Transgender is the state of one's gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one's assigned sex (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex). Transgender is independent of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them. The precise definition for transgender is changing but nevertheless includes:
- "Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these."
- "People who were assigned a sex, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves."
- "Non-identification with, or non-presentation as, the sex (and assumed gender) one was assigned at birth."
A transgender individual may have characteristics that are normally associated with a particular gender, identify elsewhere on the traditional gender continuum, or exist outside of it as other, agender, genderqueer, or third gender. Transgender people may also identify as bigender or along several places on either the traditional transgender continuum or the more encompassing continuums that have been developed in response to recent, significantly more detailed studies. Furthermore, many transgender people experience a period of identity development that includes better understanding one's self-image, self-reflection, and self-expression. More specifically, the degree to which individuals feel genuine, authentic, and comfortable within their external appearance and accept their genuine identity is referred to as transgender congruence.
While people self-identify as transgender, the transgender identity umbrella includes sometimes-overlapping categories. These include transsexual;transvestite or cross-dresser; genderqueer; androgyne; and bigender. Usually not included are transvestic fetishists (because it is considered to be aparaphilia rather than gender identification), and drag kings and drag queens, who are performers who cross-dress for the purpose of entertaining. In an interview, celebrity drag queen RuPaul talked about society's ambivalence to the differences in the people who embody these terms. "A friend of mine recently did the Oprah show about transgender youth," said RuPaul. "It was obvious that we, as a culture, have a hard time trying to understand the difference between a drag queen, transsexual, and a transgender, yet we find it very easy to know the difference between the American baseball league and theNational baseball league, when they are both so similar.
The current definitions of transgender include all transsexual people, although this has been criticized. (See below.) Intersex people have genitalia or other physical sexual characteristics that do not conform to strict definitions of male and/or female, but intersex people are not necessarily transgender, since they do not all disagree with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender and intersex issues often overlap, however, because they both challenge the notion of rigid definitions of sex and gender.
The term trans man refers to female-to-male (FtM or F2M) transgender people, and trans woman refers to male-to-female (MtF or M2F) transgender people. In the past, it was assumed that there were more trans women than trans men, but a Swedish study estimated a ratio of 1.4:1 in favour of trans women for those requesting sex reassignment surgery and a ratio of 1:1 for those who proceeded.
The term cisgender has been coined as an antonym referring to non-transgender people; i.e. those who identify with their gender assigned at birth.
GLAAD notes that, when referring to a transgender person, using that person's preferred name and pronoun regardless of their legal gender status (as not all transgender people can afford surgery or other body modifications) is respectful. Unlike 'transsexual', the word "transgender" should be used as an adjective rather than a noun — for example, "Max is transgender" or "Max is a transgender man" rather than "Max is a transgender."
Health-practitioner manuals, professional journalistic style guides, and LGBT advocacy groups advise the adoption by others of the name and pronouns identified by the person in question, including present references to the transgender person's past.
Transsexual people identify as a member of the sex opposite to that assigned at birth, and desire to live and be accepted as such.
Transsexual people may undergo gender transition, the process of aligning one's gender expression or presentation with their internal gender identity. People who have transitioned may or may not necessarily identify as transgender or transsexual any longer, but simply as a man or a woman. Those who continue identifying as transsexual men or women may not want to ignore their pre-transition life, and may continue strong ties with other trans people and raising social consciousness.
The process of transition may involve some kind of medical gender reassignment therapy and often (but not always) includes hormone replacement therapy and/or sex reassignment surgery. References to "pre-operative", "post-operative" and "non-operative" transsexual people indicate whether they have had, or are planning to have sex reassignment surgery, although some trans people reject these terms as objectifying trans people based on their surgical status and not their mental gender identity.
Transvestite or cross-dresser
A transvestite is a person who cross-dresses, or dresses in clothes of the opposite sex. The term "transvestite" is used as a synonym for the term "cross-dresser",although "cross-dresser" is generally considered the preferred term. The term 'cross-dresser' is not exactly defined in the relevant literature. Michael A. Gilbert, professor at the Department of Philosophy,York University, Toronto, offers this definition: "[A cross-dresser] is a person who has an apparent gender identification with one sex, and who has and certainly has been birth-designated as belonging to [that] sex, but who wears the clothing of the opposite sex because it is that of the opposite sex." This definition excludes people "who wear opposite sex clothing for other reasons," such as "those female impersonators who look upon dressing as solely connected to their livelihood, actors undertaking roles, individual males and females enjoying a masquerade, and so on. These individuals are cross dressing but are not cross dressers." Cross-dressers may not identify with, or want to be the opposite gender, nor adopt the behaviors or practices of the opposite gender, and generally do not want to change their bodies medically. The majority of cross-dressers identify as heterosexual. People who cross-dress in public can have a desire to pass as the opposite gender, so as not to be detected as a cross-dresser, or may be indifferent.
The term "transvestite" and the associated outdated term "transvestism" are conceptually different from the term "transvestic fetishism", as "transvestic fetishist" describes those who intermittently use clothing of the opposite gender for fetishistic purposes. In medical terms, transvestic fetishism is differentiated from cross-dressing by use of the separate codes 302.3 in the DSM and F65.1 in the ICD.
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.
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.
A bigender (sometimes rendered as bi-gender, dual gender, or bi+gender) individual is one who moves between masculine and feminine gender roles. Such individuals fluidly move between two distinct personalities depending on context: whereas androgynous people retain the same gender-typed behaviour across situations, bigendered people consciously or unconsciously change their gender-role behaviour from primarily masculine to primarily feminine or vice versa.
Drag kings and queens
Drag is a term applied to clothing and make-up worn on special occasions for performing or entertaining, unlike those who are transgender or who cross-dress for other reasons. 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, transvestites, 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.