Trans 101 Resources

A brief introductory note:  I put this together as a precursor to coming out to *my* family and friends.  Some of my friends asked that I make it more accessible so they could share it with their friends, and so here it is.  It’s possible that some will disagree with how I have phrased things or the resources I have chosen, which is their prerogative.  If I receive any suggestions on improvements, I’ll take them under advisement..

Resources for inevitable questions:

Some definitions (mostly from UCSF’s Center of Excellence for Transgender Health and the National Center for Transgender Equality, edited somewhat):

  • Assigned sex: The sex which a person is identified at birth. Also “designated sex.” Avoid “biological sex,” “genetic sex,” or “chromosomal sex,” all of which are both scientifically inaccurate and nullify trans identities. 

 You may see this abbreviated in a number of ways, mainly “AMAB/AFAB” (assigned male at birth / assigned female at birth) or “DFAB / DMAB” (designated female at birth / designated male at birth).

  • Cisgender: literally “on this side of gender” (from the Latin prefix cis, which is complementary to trans). An adjective describing a person whose birth-assigned sex, gender identity, and gender presentation are aligned.
  • Female-to-Male (FTM): describes the trajectory of a person assigned female at birth who is changing or has changed their gender expression to male. In general, do not use; it puts undue emphasis on assigned sex.
  • Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, both, neither, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not visible to others.
  • Gender Expression: How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.
  • Genderqueer: one who defies or does not accept stereotypical gender roles and may choose to live outside expected gender norms. Genderqueer people may or may not avail themselves of hormonal or surgical treatments.
  • Male-to-Female (MTF): describes the trajectory of a person assigned male at birth who is changing or has changed their gender expression to female. In general, do not use; it puts undue emphasis on assigned sex.
  • Passing: A term used by transgender people to mean that they are seen as cisgender. For example, a transgender man (assigned female at birth) who most people assume is cisgender male.
  • Queer: A adjective used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual/pansexual, and transgender people, in addition to others who do not fit neatly into any of these categories. Some use queer as an alternative to “gay” in an effort to be more inclusive, since the term does not convey a sense of gender. Use with caution. Do not ever use as a noun.
  • Sexual Orientation: A term describing a person’s attraction to members of the same sex or different sex. Usually defined as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. This is distinct and separate from gender identity.
  • Trans: shorthand adjective for a variety of transgender identities. Also, trans people. Do not use this term as a noun: a person is not “a trans”; they may be a trans person.
  • Transgender: literally “across gender”; sometimes interpreted as “beyond gender”; a community-based adjective that describes a wide variety of cross-gender behaviors and identities. This is not a diagnostic term, and does not imply a medical or psychological condition. Do not use this term as a noun: a person is not “a transgender”; they may be a transgender person.
  • Tranny / shemale / he/she / “it”: Derogatory terms for transgender or transsexual. Do not use these words.
  • Transsexual: a medical adjective applied to individuals who seek hormonal (and often, but not always) surgical treatment to modify their bodies so they may live full time as members of a sex category other than their birth-assigned sex (including legal status).Most trans individuals prefer this term not be used to describe them. Do not use this term as a noun: a person is not “a transsexual”; they may be a transsexual person.
  • Transition: The period during which a transgender person begins to express their gender identity. Transitioning may include changing one’s name, taking hormones, having surgery, or changing legal documents (e.g. driver’s license, Social Security record, birth certificate) to reflect their gender identity.  Do not refer to this period as “becoming a woman” or “becoming a man.”

UCSF “Primary Care Protocols: Hormone Administration” – answers to all your questions about hormones.

UCSF “Primary Care Protocols: Surgical Options” – Since people will inevitably want to know about my bits.  Unless you were interested in them before, you don’t get to ask now, but here’s some general information.

“Answers to Your Questions About Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity” – a 2-page briefer on the topic from the American Psychological Association

“My Child is Transgender: 10 tips for parents of adult trans children” – not directly applicable, but still a quick read and will probably answer some basic questions you might have. or available at

“Trans Etiquette for [Cis] People” – by the author of “My Child is Transgender” – a few quick tips.

Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: “Welcoming Our Trans Families and Friends” – a longer support guide for friends and family of trans people.  In some cases, it’s written more for people transitioning as teenagers or younger adults, and so isn’t entirely applicable to transition as an adult.

There’s a lot more to say here – it’s a valid critique that this is reductive and declawed, and doesn’t do enough to highlight cissupremacist elements of society.  For that kind of discussion, see, for instance, Not Your Mom’s Trans 101.

(edit:  I updated some of the definitions to clarify some things, in part based on conversations I’ve seen / overheard reflecting confusion over how to refer to trans people in the time before they were out / transitioning and how to refer to transition. This isn’t just about arbitrary language choices – the choice of words indicates certain incorrect ontological beliefs that should be corrected.)