Transgender is generally used as a catch-all umbrella term for a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups centered around the full or partial reversal of gender roles. More recently, the term transgender can also mean someone who considers that they fall "between" genders, not identifying strictly to one gender or the other, identifying themselves as neither fully male, nor female. Another term for this is genderqueer.

Transgender includes a number of sub-categories, which, among others, include transsexuals, cross-dressers, transvestitess, consciously androgynous people, drag queens and drag kings. Usually not included, because it is usually not a gender issue, although in practice the line can be hard to draw, are transvestic fetishists. The opposite of transgender is cisgender.

Occasionally the term gender dysphoria is used to explain these tendencies as a psychological condition and the reaction to its social consequences.

Table of contents
1 Transsexual
2 Cross-dresser
3 Other
4 Issues


Main article: Transsexual

A transsexual is a person who desires to have, or has, a different physical sex from what they had at birth. One typical (though oversimplified) explanation is of a "woman trapped in a man's body" or vice versa; many transsexuals state that they were in fact always (for example) of the female gender, but were assigned the male gender as a child on the basis of their genitals, and having realized that they are women, wish to change their bodies to match.

The process of physical transition for transsexuals usually includes hormone replacement therapy, and may include sexual reassignment surgery.

Some spell the term transexual with one s in order to reduce the association of their identity with psychiatry and medicine.

Often in older writings (pre ~1990s), but rarely today, the term transgender is used to refer to "non-op transsexuals" or "non-op transpeople" - transpeople or transsexuals who live as the gender opposite to their birth gender and, though genital reassignment surgery is possible, have chosen not to undergo it. However, sometimes, for example in the Netherlands (but not in the rest of Europe) the term transgender is still in use for this particular group instead of being used as such an umbrella term.

Transgender is often used as a euphemistic synonym for transsexuals for some. The reasoning for this is that it removes the conceptual image "sex" in "transsexual" that implies transsexuality is sexually motivated, which it is not. This usage is problematic because it can cause transgendered people who do not identify as transsexuals to be confused with them.

Furthermore, many transsexuals reject the term "transgender" as an identification for themselves - either as a synonym or as an umbrella term. They advance a number of arguments for this. One argument is that the use of the umbrella term inaccurately subsumes them and causes their identity, history, and existence to be marginalized. Another is that transgender is the breaking down of gender barriers, whereas they themselves do identify as men or as women - just not as they were assigned at birth. A third is that they did not change gender at any point - they have always had their gender, and the difficulty is their sex, which they desire to change.

To respect the identity of those transsexuals who do not identify as transgendered, the constructions trans, trans*, or transgendered and transsexual may be used.


Main articles: cross-dresser, transvestitism, drag king, drag queen, transvestic fetishism

A cross-dresser is any person who wears the clothing of the opposite gender, for any reason. Cross-dressers may have no desire or intention of adopting other behaviors or practices common to that gender, and particularly does (currently) not wish to undergo medical procedures to facilitate physical changes. Contrary to common belief, most male-bodied cross-dressers prefer female partners.

Many non-Western cultures legitimize cross dressing, often with a ritual background. The so-called berdache in many Native American groups is recognized as a separate gender, a woman-living-man, not as a man who wants to be a woman. In reality, different Native American groups had different names for the 'berdache'. The husband of a berdache is not viewed as a berdache, but as a 'normal' male. In some societies there is a corresponding gender for man-living-women (amazons).

Drag involves wearing highly exaggerated and outrageous costumes or imitating movie and music stars of the opposite sex. It is a form of performing art practiced by drag queens and kings. Drag is often found in a gay or lesbian context. The term Drag King can also apply to people from the female-to-male side of the transgender spectrum who do not see themselves as exclusively male identified.

A transvestic fetishist has a fetish for wearing the clothing of the opposite gender. It is often difficult to distinguish between fetishism that happens to have female clothing as an object and transgender behaviour that includes sexual play. Some people feel that transvestic fetishism does not count as cross-dressing.


Transgender is also used to describe behaviour or feelings that cannot be categorised into these older sub-categories, for example, people living in a gender role that is different from the one they were assigned at birth, but who do not wish to undergo any or all of the available medical options, or people who do not wish to identify themselves as transsexuals, men or women, and consider that they fall between genders, or transcend gender.

In some socities, notably in Thailand, some people who present as female, but with male genitalia may have been born intersexual but may also be a transsexual who has been in the process of transition (taking estrogens and so on) to achieve some desired secondary sex characteristics, but not sexual reassignment surgery. Sometimes these individuals are referred to as ladyboy or shemale, but these terms are considered derogatory by many, including most transsexuals working outside the sex industry.


Transgender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Sexual orientations among transgender people vary just as much as they do among cisgender people. Although few studies have been done, transgender groups almost always report that their members are more likely to be attracted to those with the same gender identity, compared to the population as a whole; that is, transgendered women are more likely to be attracted to other women, and vice versa. Many transgender people who are attracted to others of the same gender will identify as gay or lesbian.
Note that in the professional literature homosexual and heterosexual are used respective to clients' birth sex, instead of their desired sex. Transgender people may feel misunderstood by caregivers because of this practice.

Many Western societies today have some sort of procedure whereby an individual can change their name, sometimes also their legal gender, to reflect their gender identity. Medical procedures for transgender people are also available in most Western and many non-western countries. However, because gender roles are an important part of many cultures, those engaged in strong challenges to the prevalence of these roles, such as many transgender people, often have to face considerable prejudice.

See also: intersexual, autogynephilia, two-spirit, List of transgendered people