Psychological health care providers should be familiar with common transgender terms. This vocabulary continues to evolve and some variations may reflect different cultures, regional preferences, communities or a combination of factors.
Terms and Definitions* for DoD Clinicians
Ally*:A cisgender person who supports and advocates for transgender or nonconforming (TGNC) people and/or communities
Cisgender*: An adjective used to describe a person whose gender identity and gender expression align with the sex assigned at birth; a person who is not TGNC
Gender binary*:The classification of gender into two discrete categories of boy/man and girl/woman
Gender dysphoria**: A medical diagnosis that refers to the distress that some transgender individuals experience due to a mismatch between their gender and sex assigned at birth
Gender expression*: The presentation of an individual, including physical appearance, clothing choice and accessories, and behaviors that express aspects of gender identity role. Gender expression may or may not conform to a person’s gender identity
Gender identity**: One’s internal or personal sense of being male or female
Gender identity disorder*:This term is outdated, please see gender dysphoria
Gender marker*: An indicator (M, F) of a person’s sex or gender found on identification (e.g., driver’s license, passport) and other legal documents (e.g., birth certificate, academic transcripts)
Gender marker**: Data element in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) that identifies a service member’s gender. A service member must meet all military standards associated with the member’s gender marker in DEERS, and use military berthing, bathroom and shower facilities in accordance with the DEERS gender marker
Gender transition process**: Gender transition in the military begins when a service member receives a diagnosis from a military medical provider (MMP) indicating that the member’s gender transition is medically necessary, and concludes when the service member’s gender marker in DEERS is changed and the member is recognized in their preferred gender
Human and functional support network**: Support network for a service member that may be informal (e.g., friends, family, co-workers, social media) or formal (e.g., medical professionals, counselors, clergy)
Real life experience (RLE)**:The phase in the gender transition process when the individual commences living socially in the gender role consistent with their preferred gender. RLE may or may not be preceded by the commencement of cross-sex hormone therapy, depending on the individual gender transition medical treatment plan. The RLE phase is also a necessary precursor to certain medical procedures, including gender-affirming surgery. RLE generally encompasses dressing in the new gender, as well as using preferred gender berthing, bathroom and shower facilities. According to DoD policy, RLE occurs off-duty, but exceptions may be made
Passing*:The ability to blend in with cisgender people without being recognized as transgender based on appearance or gender role and expression; being perceived as cisgender. Passing may or may not be a goal for all TGNC people
Sex (sex assigned at birth)*:Sex is typically assigned at birth (or before during ultrasound) based on the appearance of external genitalia. When the external genitalia are ambiguous, other indicators (e.g., internal genitalia, chromosomal and hormonal sex) are considered to assign a sex, with the aim of assigning a sex that is most likely to be congruent with the child’s gender identity (MacLauglin & Donahoe, 2004). For most people, gender identity is congruent with sex assigned at birth (see cisgender); for TGNC individuals, gender identity differs in varying degrees from sex assigned at birth
Sexual orientation*: A component of identity that includes a person’s sexual and emotional attraction to another person and the behavior and/or social affiliation that may result from this attraction. A person may be attracted to men, women, both, neither or to people who are genderqueer, androgynous or have other gender identities. Individuals may identify as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, queer, pansexual or asexual, among others
Sex reassignment surgery*: (better known as gender-affirming surgery): Surgery to change primary and/or secondary sex characteristics to better align a person’s physical appearance with their gender identity. Gender-affirming surgery can be an important part of medically necessary treatment to alleviate gender dysphoria and may include mastectomy, hysterectomy, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty, breast augmentation, orchiectomy, vaginoplasty, facial feminization surgery and/or other surgical procedures. Note that some people may euphemistically refer to 'top surgery' or 'bottom surgery.' Do not overemphasize the role of medical procedures in the transition process, each gender transition is unique
Transgender or nonconforming (TGNC)*: An abbreviation used to refer to people who are transgender or gender nonconforming
Transgender*: An adjective that is an umbrella term used to describe the full range of people whose gender identity and/or gender role do not conform to what is typically associated with their sex assigned at birth. Although the term “transgender” is commonly accepted, not all TGNC people self-identify as transgender
Transgender service member**: A service member who has received a medical diagnosis indicating that gender transition is medically necessary, including any service member who intends to begin transition, is undergoing transition, or has completed transition and is stable in the preferred gender
Transition*: A process some TGNC people progress through when they shift toward a gender role that differs from the one associated with their sex assigned at birth. The length, scope and process of transition are unique to each person’s life situation. For many people, this involves developing a gender role and expression that is more aligned with their gender identity. A transition typically occurs over a period of time; TGNC people may proceed through a social transition (e.g., changes in gender expression, gender role, name, pronoun and gender marker) and/or a medical transition (e.g., hormone therapy, surgery and/or other interventions). Avoid the phrase "sex change"
Don’t use the following terms (which are generally considered to be offensive): she-male, he-she, tranny, "real" woman, "real" man, transgendered, and "a transgender"