May 29, 2009

Glossary of Key Terms

This report will discuss identities and terms that may be unfamiliar to some readers:

  • We use gender identity to refer to a person's internal, deeply felt sense of being male or female, or something other than or in between male and female; gender expression refers to the external characteristics and behaviors which societies define as “masculine” or “feminine”—including such attributes as dress, appearance, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social behavior and interactions.
  • Transgender people are people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the physical characteristics (or “sex”) of their body at birth. Understanding their experiences means recognizing how gender is not the same as biological sex. Biological sex is the classification of bodies as male or female on the basis of biological factors, including hormones, chromosomes, and sex organs. Gender describes the social and cultural meanings attached to ideas of “masculinity” and “femininity.” In this report “transgender” is used as an umbrella term to include transsexual, travesti, and transgender people.
  • A Transsexual is someone who has undergone or is in the process of undergoing hormone therapies and the complex of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures usually known as sex reassignment surgery (SRS) so that their physical sex corresponds to their internal gender identity.
  • Transphobia is fear of and prejudice toward transgender people based on the expression of their gender identity, or their contravention of cultural and social norms of gender.
  • Travesti is a word used in Latin America to describe someone who was designated “male” at birth at birth and whose gender identity is female; a travesti may decide to alter their body or not.