The Basics


The words people use when talking about transgender issues varies in its usage between individuals and groups, and is constantly shifting. The terms below may become outdated. It is also important to remember that although labels are essential to enable discussions, they are not always welcomed by those to whom they are applied.


An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.

Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.

Find out more about trans experiences on our Trans Hub.

​Transgender man

A term used to describe someone who is assigned female at birth but identifies and lives as a man. This may be shortened to trans man, or FTM, an abbreviation for female-to-male.

Transgender woman

A term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman. This may be shortened to trans woman, or MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female.

Related Terminology


A (typically) straight and/or cis person who supports members of the LGBT community.

Cisgender or Cis

Someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. The word cisgender is the antonym of transgender. The prefix cis- is Latin and means "on this side of". It is also used in chemistry to describe orientation of molecules.

​Coming out

When a person first tells someone/others about their orientation and/or gender identity.


Calling someone by their birth name after they have changed their name. This term is often associated with trans people who have changed their name as part of their transition.


Femme is a term used in LGBT culture to describe someone who expresses themselves in a typically feminine way.

There are other identities within the scope of femme, such as ‘low femme’, ‘high femme’, and ‘hard femme’. You shouldn’t use these terms about someone unless you know they identify with them.


Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.

​Gender dysphoria

Used to describe when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth.

​Gender expression

How a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender. A person who does not conform to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans.

​Gender identity

A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else (see non-binary below), which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.

​Gender reassignment

Another way of describing a person’s transition. To undergo gender reassignment usually means to undergo some sort of medical intervention, but it can also mean changing names, pronouns, dressing differently and living in their self-identified gender.

Gender reassignment is a characteristic that is protected by the Equality Act 2010, and it is further interpreted in the Equality Act 2010 approved code of practice. It is a term of much contention and is one that Stonewall's Trans Advisory Group feels should be reviewed.​

Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC)

This enables trans people to be legally recognised in their affirmed gender and to be issued with a new birth certificate. Not all trans people will apply for a GRC and you currently have to be over 18 to apply.

You do not need a GRC to change your gender markers at work or to legally change your gender on other documents such as your passport.

​Gillick competence

A term used in medical law to decide whether a child (under 16 years of age) is able to consent to their own medical treatment, without the need for parental permission or knowledge.


A term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female.

Intersex people may identify as male, female or non-binary.

Stonewall works with intersex groups to provide its partners and stakeholders information and evidence about areas of disadvantage experienced by intersex people but does not, after discussions with members of the intersex community, include intersex issues as part of its current remit at this stage.


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.


When a lesbian, gay, bi or trans person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed to someone else without their consent.

Person with a trans history

Someone who identifies as male or female or a man or woman, but was assigned the opposite sex at birth. This is increasingly used by people to acknowledge a trans past.


If someone is regarded, at a glance, to be a cisgender man or cisgender woman.

Cisgender refers to someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were ‘assigned’ at birth. This might include physical gender cues (hair or clothing) and/or behaviour which is historically or culturally associated with a particular gender.


Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation - for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir.


Queer is a term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBT community (racism, sizeism, ableism etc). Although some LGBT people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 80s by the queer community who have embraced it.


The process of exploring your own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.


Assigned to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. Sometimes the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are interchanged to mean ‘male’ or ‘female’.


A term used to cover a variety of identities that have a root commonality or shared experience.


Am I the only Transgender Person in Town?

No, you're not. The 2021 census found that there are at least 6000 transgender or gender non conforming people in Kent. 

It isn't that transgender popularity is spreading, it is that we're being punished less for being our true selves. Although it might not feel like it lately, with the societal push back, we have more acceptance than previous generations ever had. 

We need for society to keep moving in the right direction, so future generations can be accepted for who they truly are, without prejudice or discrimination.

Allies most Frequent Questions

Allies can have questions too, it's okay. Contact us if your question isn't answered here, and we can respond directly, and we'll add your question to this page for other allies.

How to avoid insensitive questions - Consider the phrase "Respect before understanding".

How does apathy hurt the transgender community?

Questions from my Mum

My mum is in her late 60's and wants to be supportive. But bless her, she does put her foot in her mouth sometimes. It's okay, we all do. 

What does that flag mean?

Like with any flag, the colours and symbols do have meaning, but you don't have to memorise all the flags in order to be an ally. 

Are you gay now?

Gender identity is different from sexual orientation. People can identify with any of the labels that suit them.

Have you "finished" your transition?

Mum didn't ask me, but a friend of mine. She genuinely meant "Are you happy with where you are?", but "finished" comes across as a thinly veiled question about surgery. Don't go there. Not everyone wants or is able to get surgery, and it is an incredibly invasive question.

Did you have to choose that name? I chose your original name.

I'm not doing it to spite you. My old name does not suit me any more. Don't forget, you've been going by a nickname your whole life; your legal name is something different. Same deal. Cis people can change their names too.

What if it is a phase?

People go through phases in their lives, it is true. Trust me, I know what feels right for me.

I told your aunt and uncle. They're cool about it.

Ask me first before you tell anyone, please! What you just did is called "outing". It is disrespectful and can be extremely problematic. What would you have done if they weren't "cool" with it?