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Definitions of Transgender Terms

The Transgendered Community is actually a very wide group of people. Much as the Earth is made up of radically different continents, so too the Transgender Community has many types within it. Whilst labels aren't exact and can have annoying stereotypes attached to them, they can be useful in helping you understand the type of person you are and from there, the type of support, lifestyle and facilities available for you. So let's take a look at some of the categories people talk about shall we?

Before I start, I best say that these aren't Oxford English Dictionary definitions of Transgender Groups. To some a word may connotate more or less and so these are the definitions I use in lieu of the world actually having any decent ones!

  • Transgendered or TG - Dead simple, anyone involved in activities which cross normal accepted social boundaries of gender behavior can be said to be transgendered or crossing gender boundaries. That could be as clear and radical as physically altering one's body with anything from clothing and make up to surgery and hormones. Or it could be as subtle and hidden as the way you think.

    The term transgender is also used occassionally to refer to someone who lives as the opposite of their birth sex without surgery, but that seems to be less and less common these days.

    All other groups listed below are classed as Transgendered. For example, I'm transexual so I'm a type of transgendered person. My friend Debs is a Drag Queen, so Debs is also Transgendered. However in reverse, being a transgendered person doesn't make you all of the categories within it - Debs definitely is not a transexual and I'm not a Drag Queen. Transgendered is just the umbrella covering all.

    As a rough gauge, 80% of the transgender community is physically male, 20% female from birth. 82% of the Transgender Community is heterosexual, 15% bisexual and the rest homosexual - that is sexual orientation within the transgender community is roughly the same as that anywhere else. 90% of the community only ever expresses itself within their own home. I guess that explains why I get those cheeky looks when I'm buying shaving foam at the supermarket whilst wearing my best Dior!

  • Transexual (transsexual) or TS - To be Transexual means that you fundamentally view yourself as being of the opposite sex to your physical body. You could have a male body with a female mind, this is called Male to Female Transexual (often abbreviated MtF or MtoF). There is also the reverse, a person born with a female body and a male mind. This is Female to Male or FtoM. In fact this condition affects not only Humans but animals too. Although it's exact causes are yet to be conclusively understood, current medical knowledge classes Transexualism as a birth defect. A part of the individuals brain which deals with gender is formed as that of the opposite sex to the physical body. Fortunately this condition is relatively rare and whilst transexualism certainly isn't the norm, it is a natural phenomena and definitely isn't invented or "chosen".

    You may also hear the terms pre-op and post-op Transexual. This is because some transexuals find living with their condition so difficult they take hormones and undergo surgery (SRS or Sex Reassignment Surgery or GRS Gender Reassignment Surgery) to make their body match their mind. This process is called transitioning. Whilst current medical science only offers a sex change as a cure to transexualism, the degree to which a person has mastery of their own mental states often has a bearing on whether a sex change operation is essential. Some will get depressed or view their life as a lie if they are forced to live in the gender role of their physical body and in extreme cases sex change can be the difference between life and death. However it would be wrong to say that the goal of all transexuals is to transition to one gender. There are many more who leave their bodies unaltered and view their unique blend of female outlook with masculine strength and presence as an advantage. Certainly statistically speaking, many transexuals benefit from this combination of female understanding with male competency, as a higher than average number of us are in the higher income bracket with technical or professional skills. Oh come on, you know when God takes with one hand he gives with other!

  • Transvestite, tranny or TV - A transvestite is a person who chooses to outwardly express their inner feelings through their appearance. They could be male or female yet have the desire to show their feminine or masculine nature through dress. Think of it this way. You have a line numbered from 1 to 100. 1 is 100% female and 100 is 100% male. The majority of people would be a comfortable mixture of both genders in the way they think - say 90% male, 10% female. However, some people have a strong feminine or masculine side, maybe 60-40. Having this stronger leaning within they may feel unable to express themselves fully within the constraints of their day-to-day gender and so find release in spending time within the opposite gender role.

    By far the majority of Transvestites are heterosexual, marry and live otherwise "normal" lives save the odd girls night out at a TV club or group or they dress at home. The majority of Transvestites do not take their need for expression into their sex lives and topics on discussion at TV groups are normally very clean, along the lines of a woman's magazine - make up, dressing nicely, where to shop for bargains etc.

  • Cross Dresser or CD - Whilst most Transgendered groups could be considered as a form of cross dressing, within the TG community Cross Dressing is often seen as something more specific; it's when dressing is done for sexual pleasure. It often centers on wearing more intimate apparel such as lingerie or underwear, as well as fetish wear like PVC or leather. There can be a huge gulf in outlook between a Transvestite and a Cross Dresser since the Cross Dresser is motivated by sex, whilst the transvestite is motivated by the need for expression. Therefore Cross Dressers may not feel the need to look convincing or act in anyway like a female would.

    For some cross dressing can be part of a complex about their sexual orientation - some people cannot accept themselves to be bisexual or gay and so cross dress because the thin veil of the woman's role allows them to act out fantasies that their own mental conditioning is at odds with. It's basically like saying to yourself it's OK for me to be having sex with a man because at the moment I'm a woman.

    There are also cultural differences in this term. In North America, the word crossdresser can essentially be the same as transvestite; it needn't necessarily connotate for sexual purposes. However in Europe there are clear examples of this connection. For example if a celebrity or politician was found in some sex scandal where they were dressed it would be described as a "crossdressing shocker" rather than a "transvestite shocker". This is why I prefer to split the terms transvestite and crossdresser to refer to two different motivations.

  • Drag Queens - A Drag Queen is the name given to a performer or entertainer who dresses as a woman. The majority of Drag Queens are gay and the woman they portray themselves as is really a caricature of feminity. It's certainly not intended to bear any more than a superficial resemblance to any real woman and many Drag Queens use their act as an opportunity to make fun of women.

    I should note here that there are also many Drag Kings - women who impersonate men. Don't knock it, if only Elvis actually did look as good as them!

  • Sissies - A sissy is a man who enjoys being dominated by another, normally a woman. Their Mistress may make them do a variety of things both sexual and non-sexual ranging from serving her to doing housework. Domination is a big part of being a Sissy and failure to please the Mistress may result in humiliation, forced feminisation, bondage, spanking or other forms of disciplining. For some sex may form the final part of the role play, for others their wife may enjoy forcing them to do the dishes in a skirt!

  • Intersexuals (Hermaphrodites) - Different from Transexuals, Intersexed people are born with the physical sexual organs of both genders, although they may not be fully formed. For them, choosing which sex to live as can be the most important consideration as some have surgery to remove one set of organs, although their parents are often placed in the difficult decision of deciding at birth resulting in many becoming female since medically this is easier. Some will grow up and like transexuals realise they are in a body that doesn't match their internal gender and seek a sex change. Some choose to remain ambiguous whilst others very clearly define themselves as thinking from only one gender. Like Transexuality, Intersexuality is a birth defect but it's visible symptoms can cause just as much, if not more issues to contend with. It can also have a variety of causes such as Chromosomes.

    Whilst considered part of the Transgendered Community, it is rarer to meet an Intersexed person since the condition is apparent from birth. Most will receive medical advice from an early age and do their best to lead otherwise normal lives. The term Hermaphrodite used to be widely used to describe them, but nowadays this term is not used since it's not really accurate. Intersexual is now used in it's place and refers solely to those born with both sexual organs in non-hermaphroditic species, i.e. humans.

  • Shemales - A shemale is someone who takes hormones and may undergo feminising surgery but chooses to keep their male genitalia. Some do this because it allows them to earn money in the sex industry since once they have the chop, they loose their uniqueness. This allows them to save money for their treatment as transitioning can be very expensive with surgery alone costing thousands, not to mention the cost of hormones which transexuals must take for the rest of their lives. Similar names include Chick with a Dick and Ladyboy. Whilst Shemale is a word originating in the porn industry, Ladyboy is a translation of a Thai word as Thai people have believed in the existence of a third gender for thousands of years. Not all shemales transition like transexuals do as some prefer being both sexes or have commercial interests that require them to have a functioning male genitalia.

  • Androgynous - To be androgynous is to be on the borderline between male and female. There are people who enjoy creating confusion this way (gender terrorists) or just naturally look that way. One can be androgynous in thought or appearance.

  • Third Gender Terms - The Third Gender lies somewhere between male and female and has been accepted by many cultures since ancient times giving rise to many names. The Third Gender applies to pretty much all male to female transgendered groups. Terms include the Thai Katoey or Ladyboy, the Indian Hijra or Evening People, the North American Indian Winkte and Berdache or Two Spirit and the Arabic Khanith or Not Clearly Male. In the Roman times the Galli were transgendered priestesses of the Goddess Cybele who voluntarily castrated themselves. There are also similar terms from many other African, Asian and American cultures dating back thousands of years - as I said earlier, transexuality and intersexuality are naturally occurring conditions and although rare have been around as long as humanity.

  • Autogynephile - this a relatively new term that deals more with sexual arousal in the sense that there are many men - often classed transvestites, transexuals or cross dressers - who find themselves aroused at the thought of themselves being female. One argument goes that this is natural in the case of transexuals as it is normal and healthy to have a sex drive and when you have a clear body image that you find attractive it is appropriate that you find it a turn on.

    Another argument goes that fancying yourself as a woman is very different from being a woman and can simply constitute a fantasy of supreme appreciation for women (if the person having it is heterosexual) or of denial of one's latent homosexuality. I guess there are probably people that fall into both categories, although I suspect that there are more men who are comfortable being men yet find the thought of being female erotic than there are transexuals who have autogynephilia as part of their natural sex drive.

Always remember that whatever title you feel fits you or someone else, that's not all you are. You might be a screaming tranny but you're also a human being right? Could it be possible that that person who you dismissed yesterday as a sick cross dresser might also be the paramedic who one day saves your life tomorrow? What I'm trying to say is that people - all people - are wonderful creatures with many sides and traits. Use titles to help understand your world and tell others about it but don't make the mistake of thinking that's all you are. Don't let your gender identity rule your life - let your mind rule your life. Much as a beautiful mind will create a beautiful life, so to a mind that traps itself in words or titles can create a life that is hemmed in and restricted. Free your mind and the rest will follow...

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