What Does Transsexual Mean?

Transitioning Away From the Term "Transexual"

Almost 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender. That's a pretty big number, yet so many of us still don't know what term to use when we're talking about people who don't fit into the male or female gender binary. That's partly because language shifts over the years. Some terms become outdated and fall by the wayside while others are born. 

Not too long ago, it was common to hear people discuss being "transsexual." But what does transsexual mean? This term was often used to refer to a person wanted to surgically or hormonally make their bodies align with their gender identities. But while some people still claim this identity, more and more are moving away from it. There are a few reasons for that.

Reasons to Lose the Term "Transsexual" 

The term transsexual has some negative connotations. It's more body-focused in many ways, and for many people, their bodies are just one part of their gender identities, which also include the feeling or conviction that we're male, female, transgender, non-binary or agender. 

But we also have so many new terms, and this is another reason the term "transsexual" is falling from popularity. We have transgender, genderqueer, gender non-binary, gender non-conforming, and agender. , A lot of people feel that they want to or need to be limited to older terms when all these are now available and applicable. 

Are Being Transsexual, Transgender or Non-Binary the Same Thing?

All these terms have to do with gender identity, but there are some differences between identifying as transsexual, transgender and gender non-binary.

The term transsexual is often still associated with transitions of the body, which may involve gender confirmation surgery or hormones. "Transgender" is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from that which is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Sometimes the term "non-binary" is also used as an umbrella term that can include people who are genderqueer, agender and genderfluid. But non-binary can also be an identity of its own.

Gender Identity is a Personal Thing

Our gender identities are really personal. Many things contribute to the formation of gender identity, including society, family and factors that are in place before birth. But understanding the range of gender possibilities can go a long way in helping to understand the gender spectrum.

How we choose to identity and the terms we use to describe these identities can differ for a range of reasons. Sometimes new language replaces old. Sometimes the old language lingers on. It's fine to begin by identifying in one way, such as by saying, "I'm transsexual," then realize that a different term is a better fit. You might then end up saying, ("Actually, I'm genderqueer," and that's OK. 

Many people identify along clear male or female divisions, but plenty of others do not. Acknowledging the range of ways that individuals can experience gender can help affirm people's identities, and it's also just a more accurate way to understand gender.