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What is Trans?

Trans is a term that encompasses many identities; specifically ones where sex, gender, or norms associated with either are transgressed or transitioned. Although the terms listed below are commonly used, it’s important to note that language around trans identities is dynamic and new terms to express identities form over time. Being receptive and open to all trans identities is paramount for inclusion on campus.


Gender is a social construction, time- and location-specific, which posits norms, characteristics, and ideals for sex. One may identify with the gender that corresponds to their sex assigned at birth, or another gender.


Sex is another construction typically assigned at birth by medical professionals, usually associated with genitalia or chromosomes. Similar to gender, one may identify with their sex assigned at birth, or another sex.

Sexual Identity

Sexual identity is used to express enduring romantic, emotional, sexual, and/or relational attractions to other people. Socially, sexual identity is often assumed based on one’s perceived sex and gender and that of their partner(s).

Key terms

Gender Role: The expectations for how we should act, think, and behave based on our gender.

Gender Identity: The internal concept of our gender that may or may not match our assigned gender at birth. Our gender identity may or may not be reflected in how we express our gender and/or how we present ourselves to others.

Gender Perception: How others understand or view our gender based on how we look or present. This is the part of gender we have the least control over, but it dictates how others treat us.

Gender Expression: How we express our gender, mostly through our appearance including, but not limited to, our clothing.

Trans: Trans is short for "transition," "transgress," or "transform." Trans is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender at birth.

Cisgender: Cis is short for "in-line," or "in-sync." Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches their assigned gender at birth.

Transgender: Someone whose gender identity is different from their gender assigned at birth.

Transwoman: A person assigned male at birth, but identifes as female.

Transman: A person assigned female at birth, but identifies as male.

Gender Independent: Someone who does not fit into the expected gender roles and/or gender identieis of male/female. Gender Independent people may identiy as GenderQueer, Trans, or Gender Non-Conforming.

Intersex: Someone born with anatomy or physiology that differs from the expectations of male/female sexed bodies. This term replaces the term "hermaphrodite."

Pronoun Guide

1 2 3 4 5
They Them Their Theirs Themself
Ze Hir Hir Hirs Hirself
He Him His His Himself
She Her Hers Hers Herself
[name] [name] [name] [name] [name]

1 transcended the limitations of the gender binary.
They already talked to 2 about our safe-schools campaign.
3 favorite color is unknown.
This pronoun card is 4.
things highly of 5.

adapted from UW-Milwaukee LGBTQ Resource Center

Pronouns often indicate our gender so using the preferred pronoun is extremely important to trans people.  You should ask people which pronoun they prefer you to use for them:

  • Men: He/Him/His/Sir
  • Women: She/Her/Hers/Ma’am
  • Gender Inclusive: Ze/Hir/Hirs/Zir
  • Gender Inclusive: They/Their/Theirs

Names are also often gendered and trans people may ask that you use a preferred name that differs from that they were assigned at birth.