I’ve gone looking for a definition of the word ‘transgender’ and the most complete answer I could find was on the website web4health.info and titled Transgender, Transsexual, Gender Identity Disorder.
Transgender is generally used as a catch-all umbrella term for a variety of individuals, behaviours, and groups centered around the full or partial reversal of gender roles
In another part of the article it goes into greater detail with:
Transgender can include a number of sub-categories, which, among others, including transsexual, cross-dressing, transvestite, consciously androgynous people, people who are genderqueer, people who live cross-gender, drag kings and drag queens, among many others. Usually not included, because in most cases it is not a gender issue (although in practice the line can be hard to draw) are transvestic fetishists.
An interesting part of the article states:
Originally, the term transgender was coined in the 1970s by Virginia Prince in the USA, as a contrast with the term “transsexual,” to refer to someone who does not desire surgical intervention to “change sex,” and/or who considers that they fall “between” genders, not identifying strictly to one gender or the other, identifying themselves as neither fully male, nor female.
Oh really? Transgender was not intended to include transsexuals? Now isn’t that interesting.
The definition stated in this article for ‘transsexual’ is as follows:
Transsexual people are people who desire to have, or have achieved, a different physical sex from that which they were assigned at birth. One typical (though oversimplified) explanation is of a “woman trapped in a man’s body” or vice versa; many transsexual women state that they were in fact always of the female gender, but were assigned the male gender as a child on the basis of their genitals, and having realized that they are female, wish to change their bodies to match; transmen, naturally, feel exactly the opposite.
Okay, I don’t totally agree with that statement as it gives the impression that this is a desire as opposed to a driving need. There is some evidence that transsexuals have brain that is more in keeping with their true sex and this has been shown in post-mortem examinations as well as through brain scans.
One thing I want to point out is there are some transsexual individuals who will identify as transgender and there are many who flatly refuse to consider themselves as part of that umbrella term. I’ve always had a problem with it as the term transgender refers to a group of widely different sub-categories, some of which are widely different from what a transsexual is and, as such, can not be applied to any one individual in that group.
I’ve since found that it just doesn’t apply to transsexual and intersex people at all. Before I go any further I need to explain that I don’t mean to compare intersex people to transsexual people because I do know that many of the former would take exception to it.
Dr Harry Benjamin in the intro to his book The Transsexual Phenomenon, makes it rather simple by explaining that sex is below the waist and gender above. If you take that one sentence and then think about the terms transgender and transsexual you can see that the two are not the same at all. It’s also why I think intersex people shouldn’t be included under the umbrella.
Another point is that transsexuals believe in the sexual binary where there are males and females and that’s it. They are just on the wrong side of the binary and they want it fixed. Transgender people believe there is a broad spectrum of gender identification or no gender at all. That’s fine but it’s all above the waist. We all know there are an infinite number of possible personalities so having an infinite number of gender identities makes perfect sense.
A third point is that transgender identity pertains to activities. In the case of cross dressers it points to dressing as a member of the opposite sex and there is nothing wrong with that. Those who identify as a transsexual man or woman don’t want to play dress up games. They want to be medically treated with hormones and surgery so they can live their lives in the sex they really are. In fact, many believe that after the surgery they are no longer transsexual but are simply men and women who just want to live their lives as such.
So what is the problem? It’s just a label right? It is and it’s more than that. There are a lot more transgender individuals then there are transsexual ones. Thus they have a great political say in what laws are passed. Also they have a more obvious media presence. It’s this presence that confuses people and confuses politicians. We need human rights protections that are different from those who cross dress. We don’t need protections for gender identity but for sexual identity and that only for the short time (or longer for those who can’t have the operation but still need to live their lives as themselves) because after the operation we are legally the correct gender and no longer need these protections.
I am female and that’s my sex. I am a woman and that’s my gender. I have no wish to dress as a man and find the idea repugnant. I have a lot of souvenir tee shirts that I really like but will never wear them again because they are crew-neck and I associate that with male clothing so they will sit in a box. I’ll eventually give them away.
I call myself a transsexual person for two reasons. One, because I plan to become an activist and do my part for transsexual rights and, two, because I want to be able to talk to other transsexual women because I’ve been there, done that and have the tee shirt (that I won’t wear).
Be well in your journey.