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.

Trans Terminology

Transgender — An adjective to describe individuals whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. 


Trans — short for "transgender."


​Ally — A person who is not a member of a targeted social group who takes action or speaks up to challenge discrimination or prejudice against a targeted social group. For example, straight or cisgender allies speak and act against LGBTQ discrimination and prejudice.

Cisgender — An adjective often used to refer to someone whose gender identity is consistent with their assigned to them at birth.

FTM (Female-to-Male) — A person who was assigned to the female gender at birth but has a male gender identity.

Gender — The complex relationship between physical traits and one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither, as well as one’s outward presentations and behaviors related to that perception. Biological sex and gender are different; gender is not inherently connected to one’s physical anatomy.

Gender Expression — Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice and other forms of presentation. Gender expression also works the other way as people assign gender to others based on their appearance, mannerisms and other gendered characteristics. Many transgender people seek to make their external appearance — their gender expression — congruent with their internal gender identity through clothing, pronouns, names, and, in some cases, hormones and surgical procedures. All people have gender expression, not just transgender people.

Gender Fluidity — Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Gender fluid individuals do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of girls or boys.

Gender Identity — One’s inner concept of self as male, female, both or neither. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the gender assigned at birth. Most people become conscious of their gender identity between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Most people have a gender identity that matches their assigned gender at birth. For some, however, their gender identity is different from their assigned gender. Some of these individuals choose to live socially as the other gender and may also hormonally and/or surgically change their bodies to more fully express their gender identity. All people have gender identity, not just transgender people.

Gender Non-conforming/Gender Expansive — A term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity. Not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender; nor are all transgender people gender non-conforming. Many people have gender expressions that are not entirely conventional – that fact alone does not make them transgender. Many transgender men and women have gender expressions that are conventionally masculine or feminine. Simply being transgender does not make someone gender non-conforming. The term is not a synonym for transgender or transsexual and should only be used if someone self-identifies as gender non-conforming.

Genderqueer — This term represents a blurring of the lines around gender identity and sexual orientation. Genderqueer individuals typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and sexual orientation. This term is typically assigned an adult identifier and not used in reference to preadolescent children.

Heteronormativity — A cultural norm that assumes that heterosexuality is the only normal and acceptable sexual orientation.

Homophobia — Describes a range of negative feelings toward lesbian and gay people as individuals or as a group. Homophobia is manifested in hostile or derisive language or actions directed toward lesbian and gay people or those assumed to be gay or lesbian. Transphobia is sometimes confused with or lumped into homophobia.

Intersex — An estimated one in 2,000 babies is born with an “intersex” condition or disorders of sex development (DSD). People with intersex conditions (DSD) are born with physically mixed or atypical bodies with respect to sexual characteristics, that is, chromosomes, internal reproductive organs, and genitalia. These characteristics may not be visible and individuals may not be aware of the condition. Having an intersex condition does not necessarily affect a person’s gender identity. The NCAA Health and Safety/Sports Science Institute web page has information about this topic.

LGBTQ — A shorthand description of sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions typically included when discussing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer issues.

MTF (Male-to-Female) — A person who was assigned to the male gender at birth but has a female gender identity.

Non-binary — Non-binary identity, sometimes referred to as "enby," is a term used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms.  Not all non-binary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as non-binary.

Queer — Historically a slur used to demean lesbian and gay people, queer is now a self-description preferred by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (especially younger people) as a challenge to traditional sex and gender expectations or labels to reclaim the word in a positive way from its historically negative use. Queer can be used as a gender identity (gender queer) or as a sexual orientation. 

Questioning — An adjective used to describe people, especially young people, who are in the process of defining their sexual orientation or gender identity.


Sex Assigned at Birth — Refers to the designation of a newborn child's sex based on inspection of their external genitalia.

Sexual Orientation — Describes a person's romantic or sexual attraction to other people. 

Our sexual orientation and our gender identity are separate, distinct parts of our overall identity. Although children may not yet be aware of their sexual orientation, they usually have a strong sense of their gender identity.


T — Short for testosterone.

Transition — The process by which a transgender individual lives consistently with his or her gender identity, and which may (but does not necessarily) include changing the person’s body through hormones and/or surgical procedures. Transition can occur in any combination of ways: social transition through changes in clothing, hairstyle, name and/or pronouns; medical transition through the use of medicines such as hormone “blockers” or hormones, gender-affirming surgeries or other medical procedures; and/or legal transition, which involves changing documents such as identification cards, drivers license, birth certificates, etc.
              Surgery is not required in order to transition. The steps of transition vary from person to person.

Transfeminine (transfemme) – a person who was assigned male at birth but identifies on the feminine side of the gender spectrum.

Transmasculine (transmasc) - a person who was assigned female at birth but identifies on the masculine end of gender expression.

Transman – a person who was assigned female at birth but identifies as male.

Transwoman – a person who was assigned male at birth but identifies as female.

Transsexual — An older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. The term is still preferred by some people who have permanently changed or seek to change their bodies through medical interventions, including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries. Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender.

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.

Two Spirit — A term chosen to distinctly express Native American/First Nations gender identity and gender variance. “Two-spirited” or “two spirit” usually indicates a person whose body simultaneously manifests both a masculine and a feminine spirit.

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