‘Transgender’ (often abbreviated to ‘trans’) is used as an inclusive umbrella term used to describe anyone who feels that the sex that was assigned to them at birth incompletely describes or fails to describe them. This term includes people who:
- are transsexual (live as members of the sex other than the sex they were assigned to at birth)
- are intersex (whose reproductive or sexual anatomy does not fit the typical definition of male or female)
- identify outside the female/male binary.
- have a gender expression which differs from their perceived sex including cross-dressers and drag performance artists.
A distinction is often made between the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. Sex is often used to describe biological characteristics (gonadal/chromosomal/hormonal) and gender is used to describe social ones (such as the clothing a person chooses to wear). The terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are used with varying degrees of sense and accuracy.
It should be noted that transgender is a very broad term, and it encompasses many different constituents who face distinct (though often overlapping) sets of issues. Whether or not an individual subscribes to the term transgender is subject to self-definition. For example, many intersex people do not self-identify as transgender because they feel that their condition does not relate to gender but rather to physical sex. There is no right way to be trans, and all of the above trans identities are equally valid.
‘By “Trans / Transgender” we are referring to all people who consider themselves to fall under the trans / transgender and gender variant umbrella. This includes, but is not limited to: Cross-dressing & transvestite people, trans women, trans men, transsexual men & transsexual women, people identifying as androgyne, polygender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, dual gendered, & non-gender identifying, gender questioning people, gender variant & gender diverse people, transgender people & intersex people and anyone who feels that the gender assigned to them at birth incompletely describes or does not at all describe their own personal gender or non-gender identity.’ – from the Transgender Resource and Empowerment Centre website (in Manchester, serving the North-West.)
“Gender dysphoria is an underlying and incessant disquiet or anxiety centred on the understanding that who you are is not reflected by the gender of your body. Gender dysphoria exists in at range of intensities from the mild and intermittent, to the permanent, demanding and disabling.”
Gender identity disorder/GID
“Another term for gender dysphoria. Widely disliked by trans people as the word ‘disorder’ marginalises and pathologises rather than simply recognises difference. It is better to use ‘gender dysphoria’, or – more accurately still – ‘gender incongruence’.
GID is acknowledged by the medical profession as a serious and genuine condition. Currently, it is officially viewed as a psychiatric condition that responds well to treatment with hormones and surgery, although many doctors hold a similar view to trans people: that the problem is in the body, rather than in the brain; that it is physical sex that causes the dissonance, not gender identity.” – definitions are from TransMediaWatch (www.transmediawatch.org/)
The information on these pages is adapted from the fantastic resources on the CUSU LGBT+ Website (www.lgbt.cusu.cam.ac.uk/) and is used with the kind permission of CUSU LGBT+.