Interpreting for Trans settings

David Bar-Tzur

Created 21 July 2005, links updated monthly with the help of LinkAlarm.

combine Mars and Venus symbol for transsexuality

I had the privilege of seeing Dragonsani Renteria and Jennifer Mantle, his partner, present a workshop in ASL at the 2005 RID convention in San Antonio, Texas about interpreting for Trans settings. The information was excellent and so infrequently disseminated. The workshop was very rich and went into the psycho-social aspects of the transition that Drago experienced and the profound adjustment that his partner made. These are important concepts, but I don't feel qualified to go into depth about them other than to describe the signs that they suggested and definitions for the terms from various sources. I would instead encourage interpreters to seek out a workshop of this nature by contacting these presenters or other qualified parties because it is such a fascinating perspective on gender issues and requires a lot of preparation on the part of interpreters. I have also included websites on the subject.

Terminology with definitions and suggested signs

androgenous, androgyne
(1) A-N-D-R-O. (2) VAGUE, that is, (2h)[5], DH rubs palm CW against NDH, PO > signer, FO up. Person appearing and identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.1

BORN FEMALE. A person born female.2

BORN MALE. A person born male.2

Blake drain
B-L-A-K-E 4-CL'drain from chest'. Long, flat perforated Teflon tube placed in surgical wound of top surgery patients to encourage drainage of fluids from wound.2

bottom surgery

Thumbside of [B] strikes middle of forehead. A person born female whose manner, dress, body language, and essential personality echo to one degree or another the societal definition of "masculine".2

chest compression vest
FTs of (2h)[A dot] trace down center of chest and then under the pectoral muscle boundary + palms of (2h)[5] press down on the pectoral muscles. Vest of lightweight nylon/lycra stretch material used after surgery to help in proper healing of chest reconstruction surgery. Also sometimes used by pre-op FTMs and Butches to "bind" or minimize the size/appearance of breasts.2

chest reconstruction surgery
BREASTS SURGERY-ON-breast REMOVE-breasts. Surgical procedure during which the breasts are removed using one of two different techniques along with surgical sculpting of the chest to give a masculine appearance.2

cross dresser
Usually you will need to contextualize this, such as MAN ENJOY DRESS-UP LIKE WOMAN or vice versa. There is a sign I have seen, [C], PO > NDS, FO away, rapidly descends and then ascend around [1], PO > DS, FO up. This is a sign that generally means trying on clothes. How valid or widespread this sign is is not known to me. Crossdresser: Polite term for transvestite.1

drag king
D-GIRL KING. A female performer who impersonates men onstage.2

drag queen
(1) D-GIRL KING. (2) [5^], PO up, spirals down from side of head, like a wig. A male performer who impersonates women onstage.2

E-S-T-R-O-G-E-N. Along with progesterone and others, female sex hormone.2


female to male, FTM
F-T-M. Female to male transsexual; a person born female who feels that male gender more closely reflects his feelings about himself and his self-concept.2

feminine, femme
(2h)[F], POs away, FOs up, alt. move back and forth in diagonals run from the center of the chest to the respective side that the arm is on. A person born female whose manner, dress, body language, and essential personality echo to one degree or another the societal definition of "feminine".2

GIRL/WOMAN REBEL. Women-affirming women; women who believe that women are as valuable as men.2

(1) (Many prefer that it be fingerspelled) G-A-Y. (2) [G], FO > ND side, touches or taps chin. Better to sign it far away from the chin. For a QuickTime movie of this sign, see ASL browser - Gay. (3) Curled index and thumb grasp earlobe and tug several times. This sign is used primarily in California. Def. A person who identifies as male who is primarily attracted to other persons who identify as male.2

gay bashing
GAY BEAT-UP. Gay bashing is an expression used to designate verbal confrontation with, denigration of, or physical violence against people thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) because of their apparent sexual orientation or gender identity.4

(1) G-E-N-D-E-R. (2) [5], PO > NDS, FO up, touches DS temple, then midchest, DS chin, and then midchest again. Sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture.4

gender disphoria
GENDER (see entry above), NOT SATISFIED ME. Unease with, and dislike of your own physical sex.3

GENDER (see entry above) REBEL. A person who rejects the binary gender system with male and female polarities. May present as androgynous or anywhere along the femininity-masculinity continuum.2

HBIGDA (pronounced "h-big-da", the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, now known as the World Professional Association For Transgender Health, Inc.)

BORN MIX S-E-X. Person born with mixed sexual physiology. Often 'assigned' at birth, such practice is coming under well-founded attack as a hurtful violation of a person's well-being.1

J "P". A flexible bulb attached to tubing that connects with the drains in a post-top surgery patients surgical incisions/wounds. These bulbs have a little stopper that can be removed to allow for removal of drainage. Squeezing the bulb before replacing the stopper exerts mild suction and enhances the removal of drainage.2

(1) [L], FO > ND side, touches chin with FT of index finger. (2) The same as (1) but touching the chin at a point between the index finger and the thumb. This is felt to be derogatory. For a QuickTime movie of this derogatory placement, see ASL browser - Lesbian. A person who identifies as female who is primarily attracted to other persons who identify as female.2

L-G-B-T. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered.2

low hormone, "low ho"


male privilege
BOY/MAN BENEFIT. Male privilege is a term used to describe the rights allegedly granted to the male population in society on the basis of their biological sex. The female, transsexual, transgender , and sometimes the gay male populations, are usually denied these rights, but females may have other rights not granted to males.5

male to female, MTF
M-T-F. A person born female who feels that female gender more closely reflects her feelings about herself and her self-concept.2

masculine, macho
MACHO/GANG, that is, little finger edge of [S], PO up, FO away, rubs down DS of chest twice.

MAN, HATE-IT, where the second sign is (2h)[5], POs ><, FOs away, DH holds thumb at chin and NDH is held in netural space and both hands move away in an upward arc. A person who hates men.2

WOMAN, HATE-IT, where the second sign is (2h)[5], POs ><, FOs away, DH holds thumb at chin and NDH is held in netural space and both hands move away in an upward arc. A person who hates women.2

no hormone, "no ho"

SHARE AGENT. Usually indicates a primary relationship, not a business partnership.2

P-R-O-G-E-S-T-E-R-O-N-E. Along with estrogen and others, a female sex hormone.2

radical feminist
GIRL/WOMAN REBEL STRONG*. Term coined and used in the Second Wave of Feminism in North America connoting womyn-affirming womyn in staunch defiance of patriarchy in all its' forms.2

Ringer's lactate
R-I-N-G-E-R 'S L-A-C-T-A-T-E. Intravenous fluid often given to postoperative surgical patients.2

sex (in terms of gender and not sexual behavior)

stone butch
Thumbside of [B] strikes middle of forehead + OTHER TOUCH BODY, DON'T-LIKE. A male-identified female whose persona is extremely masculine. Can also connote an extremely masculine butch who is sexually untouchable.2

S-O. Significant other; the partner or loved one of a transsexual.2

S-O-F-F-A. Significant others, friends, family, and allies of transsexuals.2

S-T-E-A-L-T-H. Trans community's term for transfolks who pass as their chosen gender 24/7 and who generally have no contact with other transfolks.2

S-T-E-R-I-S-T-R-I-P-S. Nylon-reinforced tape used to help closed surgical incisions.2

T-E-S-T-O-S-T-E-R-O-N-E. Male sex hormone.2

Thumbside of [T] and then [B] strikes at DS temple. A tomboy is typically described as a girl who behaves according to the gender role of a boy. This social phenomenon typically manifests itself in certain individuals through one or more of the examples stated below: The wearing of typically masculine-oriented types of clothes. The practice of games and activities (often physical in nature), that are typically considered to be the domain of boys. The preference of school subjects typically considered to be the domain of boys. The preference to befriend members of the opposite sex rather than others of their own gender.5

top surgery

trans, transgender
Thumb of [5], FO up, touches midchest and twists into [O^] while FTs stay in contact with the midchest. Think "beautiful soul", as in the Native American concept of having two spirits. An overarching term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies that diverge from the normative gender role (woman or man) commonly, but not always, assigned at birth, as well as the role traditionally held by society.5

trans femme
F-T-M, FASCINATED. A femme who is primarily attracted to FTM(s).2

T-G. Person who lives as gender opposite to anatomical sex, i.e. person with penis living as woman. Sexual orientation varies.1

CHANGE PROCESS. The process by which a person of a given sex is transformed into a person of the "opposite" sex.2

TRANS (see this entry) MAN. Transmen or trans men are transgender or transsexual people who were identified female at birth based on genital appearance (or, in cases of intersexuality, were later assigned to the female gender) and who feel that this is not an accurate or complete description of themselves. They have a male gender identity and/or present themselves as men and desire to live in a male gender role.5

T-S, FASCINATED. Attracted to transsexual persons.2

transsexual, transexual
T-S. The old sign for this, an [X] twisting at the DS of the chin, is no longer considered appropriate. Person whose sexual identity is opposite to their assignment at birth. Not all TS folk undergo 'sex reassignment surgery' (SRS), for various reasons, including personal preference. Sexual orientation varies.1

T-V. Person who enjoys wearing clothes identified with the opposite gender, often but not always straight.1

TRANS (see this entry) WOMAN. Transwomen or trans women are transgender or transsexual people who were identified male at birth based on genital appearance (or, in cases of intersexuality, were later assigned to the male gender) and who feel that this is not an accurate or complete description of themselves. They have a female gender identity and/or present themselves as women and desire to live in a female gender role.5

The World Professional Association For Transgender Health, Inc.

Websites on Trans topics

Stained glass bulletGender Dysphoria - OrganizedWisdom Healt.

Stained glass bulletGlossary of terms.

Stained glass bulletPsychology of gener identity and transgenderism. Academic perspectives on the psychology of transsexuality are represented by groups like the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA) and are codified in the mental illness model of the DSM-IV-TR as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Transvestic Fetishism (TF). This psychopathology treats transsexuality and cross-dressing as inherently bad things about us. They're not. Gender bending, gender queers, and transgenderism show society how uncomfortable it is trying to understanding gender and sexuality. Can sexologists refrain from placing value judgements upon those with gender dysphoria and instead refine the way we understand the psychology of gender, atypical gender development, and gender role socialization? I hope that by bringing a personal and non-judgemental scientific approach to understanding transgenderism, I can help transsexuals, cross-dressers, and psychopathologists grow and develop as people.

Stained glass bulletSerene, A. Trans reference site. Women Studies 480: Transgender Lives and Experiences, Bilbliographies, Language and Terminology, Gender Theory, Trans History, Crossdressing, Policy Issues, Legal Issues, Individual's Issues, Transgender Rage, Violence and Sexual Assault, Medical Issues, Psychological Issues, Religion and Spirituality, Trans Feminism, Research Activities, Links, Who is this Annie person, Trans students at HSU - Statement of Concerns.

Stained glass bulletTranssexuality. What it is, how it exists, what to do about it, and even some thoughts about the why of it too. This is a site about Gender Dysphoria, and all of the complexities surrounding it.

Stained glass bulletWikipedia. Transexualism is a condition in which a transsexual person self-identifies as a member of the gender opposite to the one assigned to them at birth. Transsexualism is considered a taboo subject in many parts of the world. The justifications for negative beliefs about transsexualism may be perceived as being supported by religious beliefs or cultural norms. It has become more widely known in Western nations in the late 20th century due to the sexual revolution, but remains a highly controversial topic.


  1. Nangeroni, N. Transgenderism: Transgressing gender norms - Definitions/Terms.
  2. Glossary of terms.
  3. Martin, E. M. (February 2000). A guide to gender dysphoria.
  5. Wikipedia.