Researchers and organizations that advocate for the transgender and gender-diverse communities provide these words and definitions to educate people about the transgender community. They offer suggested sexual health language that is respectful of transgender and gender-diverse patients:

  • Transgender men are individuals who identify as male but were assigned female sex at birth.1
  • Transgender women are individuals who identify as female but were assigned or labeled as male sex at birth.2
  • “Trans” is a shorthand for transgender people.2
  • Use the terms “people who menstruate,” “people who are pregnant,” instead of “female,” “women,” or “pregnant women.”3
  • Gender nonbinary persons do not identify as either male or female and may have a gender that blends those elements or is different from either male or female.4
  • Use “people who produce sperm” instead of “male” or “men.”3
  • “Cisgender” is a preferred term for men and women who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.3
  • “Assigned female or male at birth” is preferred to saying “biological female or male.”3
  • Say “external genitals, external pelvic area” instead of “vulva, clitoris.”3
  • Say “outer parts” instead of “penis, testicles.”3
  • Instead of “vagina,” use the terms, “genital opening, frontal opening, internal canal.”3
  • Say “chest” instead of “breasts.”3
  • Gender dysphoria is the term used in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, replacing the previously used term “gender identity disorder.” Gender dysphoria may be used as a diagnosis for the purpose of insurance coverage.5
  • Use the term “absorbent product” instead of “pad/tampon.”3
  • A female condom should be referred to as an internal condom.3
  • Instead of referring to a patient’s period or menstruation, say “uterine bleeding.”3
  • “Transition” is preferred to the terms “sex change,” “preoperative,” and “postoperative.”5

Terms to Avoid

Transgender advocacy groups recommend people avoid using certain terms to describe transgender individuals unless a person prefers those terms. These include “transsexual,” “transvestite,” and “sex change.” Other terms that are considered defamatory and damaging to transgender individuals include “deceptive,” “posing,” “pretending,” “tranny,” “masquerading,” “she-male,” “he/she,” “it,” “shim,” and “bathroom bill,” which is used by far-right extremists to oppose nondiscrimination laws that protect transgender people.5


  1. Cipres D, Seidman D, Cloniger III C, et al. Contraceptive use and pregnancy intentions among transgender men presenting to a clinic for sex workers and their families in San Francisco. Contraception 2017;95:186-189.
  2. National Center for Transgender Equality. Frequently asked questions about transgender people.
  3. Krempasky C, Harris M, Abern L, et al. Clinical Opinion: Contraception across the transmasculine spectrum. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2020;222:134-143.
  4. National Center for Transgender Equality. Understanding non-binary people: How to be respectful and supportive.
  5. GLAAD Media Reference Guide. Glossary of terms — transgender.