The term “transgender” is used to represent people who recognize their gender differently than the biological sex given to them at birth. “Transsexual” refers to a specific subset of the transgender population.
To feel the sentiments of these terms better, you need to clearly understand “sex” and “gender” in general.
So, let’s start with that before moving to the specifics.
What Is The Difference Between Sex and Gender?
Gender and sex are two distinct ideas that are frequently confused.
Sex is biologically defined, more precisely by human anatomy. A biological male has a penis and testicles, while a female has ovaries and a vagina.
On the other hand, culture and environment influence gender. The majority of societies have social practices and rituals that distinguish between males and females.
For instance, parents gift their kids items that are distinctive to their gender. Little girls are typically meant to play with dolls, makeup items, or kitchen utensils, while boys are given toy automobiles.
Children are brought up in such a way that prepares them to fulfill specific duties or live up to gender-specific standards. However, with time, individuals may develop a different sense of who they are. They may begin to feel more comfortable identifying with a gender other than their biological sex.
This is where the terms transgender and transsexual come into play.
What Does Being Transgender Mean?
An individual is regarded as transgender if they perceive their gender differently from their biological sex. Transgender people include, for example, those who identify more as a man despite being born biologically as a woman or those who think of themselves as female but were assigned a male gender at birth.
The individuals might exhibit the following character traits:
- Use a name that goes more with the other sex
- Dress like members of the other sex
- Use pronouns that are employed to denote other sex
- Participate in cultural events of the other sex
Some may also describe themselves as someone altogether different, a blend of male and female, or non-binary (usually refers to a person who cannot be solely defined as either male or female).
As per LGBTQA Resource Center, individuals whose internal sense of gender identifies with genderqueer, genderfluid, no gender, or multiple genders, can also be termed transgender. Although being transgender typically involves behavioral transition, some may choose to take the further step to undergo a physical transformation that brings us to our next term, “transsexual.”
What Does Being Transsexual Mean?
Individuals who desires to transform themselves physically to match the gender they identify with are referred as “transsexuals.” Taking hormonal tablets to inhibit the physical features of the assigned gender is a common part of the transition process.
Many transsexual women in the United States take pills to increase the size of their breasts, alter their vocal tone, etc., to achieve a conventional feminine appearance.
Some may also undergo gender confirmation surgery, often known as “gender-affirming surgery.” It is to remove or change biological features that correspond to the sex given at birth.
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Transgender and Transsexual – The Differences
Although there are similarities in terms of how they identify themselves to be different than their assigned sex, there is a line differencing the two.
Transgender is Multifaceted while Transsexual is Specific
Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella word.
Although some medical experts prefer the term “transsexual” to refer to those who have taken hormonal medications or undergone surgery, the majority employs the phrase that the patient chooses.
Transgender is More Welcomed than the Word Transsexual
Transgender is a much more inclusive and accepting term, while the term transsexual is heavily contested, both inside and beyond the transgender community. The latter is misinterpreted by many and is often used to describe all trans individuals.
This has made it disrespectful and offensive to those who do not feel the need to receive medical treatment to change into the gender they identify with. Many who have undergone bodily changes also choose to get recognized as “male” or “female” rather than transsexual.
The phrase was also historically used to label transgender people as having mental disabilities, making it more controversial.
What to Keep in Mind While Conversing With Transgender and Transsexual?
The best way to avoid confusion is to ask the person their preference politely. Also, maintaining some basic etiquette is essential:
- Never talk about their private parts, real name, surgeries, or hormonal therapy.
- Even if you mean well, complimenting them for looking “normal” or “real” is hurtful.
- Avoid assuming their sexual orientation.
- Refrain from using terms like “Gender identity disorder,” “He-She,” “transvestite,” and “tranny”.
The individuals have already endured enough because they do not fit into the “so-called society norms.” It’s time we stop labeling them as “others” and start respecting their choices.