This guide provides ways to respond (and how not to respond) when someone comes out to you as transgender.
Like many other languages, Hebrew assigns each noun a gender. But what about those who don’t identify with the only two gender options this language offers? To build a more inclusive community, the youth movement Habonim Dror North America created a singular, gender-neutral/nonbinary ending –ol,”ול” (vav lamed), which is based on the word kol, which means “all.” This ending is used for anyone who doesn’t use either “he” or “she” as a pronoun in English, picking “they” or another nonbinary option instead.
Plural nouns work similarly: Plural masculine nouns in Hebrew—including any group of people that includes at least one man—typically end in -im, while feminine nouns end in -ot. An inclusive, gender-neutral term can end in a blend: -imot, “ימות” (yud mem vav tav-sofit).
Male camper: chanich
Female camper: chanichah
Male campers: chanichim
Female camper: chanichot
Adapted from Habonim Dror North America and borrowed from Zauzmer, Julie. “A camp tries to reinvent the Hebrew language, so transgender kids can fit in.” The Washington Post, 11 August 2016. Web.
For more examples, check out the Nonbinary Hebrew Project: https://www.nonbinaryhebrew.com/
*Note on terms: Below are some common terms in the LGBTQ and Ally communities. This is not an exhaustive list, and language is always evolving around identities. It’s always best to respectfully check with individuals about what language/labels they use, and it’s never OK to use labels for a person which they don’t use for themself. For more terms, please see our LGBTQ Terminology resource.
ASSIGNED FEMALE AT BIRTH: (adj) “AFAB” – refers to someone who was labeled female at birth. This may or may not reflect their current identity. Also known as DFAB (Designated Female at Birth).
AGENDER: (adj) A term that connotes a lack of gender identity. People who are agender may also describe themselves as gender-neutral or genderless.
ASSIGNED MALE AT BIRTH: (adj) “AMAB” – refers to someone who was labeled male at birth. This may or may not reflect their current identity. Also known as DMAB (Designated Male at Birth).
BIGENDER: (adj) The state of experiencing two gender identities, either simultaneously or varying between the two. These identities could be man or woman, but they can also be other nonbinary genders.
CHOSEN NAME: (n) A name someone has chosen for themself and by which they would like to be called.
COMING OUT: (v) The process of disclosing one’s identity, usually sexual orientation or gender identity. Coming out is not a one-time occurrence, and queer and trans people usually experience this process over and over again.
DEAD NAME/GIVEN NAME: (n) Any name by which someone does not want to be called.
DEMISEXUAL: A person who only feels sexual attraction to someone with whom they have an emotional bond.
FTM/FTM/F to M: (adj) A female-to-male trans person: individuals assigned female at birth who identify as male. Transmen and transboys may also fall into this category. Some transmen feel that “FTM” and similar language reinforces an either/or gender system. Some transmen reject being seen as “FTM,” arguing that they have always been male and are only making this identity visible to other people (instead, they may prefer “MTM”). Remember to use this term only if it is claimed by the individual.
GENDER IDENTITY: (n) A person’s inner understanding of the gender(s) to which they belong or with which they identify. This is each person’s unique knowing or feeling, and is separate from a person’s physical body or appearance (although often related). Examples of gender identities include woman, nonbinary, man, agender, trans, genderqueer, etc.
GENDERFLUID: (adj) A gender identity that varies over time. Someone who is genderfluid may identify as a variety of different genders at different times.
MISGENDER: (v) The act of incorrectly identifying or labeling someone’s gender. Ex: “I’m sorry I misgendered you when I used the wrong pronouns.”
MTF/MTF/M to F: (adj) A male-to-female trans person: individuals assigned male at birth who identify as female. Transwomen and transgirls may also fall into this category. Some transwomen feel that “MTF” and similar language reinforces an either/or gender system. Some transwomen reject being seen as “MTF,” arguing that they have always been female and are only making this identity visible to other people (instead, they may prefer “FTF”). Remember to use this term only if it is claimed by the individual.
NONBINARY: (adj) A term referring to a gender identity that rejects the notion of binary gender; that is, the idea that the only genders are “man” and “woman.” Can sometimes be used interchangeably with genderqueer.
SEX ASSIGNED AT BIRTH: (n) A person’s assignment at birth, based upon primary and secondary sex characteristics (genitalia, breasts, body hair, chromosomes, hormones, etc.) as male, female, or intersex.
TRANSFEMININE: (adj) A term used to describe transgender people who were assigned male at birth, but identify with femininity to a greater extent than with masculinity.
TRANSGENDER OR TRANS: (adj) An umbrella term for anyone who knows themselves to be a gender that is different than the gender they were assigned at birth. Some trans people may have an alternate gender identity that is neither man nor woman, and for some people their gender identity may vary at different points in their lives. Some transgender people modify their bodies through medical means, and some do not. Common terms that people use about themselves are transman, transwoman, and man or woman of transgender experience. Using the terms ‘Transgendered’ with an ‘-ed’ (verb) or ‘Transgenders’ with an ‘-s’ (noun) are both incorrect.
TRANSMASCULINE: (adj) A term used to describe transgender people who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than with femininity.