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What gender identity labels are prevailing in society?

Each of us has a gender identity, whether we choose to label it or not. A new vocabulary is evolving to describe identities that fall outside the two gender categories—man and woman—our society has traditionally recognized. Most of these new terms originate in medical, academic, or activist settings that are often middle class and white, and many of these terms have entirely different meanings or are not used at all in color communities, immigrant communities, or working-class and other communities. Some of the most widely used terms are explained below:

Transgender: A broad umbrella term referring to people whose gender identity or presentation or both does not fit traditional norms. This term is often abbreviated to "trans."

Transsexual: A person who lives as the opposite gender. The process of changing the gender can involve any or all of the following—changing the use of pronouns, changing names, changing clothing, taking hormones, and undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

Female to Male Transsexual (FTM): Someone who was born biologically as a female but identifies as a male. FTMs are also sometimes referred to as transmen. Some of us have undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Male to Female Transsexual (MTF): Someone who was born biologically as a male but identifies as a female. MTFs are also sometimes referred to as transwomen. Some of us have undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Genderqueer: Someone who blurs, rejects, or transgresses gender norms. This term is also used for people who reject the two traditionally recognized gender categories. Gender identity labels used in different communities also include "tranny boys," "two spirit," "femme queen," and so on. Some people who fit the criteria of these definitions use these terms and others do not. Regardless of a gender identity or sexual orientation, we have a right to use the term with which we feel most comfortable or to use no label at all. Gender-related labels are not used to describe only trans people. In queer communities, "butch," "femme," and "androgynous" are a few terms we may use to describe our place on a spectrum of masculinity and femininity. In straight communities, we may use terms like "girly-girl" and "tomboy" to label gender characteristics or expressions.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era

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Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.