1st Wave: Feminism from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s which tended to focus on women’s suffrage. Racism was a significant issue and genderqueer individuals were oftentimes shut out of the movement.

2nd Wave: Feminism from around 1960 – 1980. This wave of feminism was focused on Women’s Lib. To the dismay of intersectional 2nd Wave feminists, privilege-blind optics became a problem within 2nd wave feminist discourse. At this time, Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male gained favor.

3rd Wave: Feminism from around 1980 – 2010. Focused on addressing exclusionary practices of previous feminist waves. Sandy Stone, a transwoman and victim of Janice Raymond’s harassment, publishes The Empire Strikes Back and is well received.

4th Wave: (AKA Intersectional Feminist) Feminism from around 2010 – current. Focused on inclusivity (explicitly trans inclusive) and embraces significant (especially online) discourse. Websites like Autostraddle (4th wave lesbian culture) and Feministing (4th wave youth culture) exemplify 4th wave discourse. Unfortunately, TERFs have begun using “4th Wave Feminism” as a euphemism for TERF and/or Gender Critical Feminist.

Cis: Short for cisgender. Cis is Latin for “on the same side [as].” In other words, it’s a term describing non-transgender people. In the same way one might say transwomen one can say ciswomen. Cisgender means “denoting or relating to someone whose sense of personal identity corresponds with the gender assigned to them at birth.” 1

The “sense of personal identity” in the definition of cisgender does not refer to gender role. Identity and role are two different things. For instance, just because LGB people’s sexuality violates assigned heteronormative gender roles, that does not mean that lesbians therefore don’t identify with the gender assigned to them at birth: female.

Cisnormative: The standard of normalcy in a culture that tends to privilege cis cultural archetypes over all others.

Cisprivilege: Refers to a set of unearned advantages that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth accrue solely due to having a cisgender identity.

Cotton Ceiling: A discourse among trans people concerning itself with the way physical cisnormative beauty standards impact notions of desirability, how these biases relate to the fetishization of trans people, how it impacts the perception of trans people in queer spaces and how these cisnormative standards affect the body image of trans people. In other words, it is a conversation about the way cisnormative beauty standards affect the way trans people see themselves as well as the way in which it biases the way others view trans people. The cotton in the name of the term refers to the clothing covering the (fetishized, reviled, etc) bodies of trans people. TERFs often assert* that the Cotton Ceiling is actually a conspiracy on the part of trans people to rape lesbians.

Figure 1: DCS in punk culture

Die Cis Scum meme: A meme born of the radical punk/anarchist “Die Yuppie Scum” culture of the 1980s. The “Die ___ Scum” rhetorical meme is used to embody extreme contempt for (what is seen as) enablers of oppressive systems. An objective review of this meme is located here. The Die Cis Scum meme was popular among the punk/anarchist trans/queer communities in 2011 and is sometimes used by TERFs as claimed evidence of underlying “male violence” found in all transwomen.

FAAB: Female Assigned At Birth

Gender: is a generic term we use to refer to any/all aspects of gender orientation, gender identity and gender expression (see Fig. 2) and/or any mental/psychological contextualization of the material reality of genotype and phenotype sex.

In some highly specific contexts, gender can be regarded as an endophenotype marker. In other words, if the environment can shape biology and if biology has anything to do with behavior, then the resulting behavior can be measured and the results categorized. For instance:

“Men’s and women’s opportunities and decisions are in part constrained by social structures, institutions, policies, and norms. Over time, these constraints lead to gender differences in health and behavior that create, sustain, or intensify underlying biological sexual dimorphisms.” – OA Genetics 2013 Jul 01;1(1):8.

Female: One whose genotype, phenotype, and/or legal persona is regarded by society as being typical of the political class “woman”.

Gender Critical Feminism: This is a label TERFs use to escape the TERF label. GCF is TERF ideology presented outside of an asserted “radical feminist” perspective. Like TERFs, so-called “Gender Critical Feminists” believe that gender identity is the same thing as gender role; gender expression is the same thing as gender stereotype; that gender is the same thing as sexism; and, the perception of “sex” exists outside of culture.

Implications for Gender Identity, Orientation & Expression: One’s gender orientation might be male, while their gender identity could be female even though their gender expression is androgynous.
Gender Expression: The complex and nuanced ways humans communicate gender identity and orientation. This includes written, oral and body language, fashion, etc.

Gender Identity: When most trans people speak of gender identity, they mean gender orientation (see below). Gender identity can also mean the contextual labels we use when we socially construct sexed personas. Therefore, “gender identity” within trans discourse may refer to gender orientation, one’s sexed persona or both.

Gender Hierarchy: In sexism, gender hierarchies are the product of gender roles. Part of the male gender role is to accept, protect and promote one’s status an oppressor class while part of the female gender role is to accept, protect and promote one’s status an oppressed class.

Figure 2: model of gender orientation, identity and expression

Gender Orientation: The term refers to one’s subjective experience of one’s own physical sexed attributes. In other words, everyone who possesses consciousness will have a private and subjective experience of having a human body. Part of that private and subjective experience will include that body’s primary and secondary sexed attributes. One’s experience of that reality is gender orientation.

Gender Role: In sexism, gender roles function to promote a culturally perceived sex-segregated society. Being placed into a role is something that culture forcibly does to people; nobody can choose to live in a gender role. Should society deem that one is a male, that person will be placed into a male role by culture; should society deem that one is female, that person will be placed into a female role by culture. A gender role isn’t chosen, it’s inflicted and much of trans discourse is situated around ways of challenging and undermining those roles.

Gender Stereotype: In sexism, sex segregated culturally constructed norms and taboos are propagated throughout society by culture and are applied to those who are perceived by culture to be either male are female. These norms and taboos produce culturally prescriptive form which helps culture identify people within its binary system.

Genderqueer: (noun) political position of rejecting gender roles, stereotypes, hierarchies and existing outside the male/female binary; or, (adjective) referring to a, having rejected gender roles, stereotypes, hierarchies and existing outside the male/female binary, self-identifies as being genderqueer.

Genotype: The genetic constitution of an individual organism. Often contrasted with phenotype.2

Hate: the feeling intense or passionate dislike for someone or something. (In rhetoric: most who experience elevated dislike of trans people/issues will object to having their experience referred to as “hate.”)

Figure 3: Intersectional quote for the MLK memorial in Washington, DC
Intersectionality: The awareness that different types of oppression intersects and cannot be artificially disentangled from the experience of oppression. In other words, one might not be able-bodied, be a rape survivor, be economically disadvantaged and a woman of color (WOC); to assert that her problem in life is the patriarchy is to willfully turn a blind eye to the complexity of the systematic oppression she faces.

Intersex: Someone whose genotype is not typical of the binary of male or female sex designation. One’s intersex genotype might – but will not always – affect one’s phenotype.

Lateral Violence: Displaced aggression; the tendency of oppressed people to oppress others.

MAAB: Male Assigned At Birth.

Male: one whose genotype, phenotype, and/or legal persona is regarded by society as being typical of the political class “man”.

Man: A political class that is pressured by culture to subjugate women.

MRA: Men’s Rights Activist. MRAs generally assert that they are being oppressed by feminists in the same way TERFs assert that they are being oppressed by trans people. TERFs strangely claim that trans activists are MRAs.

Patriarchy: A social system, sustained by sexism, that privileges men and subjugates women.

PIV Sex: Penis In Vagina Sex; this is viewed as being harmful* by TERFs and thus, heterosexual women are often encouraged to become a political lesbian.

Phenotype: The set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.3

Political Lesbian: The belief found in TERF discourse that any women can choose* to become lesbian and enjoy a “freedom” in sisterhood.

POMO: This term refers to post-modern thought. TERFs have difficulty understanding that the perception, thoughts, attitudes, regard, awareness and languaging of sex and the material reality of a physical body are not, in fact, the same thing and erroneously regard anyone who notices this reality as a “POMO”.

RadFem: Short of Radical Feminist; closely tied to 2nd wave feminism, it represents  the identity that many (though not all) TERFs utilize when engaging in anti-trans activism. Radical Feminism itself exists to do away with sexism through the abolition of gender roles, stereotypes and hierarchies.

Sex: A social identifier assigned to babies at birth. It is taken to connote the genotypical aspects/attributes of human development as it relates to the ability to produce size-differentiated gametes. Additionally, sex is taken to connote the phenotypical aspects of sexed bodies such as primary and secondary sex characteristics. (NOTE: Sex – the actual material aspects of the body’s sexed characteristic – are not the same thing as the perception/psychological (mental) contextualization of the material reality of the physical body, which is gender.)

Sexism: In simple terms, sexism refers to social systems in which Gender Stereotypes + Gender Roles = Gender Hierarchies.

Sex Reassignment: The constellation of surgical and medical therapies intended to physically change a person from one sexual phenotype to the other. 4

Straight: Someone who, in a political, social and/or personal context, embraces heteronormativity.

TERF: Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. A term used to identify people who sympathize with and support the TERF concepts exposed on theterfs.com. The term appears to have been popularized in 2008 by a cisgender feminists on a blog called FinallyFeminism101. Having erroneously conflated gender with sexism, TERFs exist to do away with gender. Like so-called “Gender Critical Feminists”, TERFs believe that gender identity is the same thing as gender role; gender expression is the same thing as gender stereotype; that gender is the same thing as sexism; and, the perception, understanding and contextualization of “sex” exists outside of culture.

Transition: The constellation of processes a trans person undertakes to physically, legally and socially move from one sex identification to another.

Trans: Short for transgender. (AKA: trans, trans*, TG) is an umbrella term that may encompass a variety of people including transsexuals, crossdressers, drag kings and queens, as well as bigender and androgynous individuals. Transgender, came into common usage during the 1970s, but the earliest known use was in 1965 to refer to transsexuals who wanted genital reconstructive surgery. Today, the term is used to refer to individuals who are not cisgender and is denoted by writing trans (with no asterisk). Trans with an an asterisk (trans*) connotes that one is speaking in terms of an encompassing umbrella.

Transsexual: A person whose phenotype aligns with or is in the process of aligning with males if FAAB or females if MAAB.

Transman/trans man: Geographically, the term is often written as one word in the south and central parts of the US and as two words – trans man – on the east and west coast. This term refers to a person who was sexed female at birth and who, through the process of transition, has a male phenotype. TERFs use “transman” (without a space) as a way to conceptualize trans men as being different than “real men”.

Transmisogyne: The intersection of the hate of women and the hate of trans people.

Transphobia: The –phobia refers to the strong tendency to reject (eg, a hydrophobic substance), not fear. In other words, transphobia refers to the strong tendency to reject non-cisgender people, issues, causes and concerns.

“Male dominant society has defined women as a discrete biological group forever. If this was going to produce liberation, we’d be free.… To me, women is a political group. I never had much occasion to say that, or work with it, until the last few years when there has been a lot of discussion about whether transwomen are women.” – Catharine MacKinnon
Transwoman/trans woman: Geographically, the term is often written as one word in the south and central parts of the US and as two words – trans woman – on the east and west coast. This term refers to a person who was sexed male at birth and who, through the process of transition, has a female phenotype. TERFs use “transwoman” (without a space) as a way to conceptualize trans women as being different than “real women” (which they assert they are).

Trigger: An event that brings on symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress.

Queer: Someone who, in a political, social and/or personal context, rejects heteronormativity.

WBW: Womyn-born womyn. It’s a concept that is strongly associated with the trans-exclusionary Michigan Womyn’s Festival culture. It posits an ad naturam claim to the essential ‘essence’ of being a female in that Nature/God/Creation endowed the WBW with the femaleness.

Woman: A political class that is pressured by culture to be subordinate to men.

  1. “Definition of Cisgender in English.” Cisgender. Accessed September 15, 2015.
  2. “Definition of Genotype in English:.” Genotype. Accessed September 15, 2015.
  3. “Definition of Phenotype in English.” Phenotype. Accessed September 15, 2015.
  4. Segen’s Medical Dictionary. S.V. “Sex reassignment therapy.” Retrieved September 15 2015.

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