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Trans with an asterisk
A common question I’ve gotten is, “Is there a difference between Hermaphrodite, Transvestite, Crossdresser, Drag Queen/King, Transsexual and Transgender, and if so what is it?”
My answer is always “There is a BIG difference.” Here is the standard definition of these terms:
Hermaphrodite:Hermaphrodite is an outdated and offensive term these days. Hermaphrodite is usually only used for plants and non-human animals, for humans we use the term Intersex. What it is used for is a person who has both XX (female) and XY (male) chromosomes or many different chromosomal structures. This can result in a person who has a penis but has ovaries, Fallopian tubes, or even a uterus and vaginal tissue though there are many other variances that fall under the category. Also under the Intersex umbrella are people with hormonal differences that can also make their genitalia more androgynous. The most common being a person with a vagina who has an enlarged clitoris that in some cases can be used as a penis. In some cases parents choose to perform surgery on children that present as Intersex to make them appear more like the assigned gender. This can be very dangerous and in some cases detrimental.
Transvestite: A transvestite is someone who derives pleasure in wearing clothes of the opposite sex. It’s usually used in a sexual context.
Crossdresser: Someone who dresses as the opposite sex, this can be casual or for performance.
Drag Queen/King: Someone who dresses as the opposite sex in professional performances.
Transsexual: Someone who feels that they are the opposite gender from their biologically or assigned sex. Usually this is used as a term for someone who is transitioned (or Post-Operation), meaning they take hormones and/or have had bottom (genital) and/or top (chest) surgery.
Transgender: Basically the same definition as Transsexual, although it is usually used as a term for someone who is Pre-Operation or does not plan to transition. Also in recent years since the concept of gender and distinguishing it from sex has become so important, more people feel more comfortable with using transgender instead of transsexual.
Sometimes these labels overlap. I know several Drag Kings and Queens who are also Transsexual or Transgender. Also, these labels are chosen by the individual NOT other people. You can’t tell someone “Oh no, you are Transgender not Transsexual” or “You’re just a crossdresser” or “You must be doing this because you’re sexually queer, you’re a transvestite!”. Everyone chooses their own labels, and it’s bad to assume you know better.
Those are just the most well known labels though, there are many other labels for a person’s gender expression. These are the ones based on the gender binary, that there is only male and female to choose from. Really though, gender is a spectrum. There are many different genders, some of which have nothing at all to do with “male” and “female” All of these are under the Trans* umbrella, although some people may not identify as trans*
Genderqueer: This is an umbrella term for anyone who doesn’t feel that they are either male or female but may have traits of both.
Bigendered: Someone who feels they are two gendered, usually male and female although that’s not always so.
Polygender: Someone who has many genders.
Pangender: Someone who has all the genders.
Intergender: Someone who feels that they are both make and female
Genderfluid: Someone whose gender changes
Third Gender: Someone who feels that they are a gender other than male and female
Genderneutral/Agender/Neutrois: someone who feels that they are neither male nor female and that they have in fact no gender or have a neutral gender.
Genderfucking: a term used for a person who is playing around with gender norms, for example a person with facial hair wearing a dress.
Androgyny: A term used for someone who it is not easily discernible if they are male or female.
Androgyne: A person who is neither and both male and female.
There are many other labels that people can use to describe their gender, these are just the most common.
Something that has to be explained when discussing alternative genders is the difference between gender and sex. Sex is purely scientific, it is what your chromosomes and hormones shape your body to be. Many gender variant people do not like their sex being referred to at all, calling them “male” or “female” as their sex is still insulting. Many prefer to be referred by the achronisms MAAB (Male Assigned at Birth), DMAB (Designated Male at Birth), AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth) CAMAB (Coercively Assigned Male at Birth) or the “female” equivalents What this means is that your chromosomes and hormones mean nothing, it is society’s view of gender and sexuality that designated to you the sex that you don’t identify as. Gender is how you view yourself. Your gender is what you want to be referred and treated as. A person whose gender and designated sex is the same is referred to as Cisgender.
Another important thing about Gender is pronouns. People who identify as “male” like to use the pronoun he/his/him, people who identify as “female” like to use the pronoun she/hers/her. There are a lot of pronouns for people who don’t identify as either “male” or “female though. Some people prefer they/theirs/them, some prefer it/it’s, some prefer a combination of Ze/Zie/Sie/Zhe/Hu and Zir/Hir/Mer/Hus/Hum/Zhim/Zher. The thing is, you can never tell anyone’s gender and appropriate pronouns just by looking at them (unless they’re wearing a shirt that says “call me Zir”). You can ask, although I’m not going to say people won’t get offended by that. I wouldn’t, and quite a few people are ready to educate others but some people get their gender misread so many times that it can get irritating. The best way to find out what someone’s gender is is by being around them. Someone will eventually use a pronoun. It doesn’t really matter what a person’s “sex” is, they’re the same people they would be otherwise. Be courteous, kind, respectful and accepting of everyone and you’ll be fine.