Getting the vocabulary right: some transgender terminology

“Imagine yourself holding a pen, about to write with the opposite hand you usually write in. For most, your hand and handwriting, whether left or right, just won’t look, feel or move correctly. The words just won’t fit between the lines. Well, that’s how it feels to be transgender, the feeling that something just doesn’t feel right, and you need to swap the pen into a different hand to feel normal.”

— Hanna, Harlem, New York City

Transgender: A term used for people whose gender expression, identity and behaviour are different from the sex they are born with. 

Transgender man: A trans person who identifies as a man. The term used for the transition is FTM (female to male).

Transgender woman: A trans person who identifies as a female. The term used for the transition is MTF (male to female).

Gender expression: How people present themselves through behaviour, clothing or bodily characteristics.

Gender nonconforming: A term used for individuals who do not conform to the gender norms society generally expects.

Sexual orientation: Describes a person’s attraction towards a particular sex, be it homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual or asexual.

Intersex: People whose anatomy or genetics do not conform to the typical XY male or XX female. They have elements of both sexes’ reproductive organs present.

— Mosibudi Ratlebjane

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Osaka ready to boycott Wimbledon over ranking points row

The ATP and WTA tours last week removed ranking points from Wimbledon after the All England Club banned Russian and Belarusian players.

Mpumalanga boys ‘kidnapped for forced initiation’

Traditional leaders blame those who fail to enforce the laws that govern the practice

OPINION| Sub-Saharan Africa must oppose the death penalty

Three countries in sub-Saharan Africa notorious for consistently executing people – Botswana, Somalia and South Sudan – were responsible for all the known judicial executions in the region in 2021

Winter is here: Inflation, debt cools the economy

There is a lot bearing down on South African consumers and, without growth, the economy stands to decline

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…