Transgender (transsexual) is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else.
Gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body characteristics. “Trans” is sometimes used as shorthand for “transgender.” While transgender is generally a good term to use, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender nonconforming will identify as a transgender person.
The ways in which transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academia, and science are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge, and openness about transgender people and their experiences grow.
The difference between sex and gender
Sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy.
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways people act, interact, and feel about themselves. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.
Transgender persons have been documented in many indigenous, Western, and Eastern cultures and societies from antiquity to the present day. However, the meaning of gender nonconformity may vary from culture to culture.
What are some categories or types of transgender people?
Many identities fall under the transgender umbrella. The term transsexual refers to people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex. Often, transsexual people alter or wish to alter their bodies through hormones, surgery, and other means to make their bodies as congruent as possible with their gender identities.
This process of transition through medical intervention is often referred to as sex or gender reassignment, but more recently is also referred to as gender affirmation.
People who were assigned female but identify and live as male and alter or wish to alter their bodies through medical intervention to more closely resemble their gender identity are known as transsexual men or transmen (also known as female-to-male or FTM).
Conversely, people who were assigned male but identify and live as female and alter or wish to alter their bodies through medical intervention to more closely resemble their gender identity are known as transsexual women or transwomen (also known as male-to-female or MTF).
Some individuals who transition from one gender to another prefer to be referred to as a man or a woman rather than as transgender.