Ryan T. Anderson claimed in February 2018 that transgender rights activists have failed "to offer a plausible definition of gender and gender identity that is independent of bodily sex," instead relying on vague "metaphysics." This mirrors my experience with some opponents of the term "GNU/Linux." So I'll try to clear the air the same way I did for GNU/Linux: by defining the terms as I understand them, as rigorously as I can. The terms are interrelated enough that I am presenting them in thematic rather than alphabetical order.
Terms related to marginalized groups tend to fall in and out of favor, in a process called the euphemism treadmill. Some people continue to use the older terms to refer to themselves, whereas others regard them as slurs. Where I am aware of such disagreement, I have marked these terms as (dated). The (obsolete) label reflects broader agreement about slur status.
Humans and other vertebrates have two sexes. In theory, half the population are specialized for producing offspring and the other for gathering and defending resources.
- Anatomical sex characteristics
- Physical characteristics that form a bimodal distribution strongly correlated with the sex chromosome karyotype, which is XX or XY in mammals.
- Anatomical sex
- How the anatomical sex characteristics manifest in a person's body.
- Having anatomy well between the male and female modes.
- Not intersex.
- Difference in sex development (DSD)
- Any of several congenital conditions causing a person to be intersex. Found in tens of millions of people or roughly 1 percent of births.
- Sex assigned at birth
- Birth sex
- Natal sex
- A medical professional's assessment of to which mode the person's anatomy, mostly genital, was closer as a newborn.
- Assigned female at birth.
- Assigned male at birth.
"Gender" originally meant only agreement classes of nouns and pronouns in grammar, which in many languages are correlated with the referent's sex. As feminist theory developed, writers extended the term to describe what society considers masculine or feminine. (Some other writers misunderstood it as a euphemism for "sex" to avoid calling the "software exchange" meaning to mind.)
- Gender stereotype
- A culture's association of particular aspects of personality and expression with a particular sex assigned at birth.
- Gender identity
- A person's self-assessment of how their personality aligns with the culture's stereotypes.
- Gender expression
- The sex that an observer would assign based on comparing a person's outward expression, such as name, voice, and dress, to the culture's stereotypes.
- An adult human who consistently seeks to express herself the way her culture perceives a woman.
- An adult human who consistently seeks to express himself the way his culture perceives a man.
- Cisgender (cis)
- Having gender identity matching birth sex.
- Transgender (trans)
- Having gender identity opposing birth sex.
- Gender binary
- A culture's discouragement of mixing aspects of personality and expression that belong to the two genders.
- Having gender identity or expression not aligned with the masculine or feminine norm.
- Having elements of gender identity or expression that vary from matching one gender stereotype to the other over short or long periods of time.
- A person, usually cis, whose clothes and other outward appearance align with the opposite gender stereotype. This can be a slightly genderfluid person or a person challenging trouser tyranny or other aspects of the gender binary.
- Performing the opposite gender stereotype for entertainment purposes.
- Not identifying as a man or a woman, in some cases having no gender identity at all.
- Gender questioning
- Trying different gender expressions, pronouns, etc. in order to become more certain of their gender identity.
- The most common English-language pronoun used to refer to a person of unknown gender or to a nonbinary person. Most forms (them, their, theirs) are identical to those of the plural pronoun they. So is its verb agreement: the plain form (not -s form) in the present, and were (not was) in the past tense of be. One difference between the pronouns is that singular they has the reflexive form themself.
- A pronoun used by a small number of nonbinary people. (Use when asked. Others find it dehumanizing.)
- To refer to a person in a way that clashes with the person's gender expression, such as by using the wrong pronoun.
One harmful stereotype in many cultures is that those who appear capable of bearing children ought to be passive and submissive in order to allow males to exploit their reproductive and domestic labor. Society punishes those who do not conform to gender stereotypes, but females who conform are also punished for conforming by the fact that what they conform to often amounts to an inability to assert human rights. Thus stereotypes imply a hierarchy: those in the privileged category on top, those in the marginalized category on the bottom, and those not conforming to their society-ordained station below even that.
Some terms appear in older publications but are no longer used often:
- FamiTracker module, a file format for chiptunes.
- (obsolete) A trans man, that is, someone with masculine identity and expression who was assigned female at birth.
- Modulation transfer function, the amount of energy or detail at each spatial frequency that a camera captures.
- (obsolete) A trans woman, that is, someone with feminine identity and expression who was assigned male at birth.
Separate from gender identity is sexual orientation ("whom you love").
- The anatomy, gender identity, or gender expression that a person prefers in a romantic or sexual partner.
- Preferring a romantic or sexual partner of the same sex or gender as oneself.
- A gay woman.
- Heterosexual (het)
- Preferring a romantic or sexual partner of the opposite sex or gender to oneself.
- Preferring a romantic or sexual partner of any gender.
- Preferring a romantic or sexual partner who is a man or woman. (Older term predating awareness of nonbinary people.)
- Asexual (ace)
- Not feeling sexual attraction, regardless of sex or gender.
- The combination of cisgender and heterosexuality, which have represented a privileged group for over the past millennium of Western history.
- Not cishet.
- The state of hiding one's LGBT or plural status from a particular group of people.
- Openly LGBT or plural.
One popular illustration summarizing the difference among anatomy, birth sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation is "The Genderbread Person" by Sam Killermann.
In the 21st century, the Internet allowed people who identify as more than one person in one body to find one another and discuss their common experiences.
- Having multiple consciousnesses in one brain and body.
- A set of conscious entities sharing a body.
- One of the conscious entities in a system.
- A conscious entity who is the only one in a body.
- A sleeveless undershirt, also called an A-shirt, tank top, or wife beater.
- A headmate's state of control of the body's senses and motor functions.
- A headmate's state of sensory awareness without direct motor control. (After a nickname for the front passenger seat of a motor vehicle.)
- Passing motor control and sometimes sensory access to another headmate.
- Losing time
- Blacking out
- Unaware of events due to temporary loss of access to the body's senses. Said of a headmate.
The gender identities, sexual orientations, and other personality aspects of members of a system may differ greatly. A system whose headmates have different gender identities is likely to present genderfluid and use not only the "they" pronoun set but also "we" in the first person. It is believed, however, that the majority of cases of genderfluidity aren't due to being plural.
- (psychiatry; dated) A headmate deemed subordinate to a main headmate. Systems tend to compare this term to someone in your peer group being called "that other guy."
Near the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the medical community took notice of gender.
- Gender dysphoria (GD)
- Distress based on mismatch between birth sex and gender identity that seriously interferes with a person's life. (After DSM-5.)
- Sexual maturation disorder (SMD)
- Distress based on uncertainty about one's gender identity or sexual orientation. (After ICD-10.)
- Gender transition
- A treatment for gender dysphoria or subdysphoric gender discomfort by allowing a trans person to consistently live in accordance with their gender identity, not their birth sex.
- Transition care
- Health care intended to align a person's gender expression with their gender identity.
- (dated) Transgender and seeking or receiving transition care.
- Real-life experience (RLE)
- A trial of consistent public expression of a different presentation for several months to determine whether a permanent transition would be effective in treating dysphoria. Considered the first stage of a transition to the opposite gender.
- Hormone therapy
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Treatment of gender dysphoria or menopause symptoms by adding hormones to cause a person's anatomy to more closely match their gender identity. Often includes hormonal modulators to suppress the effect of sex hormones produced by the person's body.
- Gender-affirming surgery
- Sex reassignment surgery (SRS)
- An operation to treat gender dysphoria by modifying the person's anatomy. Generally the last stage of transition, after RLE and HRT.
- Sex change
- (obsolete) Gender-affirming surgery.
- Top surgery
- Gender-affirming surgery on the breasts.
- Bottom surgery
- Genital reconfiguration surgery (GRS)
- Gender-affirming surgery on the genitals.
- Seeking bottom surgery.
- Having had bottom surgery.
- A child raised by their parents in a gender-neutral manner in order to make the child's transition from nonbinary to another gender identity less jarring. For example, parents buy both technology toys and parenting toys for their theybies. (Blend of singular "they" and "baby")
- Conversion therapy
- An attempt to treat gender dysphoria by changing a trans person's personality to match the stereotype associated with their birth sex, or to treat homosexuality by changing a gay person's orientation to het. This is often done by instilling shame in a person over their personality.
Over the years, transition has produced better mental health outcomes than shoehorning trans people into the opposite expression. If this is metaphysical, then perhaps metaphysics is the most effective model of the effects of gender stereotypes on mental health.
- Having a mismatch between a person's limbs and senses and their sensorimotor map.
- Body integrity dysphoria (BID)
- Body integrity identity disorder (BIID)
- Distress based on being transabled that seriously interferes with a person's life.
- Synonym for RLE in a transabled person, such as full-time use of crutches or a wheelchair.
Anderson's article also compares transgender people to transabled people. These people want to lose a limb or a sense in order to feel whole. For the few transabled people who have undergone an affirming amputation, the procedure has proven more effective than any drug in treating their BID. Incidentally, The Bible records in Matthew 5:29-30 and Mark 9:43-48 that Jesus of Nazareth recommended affirming surgery as a somewhat hyperbolic example of cutting off the source of temptation to hurt other people.
- Multiple personality disorder (MPD)
- (psychiatry, dated) Dysfunction as a result of being plural, particularly when losing time or conflict among headmates interferes with a system's life.
- Dissociative identity disorder (DID)
- (psychiatry) Synonym for MPD introduced in DSM-IV and ICD-10. Some systems prefer the term DID and regard MPD as a slur, whereas others see DID as misleading.
The psychiatric scene, being largely unfamiliar with functional plural systems, tends to see being plural or transabled as dysfunctional by default, to be "cured" with some sort of conversion therapy. This used to be true of homosexuality and transgender as well.
This section describes terms used about and by gender bigots.
- Male supremacism
- A society's systematic oppression of women and girls.
- The claim that every individual belongs to one of two sexes. Parental or institutional bigotry can cause a medical professional to feel obligated to change an intersex newborn's anatomy to more closely match one of the anatomical modes. Such "corrective" surgery performed on a child without the child's consent often ends up costing the individual the ability to enjoy sexual contact later in life.
- Cisgender supremacism
- Bigotry against trans people.
- Bigotry against trans people rooted in anxiety.
- The claim that brain structures form enough of an anatomical sex characteristic to contribute more to personality than culture does. Studies have found bimodal tendencies in overall size of parts of the brain but have failed to find a significant functional difference, particularly when a study controls for gender socialization.
- Harry Benjamin syndrome (HBS)
- Neurosexism, and/or the claim that a person who has undergone RLE and HRT but does not desire surgery is not truly trans but instead has hypochondria, when used to gatekeep transition. (After Dr. Harry Benjamin, a pioneer in transgender sexology and gerontology. Benjamin contributed much to the understanding of transgender during his life, but some of his conclusions have been debunked since his death in 1986. Unfortunately, cissexists have used these superseded theories as a basis for gatekeeping.)
- Cis scum
- One or more cissexist people.
- The claim that a person cannot be truly trans without it causing dysphoria (clinically significant distress).
- One or more transmedicalist people.
- (derogatory) A gender questioning person accused by a cissexist of questioning to draw attention or sympathy or questioning under others' undue influence. Accusations of transtrending can arise from transmedicalism, from others' perception that a person has failed to fully express their new gender's stereotypes, or from questioning that eventually results in detransition.
- Bigotry against nonbinary people.
- Heterosexual supremacism
- Bigotry against gay people and sometimes against asexual people.
- Bigotry against gay people rooted in anxiety.
Some writers prefer not to use the terms "homophobia" and "transphobia" because they see bigotry as separate from anxiety disorders. I have, however, identified three fears that may underlie bigotry against trans people:
- Opportunity cost
- Fear that the government will take money away from programs that benefit you to fund transition care for transgender citizens, such as real life experience counseling, hormones, and top and bottom surgery.
- Fear that someone assigned male at birth will transition solely to gain access to the women's shelter where your daughter is staying and assault the women there. This has happened in a small number of cases, such as that of Jessica (née Christopher) Hambrook in Toronto, but most of these cases involve people who were already convicted sex offenders in the first place.
- Slippery slope
- Fear that once the culture enforces equal protection of transgender people, it'll be easier to begin to enforce tolerance of transitions in other aspects of identity, such as transabled, otherkin, or trans-age.
Thus some people continue to classify trans people by their birth sex, not their overall gender expression, and don't feel obligated to play along with what they see as "roleplaying." But one can make a utilitarian argument to tolerate gender transition: Even if you do consider trans presentation "roleplaying," allowing trans people to consistently "roleplay" as their gender identity produces better mental health outcomes than forcing them into a gender expression inconsistent with their personality.
Given the demonstrated ineffectiveness of conversion therapy, this leaves two ways to treat gender dysphoria. Trans rights advocates prefer expanding availability of transition, which has proven effective over the years. The other, less proven way is to erase gender stereotypes from the culture, so that expectations of personality and expression are no longer coupled to a birth sex. Some opponents of trans rights, who call themselves gender-critical feminists but are more widely known as trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), believe that eradicating the gender stereotypes that underlie patriarchy is a better idea in the long run. They claim that abolishing gender saves the cost associated with transition, it better accommodates nonbinary people, and it removes an excuse that a very small number of men have used to assault women and girls. However, as theoretical physicist Max Planck noted in his 1950 autobiography, culture advances one funeral at a time. It takes several generations to erode a stereotype, and TERFs have offered few if any viable options for the present generation of transgender people. Furthermore, it puzzles me why the gender-critical crowd haven't openly joined forces with the gender-creative parents of theybies, even if only to expose gender as the farce that they claim it is.
Transition... Eroding stereotypes ... Why not both?
- Ryan T. Anderson. "Transgender Ideology Is Riddled With Contradictions. Here Are the Big Ones." The Heritage Foundation, 2018-02-09. Accessed 2019-12-26.
- Jesse Singal. "Why So Many Progressives Are Arguing That Biological Sex Doesn't Exist". Singal-Minded, 2019-04-03. Accessed 2019-12-26.
- Kasandra Brabaw. "54 Gender Identity Terms Every Ally Should Know". Refinery29, 2019-05-31. Accessed 2019-12-28.
- Micah. "What is Neutrois?" Accessed 2021-04-29.
- Rebecca Reilly-Cooper. "Gender". Sex and Gender: A Beginner's Guide, 2015. Accessed 2019-12-26.
- Marina S. "What gender is and what gender isn't". It's Not a Zero Sum Game, 2014-02-17. Accessed 2019-12-26.
- homos4dnf. "let's talk about did / osdd". 2021-05-11. Accessed 2021-05-22.
- Ralph Allison. "Multiple Personality is NOT Dissociative Identity Disorder. Please read." 2004 or earlier. Accessed 2020-09-13.
- Taylor Lorenz. "Are Male and Female Brains Biologically Different?". The Atlantic, 2018-06-25. Accessed 2020-07-03.
- Alasdair Wilkins. "There really is no difference between men and women's math abilities". Gizmodo, 2011-12-12. Accessed 2020-07-03.
- Dean Moncel. "Transtrending: What It Means and How It Harms". Be You Network, 2020-02-20. Accessed 2020-09-13.
- Richard Stallman. "Anti-Glossary". Accessed 2019-12-28.
- Callie Wright. "An Exhaustive Ally’s Guide to the Bathroom Debate: Part 1". Queersplaining, 2018-01-17. Accessed 2019-12-29.