/Cis / cisgender

Cis(gender) is a word used to describe people whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth. A cis woman, accordingly, is somebody documented female at birth that identifies as a woman too, and a cis man is a person documented male at birth who also identifies as a man. 

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/Coming out (of the closet)

The phrase “coming out” makes an allusion to the narrowness and confinement of a symbolic closet —the norms of a society that regards heterosexual, cisgender and binary life and love models as the only possible option. Coming out, therefore, represents the step someone takes in order to live their own sexual or gender identity, and to disclose it to other people. That being so, it is possible to make a distinction between an internal and an external coming out. 

The internal coming out describes what a person goes through in order to recognise and accept themselves. It represents the end of a frequently long self-knowledge process. The external coming out is the step a person takes in order to present themselves to other people as their true selves. The external coming out is often made up of multiple steps. Most of the times, people first open themselves to their close ones, like their family or trusted friends, and then little by little to others. For most lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people and, in general, for those who do not fit in according to social norms regarding gender identity and sexuality, disclosing “it” to their parents and friends or e.g. in their working environment represents a huge step —a decision that often demands courage. 

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/Dead name

‘Dead name’ refers to the first name(s) that a trans person discarded during their transition. Many trans people do not want to hear or read their dead names. These names can be associated with negative emotions and traumas. Besides, dead names possibly refer to a person that never actually existed. However, not all trans people change their first names.

Deadnaming a trans person without their consent in front of people who did not know their birth name can also be a form of outing (see below). 

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/Dyadic

Dyadic people have bodies that medical teaching classifies as female or male. The term applies to anyone who is not intersex. Another term describing dyadic people is ‘endosex’. 

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/Forced outing

When a person is put in a situation where they must disclose that they are trans due to external circumstances, a ‘forced outing’ has occurred. This happens particularly often during transition. It can take place, for instance, when a credit card is issued on a person’s deadname and they are constantly outed as a result, or when their health insurance card, personal ID or driver’s license show their deadname and they are forced to present these documents. For people who, for instance, decide not to change their first name in official documents, these situations never stop. 

Forced outings can also take place long after a person has changed their first name and, sometimes, their legal gender. When a child is born, for instance, birth certificates currently document trans women as the father and trans men as the mother using their deadnames. 

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/Gender binary

The binary model of gender is based on the assumption that there are only two genders – “male” and “female” – and that “male” and “female” bodies are the norm. As a result of this assumption there are ladies’ and gents’ toilets, women’s and men’s fashion, men’s and women’s sport-teams that play in their own men’s or women’s leagues. Those who live outside this designation – like many intersex and non-binary people – cannot access these clearly segregated spaces and will not be named or considered. Therefore, they are excluded or forced to conform to the binary model.

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/Gender confirmation surgery

“Gender confirmation surgeries” are medical interventions that help align a person’s body on a visual and, to some extent, functional level with their gender identity. The following are some of the possible gender-confirming surgeries for trans people: alignment of primary genitals (e.g. vagina, penis), mastectomy (removal of breast tissue), breast augmentation, hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and facial feminization. 

The colloquial expression “sex change” and the former medical term “reassignment surgery” are misleading. They imply that a trans person’s gender changes when they undergo surgery, while these procedures only help align their body to the gender they already had before the operation.

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/Gender diversity

This term highlights the diversity that exists beyond the gender binary. It includes every self-determined gender identity, i.e. of trans women, cis women, trans men, cis men, non-binary people, genderqueer and genderfluid individuals, intersex people and many others. 

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/Gender identity

The term ‘gender identity’ refers to the inner knowledge and/or feeling of being a woman, a man, non-binary, trans, intersex, between, beyond or outside genders, and so on.

A person’s gender identity is not determined by their body. Cis people often assume that these categories automatically correspond and that e.g. a person with a body that the people around them read as “masculine” is a man. However, this is not always the case. 

In June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for an end of the discrimination and persecution committed against individuals based on their gender identity. 

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/Gender star

The gender star “*” is a visual marker used in German in order to create spaces for people of all genders, not only men and women. It aims to include, among others, non-binary people, and refers to the diversity of genders. A similar use of theunderscore “_” (or gender gap) can also be found in German. 

The gender star is placed between the root of the noun, which also represents its masculine form, and the feminine suffix. That being so, the gender-inclusive version of e.g. ‘Sportler’ and ‘Sportlerin’ (repectively, the masculine and feminine forms of ‘athlete’) is ‘Sportler*in’. This mechanism is also used to create gender-inclusive plural forms like ‘Patient*innen’ (patients) instead of ‘Patienten’ and/or ‘Patientinnen’. 

In spoken language, the gender star is articulated through a short, audible break between the fragments of the word that it divides. 

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/Hormone therapy

(other names: cross-sex hormone treatment, hormone replacement therapy, HRT)

During hormone therapy, the desired, so-called “opposite sex hormones” – which is an inadequate term, considering gender diversity – are taken in order to change bodily features, often to “masculinise” or “femininise” them. Some people may also choose to alter the production of their own undesired hormones.

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/Intersex

The word ‘intersex’ is used to describe people born with sex characteristics (genes, hormones and others) that do not entirely fit the prevalent definitions of “female” and “male” bodies. This can manifest itself in secondary sexual characteristics (such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breasts and height), in primary sexual organs (reproductive organs, genitalia) and/or in hormones and chromosomic structures. 

A highly problematic aspect is that intersex people are still pathologised, which means that they are considered “sick” or “abnormal”. Even today, intersex people are subject to medical procedures – especially hormone treatment and surgeries – without their consent, as these are often carried out during childhood. Most of the times there is no medical need for them, as intersex people tend to be in completely good health. Later, on the contrary, they may greatly suffer from the physical and mental consequences of these medical procedures. 

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/Intersexuality

‘Intersexuality’ is an umbrella term that was coined by medical discourse and practice. It refers to conditions in which a person is born with sex characteristics that do not entirely fit the prevalent definitions of “female” or “male”. 

The term ‘intersexuality’ was coined by the geneticists Richard Goldschmidt in 1915/16. In 2006, it was internationally replaced by DSD (disorders of sex development) in medical language. However, the use of “disorders” in this acronym suggests that some variations of the human body are “normal” and, therefore, more desirable than others. From this perspective, bodies that do not meet the norm are considered “atypical” or “dysfunctional”. 

Nowadays, some intersex people still use ‘intersexuality’ as a (neutral) self-designation. Others reject the term, as they feel pathologised by it. In German-speaking contexts, the suffix ‘-sexuality’ is sometimes misleading due to its formal similitude to sexual orientations like heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. For this reason, people tend to use “inter*” or the German form ‘Intergeschlechtlichkeit’ in these contexts. 

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/LGBTIQ+

This acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer people, and it includes all sexual and gender identities that do not meet social norms at the time. Besides LGBTIQ+, people use several variations of the acronym, like LGBTTIQ and LGBTIQA, among others. This happens because different people define some terms and labels in different ways and because some groups want to have certain identities explicitly named and included. 

Frequently, ‘queer’ is used as an umbrella term that includes all gender and sexual diversity that exists outside prevailing social norms. 

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/MTF / FTM

In the past, the terms ‘MTF’ (male-to-female) and ‘FTM’ (female-to-male) were commonly used instead of ‘trans women’ and ‘trans men’. Occasionally, they are still used today. 

However, these terms have been criticised because they imply that trans men used to be women – and vice versa. For most trans people, this is not the case. On the contrary, they were rather assigned an incorrect gender at birth due to their sex characteristics and, before their coming out, their actual gender would not be externally perceived by other people. That being the case, a term like ‘trans woman’ adopts the perspective of the person (as it applies the correct gender, woman), whereas MTF assumes an external perspective by referring to a “sex change”. 

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/MTF / FTM

In the past, the terms ‘MTF’ (male-to-female) and ‘FTM’ (female-to-male) were commonly used instead of ‘trans women’ and ‘trans men’. Occasionally, they are still used today. 

However, these terms have been criticised because they imply that trans men used to be women – and vice versa. For most trans people, this is not the case. On the contrary, they were rather assigned an incorrect gender at birth due to their sex characteristics and, before their coming out, their actual gender would not be externally perceived by other people. That being the case, a term like ‘trans woman’ adopts the perspective of the person (as it applies the correct gender, woman), whereas MTF assumes an external perspective by referring to a “sex change”. 

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/Non-binary

‘Non-binary’ is an adjective that refers to people whose gender does not fit within the binary model of gender, as they are not, not completely or not always “men” or “women”. People often use the noun ‘enby’ – derived from the acronym NB – too. 

‘Non-binary’ is an umbrella term that includes different gender identities. Some non-binary people have a gender “somewhere in-between woman and man”, some locate themselves completely outside this binary system and some experience their gender in a fluid way, i.e. changing over time.

As for all people, non-binary folks’ gender identity is independent from how their bodies look, what legal gender appears in their birth certificate and which names and pronouns they use. Many non-binary people describe themselves as trans. However, this does not apply to all enbies. 

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/Outing

Contrary to a coming out, where people decide for themselves when and to whom they disclose their identity (e.g. as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or inter), the term ‘outing’ refers to a situation in which the disclosure of this information takes place without their consent.

Outings can happen long after a person’s first coming out. Take the example of a trans man who is perceived as a cis man in his everyday life. As he does not talk about it, his friends and acquaintances do not know that he is trans at all and, maybe, he does not want to be seen as trans. Then, if an old acquaintance mentions that he is trans in this new context he is being outed. 

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/Passing

To ‘pass’ means to be perceived as the gender that corresponds to one’s identity. This can be very important to some trans people, both for their self-confidence and for their safety in contexts where passing may protect them from violence. For non-binary people, however, passing is mostly not an option. 

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/Stealth / deep stealth

If trans people pass themselves off as cis people of their gender and if nobody in a certain social context knows that they have transitioned, it is said that these people have gone ‘stealth‘. 

To live in ‘deep stealth‘ means that, after completing their transition, a person has broken contact with people who know about their transition and is now perceived by everyone in all parts of their lives as cis.

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/Trans man / trans boy

The term ‘trans men’ refers to people who were assigned female at birth but who actually are men and live accordingly now. In the case of younger people, ‘trans boy’ is used instead. 

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/Trans woman / trans girl

The term ‘trans women’ refers to people who were assigned male at birth but who actually are women and live accordingly now. In the case of younger people, ‘trans girl’ is used instead. 

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/Trans*

Trans people have a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth. The term ‘trans*’, as used by NGVT* NRW, includes every person within the whole diversity of sex and gender that is not cis. ‘Trans*’, on this account, is an umbrella term for transsexual, transgender, non-binary, genderqueer and genderfluid people, and all those that do not identify as cis. By doing so, no perspective is adopted on whether trans realities, for instance, are rooted in physical or in identity features or on whether gender identity is permanent or not. The focus is rather on the fact that all people who are included by the definition do not perceive themselves as cis and, therefore, are not cis. 

Due to the diversity of identities within trans*, transgender and transsexual communities, the use of some terms is not consistent. That is why it is so important to listen to and respect how people describe themselves. If a person, for instance, is and describes themselves as transsexual, the only respectful option is to also use this word, and not another one, when talking with or about them. The word ‘trans*’, accordingly, will only be used by NGVT* NRW when a person describes themselves as trans or when their self-definition is unknown.

When describing someone, NGVT* NRW always uses ‘trans’ as an adjective. If it is written in one word, as it is done in some cases, it may give the impression that, for instance, a “transman” is something other than a “man”. In order to underline that trans men are men and that trans women are women, we use following forms: trans woman/girl, trans man/boy and trans person. 

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/Transgender

The term ‘transgender’ is used in different ways. Some use it to describe people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth, but who do not undergo complete physical gender confirmation procedures. Others use ‘transgender’ as an umbrella term, i.e. similarly to or exactly like the word ‘trans’ (see above). And, since ‘transgender’ also includes all those who do not want to go through medical gender confirmation procedures, it is also often understood in opposition to ‘transsexuality’.

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/Transphobic / Transphobia

The term ‘transphobia’ describes the prejudices, negative attitudes, stigma, degradation, denial, invisibilization, discrimination, support for discrimination and violence that (binary and non-binary) trans people and, in general, trans realities face. The assumption that being cis is the norm and that trans represents a deviation from it (i.e. cisnormativity) is also transphobic. Specific discrimination against non-binary people is referred to as enbyphobia. 

Note that the suffix ‘-phobia’ in this case is not to be understood as a reference to anxiety. In order to avoid this incorrect association, in German the term ‘transfeindlich’ (trans-hostile) can be used instead of ‘transphobic’.

In many countries, trans people are frequently subject to violence. The project “Trans Respect versus Transphobia” collects statistics and data about murders and acts of violence against trans people, as well as about their social and legal situation in different countries. Among others, they present these data on maps that are available on https://www.transrespect.org.

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/Transsexual / transsexuality

‘Transsexuality’ refers to people who were assigned a gender at birth that does not match their actual gender and who desire or undergo medical interventions in order to partially or totally align their physical appearance with their gender. 

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/TSG / Transsexuellengesetz

Germany’s Transexuality Law or TSG (‘Transsexuellengesetz’) was adopted in 1981 following a Federal Constitutional Court ruling that gave trans people the lawful option to adjust their first name and legal gender officially. In addition to the two paragraphs that address the name and legal gender modification, the law also includes a disclosure-ban (‘Offenbarungsverbot‘) that is supposed to protect trans people from others being able to conclude that their first name and legal gender were different once. 

Adjustments carried out based on an official change in name and/or gender marker in accordance to this law may not only influence newly issued documents – like new passports, IDs or driving licenses–, but also allow to modify records all the way back to the birth certificate. Diplomas, work references and other documents may be adjusted as well. 

Since 1981, the law has been amended multiple times due to Federal Constitutional Court rulings that have declared several elements unconstitutional. Until 2011, trans people were required to provide a proof of infertility in order to have their gender marker changed. The law is still heavily criticised.

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