What follows is a list of terms that are commonly found in trans social justice discourse. The English language is not dead and continues to evolve. As time moves forward, it is reasonable to expect that some of these terms will shift, change and/or become more nuanced. 

1st Wave: Feminism from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s which tended to focus on women’s suffrageRacism 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. TERFs became a major influence in feminist discourse. 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.

Cis: Short for cisgenderCis 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. TERFs assert this is part of a trans plot to harm women*.

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.

Die Cis Scum: 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 orientationgender identity and gender expression (see image below):


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.

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

MAAB: Male Assigned At Birth.

Patriarchy: A social system that privileges men and subjugates women.

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

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

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.

Sex: Biology-based aspects of sexual development. These include (but are not limited to), genitals, genetics, epigenetics, neurology, endocrinology, etc.

TERF: Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. A term used to identify people who sympathize with and support the TERF concepts exposed on this site. The term appears to have been popularised in 2008 by a cisgender feminists on a blog called FinallyFeminism101.

Trans: Short for transgender. (AKA: trans, trans*, TG) is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of people includingtranssexualscrossdressersdrag 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.

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.

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

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