Ally: Someone who supports members of the LGBTIQ community. Typically heterosexual and/or cisgender.

Assigned gender/sex: The gender/sex assigned to someone at birth and recorded on one’s birth certificate, based on their physical characteristics.

Assigned male or female at birth, also written amab or afab: refers to the sex/gender as categorised at birth and recorded on one’s birth certificate.

Binding: used by some (but not all) trans masculine people to compress their chests and create a more conventionally masculine shape. Mermaids have a binder service available through our helpline. Mermaids advocates people to bind safely at all times, see THIS video from PinkNews for more information. 

Biological Sex: can be used to indicate biological differences between people. .

Birth name: name given to someone at birth, used to distinguish from a ‘chosen’ or ‘preferred’ name that a trans or gender diverse person may choose to ensure their name aligns with with theirone’s gender identity. You may also hear ‘dead name’ rather than ‘birth name’.

Blockers, hormone blockers or puberty blockers: a type of medication which temporarily stops the production of the natural hormones which progress puberty. They are considered by the NHS Gender Identity Development Service and a body of international research to be a physically reversible intervention: if the young person stops taking the blocker their body will begin developing as it would have done without medical intervention.

Cis or cisgender: people who identify with the sex/gender they were assigned at birth. 

Crossdresser, or transvestite: Someone who chooses to wear clothes not conventionally associated with their assigned sex/gender. “Cross dresser” is now used in preference to the term “transvestite”, which is considered to be outdated and can cause offence. Someone who cross dresses is not necessarily transgender.

FTM or MTF: these stand for ‘female-to-male’ and ‘male to female’, respectively, to indicate people assigned female at birth who transition to be a man, and vice versa. Many trans people still use these terms to describe themselves, although these terms have also been criticised for implying that trans people ‘change’ from one sex into another.

Gender: often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.

Gender-diverse: anyone with a non-cis gender identity; an inclusive term covering non-binary as well as trans identities.

Gender dysphoria: medical term for the experience of discomfort or distress in your body, due to having a gender identity that does not align with your gender assigned at birth. Not to be confused with body dysmorphia, a mental health condition where people perceive flaws in their appearance.  

Gender expression: How someone manifests their gender identity in society, typically through their appearance, dress, and behaviour. Gender expression is not necessarily connected to their gender identity. Also known as gender performance or gender presentation.

Gender identity: an individual’s internal, innate sense of their own gender.

Gender Identity Clinics, or GIC: NHS clinics that provide support around gender identity to people over 18. (People may be referred from the age of 17.) They are able to provide speech and language therapy, counselling and hormones. They will also make referrals for some affirmative surgeries.  

Gender Identity Development Service, or GIDS: also known as The Tavistock: NHS service in England and Wales that provides support around gender identity for people under 18. Run by psychotherapists, they explore a young person’s gender, offer support for emotional and relationship difficulties and may refer young people on for affirmative healthcare. It is also referred to as ‘the Tavistock’ as the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust are the providers of GIDS.

Gender non-conforming: does not conform to socially accepted or stereotypical gender norms; less medicalised than the term gender variant.  

LGBTQ: acronym for ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender and queer’. 

Medical or physical transition: physical medical pathway that may include changes (puberty blockers, hormones and/or surgery) which may be used to alleviate gender dysphoria. There are age and stage restrictions in relation to each option, for example one has to be ‘around 16’ to access cross hormone therapy. Not all trans people will medically transition. 

Misgender, or mispronoun: use a pronoun or other language which is different to someone’s way of describing themselves. Understood to mean someone’s identity has not been recognised. 

Non-binary (an umbrella term that includes genderfluid, genderqueer and other labels): not fitting neatly or exclusively into one of the binary gender categories. A non-binary person may have: a single fixed gender position other than male or female, no gender, a combination of male and female or other genders, or move between male, female and other genders – or they might not identify or agree with the concept of gender entirely. 

Out, or coming out: being open about one’s LGBTQ identity.

Outing: to reveal someone’s sexuality or gender identity without their consent. 

Pronouns: how someone or something is described in the third person (eg she/her, it, he/his). May be gendered or gender-neutral, eg they/them, ze/hir. Self-declared pronouns indicate how someone identifies and how they want to be perceived.

QTIPOC: acronym for ‘queer, transgender, intersex, person of colour’, a specific ID that describes LGBTQ+ people who have heritages from Africa, Asia and Indigenous people of the Americas and Australia. Highlights the intersecting oppressions (on the basis of race, gender, sexuality and others) faced by people with these identities.

Queer: an umbrella term which can be applied to anyone who considers themselves non-cis or non-straight. Previously a slur, it has been reclaimed by LGBT+ communities since the 1980s. You shouldn’t use this term about someone unless you know they identify as queer.

Social transition: the social changes that someone may choose as part of their transition; may include coming out, changing one’s names and pronouns, using differently gendered facilities, changing one’s gender performance and presentation. Does not include physical transition. 

Trans or transgender: people who do not identify with the sex/gender they were assigned at birth.

Transition: the social, medical or legal process of changing one’s gender performance and/or presentation. May also be referred to as gender reassignment, which is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

Transphobia: The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including the denial or refusal to accept their gender identity.


This glossary is based on work by Andolie Marguerite (2019) ‘Who do they think they are and what do they think they are doing: the construction and establishment of trans and non-binary or genderqueer identities in a trans youth group’. PhD Thesis. University of London, available at http://research.gold.ac.uk/26170/1/EDU_thesis_MargueriteA_2019.pdf; Purple Rain Collective https://purpleraincollective.com/glossary/; and Stonewall https://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-advice/glossary-terms.