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Transsexual (also Transexual, occasionally Trans-Sexual), when used as a noun, refers to an individual whose gender identity is in conflict with his or her sex at birth, and who often seeks Transition and/or Sex Reassignment Surgery to resolve the issue.

The term is also used as an adjective.


History of the term

The earliest documented use of a similar term appears to be "Transsexualismus", a noun denoting the condition, by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld in various clinical publications in the 1920s. This was translated into English as "Transexualism" in subsequent years.

The double-S spelling is attributed to Harry Benjamin, first used in the 1960s.

Use of the term

The term, particularly when used in the first person, as a label of identity, is falling out of popularity. Although some desire for this term to transition from a noun to an adjective, in vernacular speech, it is used most commonly, often with modifying adjectives, as a noun.

Many now insist, sometimes quite vehemently and defensively, that the term is not to be used in the second or third person to refer to them.

There is no agreed-upon replacement term for the term transsexual as a first-person label of identity.

Defining the term

The typical dictionary definition of the term, intended for individuals unfamiliar with the subject, would be along the line of: "A person who desires to assume the anatomical characteristics and gender role of the opposite sex or a person who has undergone surgical and other treatment for this purpose."

Clinical definition

The term has various explicit as well as imprecise clinical definitions appearing in various publications. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association uses the term Gender Dysphoria, a term previously considered anachronistic, to denote the condition previously known as Gender Identity Disorder and sometimes referred to as Transsexuality.

Use of the term in the Community

In vernacular usage, the term is still frequently used and often modified with various adjectives to refine and define exactly what the person using the term is expressing, including:

  • "True Transsexual" - A term which does have clinical meanings, but is used informally to indicate an individual who is a bona fide subject of gender dysphoria and is pursuing or sincerely considering transition. This term is used to differentiate the sincere and genuine subject of the condition from one who casually adopts the term as a self-identity or one who states pursuit of transition for frivolous reasons.
  • "Pre-Op Transsexual" - A transsexual (of any definition) who has not has Sex Reassignment Surgery but intends to, or states to intend to, in the future.
  • "Post-Op Transsexual" - An individual who has completed Sex Reassignment Surgery and may or may not have transitioned in society. Some, quite defensively, insist that this term is meaningless, and that those who have completed SRS and transition should be though of as women (or men) with no reference to transsexualism.
  • "No-Op" or "Non-Op" Transsexual - An individual who has adopted "Transsexual" as a self-identity but chooses to forgo the surgical procedures.
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