Where did the term dead alarm come from?

Trans terms How people talk about transgender people


The transgender debate is raging, but the terms are often mixed up. No wonder: it is difficult to keep track of things. We say: No more speechless! and tried to explain the most important words.

By: Mara Wecker & Lisa Altmeier

Status: 04.12.2015 | archive

Talking about trans * is not that easy. There are so many confusing terms and formulations - and also a lot of faux pas. Statements such as "born in the wrong body", "used to be a girl" or "would like to be a woman" are problematic. There is also a dispute about the correct choice of words: do you now say transsexual or transgender or transident or maybe rather trans *? There is no clear answer to this. Nevertheless, we have tried to define the most important trans * terms and to explain why certain formulations are not necessarily well received. Your previous suggestions for supplementation have been included in the list below. If you have further comments or If you have suggestions for improvement, always bring them on!

Transgender people are people who do not - or not only - identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Transgender is now partly understood as a generic term that includes, for example, people who identify neither with the gender of man nor with the gender of woman. The word "trans" comes from Latin and means something like "over" or "otherworldly", the term "gender" refers to the (social) gender. Some transgender people reject the word because of its emphasis on the social component.

Transsexuality is the legally correct term in Germany for transsexuality. It was introduced by the sex researcher Hirschfeld - and that as early as 1923. The word "sexuality" in this case refers to the physical sex (from the Latin "sexus"). The term is rejected by some people today because the ending "-sexuality" emphasizes the physical component in contrast to the social ("gender") and sounds as if transsexuality has something to do with sexual orientation, which is not the case. Other people deliberately refer to themselves as transsexual because they believe that transsexuality is a physical and not a social matter and accordingly distinguish themselves from the term "transgender".

Transidentity emphasizes that it is about identifying with the opposite sex - and not about sexuality. The adjective "transident" is often used in Germany today as a synonym for "transsexual". However, this term is also controversial. Firstly because it suggests that the body is completely unimportant, secondly because identity sounds like you chose to be transident.

Since there are various discussions about the above-mentioned terms, the term "Trans *" ("Trans-Sternchen") is being used more and more frequently in Germany. It is an attempt to find a non-judgmental and non-categorizing umbrella term for the entire trans * spectrum.

"Transvestism" is a very old term that was introduced in 1910 by the sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld. At that time he meant people who dress contrary to their gender assigned at birth - "vestire" comes from the Latin and means "to wear". Today we tend to say "cross-dressing" because in common usage of the word transvestism is often understood as a sexually motivated action - and transgenderism is independent of sexuality.

Other people use the term "transgender" as an umbrella term. It includes both the physical (transsexual) and the social (transgender) component.

A person who outwardly has both female and male characteristics (can also be clothing or gestures), so that they cannot be clearly assigned to a gender. The fact that a person is androgynous does not have to say anything about their identification with a gender.

A person who identifies as a woman despite being assigned the male gender at birth.

A person who identifies as a man despite being assigned the female gender at birth.

The opposite of "trans" (Latin: on the other side) is "cis", which means "this side" in German. "Cisgender" is the name given to people who identify with the gender they have been assigned.

A person who was assigned the female gender at birth and who identifies with it.

A Cismann was classified as a man at birth and identified with it.

During hormone treatment or surgery, physical characteristics are adapted to personal gender identity. The previously common word was "gender reassignment". However, from the point of view of many transgender people, a trans woman who has her sexual organs adjusted is just as much a woman before as after - she does not only become a woman through the operation.

The rejection of trans people - often associated with discrimination and violence against trans people.

Transsexual Act (TSG)

The German Transsexual Act came into force in 1980. It enables trans people, for example, to change their first names or to have their status changed from "male" to "female" - or vice versa - in the civil status register. It is not possible to choose a neutral formulation: According to the law, you have to choose between two genders.

LGBT is the abbreviation for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender" and stands for the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Problematic formulations

  • "used to be a boy": Many trans men would be more likely to say of themselves that they used to be boys too - and trans women just girls. Better (if applicable): "Was raised as a boy."
  • "was born a girl": The same game: Just because a person is categorized as a girl at birth doesn't mean they have to BE a girl.
  • "would like to be a woman": This suggests that it is very easy to choose a gender identity. However, transgender people feel just as much as men or women as cisgenders.
  • "born in the wrong body ": This is the common phrase used to succinctly describe transgender people. However, not all transgender people reject their bodies, and often only parts of them, such as sexual characteristics. There was also a recent debate on Twitter on the subject. Tenor: The ideas of society are wrong, not the body.
  • "he she": It's actually quite simple: you always choose the pronoun for a person that they also use for themselves. Even if it used to be a different one. And yes, even when talking about the past. When there is even the slightest doubt how to address a person, it is best to ask. Most trans * people would much rather answer this question than have another conversation in which they are addressed with the wrong pronoun.