Common terminology

Do not be afraid to explore terminology further – these are evolving due to historical neglect of a section of the population.

  1. Cisgender: when a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth align.
  2. Female-to-male (FtM, F2M): individuals assigned female at birth who are changing/have changed body and/or gender role. Another term used is trans man.
  3. Gender binary: the idea that there are only two genders – male/female or man/woman and that a person must be strictly gendered as either/or.
  4. Gender dysphoria: distress caused by discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and the sex assigned at birth (along with assigned gender role).
  5. Gender expression: how a person communicates their gender through behaviour, clothing, voice other physical identifiers and codes. Gender expression can be fluid and subject to change.
  6. Gender fluid: identity is not fixed; a person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders – they may feel more masculine or feminine at different periods of time. Or they may locate themselves across the gender spectrum.
  7. Gender identity:  person’s internal sense and perception of their gender. General gender identity labels include man, woman, trans, gender non-binary, gender fluid.
  8. Gender non-conforming: gender presentation  does not conform to the (primarily Western) traditional binary-based gender expectation.
  9. Gender reassignment: a term used by the Equality Act 2010 to denote the process a person goes through to live as a gender that they were not assigned as at the birth. You do not need to undergo surgery to be classed as transgender under the Equality Act.
  10. Male-to-female (MtF, M2F): is a term used for individuals assigned male at birth who are transitioning or who have transitioned to female.
  11. Non-binary: someone who does not identify as either the ‘traditional’ male/female binary.
  12. Same Gender Loving / SGL: a term sometimes used by members of the BME community to express an alternative sexual orientation without relying on terms and symbols of European descent.
  13. Transgender: specific term used for those who live as (with or without gender reassignment) the opposite to the gender identity assigned to them at birth.
  14. Trans identity: umbrella term for those whose gender identity, gender expression or behaviour does not follow that typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. The definition of the term is subject to change and expansion because most societies have not allowed or enabled trans identified people to discuss who they and share their experiences. Our collective knowledge about trans lives is increasing with changes in legislation, the growth in understanding of gender diversity and transparent/open discussions about trans lives. Disclosing someone’s trans status or history without permission or cause is, in some cases, a criminal offence. Always gain consent befor disclosing this information.
  15. Transitioning: the social, cultural, political, psychological, emotional and economic processes that a trans person goes through as they move from their assigned gender role to their true gender. The time taken varies by individual.
  16. Transphobia: fear of or hatred of trans people, the trans community, or gender ambiguity. Transphobia can be seen within the LGB community, as well as in general society.

Gender neutral terminology

Boyfriend/girlfriend = partner

Son/daughter = child

Husband/wife = spouse

Brother/sister = sibling

Mum/Dad = parent

He/she = they

His/her = their

Why does the Equality Act 2010 consider gender reassignment (gender identity) as a protected characteristic?

Many societies hold to rigid binary gender identity structures. Those who identify as transgender have historically been unable to challenge this because of how transgender people are viewed across different societies and cultures. For example, the World Health Organisation classifies transgender people as having a mental disorder. This has served to support and validate institutionalised, structural and cultural stigmatisation. In 2016 Denmark moved to declassify being transgender as a mental disorder.

What types of discrimination do transgender people face?

  • Hate crimes: the physical harm to transgender people going about their daily lives is very high in countries such as the USA and the UK. According to UK government statistics, 70% of children who are uncertain about their gender are subject to bullying, 88% of transgender employees experience discrimination or harassment in their workplace and hate crime against transgender people has risen by 14% over 4 years.
  • People asking questions such as wanting to know about your genitalia, your biological status or what your ‘real’ name is.
  • Daily microaggressive behaviour: name calling, rude staring, eye-balling, ostracising transgender people in workplaces, shops, restaurants, transport.
  • People wanting the transgender community to explain ‘who they are’ or justify their identity.
  • Not being able to use public restrooms without being questioned, being subject to verbal or physical abuse.

Social validation of identity discrimination

Some societies have a history of dehumanising and objectifying the ‘other’ in terms of ‘race’, sex, culture, religion and gender. Because of historical inaccuracies of policies of thinking of ‘others’, stereotypes, biases (unconscious or otherwise) continue to persist across different characteristics. For example:

  1. In 19th century Europe, people from different ‘races’ (e.g. indigenous Australians) were put on display as oddities. They were examined by scientists and their ‘differences’ were used to justify torture, slavery and oppressive policies.
  2. During World War II people of Jewish descent were dehumanised, seen as ‘different’, tortured and killed on a mass scale.
  3. The remains of the friends and families of some ‘races’ are stored in universities and studied by academics. British Museums and universities still have the largest collection of ancestral remains of indigenous Australians for example. Britain and countries such as France and the USA continued to trade in the remains of the families of indigenous Australians until the 1940s.
  4. The physiology and psychology of women were studied in depth in the 19th and early 20th century by academics who felt they had a different constitution to men and were vulnerable to poor logic. This was used as justification to deny them the vote, equal rights, the right to determine the use of their body (e.g. rape in marriage only became a crime in England in 1991) and to objectify them.
  5. Organisations continue to produce and develop information about what transgender bodies ‘look like’ rather than treating transgender people with the same respect as other individuals.

Treating the ‘other’ as so different (and not recognising that each person is an individual), makes people question their own identity, reduces their confidence and stigmatises/ostracises them. Yet it is a practice that continues in terms of different characteristics.

What does the law (England, Wales and Scotland) say?

You must not be discriminated against because you are transgender, because you are perceived to be transgender or because you associate with someone who is transgender. You are not protected as transgender unless you propose to change your gender or have done so or have changed your gender attributes (personal process) and live as someone who is of the opposite sex to that assigned at birth on a permanent basis. To be protected from gender reassignment discrimination, you do not need to have gone through any specific treatment/surgery to change from the sex assigned at birth to the gender aligned with your personal identity. Changing your physiological/other gender attributes is a personal process rather than a medical one. If someone perceives you as being transgender and discriminates against you, this is breaking the law.

Does the law protect intersex people?

Intersex people are not explicitly protected from discrimination, but you must not be discriminated against because of your gender or perceived gender.


10 Tips for Improving Services for Trans People v1 01

GIRES (Gender Identity Research and Education Society) – sponsors research and education on gender identity

10 Steps to LGBT Inclusive Communications, Stonewall Scotland

Fair Care for Trans Patients

Advice and support

Beaumont Society: national self-help organisation run by the trans community.

Mermaids: support around gender identity for families, children and young adults.

Allsorts Youth Project: Brighton based youth project that provides support services for LGBTU young people.

Trans Alliance Brighton and Hove