DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Key Concepts and Terms



Transgender Terminology 



Sex: refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex (i.e., atypical combinations of features that usually distinguish male from female). There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia (American Psychological Association, 2011).


Intersex: A medical condition where a person is born with either ambiguous genitals, both or neither. Biologically (internally or externally or both) this person is neither entirely male nor entirely female (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, 2016).


Gender: Refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity (American Psychological Association, 2011).


Gender Binary: A social construction of gender in which there are two distinct and opposite genders: male/masculine/men and female/feminine/women (Suffolk University, 2016).


Gender Identity: refers to “one’s sense of oneself as male, female, or transgender”. When one’s gender identity and biological sex are not congruent, the individual may identify as transsexual or as another transgender category (American Psychological Association, 2011). An individual whose gender identity and expression match their birth gender are called Cisgender.


Cross-Dressing: To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. "Cross-dresser" should not be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex, or who intends to do so in the future. Crossdressing is a form of gender expression and is not indicative of sexual orientation (EEOC, 2016).


Gender Expression: refers to the “...way in which a person acts to communicate gender within a given culture; for example, in terms of clothing, communication patterns and interests. A person’s gender expression may or may not be consistent with socially prescribed gender roles, and may or may not reflect his or her gender identity” (American Psychological Association, 2011). 


Sexual Orientation: refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation typically have included attraction to members of one’s own sex (gay men or lesbians), attraction to members of the other sex (heterosexuals), and attraction to members of both sexes (bisexuals). While these categories continue to be widely used, research has suggested that sexual orientation does not always appear in such definable categories and instead occurs on a continuum. In addition, some research indicates that sexual orientation is fluid for some people; this may be especially true for women (American Psychological Association, 2011). 


Coming Out: refers to the process in which one acknowledges and accepts one’s own sexual orientation. It also encompasses the process in which one discloses one’s sexual orientation to others. The term closeted refers to a state of secrecy or cautious privacy regarding one’s sexual orientation (American Psychological Association, 2011). 


Gender Identity Dysphoria: This used to be known as Gender Identity Disorder. This is the term proposed by medical professionals to describe those who experience gender outside of the restrictive social boundaries and cultural expectations. (EEOC- Discomfort or stress that is caused by a discrepancy between a person's gender identity and that person's sex assigned at birth (and the associated gender role and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics). Only some gender nonconforming people express gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. Psychological and medical treatment for gender dysphoria may include: change in gender expression and role (which may involve living part-time or full-time in another gender, consistent with one's gender identity); hormone therapy to feminize or masculinize the body; surgery to change primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (e.g., breasts/chest, external and/or internal genitalia, facial features, body contouring); and psychotherapy for purposes of exploring gender identity and expression (EEOC, 2016).


Sex or Gender Reassignment: A term referring to surgical alteration which is only one small part of transition. Preferred term to "sex change operation". Not all transgender people choose or can afford to have sex reassignment surgery (SRS), (EEOC, 2016). The terms, Top Surgery and Bottom Surgery may also be used to describe the process of sexual reassignment, with top surgery being indicative of breast removal, and Bottom surgery being indicative of surgical alteration of the genital region.


Transitioning:A term describing the process of altering one's birth sex. Transition is not a one-step process; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition includes some or all of the following personal, legal, and medical adjustments: telling one's family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one's name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy, and possibly (though not always) one or more forms of surgery. The terms non-transitional, pre-transitional, and post-transitional describe the various periods or stages of transition (EEOC, 2016).




DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.



Social Justice Terms


Social Justice: A process and a goal. A commitment to a socially just world and the committed actions to make that world a reality. Or, "The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure... Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility towards and with others, their society and the broader world in which we live (Suffolk University, 2016; Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, 2015).


Ally: A person who is a member of an advantaged social group who takes a stand against oppression, works to eliminate oppressive attitudes and beliefs in themselves and their communities, and works to interrogate and understand their privilege (Suffolk University, 2016).


Collusion: Thinking and acting in ways that support dominant systems of power, privilege and oppression. Both privileged and oppressed groups can collude with oppression (Suffolk University, 2016).


Prejudice: A pre-judgement or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups towards another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on unsupported generalizations (or stereotypes) that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics (Suffolk University, 2016).


Discrimination: When members of a more powerful group behave unjustly or cruelly to members of a less powerful group (Suffolk University, 2016).


Microagressions: A term coined by Harvard University Professor Chester Pierce in 1970, and further exapanded in a 2010 Psychology Today article, "Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messaes to target persons based soley upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of the target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate that they are lesser human beings, suggest that they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment (Psychology Today, 2010).


Oppression: The systematic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systematic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspect of life in our society.

    • Oppression denotes structural and material constraints that significantly shape a person's life chances and sense of possibility.
    • Oppression also signifies a hierarchical relationship in which the dominant or privilege groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.
    • Oppression resides not only in external social institutions and norms butt also within the human psyche as well.
    • Eradicating oppression ultimately requires struggle against all its forms, and that building coalitions among diverse people offers the most promising strategies for challenging oppression systematically.

(Suffolk University, 2016).


Horizontal Oppression: When people from targeted groups believe, act on, or enforce dominant systems of oppression against other members of targeted groups (Suffolk University, 2016).


Internalized Oppression: The fear and self-hatred of one's own identity or identity group. Internalized oppression is learned and is based on acceptance of oppressive stereotypes, attitudes, and beliefs about one's own identity group (Suffolk University, 2016).


Intersectionality: The intersections of multiple, mutually-reinforcing systems of oppression, power, and privilege. How individuals experience is impacted by multiple axes of oppression and privilege. Variables include, but are not limited to: race, gender, ethnicity, religion, ability, education, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, gender expression, class, first language, citizenship, and age (Suffolk University, 2016).


Privilege: A group of unearned cultural, legal, social, and institutional rights extended to a group based on their social group membership. Individuals with privilege are considered to be the normative group, leaving those without access to this privilege invisible, unnatural, deviant, or just plain wrong. Most of the time, these privileges are automatic and most individuals in the privileged group are unaware of them. Some people can "pass" as members of the privileged group might have access to at least some of the privilege (Suffolk University, 2016).


Power: The ability to get what you want (Suffolk University, 2016).


Tolerance: 1. Capacity to endure pain or hardship, 2. Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own, 2b. the act of allowing something, 3. the allowable deviation from a standard, 4b. the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food  [Note from the author: I find the standard Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of this term to be rather telling] (Merriam-Webster, 2016).



Xenophobia: The fear and hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange




DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.