Talking to trans people: Ten Terms you need to Know

Many adults, including employers, teachers and parents are unsure about the right language to use regarding transgender people.

Do you worry about upsetting or offending trans people by using the wrong words? Or, do you avoid the subject because you feel uncertain? If so, read on…

These ten terms will help you and those around you to be a little less uncertain.

What is Gender?

Gender is your sense of being a man or woman. It’s also some other types of gender that don’t fit the man or woman category (more on that later). Gender isn’t always the same as your sex at birth.

Trans – Ten Terms

1. Transgender: This umbrella term describes someone who is not the same as (or who is not comfortable with) the sex they were assigned on their birth certificate.

2. Trans: A short version of the word ‘transgender’. Trans and transgender are often used interchangeably.

3. Transman: I was assigned female at birth but now I identify and live as a man.

4. Trans woman: I was assigned male at birth but now I identify and live as a woman.

5. Non-binary: Non-binary people don’t feel male or female. They may:

6. Cisgender: This means anyone who isn’t transgender. If you see the word “cis”, this a shortened form of “cisgender” and, when you say it aloud, it sounds like the word “sis.”

7. Transitioning: This is the journey of changing from your sex assigned at birth. It can include a change of name, change of pronouns used, surgery, hormones and, eventually, seeking legal recognition of a person’s gender identity.

8. Deadnaming: This is when you call a trans person by their previous name (i.e. the name used before transitioning). Deadnaming is hurtful: Use the person’s present name whenever possible.

9. Pronouns (he or she): Often, a trans person’s chosen name indicates their gender preference. For example, a trans person called Connor would typically be referred to as “he.”

It’s best to respect what the person prefers. This could include terms such as they, their or xe. If you are unsure, politely ask the person what their preferred pronouns are.

10. Outing: When someone exposes a person’s trans status. This is not OK – the trans person should be able to decide who is told about their identity (with some exceptions).

Is transgender more common in males or females?

Historically, people assigned male at birth made up more of the referrals to gender identity clinics. This has now flipped and, amongst teenagers, people assigned female at birth now make up more of the referrals. You’ll not be far off if you work on the basis of referrals being split 3:1 (birth-assigned females vs birth-assigned males).

Are young people’s Gender Identity Services closing?

Yes and No.

You may have seen news about the closure of the Tavistock Clinic (also known as Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS)). The clinic, which had sites in Leeds and London, is the service for young people who are (in their words) ‘presenting with difficulties with their gender identity.’

There is currently a review of Gender Identity services for young people by a respected doctor: Dr Hilary Cass OBE. She recommended that services were not offered by the single national clinic. Instead, there’ll be two regions (north and south). The north region clinic will be based in Manchester, whilst the south region clinic will be based in London. The two regions will run separately, but meet to help ensure quality and consistent care. The date of the change over? Spring 2023.

So, while GIDS is closing, it’s being replaced by two regional clinics.

Another key issue that has been highlighted is the steep increase in referrals to GIDS. In 2021/22 there were over 5,000 referrals into the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS). This compares to about 250 referrals ten years earlier (2011/12).

Is transgender more common now that before?

It certainly is in the news more often, but no one can be certain as there were more cultural barriers to coming out as trans in the past.

However, we do know that referrals of young people have risen significantly. In 2021/22 there were over 5,000 referrals into the GIDS. This compares to about 250 referrals in 2011/12 (Source: NHS England, May 2023).

Is autism more common in the trans community?

Cambridge University research says yes. As well as an autism diagnosis being more common, autistic traits are more common in the trans community (i.e. people show autistic traits but don’t have a diagnosis).

Whilst we don’t know for certain why this is, it’s important not to be dismissive of this group of people.

Where can I get more info?

Genderbread is a visual way of understanding:


Hopefully this page has helped you to be a little less unsure. Please share it with others and, if you want this page in an editable word file, click here.

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Last updated: 21/12/2023

  • Aaron King, Director

    With over 20 years experience of working with children & young people in both mainstream and SEND settings, Aaron King is the driving force behind 9000lives.

    Aaron has written for the TES, including in the Leadership & Governance sections. He has also been a school governor for around 15 years.

  • Aaron King

    Aaron King Director

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