Important Terminology

When coming in contact with trans-related issues for the first time, people often hear and read a number of new words and definitions. At first, this can be confusing and at times overwhelming.
The following list provides explanations for some of the words that are commonly used to talk about trans issues and identity. For further information, there are links provided to each term to find out more. Unfortunately, the linked dictionaries are only available in German language. To read up on a collection of terminology that we also address here, go to

If you prefer to read in easy language, you can find a list in German here: (List of terminology in easy German language by Anders&Gleich)

Words and terms to describe ourselves

The following terms are commonly used by the German speaking trans community to describe themselves:


The adjective trans is a frequently used term pertaining to the identification of people who do not, or not exclusively so, identify with the gender which they were assigned at birth. This term includes non-binary people as well as trans people, however, not all non-binary people refer to themselves as trans.

A trans boy is a boy who was not assigned male at birth.

A trans girl is a girl who was not assigned female at birth.

A non-binary trans person is a person who was not assigned non-binary at birth.

The star (or asterisk) stands, just like with search-engines and coded language, for a number of possible endings like transgender, transident (specific German word) or transsexual.

For more information, click here  (Dictionary Diversity Arts Culture, trans). (only in German language)


The term non-binary refers to people whose gender identity does not (always/completely) match female or male / man or woman. It is an umbrella term which describes different and alternative ways to experience gender.

For more information visit (Nichtbinär-Wiki, non-binary and genderqueer). (only in German language)

Other important terms


Cis people are people who identify with the gender which they were assigned at birth. It is commonly used as the opposite of trans.


In the German-speaking context, queer is used as an umbrella term for all people who do not meet the romantic, sexual, and/or gender norms of society. In English, it has been used (and still is used) as a slur and insult (especially) for gay men. Nowadays, the term has gained a positive connotation and many people use it to identify with.

For more information, click here  (Dictionary Diversity Arts Culture, queer). (only in German language)

Useful theoretical knowledge

The following definitions can be helpful in classifying discrimination and naming experiences of discrimination. Some young trans and non-binary people already make use of these “conceptual tools”. If you know the meaning of the terms described below, you will understand the young trans and non-binary people in your life better and will be able to support them more effectively.


Heteronormativity describes a world-view and a social value system that knows only two unambiguous genders (male and female), which are determined from the outside and cannot be changed. According to this world-view, relationships always take place between these genders, i.e. only heterosexual relationships are considered normal.

For more information, click here  (Dictionary Diversity Arts Culture, Heteronormativität). (only in German language)


Cisnormativity describes a world-view and social value system that recognizes only cisgender people and considers them as the norm. Accordingly, like heteronormativity, it includes the false assumption of only two unambiguous, unchangeable genders (male and female). (Additionally), it contains the assumption that a person’s gender identity always matches the sex assigned at birth. Cisnormativity thus involves the belief that all (“healthy”) people are cisgender.

A Note on Language Use

Language is constantly changing. Despite dictionaries and grammar rules, language use cannot be predetermined or prescribed. Active language use often differs from the rules that exist. With societal changes and lived social realities that have long been invisible gaining visibility, people create and find words and a language to talk about their lives. Official rules and regulations, such as German spelling or dictionaries, usually need more time to reflect and represent these new realities and developments.

Among other things, gender-sensitive language aims to correctly reflect people’s identities and avoid misattributions. This means, for example, finding non-binary variants for German words that previously existed only in masculine and feminine form. Or finding forms of address and collective terms that include all genders (e.g. Schüler*innen instead of Schüler und Schülerinnen). Gender-sensitive language can also be useful as a tool to better understand and describe oneself and to share this self-knowledge with others. It is not about forcing a person into a(nother) box.

It is important that you, as a caregiver, listen very carefully and acknowledge and use the self-description(s) of the trans and non-binary person(s) in your life that you have been entrusted with. The respectful use of language is a basic requirement to create a trusting and empowering environment.

Some people are not always sure which terms or forms of address (at different points in time) are appropriate for them. This does not make their being trans any less valid. It just illustrates that people need space and time to figure out what they feel comfortable with. In these kinds of situations, it can help to take a supportive stance by offering to try out different possibilities and versions.