Transgender terminology: 10 phrases you need to know

Romario and Steffan

Steffan Zachiyah and Romario Wanliss are two transgender friends living in the UK.

In a new documentary, Newsbeat and Radio 1 Stories follows the pair as they reveal their identities to their families in Jamaica.

There are a few terms that come up a lot when talking about trans issues.

Steffan and Romario have told us the phrases you need to know.


Steffan: "FTM is what Romario and I are.

Male and female symbols

"It's transgender terminology for transitioning female to male, so a biologically born female transitioning to male.

"The term MTF, is used for people wanting to transition the other way."

Romario: "So someone who was assigned as male at birth but transitioning to female medically."

T stands for testosterone


Steffan: "To transition is when somebody is changing from female to male or from male to female."

Romario: "Transition is a very broad terminology.

"It could also be a transition for the people who are around you, meaning that they're trying to accept what it is that we're doing in terms of transitioning from one gender to the other."


Romario: "T stands for testosterone.

"And by T they mean the artificial substance, not the natural one that's produced from a man's body.

"To say Testosterone is a mouthful so people just shorten it and say, 'Oh, you're on T.'"

Steffan: "Some people in the trans community use T to keep it on the down low.

"When I say 'T' I generally feel more comfortable saying it, because then other people don't know exactly what I'm talking about."


Steffan: "It's feeling very insecure about certain body parts or not being able to deal with displaying those body parts because you feel like they shouldn't be there.

"It can sometimes make you feel anxious, depressed and isolated."

    • TRANSGENDER - an umbrella term for people who experience a mismatch with the gender identity or gender expression they were assigned at birth.
    • TRANSSEXUAL- Is someone who has undergone treatment for gender reassignment. So they may be taking hormones but have not yet undergone surgery.
    • CROSS-DRESSING - Is someone who chooses to dress in the opposite gender's clothing.
    • GENDER NEUTRAL - Is someone who doesn't identify with either male or female, so you kind of sit in between.


Romario: "Top surgery means any surgery that you've had from the waist upwards to your neck.

"So in FTM that would be removal of the breasts, which is a double mastectomy.

"And in the case of the MTF it would be augmentation of the breast - inserting silicone into the chest area to create breasts."

Steffan: "Not everyone wants top surgery, but to some it is important because it adds to the aesthetics of becoming the person who you eventually want to become.

Romario: "Bottom surgery generally means an operation on the genital area.

"So altering the original work down there.

"For an MTF it would be on the penis to create a vagina and for an FTM it would be on the vagina to create a penis."

Steffan and Romario


Steffan: "To be stealth means living your life as male or female and not letting anyone know that you have physically transitioned.

"So for example at my work nobody except for managers know that I'm trans.

"In everybody's head I'm biologically male."

Romario: "I think it's impossible to be stealth.

"I don't announce [being trans].

"Just like a straight person would not go to work and announce their medical history, I don't go to work announcing my medical history either.

"But, if I'm asked I'm not going to hide it."


Romario: "In the trans community the term coming out definitely exists and still applies.

"It is the opposite of being stealth. You are announcing who you are."

Chest binder


Romario: "In the trans world binding is the compression of the breasts and the binder is the device used to do it."

Steffan: "So you can buy vests that will compress our chest so it makes us look like we've got pecs.

"Or you can use other types of material to tape down our chest so it doesn't look like breasts."

Romario: "You'd use it because it's so dysphoric for you to keep looking at your chest and it's a discomfort for you to be out in public."

Steffan: "Personally, I don't recommend any of them because some people say it damages the breast tissue and can cause complications when it comes to surgery."



Romario: "A packer is a device used to create an illusion that you have a penis in your pants or your boxers."

Steffan: "It's to make you feel like you've got 'the package' if you're FTM."

Romario: "You could use your socks or it could be an actual prosthetic."

Steffan: "Some people wear it on a day to day basis, some people wear it to go to the gym just to know that they're bulging their pack.

"It's psychological."



Romario: "STP stands for stand to pee - it's a device that enables you to go to the toilet while standing up."

Steffan: "It's almost like a packer but a softer version.

"It's something that you put in your pack and you urinate through it while standing up.

"Again, it's important because it's a psychological thing.

"A lot of people are dysphoric about down there initially, so rather than sitting on the toilet they would prefer to stand as a man.

Watch our documentary Transgender: Back to Jamaica on BBC iPlayer.

For help and support on gender identity and transgender issues, check out the BBC Advice pages.

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