Updated: SEPTEMBER 23, 2021

Transsexual is a term that used to be used describe a person whose gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender or trans is generally the more favored term. Whatever words a person tells you to use for them are the words you should use.

Rooted in clinical and medical terminology and diagnosis, transsexual differs from the umbrella term transgender and the two are not interchangeable. Transexual is mainly considered to be an archaic term, but there are some people who find it comfortable and prefer to use it.

Transgender encompasses many different experiences of people whose gender identity does not match their birth sex. A person who identifies as transsexual, however, was generally regarded to be a person who has, or hopes to alter their body through some degree of medical intervention to align their physical form with with their gender. Transsexual can be used as either a noun or an adjective, however, more commonly as an adjective, such as “transsexual man” or “transsexual woman.” Transsexual is commonly abbreviated as “TS.”

Because of its early connections to medical diagnoses of mental health concerns (and a fraught historical relationship between trans folks and the medical establishment), transsexual, as a catch-all term, has fallen out of favour in common usage. some transgender people consider the term transsexual to be offensive and choose not to use it.

Others reject it because it has a heavy alignment to surgical intervention, which is not a requirement in transgender identity. The idea that medical transition is a "real transition" is rooted in colonialism and the pathologizing of queer gender expression.

Another concern that has been raised is the inclusion of “sexual” as part of the word. Trans identity does not connect to sexual identity. Trans people’s sexual identities are varied and dependent on the person.

Those who do identify as transsexual and who do seek body modification as part of their transition, can explore many different options. These include hormone replacement therapy, top surgery, genital reconstruction surgery, plastic surgery, hair removal and more. Transsexual people can also explore gender expression through non-surgical methods, such as wearing the clothes of their identified gender, mannerism adjustment and name changes. Some transsexual people choose not to make changes, but are still transsexual.

More About Transsexual

Everyone has the right to own, love and embrace the identity that captures their spirit, their body—their whole personhood. The concept of trans challenged many minds who were trapped in the specific gender binary that had been forced as the overriding societal understanding.

When transsexual people and medical interventions to alter bodies became more known and understood in the 20th century, this was seen as a major shock to the accepted “man/woman” dichotomy. However, it shouldn’t have. Trans people have existed throughout history.

Growing an understanding of trans people necessarily involves being a part of the evolving understanding of the concept of trans itself. The term transsexual was the first widely adopted term put into use. Some trans people still accept and embrace this term because it speaks to them. Some trans people do not agree with the term and have chosen others. This is a natural evolution of understanding the differences between people.

Language is mutable. It is a tool we use to communicate. And we know from history, tools are changed, are adapted and are improved over time. Just because a term or phrase or word exists now does not mean it will exist in the same way ten years from now. Words relating to the trans experience continue to evolve. In order to ensure the happiness and safety of trans people, this must be embraced.

What is critical—for trans and cisgender people—is that identity terminology is a personal choice. When using a “trans” adjective to reference or describe a person, be sure to ask how that person chooses to identify. This simple technique is, unfortunately, lost on many people who plow forward with terminology without considering the person it applies to. Ensuring you understand a person’s chosen term not only ensures comfort, but it also affirms that person’s gender identity.


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