Before we can begin to discuss trans inclusion in athletics, we need to be on the same page. Let's start with the basics of language and concepts so we're clear on what we're talking about.
Transgender: An adjective to describe individuals whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth.
Trans: short for "transgender."
AFAB: Acronym meaning Assigned Female at Birth. AFAB people may or may not identify as female some or all of the time.
Affirmed Gender: An individual’s true gender, as opposed to their gender assigned at birth. This term should replace terms like "new gender" or "chosen gender," which imply that an individual’s gender was chosen.
Agender: Refers to a person who does not identify with any gender.
Ally: A term used to describe someone who is supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals and the community, either personally or as an advocate. Allies include both heterosexual and cisgender people who advocate for equality in partnership with LGBTQ+ people, as well as those who are LGBTQ+ who are supportive of other identities within the community.
AMAB: Acronym meaning Assigned Male at Birth. AMAB people may or may not identify as male some or all of the time.
Androgynous: Having elements of both femininity and masculinity. An androgynous individual, whether expressed through sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, is known as an androgyne.
Assigned Sex: The sex that is assigned to an infant at birth based on the child’s visible sex organs, including genitalia and other physical characteristics. Also referred to as "sex assigned at birth," this term is preferred because it denotes that someone else did the determining based on a visual inspection.
Assigned Gender: The gender that is assigned to an infant at birth, which may or may not align with their sex at birth.
Assumed Gender: The gender others assume an individual to be based on the sex and gender they are assigned at birth, as well as apparent societal gender markers and expectations, such as physical attributes and expressed characteristics.
Binding: The process of tightly wrapping one’s chest in order to minimize the appearance of having breasts, often by using a binder.
Biological Sex: A term that has been weaponized against the transgender community. Preferred terminology is “sex assigned at birth.” (see "assigned sex"). For more information on the complexity around "biological sex," see this article.
Cisgender: Refers to an individual whose gender identity aligns with the one typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Closeted: Describes a person who is not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Coming Out: For people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, the process of self-identifying and self-acceptance continues throughout one’s life, and the sharing of their identity with others. Sometimes referred to as disclosing (see Disclosure below). Individuals often recognize a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/gender-expansive, or queer identity within themselves first, and then might choose to share with others.
Disclosure: A word that some people use to describe the act or process of revealing one’s transgender or gender-expansive identity to another person in a specific instance. Some find the term offensive, implying the need to disclose something shameful, and prefer to use the term coming out, whereas others find coming out offensive, and prefer to use disclosure.
FTM/F2M: A trans male/masculine person who was assigned female at birth.
FTX/F2X: A genderqueer or gender expansive person who was assigned female at birth.
Gender: A set of social, psychological, and/or emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations, that classify an individual along a spectrum of man, woman, both, or neither.
Gender-Affirming Surgery (GAS): Surgical procedures that can help people adjust their bodies to more closely match their innate gender identity. Not every transgender person will desire or have resources for surgery. This term should be used in place of the older term sex change. Also sometimes referred to as sexual reassignment surgery (or SRS), genital reconstruction surgery, or medical transition.
Gender Binary: The disproven concept that there are only two genders, man and woman, and that everyone must be one or the other. Also implies that gender is biologically determined.
Gender Dysphoria: The distress caused when a person's assigned sex at birth and assumed gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMV), the term "...is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults."
Gender Expansive: An umbrella term sometimes used to describe people that expand notions of gender expression and identity beyond what is perceived as the expected gender norms for their society or context. Some gender-expansive individuals identify as a man or a women, some identify as neither, and others identify as a mix of both. Gender-expansive people feel that they exist psychologically between genders, as on a spectrum, or beyond the notion of the man/woman binary paradigm, and sometimes prefer using gender-neutral pronouns (see Personal Gender Pronouns). They may or may not be comfortable with their bodies as they are, regardless of how they express their gender.
Gender Expression: The manner in which a person communicates their gender to others through external means such as clothing, hair-styles, appearance, and/or mannerisms. While most people’s understandings of gender expressions relate to masculinity and femininity, there are countless combinations that may incorporate both masculine and feminine expressions—or neither—through androgynous expressions. An individual’s gender expression does not automatically imply one’s gender identity.
Genderfluid: Describes a person who does not consistently identify with one fixed gender, and who may move between gender identities.
Gender Identity: One’s deeply held core sense of being a woman, man, some of both, or neither. One’s gender identity does not always correspond to biological sex. Awareness of gender identity is usually experienced very early in life, but may also shift over the course of one’s life.
Gender Neutral: Not gendered. Can refer to language (including pronouns and salutations/titles—see Gender-neutral salutations or titles), spaces (like bathrooms), or identities (being genderqueer, for example).
Gender-Neutral Salutations or Titles: A salutation or title that doesn’t identify the gender of the person being addressed in a formal communication or introduction. Also used for persons who do not identify as a binary gender, addressing someone where the gender is unknown, or if the correspondence-sender is unsure of the gender of the person to whom the correspondence is being sent. Mx is the most commonly used gender-neutral salutation (e.g. “Dear Mx. Smith…”).
Gender Nonconforming: An outdated term used to describe those who view their gender identity as one of many possible genders beyond strictly man or woman. More current terms include gender expansive, differently gendered, gender creative, gender variant, genderqueer, nonbinary, agender, gender fluid, gender neutral, bigender, androgynous, or gender diverse.
Genderqueer: Refers to individuals who identify as a combination of man and woman, neither man or woman, or both man and woman, or someone who rejects commonly held ideas of static gender identities and, occasionally, sexual orientations. Is sometimes used as an umbrella term in much the same way that the term ‘queer’ is used, but only referring to gender, and thus should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who self-identifies as genderqueer.
Gender Socialization: The process by which an individual is taught and influenced on how they should behave as a man or a woman. Parents, teachers, peers, media, and books are some of the many agents of gender socialization.
Gender Spectrum: The concept that gender exists beyond a simple man/woman binary model, but instead exists on a continuum. Some people fall towards more masculine or more feminine aspects, some people move fluidly along the spectrum, and some identify off the spectrum entirely.
Gender Variant: A term, often used by the medical community, to describe individuals who dress, behave, or express themselves in a way that does not conform to dominant gender norms. (See gender expansive.) People outside the medical community tend to avoid this term because they feel it suggests these identities are abnormal, preferring terms such as gender expansive and gender creative.
Misgender: To refer to someone, especially a transgender or gender-expansive person, using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, which does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify.
MTF: A trans female/trans feminine person who was assigned male at birth. Often considered an over medicalized and somewhat outdated term.
MTX: A genderqueer or gender expansive person who was assigned male at birth.
Nonbinary: Refers to individuals who identify as neither man or woman, both man and woman, or a combination of man or woman. It is an identity term which some use exclusively, while others may use it interchangeably with terms like genderqueer, gender creative, gender nonconforming, gender diverse, or gender expansive. Individuals who identify as nonbinary may understand the identity as falling under the transgender umbrella, and may thus identify as transgender. Sometimes abbreviated as Enby.
Out: Generally describes people who openly self-identify as LGBTQ+ in their private, public, and/or professional lives. Some people who are transgender prefer to use the term disclose (defined above).
Outing: The deliberate or accidental sharing of another person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression without their explicit consent. Outing is considered disrespectful and a potentially dangerous act for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Personal Gender Pronouns: A personal gender pronoun, or PGP—sometimes called proper gender pronoun—is the pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual personally uses and would like others to use when talking to or about that individual. In English, the singular pronouns that we use most frequently are gendered, so some individuals may prefer that you use gender neutral or gender-inclusive pronouns when talking to or about them. In English, individual use they and their as gender-neutral singular pronouns. Others use ze (sometimes spelled zie) and hir/zir or the pronouns xe and xer. Replaces the term Preferred Gender Pronoun, which incorrectly implies that their use is optional.
Sex Assigned at Birth: The sex that is assigned to an infant at birth, usually by a doctor or medical staff, based on the infant’s visible sex organs, including genitalia and other physical characteristics. Classifications made are most often male, female or intersex.
Stealth: A term used to describe transgender or gender-expansive individuals who do not disclose their transgender or gender-expansive status in their public or private lives (or certain aspects of their public and private lives). The term is increasingly considered offensive by some as it implies an element of deception. The phrase maintaining privacy is often used instead, though some individuals use both terms interchangeably.
T: Short for testosterone.
Transfeminine (transfemme): a person who was assigned male at birth but identifies on the feminine side of the gender spectrum.
Transgender: Often shortened to trans. A term describing a person’s gender identity that does not necessarily match their assigned sex at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity. This word is also used as an umbrella term to describe groups of people who transcend conventional expectations of gender identity or expression—such groups include, but are not limited to, people who identify as transsexual, genderqueer, gender variant, gender diverse, and androgynous.
Transition: A term sometimes used to refer to the process—social, legal, and/or medical—one goes through to discover and/or affirm one’s gender identity. This may, but does not always, include taking hormones; having surgeries; and changing names, pronouns, identification
documents, and more. Many individuals choose not to or are unable to transition for a wide range of reasons both within and beyond their control. The validity of an individual’s gender identity does not depend on any social, legal, and/or medical transition; the self-identification itself is what validates the gender identity.
Transmasculine (transmasc): a person who was assigned female at birth but identifies on the masculine end of gender expression.
Transphobia: Describes a range of negative feelings toward transgender or gender nonconforming people as individuals or as a group. Transphobia is manifested in hostile or derisive language or actions directed toward transgender or gender non-conforming people.
Transsexual: A less frequently used—and sometimes misunderstood—term (considered by some to be outdated or possibly offensive, and others to be uniquely applicable to them) which refers to people who use (or consider using) medical interventions such as hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries (GAS) or a combination of the two or pursue medical interventions as part of the process of expressing their gender. Some people who identify as transsexual do not identify as transgender and vice versa.
Two-Spirit: A term used within some American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) communities to refer to a person who identifies as having both a male and a female essence or spirit. The term--which was created in 1990 by a group of AI/AN activists at an annual Native
LGBTQ conference--encompasses sexual, cultural, gender, and spiritual identities, and provides unifying, positive, and encouraging language that emphasizes reconnecting to tribal traditions.
Other LGBTQ+ Terminology
Aromantic: Refers to an individual who does not experience romantic attraction. Sometimes abbreviated as "aro."
Asexual: Refers to an individual who does not experience sexual attraction. Each asexual person experiences relationships, attraction, and arousal differently. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy or sexual abstinence, which are chosen behaviors, in that asexuality is a sexual orientation that does not necessarily entail either of those behaviors. Sometimes abbreviated as "ace."
Biphobia: An aversion to bisexual people that often manifests itself in the form of prejudice and bias.
Bisexual: Refers to an individual who has the capacity for attraction—sexually, romantically, emotionally, or otherwise—to people with the same, and to people with different, genders and/or gender identities as themselves. People who identify as bisexual need not have had equal experience—or equal levels of attraction—with people across genders, nor any experience at all: it is attraction and self-identification that determine orientation. Sometimes referred to as bi or bi+.
Demiromantic: Used to describe an individual who experiences romantic attraction after a sexual connection is formed.
Demisexual: Used to describe an individual who experiences sexual attraction after an emotional
connection is formed.
Gay: The adjective used to describe people who are emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to people of the same gender (e.g., gay man, gay people). In contemporary contexts, "lesbian" is often a preferred term for women, though many women use the term gay to describe themselves. People who are gay need not have had any sexual experience; it is the attraction and self-identification that determine orientation.
Heteronormativity: The assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities
Heterosexual: Refers to a person who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to a person of the opposite gender when considering the gender binary as male and female.
Homophobia: An aversion to lesbian or gay people that often manifests itself in the form of prejudice and bias.
Homosexual: An outdated clinical term often considered derogatory and offensive, as opposed to the generally preferred terms "gay," "lesbian," or "queer."
Lesbian: Refers to a woman who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to other women. People who are lesbians need not have had any sexual experience; it is the attraction that helps determine orientation.
LGBTQ+: An acronym that collectively refers to individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. It is sometimes stated as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) or GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender). The addition of the Q for queer is a preferred version of the acronym as cultural opinions of the term focus increasingly on its positive, reclaimed definition, which recognizes more fluid identities; and as a move towards greater inclusivity for gender-expansive people (see Queer below). The Q can also stand for questioning, referring to those who are still exploring their own sexuality and/or gender. The “+” represents those who are part of the community, but for whom LGBTQ does not accurately capture or reflect their identity.
Lifestyle: A negative term often incorrectly used to describe the lives of people who are LGBTQ+. The term is disliked because it implies that being LGBTQ+ is a choice.
Pansexual: Refers to a person whose emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction is to people inclusive of all genders and biological sexes. People who are pansexual need not have had any sexual experience; it is the attraction and self-identification that determines the orientation.
Queer: A term used by some people to describe themselves and/or their community. Reclaimed from its earlier negative use, the term is valued by some for its defiance, by some because it can be inclusive of the entire community, and by others who find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities. Traditionally a negative or pejorative term for people who are gay, queer is still sometimes disliked within the LGBTQ+ community. Due to its varying meanings, this word should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who self-identifies as queer (i.e. “My cousin identifies as queer”).
Same-Gender Loving: A term sometimes used by some members of the African-American/Black community to express an alternative sexual orientation (gay/bisexual) without relying on terms and symbols of European descent.
Sexual Orientation: Emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings toward other people. While sexual behavior involves the choices one makes in acting on one’s sexual orientation, sexual orientation is part of the human condition, one’s sexual activity does not define one’s sexual orientation; typically, it is the attraction that helps determine orientation.