Transgender vs. ' transsexual '

In the realm of gender identity, the terms “transgender” and “transsexual” are used to describe individuals whose gender identity does not align with the sex assigned to them at birth by a doctor. However, it’s essential to note that the term “transsexual” is often considered outdated and offensive by many individuals.

What does Transgender mean?

Transgender is a widely used umbrella term in the LGBTQIA community, often abbreviated as “trans.” According to the LGBTQIA Resource Center, when a person identifies as transgender, it means their gender identity does not conform to the traditional expectations associated with the sex assigned to them at birth by a doctor.

For instance, a transgender individual might have been assigned male at birth but identifies as female, or vice versa. However, it’s important to understand that transgender isn’t strictly limited to a binary transition between male and female.

In fact, the term encompasses a diverse range of gender identities. Some people identify as transgender because they don’t align exclusively with either male or female; instead, they may see themselves as a blend of both genders or experience changes in their gender identity between male and female at different points in their lives.

Furthermore, the transgender umbrella encompasses various other gender identities, such as non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, and those who identify with no gender or multiple genders. Inclusivity and understanding the intricacies of gender diversity are crucial aspects of recognizing and respecting the experiences of individuals within the transgender community.

What does Transsexual mean?

According to a review from 2015, the term “transsexual” was historically used to describe individuals who had undergone medical interventions, such as gender-affirming surgery, to align their physical appearance with their gender identity.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that “transsexual” is now considered an older and outdated term, originating from the psychological and medical communities, as pointed out by GLAAD.

While some individuals might still use “transsexual” to refer to someone whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth by a doctor, the newer and more inclusive definition of “transgender” does not necessarily imply that a person has undergone any gender-affirming medical procedures. “Transgender” encompasses a broader range of gender identities and experiences, and it acknowledges that not all individuals within this diverse community pursue or require medical interventions to affirm their gender identity.

How are they Different?

As per information from GLAAD, a significant distinction between “transgender” and “transsexual” lies in the fact that “transgender” is an umbrella term encompassing a diverse range of gender identities, whereas “transsexual” is not considered an umbrella term.

Certain individuals, particularly those in the medical and psychological fields, may still choose to use the term “transsexual” when referring to individuals who have undergone gender-affirming medical interventions like hormone therapy or surgery.

However, it is crucial to recognize that most medical professionals will prioritize using the terminology that aligns with the individual’s preference. Respecting the language and identity of each person is essential, and that’s why it is vital to ask each individual which term they would prefer.

For those who do not identify as “transsexual,” they might opt for the term “transgender,” as it is more inclusive, encompassing various gender identities and experiences, and seen as more affirming.

Ultimately, the key takeaway is to approach discussions and interactions with sensitivity and understanding, allowing individuals to express their gender identity using the language that feels most authentic and comfortable to them.

Does the term Transsexual cause offense?

Initially, the term “transsexual” was primarily used by medical professionals to categorize individuals who had undergone medical or surgical interventions to align their bodies with their true gender identity. However, over time, it has found its way into everyday language, being used to describe all transgender people.

Nonetheless, it’s crucial to recognize that many individuals, including those who don’t wish or need to undergo such medical procedures, find the term “transsexual” offensive.

A 2015 review supports the notion that several terms used to describe individuals are now outdated, contributing to increased stigma and oppression faced by transgender people. It is essential to be mindful of language usage to foster a more inclusive and respectful environment for the transgender community.

The best approach to avoid offending someone is to refrain from referring to them as “transsexual” unless they explicitly express a preference for that term. Respecting each person’s chosen identity and using language that aligns with their preferences is a fundamental aspect of promoting understanding and support for transgender individuals.

Terminology to avoid

When communicating with or discussing transgender individuals, it’s essential to be mindful of language to avoid hurtful or transphobic terms. Cissexism is a type of discrimination where people believe in only two genders (female and male) and consider a person’s gender inseparable from their biological characteristics.

An example of cissexism is when someone refers to a person as male simply because a doctor assigned them as male at birth, despite that person identifying as a different gender.

transsexual  Transgender vs. ' transsexual '

To avoid using offensive terms, individuals can ask themselves whether they would pose the same questions or use the same language when speaking with a cisgender person. Cisgender individuals identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.

For instance, it would be inappropriate to ask both cisgender and transgender individuals about their genitals or secondary sex characteristics. Respecting privacy and boundaries is crucial in both cases.


While some individuals within the transgender community may choose to reclaim certain words, it is essential to emphasize that using such terms to label another person or making jokes with them should be avoided. Reclaiming language is a personal choice, and not all individuals feel comfortable or empowered by doing so. It is crucial to respect each person’s boundaries and preferences regarding the language used to describe them.

When engaging with others, particularly those in the transgender community, it is best to use language that is respectful, inclusive, and considerate of their identities and experiences. This approach fosters a more supportive and understanding environment, promoting dignity and respect for all individuals. By avoiding the use of potentially hurtful or derogatory language, we contribute to creating a more accepting and affirming society for everyone.


Absolutely, when people use certain terms to label or refer to someone in a derogatory or dismissive manner, they are invalidating that person’s identity and the pronouns they use to self-identify. Such language not only disrespects an individual’s gender identity but also contributes to a harmful and hostile environment for transgender individuals.

It is essential to recognize the significance of using correct pronouns and respectful language when referring to others, especially within the transgender community. Respecting someone’s chosen identity and pronouns is a fundamental aspect of acknowledging their dignity, autonomy, and right to self-expression.

By using affirming and inclusive language, we can promote a more compassionate and understanding society, where all individuals are treated with respect and where their identities are honored. Taking the time to learn and use the correct pronouns for each person shows empathy, acceptance, and a commitment to creating a more inclusive world.

Saying that a person does not look male or female

The phrase mentioned is offensive because it assumes that everyone should conform to traditional societal expectations of gender, which is both limiting and dismissive of the diverse range of gender identities and expressions that exist.

It is essential to recognize that gender is a complex and multifaceted aspect of an individual’s identity. Each person’s gender identity is valid and should be respected, regardless of whether it aligns with societal norms or not.

By using language that implies there is only one acceptable or “correct” way to express gender, we invalidate the experiences and identities of those who do not conform to those rigid expectations. Instead, we should celebrate and support the diversity of gender identities and expressions that exist, acknowledging that all are equally valid and deserving of respect.

Promoting inclusivity and understanding means embracing the full spectrum of gender identities and being open to learning from and appreciating the unique experiences of each individual. It is through this approach that we can foster a more compassionate and accepting society for everyone.

Using the wrong pronouns

Respecting the pronouns that individuals use to describe themselves is crucial for fostering an inclusive and respectful environment. Deliberately using the wrong pronouns, even when aware of the individual’s preferred pronouns, is not only insulting but also invalidates their identity and individual choices.

Using someone’s correct pronouns is a fundamental aspect of acknowledging their gender identity and showing them the respect they deserve. Disregarding their chosen pronouns communicates a lack of understanding and empathy, and it can have a deeply harmful impact on the person’s well-being.

Creating a supportive and accepting space for individuals to express their gender identity and pronouns freely is essential for promoting equality and respect for all. By actively listening to and using the correct pronouns of each person, we demonstrate genuine respect for their identity and validate their individuality. It is a simple yet powerful way to show solidarity with the transgender and gender non-conforming community and affirm their right to be seen and acknowledged for who they are.

Asking people their real name

 Asking a person about their “real” name or their name at birth can be offensive and disrespectful. This kind of inquiry insinuates that the individual’s chosen name, which aligns with their gender identity, is not valid or legitimate. It can be hurtful and invalidating to transgender individuals who have taken the significant step of affirming their true selves through their chosen name.

Moreover, asking about someone’s “real” or birth name is an invasion of privacy, as it delves into personal and sensitive information. Everyone has the right to determine how they wish to be addressed and to control the disclosure of personal details, including their birth name.

Instead of asking about a person’s “real” name, it is essential to use the name they have shared with you and to respect their identity by using it consistently. Respecting someone’s chosen name and using it correctly is a fundamental aspect of recognizing their gender identity and showing empathy and support. Inclusive language and actions contribute to creating a more understanding and accepting environment for everyone.

Asking personal questions about a person’s body

Asking a person about their gender-affirming surgeries, genitals, or other sex characteristics is highly inappropriate and invasive. These types of questions are personal and sensitive, and asking them can be disrespectful, offensive, and even harmful.

Such inquiries not only violate a person’s privacy but also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and assumptions about transgender individuals. Each person’s journey and experiences with their gender identity and body are unique and personal. It is not appropriate to probe into these aspects without the individual’s consent.

Respecting boundaries and privacy is essential when interacting with anyone, including transgender individuals. Engaging in conversations that are supportive, empathetic, and respectful of a person’s identity helps to create an inclusive and safe environment where everyone can feel valued and accepted.

If a transgender person chooses to share such information voluntarily, it should be met with understanding and compassion. Otherwise, it is best to avoid asking questions that can be invasive and hurtful and instead focus on treating them with the same dignity and respect afforded to anyone else.

How to know which terms to use

People who are transgender have different preferences when it comes to how they self-identify. Some may feel comfortable with the term “transgender,” while others may prefer terms like non-binary, genderfluid, male, or female, depending on their specific gender identity.

It’s crucial to understand that gender identity is a deeply personal aspect of an individual’s life, and using the correct terminology is vital in respecting their identity and experiences. The best way to know how to refer to someone who is transgender is to ask them which terms they prefer and to use those terms accordingly.

Similarly, it’s essential to be mindful of pronouns when referring to someone. Common pronouns include she, he, and they, but some individuals may prefer alternative pronouns like ze/zir, ey/em, or others. The best approach is to ask people for their preferred pronouns and use them respectfully.

By taking the time to inquire about and use the right language, we show genuine respect for individuals’ identities and create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone. Listening to and honoring each person’s preferences is an essential step in supporting and affirming their gender identity.

Where to learn more

It’s great to hear that GLAAD provides a directory of transgender resources to support the community and allies. These resources can be invaluable in providing information, assistance, and advocacy for people who are transgender. Here are some specific organizations that may be helpful:

1. The Trevor Project: An organization that offers support and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ youth, including transgender individuals.

2. National Center for Transgender Equality: An advocacy organization that works to advance policy and social change for transgender individuals.

3. Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund: A legal service organization that advocates for the rights of transgender people.

4. Trans Youth Family Allies: A support organization dedicated to helping families and young people navigate the challenges of being transgender.

5. Transgender American Veterans Association: An advocacy group that focuses on the issues faced by transgender veterans.

For those living outside the United States, The Trevor Project offers an international resource list on their website, which can be a valuable source of information for individuals seeking resources in other countries.

These resources can provide guidance, support, and community for transgender individuals and their allies, fostering a more inclusive and understanding environment for all. It’s essential to spread awareness about these valuable organizations to ensure that transgender individuals have access to the resources they need to thrive and lead fulfilling lives.


 The terms transgender and transsexual have distinct definitions, and individuals may have personal preferences regarding how they identify. Respecting each person’s chosen terminology is crucial in recognizing and affirming their gender identity.

In particular, it’s important to exercise caution when using the term transsexual, as it can be offensive to some individuals. Using it without the person’s preference or consent can be hurtful and invalidating to their identity.

Similarly, there are various other terms and phrases that can be hurtful or offensive to transgender individuals. It’s essential to avoid using such language and instead, take the time to ask individuals which terms they prefer. This approach demonstrates respect for their identity and experiences, promoting a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.

Being mindful of language and seeking to use inclusive and respectful terminology is a vital step in fostering understanding and acceptance for transgender individuals. By embracing their preferred terms, we can contribute to creating a more compassionate and welcoming society for everyone.

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