As mentioned elsewhere, it is impossible to
obtain agreement on the precise meaning of terms concerning these topics. A
consensus is rare. Most glossaries give only a single definition each term. We
will try to explain the full range of meanings in common use.
Third Gender: A term used to describe individuals who do not fall
into conventional patterns of gender. It has historically been used to refer to lesbian,
gay, transgender, intersex persons. It is sometimes used to refer to
individuals who regard themselves as being neither male nor female, or to
persons who swap genders over time.
Third sex: See third gender ^.
Transition: The entire process of changing a person's body from appearing as the
gender with which they were identified at birth to the opposite sex that they
feel they truly are. The process can involve a combination of hormone treatment (a.k.a. medical transition) and gender
reassignment surgery (GRS; surgical transition). Most transsexuals revise their birth certificate,
change their legal name, etc.
transgender (a.k.a. TG): This word has
Generally defined as a person who
experiences gender dysphoria (once called gender identity disorder). They identify
themselves as experiencing gender identity that is is in conflict
with their birth-assigned gender. Thus, their gender expression or physical
characteristics differ from their sex as assigned at birth.
consider transgender to be an umbrella term which includes:
Transgenderists: persons living full-time in a gender other than
their birth sex.
Cross dressers: persons who occasionally present themselves as
the opposite sex. (Transvestite is a synonym, but is regarded by
many cross dressers as a pejorative term). The vast majority are
"Mannish" women and "feminine" men whose gender appearance is
opposite to their sex.
Intersexed persons who are born with genitals that are not typically male or
typically female. They are frequently defined as male or female at birth.
However, they often develop physically -- or have a gender identity -- in opposition
to their birth-assigned gender.
Transgenderists: Persons who present themselves, either on a
part-time or full-time basis, as a gender opposite to their genetic gender
without any interest in undergoing genital reassignment surgery. A rarely seen term
Transman (a.k.a. trans man, trans-man): A transsexual
person who was classified as a female at birth but who identifies themselves
later in life as a man and has made the transition to living as a man. Many transmen refer to themselves simply as a
Transphobic: This is a term that refers to transsexuals, and is
analogous to homophobic as it applies to homosexuals. Transphobic has a
range of meanings, including any combination of:
Fear of transsexuals and discomfort while being in their presence.
Preferring that transsexuals be heavily discriminated against: to be
denied the right to marry the person that they love and to whom they are committed, to
be denied protection against employment discrimination. to be denied
protection from hate-crimes, etc.
Actively campaigning to reduce the rights of transsexuals or to keep them reduced.
Harassing, assaulting or murdering persons because of their gender
Transsexed: A synonym for "transsexual" preferred by
some transsexed persons because "transsexual" sounds like a sexual
orientation like bisexual or heterosexual.
Transsexual (a.k.a. transexual, TS, transsexed,
transidentity,trans, tranny, T-folk, trans folk): As for
the term "transgender," there is no consensus on the precise meaning of this term.
definition is that a transsexual is a transgender person who experiences severe gender dysphoria and feels they can
"no longer continue to live their lives in the gender associated with the physical sex they were assigned at birth.
Some restrict the term to including only those undergo hormone therapy and/or gender reassignment surgery (GRS) in order to more closely appear to be of
the sex that they feel they are.
Many transsexuals consider the term trans and tranny to be offensive.
Some post-operative transsexuals do not refer to themselves as transsexuals;
they regard themselves as having become either male or female and identify
Some prefer the term transgender as preferable to transsexual because gender
identity is all about gender, not one's sex.
Transvestite: An older term for "cross dresser." Frequently
regarded as a derogatory term.
Transvestic fetishism: A psychiatric condition in which a person --
almost always a male heterosexual -- is significantly distressed by a recurrent
sexual arousal due to thoughts or practices of cross dressing.
Transwoman (a.k.a. trans woman, trans-woman): A transsexual
person who was classified as a male at birth but who identifies themselves
later in life as a woman and has made the transition to being a woman. Many transwomen refer to themselves simply as women.
Trigender, Trigenerism: An individual who transitions themselves as masculine, feminine, and being a third gender at various times depending upon their mood or the situation in which they find themselves.
Two-Spirit (a.k.a. two spirit or twospirit): A
recently coined term used to refer to Native North Americans who fulfill a
mixed gender role. They wore the clothing and performed the tasks of both men
and women. They have both a female and male identity. They have been recognized in more than 130 tribes throughout North
America. 2 Before the European invasion, they were often very highly valued as healers in their communities.
The FTM resource guide has a glossary of primary interest to
female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals at:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Discrimination against transgender people in American, International
Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy. Online at: