Am I Transvestite or Transsexual some people ask, this is a quick understanding of the difference between the two terms and a few other observations
Some then go on to ask, “So you’re transsexual then?” – the answer to that is also no.
Finally they ask “So if you aren’t a transvestite or a transsexual, what are you?”
The answer is transgender, gender variant or in my case Transgender/intergender.
This can then open up a whole conversation about the differences and the linear nature of gender, own personal gender perception and congruence. The reason many people assume that I’m either transvestite or transexual is simply due to lack of understanding and knowledge on the subject. If people really try to understand they’re more often than not empathetic and acceptant, at least to the point that they realise it takes all sorts to make a world and more over it’s not a choice for me – it was the way I was born.
To begin to understand you need to look at the stock definitions, these aren’t my personal definitions but they work well enough for this post.
- Transvestite – a person, typically a man, who derives pleasure from dressing in clothes appropriate to the opposite sex.
- Transsexual – a person who emotionally and psychologically feels that they belong to the opposite sex.
- Transgender – is a catch-all category for gender identities other than man and woman, thus outside of the gender binary.
So it’s clear to see from these definitions that a transvestite is someone who it seems to derive pleasure, it’s just something they seem to enjoy doing, simple, well almost. Some do indeed enjoy being a transvestite for an array of reasons, but others may start out identifying and finding refuge in the title of transvestite but soon realise being described as a transvestite is as inaccurate a label as anything. I many years ago believed it was a good description of me, but as I learnt to understand that I didn’t really find any enjoyment from transvestitism and found it actually as uncomfortable as any other aspect of my gender related issues. Strangely I soon realised that the truth of me was more than just about clothes or what I looked like, it was more than that, a hormonal imbalance I was born with. Yes the constraints and expectations of society didn’t help, but I always said that if I’d been left on a desert island alone I would still suffer from Gender Dysphoria.
The definition of transsexual is understood more or less by many people today. Someone who born in the wrong body for their understood sex, they undoubtedly go through a lot pain and I’m sure heartache on their journey to sexual and gender congruence. I believe transsexual issues are far more complicated than just being born in the wrong body for their understood sex, it follows that if gender is linear and sex (almost always) binary someone could be a male to female transsexual and still suffer from Gender Dysphoria even after SRS (sex reassignment surgery), possibly due to the lack of natal dominant hormones in their body and the way their brain has been wired at birth. This could in part explain why many male to female transsexuals (and I am sure female to male) aren’t always happy post SRS and indeed strive to ‘come back’.
The final definition in the list, Transgender is the one personal I would opt for if I was compelled to label someone, it covers all types of gender variance, from transvestite to transsexual and everything in between.
As with all complex topics this answer is far from complete, but as a general rule if you meet someone presenting in a way that may lead you to think they’re a transvestite, transsexual or otherwise, I personally wouldn’t jump to conclusions in labelling them. They’re simply another human being with their own understanding of themselves at that time, they certainly shouldn’t be ridiculed. As we all know it takes a lot of courage to be yourself and live true to yourself, especially if you’re a little different from the understood societal norms and especially if you have a social conscience and a desire to get on with life.
Suffice to say transgender issues can be a difficult topic for the general public to properly understand, as most never even question their sex let alone their gender, many think they are one of the same thing. All that said if the general public can understand that transgender people almost always go through at very least some discomfort if not a lot of pain to get to where they are, maybe society can become more acceptant and hopefully understand a little more.