters were part of the “very, very violent … alt-left“.


Explicit white nationalist fascism, also known as neo-Nazism.


The active process of identifying and challenging racism by challenging systems, organizational structures, policies and practices, and attitudes to redistribute power equitably.


Without gender.

See genderqueer.



Asexual (Ace):

An umbrella term for a group of self-identities whose context falls outside of cultural ideals of a significant (and, therefore, “normal”) sexual drive. Some asexual people will experience no sexual drive, others will experience little sexual drive, while still others will experience no sexual drive unless coupled with specific personal connections.

Bathroom Meme:

Also known as “bathroom politics.” A meme that is historically used against oppressed classes. It argues that immoral or unethical behavior will ensue inside bathrooms if an oppressed group gains equality. This meme was used against the end of racial segregation within the American South, successfully used against the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), against the civil rights of people with HIV2, against gay people, against the end of DADT3 and is used against trans people.

Figure 1: Bathroom Meme | Vic Lockman, The Equal Rights Amendment, a Trojan Horse, Alton, Illinois: Eagle Forum, 1976, p. 8


Movement between male/masculine or female/feminine.

See genderqueer.


Within trans discourse, “biological” refers to physical living matter.

Within anti-trans discourse, “biological” refers to metaphysical ontology. “Biological” is used rather than “ontological” because “biological” helps it seem as if relationships between categories are constructed by god(s) or nature rather than culture.

Biological Sex:

Genotype and phenotype. Cisgender media often uses this term to either support ad naturam arguments –implying that a post-transition trans or intersex person’s body is no longer biological— and/or as an equivocation for ontological sex.


An aspect of functionalism that posits biological form defines social function. It is the sexist notion that men are naturally aggressive and women are naturally passive. Biologism is popular in most sex-essentialist movements.

See sexism.

Radical Feminists do not believe that males are raping and murdering because they were somehow “socialized” that way (which leads once again to women devoting even more time to change males.) There are clear biological, mental, and emotional differences between females and males.”

Bev “BevJo” Von Dohre,
Pioneering TERF activist, 2014


Sexually attracted to both men and women.


Both cisgender and heterosexual.

Cisgender (Cis):

Short for cisgender. Cis is Latin for “on the same side [as].” In other words, it’s a term describing non-transgender people. In the same way, one might say transwomen one can say ciswomen. Cisgender means “denoting or relating to someone whose sense of personal identity corresponds with the gender assigned to them at birth.” 4

While the cis and trans lexical binary was used to reference gendered behavior in Western sexology since at least 1914, it is commonly asserted that trans activists only recently coined this naming convention.

Note: The “sense of personal identity” in the definition of cisgender does not refer to gender roles. Identity and role are two different things. For instance, just because LGB people’s sexuality violates assigned heteronormative gender roles, that does not mean that lesbians, therefore, don’t identify with the gender assigned to them at birth: female.

Cisgender Media:

Media controlled by cisgender people that purports to explain transgender experiences, concerns, and history, frequently using a “both sides” trope. The hallmark of cisgender media is a preoccupation with platforming anti-transgender hate groups, ideological concern-trolls, sensationalism, and the promotion of non-fact-checked assertions based on equivocation and lies.


The standard of normalcy in a culture that tends to privilege cis cultural archetypes over all others.

“If you are a cisgender person in a culture that hates trans people, you are privileged to not be treated as a transgender person. That’s what ‘cis privilege‘ means.”

Cristan Williams


Refers to a set of unearned advantages that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth accrue solely due to their cisgender identity.


“This is not a pipe” by René Magritte, 1929

Sometimes referred to as “constructivism,” “construct,” “social constructivism,” or “cultural construct,” this concept recognizes that conscious actors have a subjective experience of their material existence.

In other words, to assert that “the sound you hear is a construction” is to note that there is a difference between a material stimulus, in this case, a sound, and the hearing of a sound (the subjective experience). Moreover, if one were to language their experience of fingernails on a chalkboard, they would use culture (language) to communicate what the experience of that sound was like for the listener.

TERFs and other sex essentialists often misuse this term to mean fake or unreal. For instance, if you were to read a paragraph describing the sound of nails on a chalkboard, and if you then noted that the meaning you derived from the description was a cultural construct, one who is arguing in bad faith might claim that you think that nails on a chalkboard do not make a sound or claim that you think that neither nails nor chalkboards exist. Acknowledging that an experience of something is not a thing itself is not the same as saying it does not exist.

Cotton Ceiling:

An internal discussion within the trans community, originally known as the Cotton Ceiling, concerned itself with the way physical cisnormative beauty standards impact notions of desirability, how these biases relate to the fetishization of trans people, how it impacts the perception of trans people in queer spaces, and how these cisnormative standards affect the body image of trans people. The “cotton” in the name of the term refers to the clothing covering the (fetishized, reviled, etc.) bodies of trans people. In other words, it is a conversation about the way cisnormative beauty standards affect the way trans people see themselves and the way in which it biases the way others view trans people.

However, TERF opinion leaders appropriated this discourse and turned it into a conspiracy theory. While similar internal conversations about beauty standards occur among numerous communities, the anti-trans weaponization of this conversation is particularly toxic. Since 2013, these conspiracy iterations include Drop the T, Get the L Out, and, most recently, Super Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Bi and represent a dialectic –a communication strategy for persuasion– that is rebranded every two to three years.


The unethical use of a trans or intersex person’s pre-transition name. The “dead” in this term references the unethical practice by police who refer to a murdered trans person as their pre-transition name within cis media. Outside of a trans context, this term was used in folklore to refer to a persona one wished to kill.5


Prior to the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, most who were given a diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID) under the DSM-IV were not individuals with phenotype dysphoria; rather, they were individuals who were gender nonconforming. Under the now-defunct GID rubric, desistance referred to individuals who desisted from their gender nonconformity and asserted a gender-conforming social persona. While “desistance” is exceedingly rare in those with phenotype dysphoria6, it is relatively commonplace for those who do not have phenotype dysphoria and who were pathologized for their gender non-conformity.7

Within cisgender media, it is common to cite DSM-IV desistance rates to support arguments against treatment for those who experience phenotype dysphoria. Moreover, cisgender media frequently conflates desistance with detransition, especially post-transition detransition.  


An umbrella term that refers to the following three types of detransition: pre-transition, in-transition, and post-transition detransition. In all cases, “detransition” refers to the process of a trans-identified individual becoming a cis-identified individual. Within cisgender media, “detransition” almost always refers to pre or in-transition detransition, though often gives readers the misimpression that the author is referencing post-transition detransition.

See desistance.


As in “political dialectic,” one’s dialectic is their specific approach to communications meant to argue for and persuade others toward a political position.


Prejudicial treatment based on a wide range of characteristics, including not only racial or ethnic membership but also low income, disability, religion, LGBTQ+ status, gender, and other characteristically associated with social exclusion and marginalization.


The methodological approach and scope one employs to distinguish justified belief from opinion.


Having an asserted de jure, though not nessecarilly de facto equal status.


Having both de jure and de facto equal opportunity. Activists for fascism often assert that “equity” means “equality of outcomes” and frame equity itself as part of a communist conspiracy to destroy “the West.”


Female Assigned At Birth or Assigned Female at Birth.


An aspect of epistemology wherein a position, proposition, or hypothesis is constructed in such a way as to be testable as being true or false.


A right-wing nationalist populism predicated upon: opposition to class analysis; opposition to progressivism; totalitarian ambitions; conservative economic programs; corporatism; imperialism; a fetishism of the military; the vernation of leaders; the glorification of masculinity, vitality, and aggression; education as character building rather than the study of subjects; framing non-fascists as decadent, sexually deviant, and degenerate; acts of violence; systemic scapegoating; anti-urbanism; sexism and misogyny; and anti-transgender politics that precipitates the oppression of non-heteronormative individuals.


One whose genotype, phenotype, and/or social persona is regarded by society as being typical of the political class “woman.”


The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men8

Differences and commonalities between radical, trans, and sex essentialist feminisms | Table from The SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies 9


In one sense, gay can refer to one whose sexual orientation is directed towards engaging in sexual relations with similarly sexed and/or gendered individuals. From a historical sense, gay can function as a generic term people in the past used to refer to any/all aspects of gender orientation, expression (including sexuality), and identity that violated cultural gender norms. Within cishet culture, gay can refer to anything or anyone who cishet culture deems to be inferior or worthy of mockery.

Gay Liberation:

The end of cishet supremacy and the realization of justice and equality between gay (in the historical sense) people and heterosexual people.

TERFs and other sex essentialist activists have appropriated this historic term to mean “liberatinggay and lesbian people from the (supposed) grasp of trans people.


A generic term we use to refer to any/all aspects of gender orientation, expression, and identity (see image below); gender role, stereotype, and hierarchy; and/or, any mental contextualization of the material reality of genotyped and phenotyped sex.

Gender Critical Feminism:

Before 2013, “Gender Critical” was a trans-inclusive term used by queer activists to refer to political activism critical of sexism. In 2013, the term was appropriated by sex essentialists to distance themselves from the term “TERF.” Gender Critical Feminists (GCF) generally present a sex-essentialist ideology outside an asserted “radical feminist” perspective.

Gender Binary:

The view of patriarchy that there are only two genders, “man” and “woman,” with gender stereotypes seen as inherent or “natural.”

Gender Dysphoria:

Phenotype dysphoria. The experience of extreme and long-lasting (often stretching back to one’s earliest memories) mismatch between one’s gender orientation and phenotype.

Gender Dysphoria may also refer to the DSM-5 diagnosis.

Before the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, clinical “gender dysphoria” could mean discomfort with one’s gender role. The transgender community strongly condemned this clinical view.

Gender Expression:

The complex and nuanced ways humans communicate gender identity and orientation. This includes written, oral/body language, fashion, etc.


The fluidity between male/masculine or female/feminine.

See genderqueer.

Gender Identity: 

When most trans people speak of gender identity, they mean gender orientation. Gender identity can also mean the contextual labels we use when socially constructing sexed personas. Therefore, “gender identity” within trans discourse may refer to gender orientation, one’s sexed persona, or both. 

NOTE: Within cis media discourse, “gender identity” tends to refer to one’s sexed persona or gender role, as defined by their phenotype.

Gender Identity Disorder:

A now-defunct diagnosis that referred to a mixed group comprised of mostly gender-nonconforming people, with a minority of gender dysphoric people.

Gender Hierarchy:

In sexism, gender hierarchies are the product of gender roles. Part of the male gender role is to accept, protect and promote one’s status as an oppressor class, while part of the female gender role is to accept, protect and promote one’s status as an oppressed class.

Gender Nonconforming:

Expressions of gender that do not conform to cultural gender norms.

Gender Norm:

Prevailing cultural gender stereotypes, hierarchies, and roles.

See sexism.

Figure 2: Model of gender orientation, identity, and expression

Implications for Gender Identity, Orientation, and Expression: One’s gender orientation might be male, while their gender identity could be female even though their gender expression is androgynous.

Gender Orientation:

One’s primary experience of one’s sexed phenotype.

Gender Role:

In sexism, gender roles function to promote a culturally perceived sex-segregated society. Being placed into a role is something that culture forcibly does to people, and in this way, nobody may choose to live in a gender role. Should society deem that one is a male, that person will be placed into a male role by culture; should society deem that one is female, that person will be placed into a female role by culture.

Gender Stereotype:

In sexism, sex-segregated culturally constructed norms and taboos are propagated throughout society by culture. They are applied to those who are perceived by culture to be either male or female. These norms and taboos produce a culturally prescriptive form that helps culture identify people within its binary system.


As a noun, the political position of rejecting gender roles, stereotypes, hierarchies and existing outside the male/female binary; or, (adjective) referring to a person who, having rejected gender roles, stereotypes, hierarchies and existing outside the male/female binary, self-identifies their gender identity as being genderqueer.

As a gender identity, genderqueer is distinct from either “man” or “woman” and is also known as a “nonbinary” identity. Genderqueer people may identify as both binary genders, or some distinct third category, or as “genderfluid” (alternating between two or more categories), or as having no gender at all (“agender” or “neutrois“). The rise of the genderqueer concept in the early and middle 1990s was linked to the advent of queer theory.


The genetic constitution of an individual organism. Often contrasted with phenotype.10


The feeling of intense or passionate dislike for someone or something.

Health Disparity:

The condition of one group (not individual) experiencing a statistically significantly worse health outcome than another group. Race or ethnicity, sex, sexual and gender identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and geographic location are all known factors that define health disparities for groups/populations of individuals.

Heteronomative (Het):

The opposite of queerness.


A social state of privileging heterosexual norms over queer norms.

Heterosexual (Het, Hetero):

One whose sexual orientation is directed towards engaging in sexual relations with oppositely sexed and/or gendered individuals.

Historical Trauma:

Multigenerational trauma associated with systemic oppression experienced by a specific group.


One whose sexual orientation is directed towards sexual relations with similarly sexed and/or gendered individuals.

Implicit Bias:

Because everyone in the US lives in a culture built on racism, sexism, trans and homophobia, and xenophobia, such culture is sometimes inadvertently expressed, even by those committed to equality, and affects our understanding, decisions, and actions without our conscious awareness.


The awareness that different types of oppression intersects and cannot be artificially disentangled from the experience of oppression. In other words, one might be differently-abled, a rape survivor, economically disadvantaged, and an intersex woman of color (WOC). To assert that her problem in life is merely the patriarchy is to willfully turn a blind eye to the complexity of the systematic oppression she may face.

Intersex (IS):

Someone whose genotype is not typical of male/female body binary sex designations. One’s intersex genotype might – but will not always – affect one’s phenotype.

In-Transition Detransition:

The process a trans-identified individual undertakes to reassert a cisgender status, usually occurring during their “Real Life Test” period. One who is in-transition has disclosed their gendered experience to others and may or may not have taken early steps toward a phenotype transition. In-transition detransition is the second-most common detransition experience.

See Real Life Test.

Iron Front:

Iron Front poster from 1932

A political movement defined by: anti-totalitarianism, anti-fascism, anti-Stalinism, anti-monarchism, and anti-right liberalism sometimes referred to as “democratic socialism,” “social democracy,” or “liberal democracy.”

The emblem of this political movement is the iconic three arrows. It was used during WW II to deface Nazi propaganda and is often seen at modern anti-fascist protests.

Lateral Violence:

Displaced aggression; the tendency of oppressed people to oppress others within their constituent grouping.

Lesbian (L, Lez):

Women who have sexual relations with women11.

However, some sex essentialist activists assert that to be a Lesbian, one must meet their notion of phenotypical, genotypical, and/or expression of learned social habits that are essential to being a “real” woman.

Note: some pioneering TERF activists, such as Sheila Jeffreys, self-identify as a political lesbian.

Liberation (Lib):

Freedom from oppression.

Klan Fallacy:

The fallacy of composition. Since the Ku Klux Klan was the one group that enjoyed the most success at politicizing and weaponizing the Oppressed-As-Rapist meme, activists refer to this meme as the Klan Fallacy. In the 1915 Klan movie The Birth of a Nation, a “Black” man (played by a white man) was stereotyped as a rapist. The Oppressed-As-Rapist meme was subsequently used to make all Black men look like potential rapists, which meant (in white supremacist culture) that, their racial segregation wasn’t irrational. This fallacy is used against trans people when people and organizations cite (frequently debunked cases) of purported criminality by one trans person to argue that all trans people may be likewise criminally inclined.


A system of domination built through intersecting forms of oppression. It is “a theory about the nature of structural power developed in feminist biblical hermeneutics by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (1992), and describes multiple, interacting structures of power and domination.”12


Male Assigned At Birth or Assigned Male At Birth.


One whose genotype, phenotype, and/or social persona is regarded by society as being typical of the political class “man“.


A political class that is pressured by culture to subjugate women.


Men‘s Rights Activist.


A nonbinary identity that generally means gender-neutral, null-gender, or without gender.

See genderqueer.


Non-binary, NB, Enby.

See genderqueer.


Category, along with its embedded notions of how a category is situated in relationship to other categories, constructing a conception of categorical nature or being.

Ontological Dependence:

Adjacent categories that rely upon a specific category for its categorical nature.

Ontological Sex:

Adjacent binary body categories that persist through their categorical nature.


Access to goods, services, and the benefits of participating in society.

Pansexual (Pan):

One whose sexual orientation is directed towards engaging in sexual relations with all individuals (hence “pan“) regardless of or due to their sexed and/or gendered status.


A social system –sustained by sexism— that privileges men and subjugates women.


The study of phenomena. Phenomenology is sometimes contrasted with ontology because such can define one’s epistemological framework, which is particularly relevant to the study of sex and gender.


An aspect of biological sex. Phenotype is the observable sexed characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of their genotype with the environment.13

Phenotype Dysphoria:

The experience of extreme and long-lasting (oftentimes stretching back to one’s earliest memories) mismatch between one’s gender orientation and phenotype.

See Gender Dysphoria.

Political Lesbian:

Usually, a cisgenderheterosexual woman that chooses to abstain from having sexual relations with men for political reasons. This does not mean that the woman has sexual relations with women; rather, the woman chooses to self-identify as a Lesbian because she identifies with Lesbian political culture.

Some of the most strident TERF activists in early TERF history are self-identified political Lesbains.


Rick and Morty is brilliant TV you need to give a second chance - CNET
Rick and Morty


Postmodernism is a philosophical movement that is skeptical of modernism –especially behaviorist and functionalist analysis– and its overarching presuppositional metanarratives.

For example, Monty Python and the adult cartoon Rick and Morty are examples of postmodernism, which is why many political movements rooted in traditionalism reject it as being dangerous to “Western Culture” even though postmodernism is an attribute of such culture.

Some sex essentialist activists deride those who distinguish between the perception, attitudes, regard, awareness, and languaging of sex and the material reality of body attributes as being “POMO.”

Post-transition Detransition:

The process a trans-identified individual undertakes to reassert a cisgender status after having transitioned several years prior. One who is post-transition will have disclosed their gendered experience to close friends and family members, have undergone extensive therapeutic support, and may or may not have accessed legal or medical support (name change, hormones, and/or surgical intervention) in order to transition to the point the individual asserted comfort with their transitioned status. Post-transition detransition is exceedingly rare and is oftentimes precipitated by social oppression or changes in religious, familial, or ideological positions which implicitly/explicitly demand detransition14 15 16 17

Pre-transition Detransition:

The process a newly trans-identified individual undertakes to reassert a cisgender status. One who is pre-transition may or may not have disclosed their gendered experience to anyone and has not taken any steps toward transition. Pre-transition detransition is the most common detransition experience.


A celebration of non-cishet identity, orientation, and expression that commemorates the Stonewall Riot.


Someone who, in a political, social, and/or personal context, rejects heteronormativity.

Queer Theory:

An outgrowth of feminist theory beginning around 1990 focusing on the socially constructed nature of both the sex and gender binaries; the changing concepts and categories of human sexuality in different times, places, and cultures; and the connection between feminism and sex/gender minority groups. Such groups include intersex people, transgender people, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual cultures at various intersections such as race and nationality, etc. Queer theorists such as Judith Butler, Leslie Feinberg, Anne Fausto-Sterling, and Jack Halberstam raise challenging questions for radical feminist theory and practice.


An oppressed individual who seeks to resolve their oppression by collaborating with their oppressor to oppress others like them. The term is named after Vidkun Quisling, a Jewish Nazi collaborator.


Prejudicial treatments based on perceived racial or ethnic group(s), by individuals, groups, or social systems.


Within social justice movements, “radical” means that the movement seeks to get at the root of oppression.


A social media term (e.g., #RadFem) is sometimes used to identify internet trolls who usually claim a “radical feminist” identity but do not understand radical feminist theory. Generally, so-called RadFems compensate for this lack of theoretical understanding with sometimes obsessive ad hominem attacks and appeals to biologism and sex essentialism in the name of a “radical feminism.” While this term is contemporarily used in this way on social media platforms such as Twitter, “RadFem” was traditionally used as a shortened form of “radical feminist” and therefore referred to one whose goal was the end of sexism.

Radical Feminism:

Closely tied to 2nd wave feminism, it represents the identity many (though certainly not all) sex essentialist activists utilize when engaging in anti-trans activism. Radical Feminism itself exists to do away with sexism through the abolition of gender roles, stereotypes, and hierarchies.18

Numerous Radical Feminist opinion leaders and organizations were staunchly trans-inclusive and faced threats of violence, physical beatings, and attempted murders by TERFs for their trans inclusion.

“I assure them I am as a real and as radical a feminist as one can be […] Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”

– bell hooks,
Feminism is for Everybody, p viii

Real Life Test (RLT):

The in-transition phase of transition, before receiving surgical interventions. The intent of the RLT is to support a space within transition to allow an individual to explore one’s transitioned social status prior to undergoing permanent phenotype transition. The RLT’s purpose is to cultivate a more comprehensive understanding of the degree to which one needs to transition and an informed readiness to move forward or reassert a cisgender social status.

The terminology of “RLT” is falling out of common usage due to its implicit assertion of a pass/fail metric that can center a therapeutic process upon self-proving rather than self-assessment. The hallmark of a therapeutic process centered on a pass/fail metric is a preoccupation with promoting sexist gender stereotypes, hierarchies, and roles.

The terminology of “Real Life Experience” (RLE) is becoming a more favored term.

Save Our Children:

The political argument that supporting the discrimination of a minority group equates to saving children from harm.


The philosophical approach to knowledge that posits a belief is proven justified by demonstrating falsifiability and that such should be organized into a particular subject.


Sex Essentialist Theory. An umbrella term that can be inclusive of all types of (oftentimes intersecting forms of) sex essentialist ideologies.


A social identifier assigned to babies at birth. In a narrow scientific connotation, “sex” is taken to connote the spectrum of genotypical aspects/attributes of human development as it relates to the ability to produce size-differentiated gametes; however, on a colloquial, day-to-day level, “sex” isn’t gamete form, it’s the cultural function of founding a social persona upon phenotypical aspects of bodies.


In simple terms, sexism refers to social systems in which Gender Stereotypes + Gender Roles = Gender Hierarchies.

Sex Binary:

The view of patriarchy that there are only two types of sexed bodies, male and female, and that these genotypic and phenotypic body attributes are an immutable natural category. The sexed binary erases or marginalizes both intersex people and transgender people who transition to a different sexed phenotype (binary or nonbinary) than that associated with their assigned sex at birth.

Sex Essentialism:

The uncritical belief that “sex” is one discrete attribute that, once identified, causes the entirety of the body to conform to the binary category of either male or female.

Sex Essentialist Feminism:

A set of beliefs, views, morals, and ethics, asserted to be “feminist” in nature, built upon sex essentialist theories.

Sex Essentialist Theorists:

Groups ranging from right-wing religious movements to TERFs who use sex essentialism as part of a central organizing belief, view, moral, and/or ethic. SETs will generally reject the notion that while bodies and reproduction are material realities, what we think about those realities is gender. Instead, SETs tend to assert that sexed ontologies are the creation of a god(s) or nature.

Sexual Orientation:

One’s primary experience of one’s sexuality.


One’s capacity for experiencing the context of sexual arousal.

Sex Reassignment:

The constellation of surgical and medical therapies intended to physically change a person from one sexual phenotype to the another. 19

Social Persona:

The legal, cultural, and social character that represents an individual.

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH):

Material conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, worship, play, and age which affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. SDoH includes housing, access to services, religion, employment, education, and oppression.


Someone who, in a political, social, and/or personal context, embraces heteronormativity.

Systems of Oppression:

How history, culture, ideology, public policy, institutional practices, and personal beliefs and behaviors interact to maintain a hierarchy –based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and/or other group status– that allows the privileges associated with more socially dominate groups and the disadvantages associated with the targeted group to endure and adapt over time.


Trans Exclusionary RadFem. A term used to identify those individuals who sympathize with and support a brand of so-called “radical feminism” that is so rooted in sex essentialism and its resulting biologism, it actively campaigns against the existence, equality, and/or inclusion of trans people. The term also refers to those who use and promote the anti-transgender dialectic pioneered in what has become the “TERF Bible,” Janice Raymond’s 1979 book, The Transsexual Empire, whether the individual identifies as a feminist, radical, or otherwise. The term appears to have been popularized in 2008 by a cisgender feminist on a blog called FinallyFeminism101. TERFs generally claim that gender identity is the same thing as gender role, that gender is the same thing as sexism, and that sexed ontologies are produced by nature, not culture.

Trans Feminism:

The advocacy of trans and intersex women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to cis men and women. Documents foundational to trans feminism are The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto (1987) by Sandy Stone and The Transfeminist Manifesto (2001) by Emi Koyama.


The constellation of processes a trans person undertakes to physically, legally, and socially move from one sexed identification to another.

Transgender (trans, trans*, TG):

An umbrella term that may encompass a variety of people, including transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag kings and queens, as well as bigender and androgynous individuals. Transgender came into common usage during the 1970s, but the earliest known use was in 1965 to refer to transsexuals who wanted genital reconstructive surgery. Today, the term is used to refer to individuals who are not cisgender and is denoted by writing trans (with no asterisk). Trans with an asterisk (trans*) connotes that one is speaking in terms of an encompassing umbrella. According to interviews with trans elders, using an asterisk in this way was popularised on internet bulletin boards in the 1980s.

Transsexual (TS):

A person whose phenotype aligns with or is in the process of aligning with males if FAAB or females if MAAB.

Transman/trans man:

A person who was sexed female at birth and who, through the process of transition, has a male phenotype.

Some sex essentialists use “transman” (without space) as a way to conceptualize “trans men” as being different than a so-called “real man.” However, “transman” (without a space) is a common writing convention among trans elders. Moreover, geographically, the term is often written as one word in the south and central parts of the US and as two words – trans man – on the east and west coast, though the linguistic trend is towards using two words.


The intersection of the hate of women and the hate of trans people.


Within trans discourse, the “phobia” in transphobia usually refers to the strong behavioral tendency to reject (e.g., a “hydrophobic” substance) non-cisgender people, issues, causes, and/or concerns. However, in very specific instances, the term may be utilized to indicate a presumed fear-based cause of observed anti-trans behaviors.

Male dominant society has defined women as a discrete biological group forever. If this was going to produce liberation, we’d be free.… To me, women is a political group. I never had much occasion to say that, or work with it, until the last few years when there has been a lot of discussion about whether transwomen are women.”

– Catharine MacKinnon,
Radical Feminist Opinion Leader

Transwoman/trans woman:

A person who was sexed male at birth and who, through the process of transition, has a female phenotype.

Some sex essentialists use “transwoman” (without space) as a way to conceptualize “trans women” as being different than a so-called “real woman.” However, “transwoman” (without a space) is a more common writing convention among trans elders. Moreover, geographically, the term is often written as one word in the south and central parts of the US and as two words – trans woman – on the east and west coast, though the linguistic trend is towards using two words.


An event that brings on symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress.


Womyn-born womyn. A concept that is strongly associated with trans-exclusionary Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival culture. It posits an ad naturam claim to what is constructed to be essentially “woman” within the context of WBW culture.


A political class that is pressured by culture to be subordinate to men.

Women’s Liberation:

The end of sexism.


Intense or irrational dislike, hate, or fear of people from other countries and/or cultures.

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