‘Trans’ is sometimes adopted to emphasise that the full spectrum of gender variant, gender non-conforming, gender diverse or gender atypical identities is being referred to.


Slang for TVs (and cross dressers) – but not for transgendered or transsexual individuals. Transsexual individuals are often offended if referred to as a tranny

Transgender(ed) (or trans) person

The term Transgender or Transgendered can be used either as an umbrella term to cover the entire spectrum of atypical gender identity – or, more specifically, to describe individuals who spend most or even all of their lives living in an “acquired” gender role – but have no wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Transgender man / Transman

A transgender man is a female-to-male transgender person who was assigned female at birth but has a male gender identity.

Transgender woman /


A transgender woman is a male-to-female transgender person who was assigned male at birth but has a female gender identity.


The journey a transgender person takes from their assigned gender to the one they know themselves to be. This may refer to social transition (changing name, clothes etc), medical transition (hormones and/or surgery) or both.

Transsexual person

Whilst TVs/ CDs/ DQs and others switch between gender roles, transsexual individuals cannot. They need to polarise and transition if at all possible. Sometimes medical reasons may preclude treatment. The term transsexual should be used as an adjective or adverb but not as a noun. So, you may refer to someone as a transsexual individual or say she is transsexual – but not she is a transsexual. Transsexual describes one aspect of me – it does not define me.

Transvestite/ Crossdresser

Basically the same – but the terms can have different implications depending on where you are or who you talk to.

In the UK, some consider the term “transvestite” attempts to put a medical label on them and they prefer the term “cross dresser”; others feel that the term CD is more appropriate for someone who may wear women’s underwear but have no desire to present a full female image. In the USA, the term TV also implies cross dressers who have sex with men. In the UK we tend to separate the concepts of sexual orientation from gender identity and would refer to a gay or bi-transvestite or cross dresser.

Basically, however, the term transvestite is simply Latin for cross dressing.

Usually men who dress as women but there are also female transvestites who dress as men – including flattening their breasts, putting a filled sock in the front of their trousers and even wearing false beards or moustaches.

Transvestites do not normally have any desire to change roles permanently or undergo gender reassignment surgery. A few do take hormones or have breast implants to create a more feminine figure. One suggested way of looking at TVs is to think of them as day trippers from one gender to an other.

Dictionary definitions of transvestism have often described it as being “for purposes of sexual gratification”. Whilst transvestites do often describe themselves as “feeling sexy” when dressed, it is more common for them to report feeling “relaxed” or “just right”. It is certainly misleading to assume that because transvestites often feel sexy when dressed that sexual gratification is the driving force.

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Put 10 trans people in a room and I guarantee you’ll come up with at least a dozen different definitions. There is no complete consensus – and interpretations do change. This is how I’ve used the following terms on this website.

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