Gender Terms

Gender Terms

A concept of maleness or femaleness which is considered independent of sexual characteristics. A fluid definition which has different classifications across cultures. In many cultures there are three or more recognised genders.

Sex: This what you are called at or around birth based on primary sex characteristics i.e. genitalia. Male or Female sex is assigned by the way one looks to the medical staff at the time of birth. Gender identification is frequently (but by no means always) concordant with the sex identification.

Sexuality: The sexual orientation of a person or how one relates to other people physically and emotionally. Homosexuality, Bisexuality and many other orientations are identified. Where there is ambiguity or blurring of gender “boundaries”, some of the standard descriptions of orientation fail due to the assumption of fixed gender i.e., is a male to female transsexual who has a relationship with a genetic women a lesbian relationship?

Genetic Male: A person who was assigned male gender as a result of having predominantly male sex characteristics at birth.

Genetic Female: A person who was assigned female gender as a result of having predominantly female sex characteristics at birth.

Intersexed: A person who was ambiguously male or female at birth and may have been assigned to a gender at the discretion of the treating medical officer at or near birth. Surgical adjustment to genitalia may have subsequently been performed to “confirm” the gender assigned.

Cross Dresser: A person who wears the clothes of another gender. This is rarely applied to a genetic woman who wears male clothing and is mostly applied to genetic males who wear overtly female clothing. The term Transvestite is a term often used to refer to the same thing but has overtones of fetishism and obsessive behaviour.

Transgenderist: A person who adopts a lifestyle where they live a life closely mirroring that of a different gender to that assigned at birth. This person may live as their preferred gender on either a part time or full time basis. This term usually refers to people who choose not to seek Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) and may (but many do not) choose hormone therapy. Other surgery and facial hair removal are frequently considered important for those who are genetically male and wishing to present as female in daily life. The boundaries between Transgenderism and Transsexuality are often blurred.



f825_1787.jpgTransgender: A general term that was originally coined to refer to people who cross-lived in a different gender but did not seek surgical intervention. It has become popular as a relatively benign term to cover all forms of unconventional gender expression. It is specifically used to refer collectively to people who cross-dress, cross-live in a different gender and to transsexuals who wish to permanently alter their bodies. A useful short definition is that it refers to the diverse groups of people who show some kind of variation from cultural norms in their gender expression.

Transsexual: (TS) A person who intends to change their body to more closely resemble that of the sex that they would prefer to be. This usually involves hormone therapy and often includes some cosmetic surgery. SRS is sought in a small proportion of cases. There are two main categories by which Transsexuals are referred – Male to Female (MtF) and Female to Male (FtM).

MtF (Male to Female Transsexuals): This refers to genetic males who seek to change their bodies to resemble female bodies. This usually requires medical intervention with hormone treatment, cosmetic surgery (in many cases) and possibly SRS. Facial hair removal, speech therapy/voice surgery and treatment for receding hair line are frequently sought.

(FtM) Female to Male Transsexuals: This refers to a genetic female who seeks to change their body to resemble a male body. This is usually achieved by hormone treatment and bilateral mastectomy.

Standards of Care: The Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (SoC) are a set of standards which were developed in the 1940’s and 50’s for the treatment of transsexuals who wished to have SRS (primarily genetic males who wished to be women). The standards were developed in an environment where there was resistance from the medical profession (predominantly conservatives) to the provision of ANY assistance for transsexuals to change their sex/gender.

Transition: This is the process of changing from presenting as a Woman to presenting as a Man or visa versa. This process varies according to the individual’s life circumstances, personal objectives and overall outlook on life. It also depends on considerations for work, family and friends. The process defined in the Standards of Care are not always appropriate and individuals are more often inclined to make their own choices when they are not obliged to follow the SoC. Transition may or may not result in SRS/GRS.

SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery): Also referred to as GRS, Gender Reassignment Surgery (Note: logically, gender cannot be reassigned by surgery. It is innate to a person’s identity) or Genital Reconstruction Surgery. The semantics are less relevant than the reality of the surgery which is unchanged by the description! For MtF transsexuals the surgery involves such procedures as orchidectomy (removal of the testes), penectomy (removal of the penis), labioplasty (construction of a labia, usually from the scrotal tissue) and vaginoplasty (construction of a functional vagina and clitoris from the penis skin and glans with possibly a colon transplant for additional depth). For a FtM procedures include bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts), hysterectomy (to remove the uterus and ovaries) and phalloplasty (to create a functional and cosmetically appealing penis) It is widely regarded that MtF SRS is more successful in producing a functional and cosmetically appealing result that FtM SRS



This refers to the Gonadal hormones. Male gonadal hormones are called Androgens and are mainly confined to testosterone which produces all the readily identifiable Secondary Sex characteristics. The main female hormone is oestrogen with progesterone as a secondary one. A MtF will usually need to use an anti-androgen to suppress testosterone. The effects of gonadal hormones are often quite significant but it is reported that the effectiveness of the hormone treatment decreases with the age at which a person starts taking them.


Primary Sex Characteristics: The Genitals are the primary sex characteristics. The usually definitively identify a person as either male or female.

Secondary Sex Characteristics: These include the existence of breasts (or not), hairline, facial shape, body shape (the hour-glass figure is typically female) and the distribution of body hair. Since these characteristics are more visible, they are used as cues when people identify gender. Other cultural cues include length and style of hair, fingernail length, and use of makeup. These are not really body characteristics but a culturally determined set of gender clues that can be quite easily changed.

Primary Transexual: A term that was used to describe those who strongly identified feelings of being transgendered at an early age. It was highly regarded by the medical profession for a person to have “felt like this since I first talked”. These days, it is not often used for diagnosis.

Secondary Transexual: A term used to indicate that a person identified transgender feelings at a later age.

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