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Serving Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault
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June 2014
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Transgender-Specific Issues

The Choices: Language

This section describes language-related choices:

Gender identity

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There are hundreds of gender identities, with each term carrying numerous meanings. It is unlikely that two people (transgender or non-transgender) would define their gender identities in exactly the same way. For example, how people define "female" varies greatly from person to person. Definitions may differ based on where in the country or world someone lives, the types of familial relationships they have had with females, their age, their ethnic influences, and many other factors. Remember: Victims are always experts in their own language preferences. Listen carefully to the words that victims use to describe themselves and their bodies and reflect those words back to them.

Here are just a few terms that transgender people may use to describe their identity:

  • Genderqueer.
  • Hybrid.
  • Man of transgender history.
  • Stone.
  • Stud.
  • Transensual femme.
  • Transwoman.

For more, but by no means all, identity-related terms, see FORGE's 101 Trans Identity Words. Note that the preferred language of some victims may be perceived as offensive to others, so be careful to use the language preferences of each individual.


Generally, with some gender-neutral exceptions, many first names are considered either male or female. Some transgender people decide to adopt a name different from the name they were given at birth, usually in accordance with their gender identity. As with anyone who has changed names, transgender people may or may not have changed their name legally or consistently.

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Gender Neutral Pronouns

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Most people in the United States only know of two sets of singular pronouns: masculine (he, him, his) and feminine (she, her, hers). The majority of transgender individuals use masculine or feminine pronouns and prefer others to consistently use those pronouns for them as well. Others feel limited by only masculine or feminine pronouns and create or adopt a vocabulary to better represent themselves. Some of these individuals prefer gender-neutral pronouns, such as ze, s/he, sie, hir, and they/their. Others use different pronouns in different settings. Still others prefer to intentionally not adhere to any one set of pronouns.