Understanding Transgender Identities & the Transgender Umbrella

Understanding Transgender Identities & the Transgender Umbrella


  • Transgender - An umbrella term for those whose gender identity or expression differs in some way from the gender assigned to them at birth and conflicts with the ‘norms’ expected by the society they live in. Included in the overall transgender umbrella are transsexual people, non-binary gender identities and cross-dressing people.


  • Transsexual -When a person's gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth based on their biological sex. Transsexual people may have medical treatment, such as hormone treatment or surgery to bring their physical appearance more into line with their gender.


  • Non-Binary Gender - Gender identities that are not exclusively male or female are identities which are outside of the gender binary. People can be both male and female, neither, or their gender may be more fluid (i.e. unfixed and changeable over the course of time).  Many view gender as a one dimensional spectrum with male on one end, female on the other, and non-binary in the middle – but the reality is that gender is often more complex.


  • Cross-dressing –  The act of wearing items of clothing and other accoutrements commonly associated with the ‘opposite’ sex/ gender within a particular society. The term cross dressing is preferred to the outdated term ‘transvestite’. Although drag performers are referred to as cross-dressing, drag artists (unlike cross dressers) dress with the intention of performance rather than gender expression. What is considered ‘cross dressing’, as with gender, is culturally defined.


  • Trans* - An umbrella term (similar to transgender) that refers to all the identities in the gender identity spectrum. The asterisk makes special note in an effort to include all transgender, transsexual and non-binary identities.


Useful Terms (associated with ‘transsexual’)


  • Transition - A complicated, multi-step process that can take years as transgender people align their anatomy with their gender identity and gender expression.


  • FTM – Female to male transsexual person; a trans man.


  • MTF – Male to female transsexual person; a trans woman.



  • Trans Woman - A transgender person who was assigned male at birth but whose gender identity is that of a woman. Trans women should be treated as women and female pronouns should be used.


  • Passing - Refers to a person's ability to be regarded at a glance to be either a cisgender man or a cisgender woman. Typically, this involves a mixture of physical gender cues (for example, hair style or clothing) as well as certain behavioural attributes that tend to be associated with masculinity and femininity.


  • (Hormone/Puberty) Blockers - A group of medications used to inhibit puberty. Puberty blockers stunt the production of hormones; other effects include the suppression of facial hair, deep voices, and adam's apples for boys and the halting of breast growth and menstruation in girls.


  • Binding - Refers to the process of flattening one's breast tissue in order to create a male-appearing chest. A binder may be a vest, or athletic support top, or be wrapped bandages.


  • GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate) – The Gender Recognition Act (2004) allows transsexual people who have taken decisive steps to live fully and permanently in their true or ‘acquired’ gender to gain legal recognition of their gender. If a person is successful in their application to the Gender Recognition Panel, they will be issued with a full Gender Recognition Certificate which allows them to update their birth certificate and gives additional legal protections.


Please note GRC is not required for individuals to be treated in line with their gender identity. This is only available to people over 18 and it is unlawful to ask to see someone’s Gender Recognition Certificate.

Useful Terms (associated with non-binary gender)


  • Gender fluid - Having an overlap of, or constantly changeable gender identity and gender expression. This can include having two or more genders, having no gender, or having a fluctuating gender identity.


  • Gender-neutral pronoun - A pronoun that is not associated with a particular grammatical or social gender and does not imply male or female. Some English pronouns are gender-neutral, including they which can be singular. Many gender-neutral pronouns have been suggested for the English language, for example ‘zhe, zher, zhim’ and ‘ey, em, eir’. Individuals may prefer to use these pronouns but they are not in regular use and there is limited understanding.


  • Gender Queer - A person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.


  • Androyne - Is a non-binary gender identity associated with androgyny. Androgyne people have a gender which is simultaneously feminine and masculine, although not necessary in equal amounts.


  • Agender – A person who does not have a specific gender identity or recognisable gender expression.


  • Neutrois – A person who has a neutral gender or no gender. It has considerable overlap with agender - some people who consider themselves neutrally gendered or genderless may identify as both, while others prefer one term or the other.


  • Bigender- A person who has two gender identities or some combination of both.


  • Transmasculine - A term used to describe transgender people who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than with femininity. Someone who identifies on the masculine side of the gender spectrum may or may not identify as male.


  • Transfeminine – A term used to describe transgender people who were assigned male at birth, but identify with femininity to a greater extent than with masculinity. Someone who identifies on the feminine side of the gender spectrum may or may not identify as female.


Useful Terms (Cross-dressing)


  • Drag - A drag queen is usually a male-bodied person who performs as an exaggeratedly feminine character. A drag king is a counterpart of the drag queen, performing an exaggerated masculine character.

  • Transvestite/ Transvestism - A person, typically a man, who derives pleasure from dressing in clothes generally associated with the opposite sex. Transvestites can be gay or bisexual but are predominately heterosexual men. This term was historically pathologised and is considered outdated. Cross dresser is preferred.