A lot changes in five years. I wrote my first Not your Typical Trans 101 zine in 2010-11 and had the text available here. This year, I revised it because it became roughly half offensive as terminology uses keep changing. Please contact me if you’d like the pdf to print out a copy of this zine, especially if you’ve got the first edition – I’d love to replace it!
Here’s the new zine transcript:
Not Your Typical Trans 101 Second Edition
My goal when I originally wrote this zine was to provide definitions of terminology to a trans and cis audience in a way that better relates to the real lived experiences of trans people than I was finding in most Trans 101s. This second edition is updated to reflect my understanding of the current popular terminology in my region. I encourage readers, especially those intending to be allies to or within the trans community, to continue seeking information from multiple sources and perspectives.
First things first – this zine is about gender not sexual and/or romantic orientation. Trans people can have any sexual and/or romantic orientation (including straight or heterosexual – not all trans people are in the LGB part of LGBT). A person’s gender might determine which words they use to describe their sexual and/or romantic orientation, but gender is very different from with whom a person does or does not want to have a sexual and/or romantic relationship.
Keep in mind that not all people who fit the definitions I offer will identify with these words, either as they are defined here or at all.
How an individual self-identifies overrides any generic definitions.
When choosing words to describe yourself, it’s a good practice to consider whether you are participating in cultural appropriation from a marginalized group.
Transgender describes people who do not exclusively identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.
Genderqueer is one of the most frequently used terms for non-binary gender identities. The binary genders are male and female, but lots of people have gender identities outside of the binary. There are many terms to describe these identities.
Trans is an umbrella term for transgender, genderqueer, and many other gender-nonconforming people; however, many genderqueer and gender-nonconforming people do not identify as trans.
Gender-nonconforming is an extremely broad term that encompasses trans folks, as well as many others who intentionally or unintentionally fall outside of societal binary gender expectations.
Although there are exceptions and very broad definitions for the following two terms, generally speaking:
Transmasculine describes trans people who were assigned female at birth.
Transfeminine describes trans people who were assigned male at birth.
Cisgender, Cissexual, and Cis refer to women and men who identify exclusively with the gender they were assigned at birth and have not experienced/do not desire any form of social or medical gender transition.
Although cisgender is less often thought of as an identity, it can be just as much an identity as trans experiences are. Claiming cisgender as an identity label (“I’m a cis woman/man”) is a simple action to take as an ally, as doing so removes the assumption of cisgender experiences.
All of the terms defined so far are adjectives and are used like any other adjective (although some people self-identify as transmen or transwomen without a space between the words).
AFAB or FAAB means “assigned female at birth” or “female assigned at birth”
AMAB or MAAB means “assigned male at birth” or “male assigned at birth”
You might also see CAFAB, CFAAB, CAMAB, and CMAAB. The C stands for coercively to emphasize that the person or people assigned male or female at birth didn’t have any agency or choice in that assignment.
What about Transsexual? The term transsexual is widely considered antiquated, originated in the medical community, and has a highly stigmatized history. Its usage has typically been specific to people who have already, plan to, or want to medically transition, or whose primary sense of themselves as trans is related to their body rather than their social role. It is still used in some medical settings and in self-identification by many people.
Also falling out of favor are the terms MTF and FTM because of the way they reference the gender that was assigned at birth. These are still being used, but I expect we’ll see them less and less.
MTF refers to folks who socially or medically transition from “male to female”
FTM refers to folks who socially or medically transition from “female to male”
Some non-binary identified folks identify as MTF or FTM and genderqueer/third-gender/etc. or as other abbreviations such as MTQ, FTQ, MT?, or FT?
Some examples of how to use these words:
“I was CAFAB, and I identify as genderqueer.”
“As a transfeminine person, I experience transmisogyny – the confluence of transphobia and misogyny.”
“He is the first out trans person to be elected to public office in this state.”
“This event is thrown by and for trans and genderqueer people of color.”
“Transgender children often face bullying in schools.”
“Where can I find a list of trans-friendly dentists in this area?”
“I’m a trans woman, not a trans man, because I identify as a woman.”
What does “transition” mean? The word transition is used to describe the actions people take to alter their gender expression, perceived gender, or gendered body.
Transition is often misconstrued as transitioning “from one gender to the other.” Although many people do transition to female or male, there are many other genders to which people transition. I like to think of transition as bringing one’s social interactions, gender expression, and/or body into alignment with one’s gender identity or self perception.
Transitioning could potentially include choosing a new name or pronouns, changing clothing or haircut style, having body or facial hair removed, taking one or more hormone medications, and/or having one or more surgeries. People pick and choose to do as many or as few of these things as wanted or needed, often constrained by financial barriers, lack of access to informed and competent healthcare providers, and specific medical insurance exclusions.
There is no such thing as “the surgery”. There are lots of gender-related surgeries and lots of individualization and personal choices.
Many trans people choose to change part or all of their name, socially and/or legally. These names might be referred to as “chosen name”, “new name”, or just plain “name”.
Previous names might be referred to as “given name”, “old name”, or “dead name”.
Updating the name of a contact in your phone can really help with remembering and adjusting to a new name, especially if you frequently text with that person.
Pronouns… The best way to find out what pronouns to use for somebody is to ask, “What are your pronouns?” And make sure to offer yours too! Of course, always keep a person’s safety and comfort in mind before asking this. If you think asking might draw negative or dangerous attention to a person, don’t ask right then.
Some people use the same pronouns in all contexts, and some people use different pronouns in different contexts. The pronouns a person chooses may or may not reflect their gender identity for a variety of reasons.
In addition to the common he/him/his and she/her that we see all the time, there are lots of other pronoun options. Two of the most commonly used are ze/hir (pronounced zee and hear) and using they/them/their to refer to one person. Some folks use no pronouns at all. For me, the best way to learn how to use new pronouns is to read a book out loud and replace all of the pronouns with the ones I’m trying to learn.
“Taylor was sad because they forgot their project at home.”
“Morgan is happy about his new haircut.”
“Kai is optimistic about Kai’s new relationship.”
“Jadyn was busy because she had her friends over.”
“Courtney is glad that ze has hir dog with hir.”
The belief that there are only two genders is culturally specific and not held by all cultures.
There are currently 7 countries that legally recognize three genders:
- New Zealand
Mistakes happen. If you say the wrong name, pronoun, or gendered term, just say “sorry”, quickly correct yourself, and move on.
Correcting or reminding other people can get exhausting for many trans people. If you’re cis or a trans person with the energy to spare, maybe ask your trans friend if they’d like you to correct or remind other people for them.
Keep in mind that lots of terminology and practices changed since I wrote the first edition of this zine roughly 5 years ago, and I expect this will be outdated within a few years.
People have strong and differing opinions about these words. It seems like the best we can do is keep reading, talking, learning, changing, and allowing for difference.
Stay flexible. Stay kind.