Explaining Transgenderism,
It's Terminology and Categories

What Does Transgender Mean?

Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people who do not fit into traditional gender categories, including transsexuals, transvestites or cross-dressers, gender queers, two-spirit, intersexuals (formerly called hermaphrodites), and sometimes even people who identify as butch or femme. A transgendered person is someone whose gender identity or
expression differs from conventional expectations of masculinity or femininity. Gender Identity is one's internal sense of being male or female, and for most people, there is no conflict between gender identity and their physical sex. However, transgendered people question and explore their gender identity. Although transgendered people have been part of every
culture and society in recorded human history, they have only recently become the focus of medical science. Many medical researchers now believe that transgenderism is rooted in complex biological factors that are fixed at birth. This research confirms what transgendered people know and experience on a much more personal basis, that being transgendered is not a choice nor a "lifestyle.” People who are transgender face discrimination in their jobs, churches, and schools, as well as judgment from their friends, families and coworkers. Unlike many who are members of minorities related to sexual orientation, a transgender person may not be able to choose who they come out to. Their physical appearance may automatically "out" them. People who are transgender have issues similar and dissimilar to the lesbian and gay rights movement. Both gays and transgender people have issues related to coming out, relationships, community, identity, family, friends, etc. Both groups of people may be subject to discrimination on the basis of gender identity. For this reason, the transgender movement belongs as a distinct part of the LGB movement. Frequently, homophobic discrimination occurs because of the way a gay person presents his or her gender. Similarly, a transgender person is often discriminated against because they are perceived to be gay. Certainly there are some different issues facing the transgender community than those facing the LGB community, just as there are different issues between lesbians, gays, and bisexual people. Presenting a united front against those who do not support our lives and experiences widens our political viability, and will lead to increased civil rights for all involved. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of transphobia in main stream society. Most of this is simply due to ignorance.

Who are transgender people?

Transgender people include
(a) ... pre-operative and post-operative transsexuals who generally feel
that they were born into the wrong physical sex;

(b) ... persons living full time in a different
gender with no desire to pursue genital surgery;

(c) ... and crossdressers (once called
transvestites - those whose gender expression often varies from their birth sex). They also can be "passing" (masculine-appearing) women or "effeminate" men who are often
assumed to be homosexual, although this is not necessarily the case.

(d) ... There are also many intersexed persons born with ambiguous genitalia who later identify as transgendered. These persons were surgically assigned a sex (usually female) as infants, and later developed a gender identity different from the sex assigned.

It's important to note that the term transgendered describes several distinct but related groups of people, many of whom use a variety of other terms to self-identify. For example, many transsexuals see themselves as a separate group, and do not want to be included under the umbrella term transgendered. Many post-operative transsexuals no longer consider themselves to be transsexual. Some non-operative transsexuals identify themselves as transgender. Genderqueer refers to a gender variant person whose gender identity is neither male nor female, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. Despite this variation in terminology, most trans people will agree that their self identification is an important personal right.

Who are crossdressers?

Crossdressers are the largest group of transgendered persons. Although most crossdressers are heterosexual men, there are also gay and bisexual men, as well as lesbians, bisexual and straight women, who crossdress. Most male crossdressers are married and many have children. The vast majority live in secrecy about their
transgendered status. Unlike transsexuals, they do not wish to change their physical sex.

Who are intersexed people?

Intersex people are born with chromosomal anomalies or ambiguous genitalia. Those with unusual genitalia are often subjected to surgical "normalization" procedures from infancy to adolescence, which usually results in loss of sexual response in adulthood. The Intersexed Society of North America has labeled this practice Infant Genital Mutilation. Some intersexed infants have even been sexually reassigned - without their consent - and later in life develop gender identity issues as transsexual people.

What causes transsexualism?

No one really knows for sure, but there have been many studies, research and investigations into the subject of Transsexualism that leads to the belief it is caused by the bathing of the fetus by opposite birth sex hormones while in utero, or perhaps by some spontaneous genetic mutation, which is also one of the theories of the origin of homosexuality. Transsexual persons include female-to-male (FTM) transmen as well as the more familiar male-to female (MTF) transwomen. Due to the intensity of their gender dysphoria, they come to feel they can no longer continue living in the gender associated with their physical (birth) sex. Studies have been performed on cadaver brains comparing genetic female brains to Male to Female Transsexual brains and have found that both are very similiar in comparison. The comparison has also been done comparing Genetic male brains to Male to Female Transsexual brains and found that they actually do not resemble a genetic male brain in comparison. Australian researchers have identified a significant link between a gene involved in testosterone action and male-to-female transsexualism. DNA analysis from 112 male-to-female transsexual volunteers showed they were more likely to have a longer version of the androgen receptor gene. However, other genes are also likely to play a part, they stressed. Increasingly, biological factors are being implicated in gender identity.

What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is the overall psychological term used to describe the feelings of pain, anguish, and anxiety that arise from the mismatch between a trans person's physical sex and gender identity, and from parental and societal pressure to conform to gender norms. Almost all transgendered people suffer from gender dysphoria in varying degrees. Some transsexual persons discover at an early age that they are unable to live in the gender of their birth sex, but the majority struggle to conform, in spite of intense suffering, until their adult years. To seek relief, transsexual persons enter gender transition.

Is transgenderism a disability?

Unlike sexual orientation, transgenderism — technically "gender identity disorder" (GID) is still deemed a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Some Medical professionals tend to believe that transgenderism is a medical and mental health condition that may require treatment rather than labeling it a mental illness. There is disagreement among some transgender leaders about attempts to remove GID from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some want it removed because they feel it stigmatizes transgender people and provides a pretext for discrimination against them. They also believe it may cause harm to children when parents seek treatment for a child although the child may merely be expressing gender variance. Some transgender people believe it is not the condition but society's rigid approach to sex and gender that are problematic. Others want GID to remain because a GID diagnosis in some states could qualify as a disability, for which medical coverage could be available and to which disability discrimination provisions could apply.

What is gender transition?

Gender transition is the period during which transsexual persons begin changing their appearances and bodies to match their internal gender identity. Because gender is so visible, transsexuals in transition MUST "out" themselves to their employers, their families, and their friends - literally everyone in their lives. While in transition, they are
very vulnerable to discrimination and in dire need of support from family and friends. Hormonal therapy can take several months to many years to effect the physical changes in secondary sexual characteristics that will produce a passable appearance, and some may never pass completely.

What is the Real Life Test?

For transsexual persons seeking Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS), the Real Life Test (also called the Real-Life Experience) is a one-year minimum period during which they must be able to demonstrate to their psychotherapists their ability to live and work fulltime successfully in their congruent gender. The Real Life Test is a prerequisite for sex reassignment surgery under the Standards of Care.

What are the Standards of Care?

The Standards of Care are a set of guidelines formulated and recently revised by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Inc. under which many transsexual persons obtain hormonal and surgical sex reassignment. While the Standards of Care minimize the chance of someone making a mistake, they have been criticized as a "gatekeeper" system. In general, a complete gender transition includes a period of psychotherapy to confirm one's true gender, the beginning of lifelong hormonal therapy, the Real Life Test, and finally, if desired, sex reassignment surgery.

What is sex reassignment surgery (SRS)?

SRS is the permanent surgical refashioning of sexual anatomy to resemble that of the appropriate sex. For MTF transsexuals, SRS involves the conversion of penile and scrotal tissue into female genitalia. For FTM transsexuals, it may be limited to just top surgery (breast removal) and sometimes hysterectomy. While many transmen become satisfied with their new male anatomy, most opt out of genital surgeries for a variety of reasons, including the expense and dissatisfaction with the results. Many MTF trans people also undergo additional cosmetic procedures, including electrolysis to remove facial and body hair, breast augmentation, Adams Apple reduction, hair transplantation, liposuction and many types of facial surgeries.

What is the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation?

Gender identity is a person's internal sense of being a man or a woman, a boy or a girl. Sexual orientation is someone's sexual attraction to others who may be of the opposite sex, the same sex, or either sex. Like other people, transgendered people can be straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual. Generally speaking, their gender identity - not their physical sex status - determines their sexual orientation.

What is Gender Identity Disorder (GID)?

GID is a psychological classification found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. Although GID is the only diagnosis under which trans people may receive treatment, and therefore necessary, it also is controversial. GID has been used inappropriately and harmfully by some psychotherapists to treat gender variant youth. Moreover, many if not most trans people also believe they do not have a mental disorder.

Transgender Terminology


People who were born with the physical outer body of one gender but their brain
developed as the opposite gender, these people pursue gender reassignment through the use of hormones, surgery, and/or changes of identity, to live as a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth.

Bi Gender:

A person who Indentifys as both male and female, not at the same time but in some instances both genders surface at the same time. When genders surface at the same time this can cause mixed gender emotions, gender needs and characteristics. This is called gender switching. Both genders exist within the brain and uncontrollably switch at different points in time. Sometimes not switching for days, weeks, months and other time switching within hours and minutes. When genders switch the person still remembers everything. It is not like having a split personality where one personality takes over and the other subsides. All memories, personal emotions and who you are still remain as a normal individual but the gender needs, feelings, and desires change. The feeling of being either female or male intensifies but that person still remains who they are. Most of the time the gender switch is not noticeable to other people because the Bi Gender persons personalities still remain the same but their inner self feeling of being changes to either being dominate female or dominate male with underlying tendensies of the opposite Gender still remaining.


People who wear clothes and assume the identity of a gender other than that assigned to them at birth. Usually crossdressing is not done on a full time basis. Crossdressing is done for a number of personal reasons: to lend a sense of completeness to one's Identity, to express a feminine/masculine side of personality, to express oneself erotically, etc.... there are different types of crossdressing that do not relate to transgenderism. The Crossderssers we are identifying here are people born with the need, desire and compulsion to crossdress due to developements of the fetus during the gender assignment process in the mothers womb. This type of Crossdressing can range from just wearing the under garments of the opposite gender to just tetering on the edge of Transsexualism. A few of the other types of Crossdressing that does not relate to Transgenderism involve Actors who portray a part as the opposite gender, Drag Queens and Drag Kings who dress in opposite gender clothing to entertain in gay clubs. Most of the time these people are usually from the gay community but may also be bisexual or even straight, dressing as the opposite gender in Halloween costumes on Halloween, crossdressing as a sexual fetish, (usually a heterosexual male).

Intersexed (preferred over hermaphrodite):

People who are born with genitals of both sexes (ranging in degree); often an infant who is born intersexed will be surgically altered to represent one gender. Unfortunately, this is done before the child has had a chance to express which gender he or she is or would choose to be. To learn more about Intersexuality, go to the Intersex Society of North America website. Multi-gendered (or sometimes, genderqueer, third gender, etc.):
Those who reject the over-simplicity of a polarized, two-gender system: often believe that there is a multiplicity of genders which are fluid in expression.
Intersex Issues: The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is a peer support, education, and advocacy group founded and operated by and for intersexuals: individuals born with anatomy or physiology which differs from cultural ideals of male and female. Please access http://www.isna.org/ for further information.


An androgyne is a person who cannot be classified into the typical gender roles of their society; androgyny is independent of orientation. Androgynes may identify as beyond gender, between genders, moving across genders, entirely genderless, or any or all of these, exhibiting a variety of male, female, and other characteristics. Androgyne identities include pangender, ambigender, non-gendered, agender, gender fluid or intergender. Androgyny can be either physical or psychological and is independent of birth sex. Occasionally, non-androgynous people adapt their physical appearance to look androgynous. This outward androgyny has been used in fashion, and the milder forms of it (women wearing men's pants or men wearing two earrings, for example) are not seen as transgender behavior. The term androgyne is also sometimes used as a medical synonym for an intersex individual.


Genderqueer is a recent attempt to signify gender experiences that do not fit into binary concepts, and refers to a combination of gender identities and sexual orientations. One example could be a person whose gender presentation is sometimes perceived as male, sometimes female, but whose gender identity is female, gender expression is butch, and sexual orientation is lesbian. It suggests nonconformity or mixing of gender stereotypes, conjoining both gender and sexuality, and challenges existing constructions and identities. In the binary sex/gender system, genderqueerness is unintelligible and abjected

Drag kings and Queens: ...

(Usually not considered to be Transgender) although in pass history gay people were indentified as part of the Transgender Umbrella. This was due to the Gay culture being outside the norm of what society considered a normal male or female gender. Today the Gay community is no longer considered Transgender due to their feeling that the label was offensive to them. Drag is a term applied to clothing and make-up worn on special occasions for performing or entertaining. Drag performance includes overall presentation and behavior in addition to clothing and makeup. Drag can be theatrical, comedic, or grotesque. Drag queens have been considered caricatures of women by second-wave feminism. Drag artists have a long tradition in LGBT culture. Generally the terms drag queen covers men doing female drag, drag king covers women doing male drag, and faux queen covers women doing female drag. Nevertheless, there are drag artists of all genders and sexualities who perform for various reasons. Some drag performers, Crossdressers, and people in the gay community, have embraced the pornographically-derived term tranny to describe drag queens or people who engage in transvestism or cross-dressing, however this term is widely considered offensive if applied to transsexual people. There are however Transgender people who do perform in drag shows but do not consider themselves Drag Queens or Kings.

Cisgender and cissexual:  (often abbreviated to simply cis)

This terminology describes individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their physical bodies, and their personal identity. There is a number of derivatives of the terms in use, including cis male for "male with a male gender identity", cis female for "female with a female gender identity", analogically cis man and cis woman, as well as cissexism and cissexual assumption. Cisgender is what society would consider normal male and females ...

The Transology Association
The York Office for Transgender Affairs
32 North Queen Street, York, Pa.
The study of Transgenderism
Offering  Transgender Education and Support Services
for York  Pennsylvania

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