"Transgenderism" is a biological fact of life that has always existed, in one form or another, ever since the beginnings of mans existence. "Transgenderism" can be traced as far back as 7000 B.C. For example, among the sexual depictions during the Neolithic and Bronze Age (7000 B.C. - 1700 B.C.) In the Mediterranean are drawings and figurines of "third sex" human figures having female breasts and male genitals, as well as without distinguishing sex characteristics.

So what exactly is Transgenderism? "Transgenderism" is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles. Normally, Individuals are assigned a particular gender at birth, usually based on their genitals. "Transgenderism" is the state of one's gender identity not matching one's assigned gender at birth.

More specifically, A Transgender person is someone who feels that their assigned gender at birth is false, or may be an incomplete description of their true gender identity, and instead desire to live and be accepted as whichever gender they identify with themselves. In many cases, a transgender individual may even have characteristics that are normally associated with a particular gender that is opposite of their assigned gender at birth as well.

"Transgender" does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation, it only describes one's gender identity. For example, a transgender person may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual. Some transgender individuals may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them. There is ample academic literature on the difference between sex and gender, but in pragmatic English this distinction is often ignored, so that "gender" is used to describe the categorical male/female difference and "sex" is used to describe the physical act of sexual intercourse.

Transgender people may undergo gender transition, which is the process of aligning one's gender expression or presentation with their internal gender identity. 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.

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.

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.

Though the term "transgender" is the more common, most accepted, and more recognized term used in modern day terminology, the term is often used in conjunction with, or sometimes apart from the term "transsexual." though both terms are often used interchangeably, both terms have often had different definitions as well. Often, it is simply a matter of ones preference to which term they identify with and use.

The term "Transsexual" originated in medical and psychological communities. It was defined by Harry Benjamin in his seminal book The Transsexual Phenomenon. He defined transsexuality on the "Benjamin Scale", with levels of intensity; "Transsexual (nonsurgical)", "True Transsexual (moderate intensity)", and "True Transsexual (high intensity)". Many transsexuals believe that to be a true transsexual, a person needs to have a desire for surgery. However, it is notable that Benjamin's moderate intensity "true transsexual" needs either estrogen or testosterone as a "substitute for or preliminary to operation." There are also people who have had sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), but do not meet the definition of a transsexual, while other people do not desire SRS, yet clearly meet Benjamin Scale definition of a "true transsexual", such as Miriam RiverThe 

Writing for health professionals in the second edition of his reference work Sexual Hygiene and Pathology in 1965, psychiatrist John F. Oliven of Columbia University used the lexical compound "trans+gender" in the Transsexualism section of “Primary Transvestism,” noting "'transgenderism” is what is meant, because sexuality is not a major factor in primary transvestism. 

in the December 1969 issue of Transvestia Magazine, crossdressing pioneer, Virginia Charles Prince, used the term "trans-gender" to distinguish cross-dressers from gay, bisexual and transsexual people. In "Men Who Choose to Be Women," Prince wrote... "I, at least, know the difference between sex and gender and have simply elected to change the latter and not the former." Due to Prince's usage of the term "trans-gender", many people take issue with the term "transsexual".

In the mid-1970's, both "trans-gender" and "trans people" were in use as umbrella terms. In part, these terms were used in describing people who wanted to live cross-gender without sex reassignment surgery. By 1976, The term "transgenderist" was abbreviated to "TG" in most educational materials.

In 1979, Christine Jorgensen publicly rejected transsexual and instead identified herself in newsprint as a "trans-gender" saying...

"gender doesn't have to do with bed partners, it has to do with identity.” 

By 1984, the concept of a "transgender community" had developed, in which transgender was used as an umbrella term. 

While a huge majority of gender nonconforming people may self-identify as either "transgender" or "transsexual", others may identify as one of the many other terms that have been used to describe a wide range of gender expressions and identities which are contrary to the mainstream male-female binary. Due to this, the term "transgender" or "transgenderism" is often commonly used as an umbrella term for these other gender identity sub-categories which may include individuals who identify as either "agender", "bigender", "genderqueer", "nongender", "androgyne", "intersex" or "third gender". The definitions of these other gender identities include:


  • A "bigender" (sometimes rendered as bi-gender or bi+gender) individual is one who moves between masculine and feminine gender roles. Such individuals move between two distinct personalities fluidly depending on context. While an "androgynous" person retains the same gender-typed behavior across situations, the bigendered person consciously or unconsciously changes their gender-role behavior from primarily masculine to primarily feminine, or vice-versa.


  • "Genderqueer" is a more recent term that has been used 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.


  • "Androgyne" is a term used to describe a person who does not fit cleanly into the typical gender roles of their society. It does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation. Androgynes may identify as beyond gender, between genders, moving across genders, entirely genderless, or any or all of these, exhbiting 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 it does not depend on birth sex. Occasionally, people who do not define themselves as androgynes 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.


  • "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 gender at birth. Transgender and intersex issues often overlap, however, because they both challenge the notion of rigid definitions of sex and gender.

In 1985, Richard Elkins established the "Trans-Gender Archive" at the University of Ulster. By 1992, the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy defined "transgender" as an expansive umbrella term including "transsexuals, transgenderists, cross dressers" and anyone transitioning.

Despite the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy's definition of "transgender", many do not include cross-dressers or drag kings/queens to be a part of "transgenderism" due to some fundamental differences.

Transvestite or Cross-Dresser:

  • A transvestite is a person who cross-dresses, or dresses in clothes of the opposite gender. 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 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 the clothing of the opposite sex." This 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.

Drag kings and queens:

  • "Drag" is a term applied to clothing and make-up worn on special occasions for performing or entertaining. This is in contrast to those who are transgender or who cross-dress for other reasons. Drag performance also 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 transgender or transsexual people.

The precise definition for the terms "transgenderism" or "Transgender" remains in flux to this day, as well as the differences, if any, between the terms "Transgender" and "Transsexual." Due to this, many have adopted the term "Trans*" as a general, all inclusive term to incorporate anyone who identifies themselves as "Transgender", "Transsexual", "Agender", "Bigender", "Genderqueer", "Nongender", "Androgyne", "Intersex", Cross-dresser", "Drag King or Queen", "Third gender", or any other non-gender conforming individual.

In respects to the International Transgender Historical Society and Hall of Fame, the term "transgender" is used as a general, all inclusive term to incorporate all the previously stated variations of identities as well.


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