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Introduction to transgenderism, transsexualism, & gender identity

Part 3: Various definitions of "transgender."
The definition used on this site. Symptoms
and detection of transsexuality

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This is the continuation from Part 2 in a previous essay

Various definitions of "transgender:"

There is no consensus on the precise meaning of the terms "transgender."

Many fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians refer to transgender persons as being "gender confused:" That is, the latter are unclear about their gender and cannot accept the validity of their birth gender. The implication is that with therapy, and/or prayer, they should be able to straighten out their thinking and accept their birth gender as God created them and as God intends them to be.

This definition conflicts with essentially all professionals working in the field; with lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBT); with religious liberals; and with secularists. They generally feel that transgender persons are not confused; they have a very clear, unambiguous, and fixed perception of their gender; their main challenge is that it disagrees with their gender assigned at birth.

Wiktionary has a very inclusive definition of "transgender:"

  • http://en.wiktionary.org/ "Pertaining to someone who does not identify with conventional categories of male or female, but combines elements of both or moves between the two. Sometimes used as a general, inclusive term, and sometimes as synonymous with or opposed to more specific terms such as transsexual, transvestite etc.

Some definitions are quite narrow, and confine the meaning to persons with Gender Dysphoria. These individuals generally accept the concept of two genders but believe that they are of the opposite gender from that implied by their body:

  • wordnetweb.princeton.edu/: "involving a partial or full reversal of gender."

  • en.wiktionary.org/wiki/: "Describing a person of one sex who considers himself or herself to really belong to the opposite sex, or who wishes to be surgically converted to the opposite sex, or has been so converted."

  • lunco.cfsh.info/: "People who feel that their gender identity conflicts with their sexual anatomy – that is a girl who feels like she ought to have been a boy or a boy who feels like he ought to have been a girl. People who are transgender often choose to live the role of the opposite gender."

  • www.share.uwa.edu.au/: "A person whose gender identity does not match the anatomical sex with which they were born. It refers to the feeling of not being born into the "right" physical body. ..."

Other definitions are quite broad, and include both:

  • Persons with Gender Dysphoria. For example:
    • Genderqueer or intergender: Persons who identify themselves as being both man and woman, or neither man nor woman, or as falling completely outside of the male/female gender binary; 1

As well as:

  • Persons without Gender Dysphoria, but who express themselves in ways expected of the opposite sex. For example:
    • Transvestites: Persons who like to cross-dress in clothing of the other sex;

    • Cross dressers: Synonym for "transvestite"; currently a preferred term;

    • Drag queens: A male performer who wears women's clothing in their act;

    • Drag kings: A female performer who wears men's clothing.

Some more inclusive definitions:

  • en.wikipedia.org/: "Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to deviate from the normative gender roles."

  • xyworld.ca: "An umbrella term which is often used to describe a wide range of identities and experiences, including: transsexuals, FTMs, MTFs, cross-dressers, drag queens & kings, two-spirits, genderqueers, and many more."

  • www.outnowspringfield.org/: "Refers to those whose gender expression or identity transgresses socially assigned gender roles or expectation, or who do not identify as either of the two sexes as currently defined. ..."

  • urespect.umich.edu/report/definitions/: "A term describing persons whose gender identities, expressions or behaviors are not those traditionally associated with their birth sex."

  • www.northernconcord.org.uk/: "transgender ... has recently come to be used as the 'general term' to encompass all cross dressers, transvestites and transsexuals.

horizontal rule

The definitions that we will use on this website:

We have chosen to define transgenderism in its narrow sense to refer to persons who typically accept the binary male/female concept, and who are certain that their true gender is opposite to their genetic gender.

We don't include within this definition individuals who are cisgendered -- their gender identity matches their birth-assigned gender -- and who choose to either:

  • Cross-dress: They enjoy dressing up in the clothes of the opposite gender, and/or

  • Be Drag Queens & Kings: They give performances in the clothing of the opposite gender.

We have also chosen to define transsexuals as transgender persons who have a desire to undergo -- or have already undergone -- sexual reassignment proceduresto change the appearance of their body so that it more closely matches their identified gender.

Although these are commonly used definitions, they are by no means universally accepted by the LGBT community.

horizontal rule

Symptoms and detection of transsexuality:

The American Psychiatric Association periodically publishes a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It lists five symptoms of transsexualism:

  1. A sense of discomfort and inappropriateness about one's anatomical sex.

  2. A wish to be rid of one's own genitals and to live as a member of the other sex.

  3. The disturbance had been continuous (not limited to periods of stress) for at least two years.

  4. The absence of physical intersex or genetic abnormality.

  5. The lack of cause due to another mental disorder, such as schizophrenia. 2

The World Health Organization defines transsexualism as:

"A desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one's anatomic sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one's body as congruent as possible with one's preferred sex." 3

According to the Renaissance Transgender Association, before hormone treatments or gender reassignment surgery:

"The transsexual appears to be a perfectly normal male or female with normal primary and secondary sexual characteristics. ... transsexualism cannot be detected visually or by any other means. Since other people can't see anything amiss, they conclude that transsexualism is not a physical defect, but more an emotional/psychological problem. It is a common but erroneous belief that with a little self-discipline, or with counseling, a transsexual person can act normally and accept their lot in life. ..."

After decades of trying, psychiatrists have had to admit defeat in conquering this dilemma. In all the years that psychiatry has tried to 'cure' transsexualism, not one case has responded positively and permanently." 4

This essay continues in Part 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "What do we mean by "sex" and "gender"?," World Health Organization, 2010, at: http://www.who.int/
  2. As cited in "Straight Answers: The Morality of 'Sex Change' Operations," The Catholic Herald, 2005-OCT-19, at: http://www.catholicherald.com/
  3. "ICD-10: F64.0: Transsexualism," World Health Organization, 2007-JUL, at: http://apps.who.int/
  4. "Understanding Transsexualism," Renaissance Transgender Association, Inc., 1990-OCT, at: http://www.ren.org/

Site navigation:

 Home > Transsexuality... > Introduction > here

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Copyright © 2007 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2007-JUN-08
Latest update: 2014-FEB-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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