Home > Community > Trans terms

Trans terms

It is important to remember that trans terminology is constantly changing and evolving. Particularly as many terms are related to people’s personal identities, the terms may be used by different people to mean different things. Individual people will view themselves, and experience their lives, in unique ways. This is a non-exhaustive list of some common definitions in use in Scotland. The terms used in other languages and cultures can vary widely. 


Assigned female at birth.


Assigned male at birth.

Assigned sex at birth

When a baby is born, a doctor will normally declare “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl” based on the babies external genitals (sometimes this is not the case if a baby is born with a visible intersex variation of sex characteristics). A baby is then expected to grow up to identify as the gender that “matches” with their body – so a baby born with a penis is expected to grow up and be a boy.

Cisgender/cis person

A person who is not transgender. They identify as their assigned sex at birth.


The set of norms in society that enforce ideas about the gender binary, and assumes that everyone will identify as their assigned sex at birth.

Cross-dressing person

A person who occasionally wears clothing and/or makeup and accessories that are not traditionally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. (An increasingly outdated term.)


Transitioning from female to male. (An increasingly outdated term.)

Gender binary

The dominant idea in Western society that there are only two genders (‘man’ and ‘woman’), that all people are one of these two genders, and that the two are opposite.

Gender dysphoria

Refers to a person’s sense of distress or discomfort around some aspect of their gender experience. This can be body dysphoria (e.g. a trans person who is distressed about having a penis, or a trans person who is distressed about their face or body hair), or it can be social dysphoria (e.g. a trans person who is distressed about people assuming they are female when they meet them, and using gendered language to refer to them).

Gender expression

Refers to all of the external characteristics and behaviours that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as clothing, hairstyle, make-up, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions.

Gender identity

Refers to how we see ourselves in regards to being a man or a woman or somewhere in between/beyond.

Gender reassignment

The language used in the Equality Act 2010 to refer to any part of a personal process of transitioning away from your assigned sex at birth (regardless of whether any hormonal or surgical changes take place).


Transitioning from male to female. (An increasingly outdated term.)


When somebody makes incorrect assumptions about your gender or refuses to accept your gender and uses language that makes this apparent, such as pronouns or gendered language like ‘sir’ or ‘madam’.

Non-binary person

A person identifying as either having a gender which is in-between or beyond the two categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’, as fluctuating between ‘man’ and ‘woman’, or as having no gender, either permanently or some of the time.


The way someone refers to you. The most commonly used pronouns are ‘she/her/hers’, normally used for women, and ‘he/him/his’, normally used for men. Some people will use gender neutral pronouns, such as the singular ‘they/them/theirs’ or ‘ze/hir/hirs’, and some people will use a mixture of pronouns.

Transgender/trans person

Equivalent inclusive umbrella terms for anyone whose gender identity does not fully correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. This includes, but is not limited to, trans men, trans women and non-binary people.


The process of changing the way you live in order to match up with your gender identity. Examples of transitioning include changing your name, asking people to use different pronouns for you, and changing the way you express your gender. For some people, this will involve medical treatments such as hormone therapy and surgery.

Trans man

A person who was assigned female at birth but has a male gender identity and therefore transitions to live as a man. (The term transsexual man is an equivalent but increasingly outdated term.)


Discriminatory or prejudiced actions or language related to someone’s actual or perceived gender identity or gender expression.

Trans woman

A person who was assigned male at birth but has a female gender identity and therefore transitions to live as a woman. (The term transsexual woman is an equivalent but increasingly outdated term.)

Join our eNewsletter

30 Bernard Street
Edinburgh EH6 6PR

Scottish Trans is part of the Equality Network