Transsexual is a term to describe a person who has a different gender identity to the sex that a doctor assigned them at birth. However, many people consider the term offensive and outdated, instead preferring to use the term transgender.

This article will provide details on the definition of transsexual, along with how the word differs from other gender-affirming terms.

Additionally, the article contains information about how a person can transition and how to be an ally.

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A review from 2015 notes that, for decades, people used the term transsexual to describe a person who had undergone medical procedures to affirm their gender identity.

In the present day, many people see the term transsexual as outdated and offensive, preferring the term transgender.

Transgender is an umbrella term describing anyone who has a different gender identity to the one assigned at birth. Trans Student Educational Resources notes that a person should never refer to someone as transsexual unless they specifically request the term.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, some transgender people will experience gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is the discomfort or distress that a person experiences when their assigned sex at birth does not match their gender identity.

Gender dysphoria can lead to:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • low self-esteem
  • interpersonal conflicts
  • a negative sense of well-being
  • substance use disorders
  • self-harm
  • suicide

Research from 2020 found that 28% of people experiencing gender dysphoria also had substance use disorders. Additionally, 23.8% have attempted suicide.

Transitioning is the term to describe the various methods a person can use to affirm their gender. There are many different ways a person can transition, and one person’s transition can be completely different from another’s.

Transitioning is not necessary for a person to be transgender.

Nonmedical transition

There are a variety of ways a person can transition without any medical procedures. Nonmedical transitioning options for a person can include:

  • using their authentic pronouns
  • changing hairstyle or clothes
  • wearing makeup
  • stating gender identity to family or friends
  • changing their name
  • changing their sex on legal documents
  • using prosthetics to create breasts or a packer

Medical transition

Medical transitioning can look different for each person depending on how they identify, but these interventions may involve medications such as hormones, surgeries, hair removal, or implant procedures, as well as speech therapy.

Options for a person wanting to medically transition include hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery.

A person can take different forms and dosages of hormones to help their body align with their gender identity.

Gender-affirming surgery involves a person undergoing surgery to alter their body to align with their gender identity.

Some common terms people may use when discussing gender identity include:

  • Deadnaming: Deadnaming is the act of referring to a transgender person by their former name without consent.
  • Pronouns: A person’s pronouns refer to their gender identity. There are many pronouns a person may use, such as he, she, they, or ze.
  • Nonbinary: Nonbinary refers to a gender identity that moves beyond the male or female gender binary.
  • Gender fluid: A gender fluid person has a gender identity that can shift between two or more genders.

Learn more about gender pronouns here.

How does it differ from sexual orientation?

Sexual orientation is the term used to describe a person’s physical, emotional, or romantic attraction to another person.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are two different things. A person’s gender identity is how they choose to identify themselves regarding their gender. A transgender person can have any sexual orientation.

How does it differ from gender nonconforming?

If a person is gender nonconforming, it means they choose not to conform to society’s expectations of how people of a certain gender should behave.

The LGBTQIA Resource Center notes that gender nonconforming more commonly refers to a person’s gender expression rather than their gender identity. Gender expression is how a person expresses themselves in terms of behavior or how they dress.

A person who is trans can also be gender nonconforming. This means that although they may identify as being a certain gender, they do not necessarily conform to society’s views of how that gender should behave.

How does it differ from intersex?

Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a person born with variations in reproductive or sexual anatomy. An intersex person may have variations in:

  • chromosomes
  • hormones
  • internal or external characteristics

Intersex people are often subject to being assigned a specific gender at birth, which can be harmful to their gender identity.

Passing is a term to describe a person that “passes” as a certain gender or sexuality. For example, a person may say that a transgender woman “passes” as a cisgender woman. Cisgender is a gender identity that matches a person’s sex assigned at birth.

GLAAD considers the term passing to be problematic, as it implies that a person is pretending to be something they are not.

Transgender people may find it more difficult to access healthcare due to the fear of discrimination and a lack of availability and information.

Planned Parenthood health centers offer sexual health services for transgender people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide information on trans healthcare and HIV.

Additionally, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has information regarding transgender healthcare and insurance rights. The NCTE also provides information for transgender people who are facing discrimination.

The LGBTQIA Resource Center has an extensive list of sites with information on transitioning, healthcare, and legal services.

People may find support from the following charities and organizations.

For parents

Resources for parents of transgender people include:

For those who are transgender

Helpful resources for transgender people include:

An ally is a person who helps advocate for and support a community outside their own. GLAAD suggests the following tips on how to be an ally for transgender communities:

  • Do not assume whether or not a person is transgender.
  • Do not assume a transgender person’s sexual orientation.
  • If unsure of a person’s pronouns, ask them.
  • Do not ask a transgender person what their “real” name is.
  • Do not assume a transgender person needs to “come out” and reveal that they are transgender.
  • Do not share a transgender person’s identity with anyone else.
  • Respect a transgender person’s identity and terminology.
  • Be respectful and patient with a person who is exploring their gender identity.
  • Understand that there is no right or wrong way to transition.
  • Never ask about a transgender person’s genitals, sex life, or surgical status.
  • Avoid backhanded compliments, such as, “I would never have guessed you were trans.”
  • Challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes.
  • Support all-gender bathrooms.
  • Help make spaces trans-inclusive.
  • Listen to transgender people.
  • Be willing to learn.

Transsexual is now seen as an outdated and offensive term to describe a person who medically transitioned to affirm their gender identity. Most people now prefer the term transgender.

A transgender person can be any gender identity and have any sexual orientation. A transgender person also does not need to transition to be the gender that they are. However, there are many options available to a person who does want to transition.

A person who is struggling with their gender identity may have gender dysphoria. A person with gender dysphoria should speak with a healthcare professional.