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Reclaiming Accuracy and Visibility: The Case for Reintroducing 'Transexual' in the Lexicon of Gender


If you haven't been to my One Leader, Two Genders events, you will not have heard me discuss this slide pictured above.


I use this slide to point out three significant pieces of information;

  1. Who is NOT part of the TRANS umbrella

  2. Who is part of the TRANS umbrella

  3. Importance of Acceptance without Understanding ™

In telling the story, I refer to the three TRANS identities I have had throughout my life.


Transvestite - my history as a closeted cross-dresser

Transexual - how I referred to the stage of my surgical transition

Transgender - my current state recognising the history of my transition


Recently I started digging a bit more to find out if I have been using these terms correctly. In 2016 when I came out, I was only introduced to the word Transgender in North America as Transsexual was very much considered a historical term. Once in the UK, the term Transexual entered my lexicon again as I met folks who describe themselves using that term.


The term "transexual" was first used in the early 1900s by Magnus Hirschfeld, a German sexologist. Hirschfeld defined transexuals as "people who strongly desire to live as the opposite sex. They may identify as the opposite sex from the sex assigned at birth and seek medical or surgical treatment to change their sex. Transexuals may also experience gender dysphoria, a feeling of distress or discomfort caused by the incongruence between their gender identity and sex assigned at birth." The term was used for many years but fell out of favour in the 1990s.


There are a few reasons why the term "transexual" fell out of favour. First, the term is seen as being medicalised and pathologising. It implies something is wrong with being transexual when there is nothing wrong with it. Second, the term "transexual" is seen as being too narrow. It only refers to people who strongly desire to live as the opposite sex.


The term "transgender" emerged in the 1990s as more inclusive and affirming. It refers to people whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. As a result, the term "transgender" is more widely used today because it is seen as more inclusive and affirming.

It is accurate to use the term "transsexual" to describe a certain portion of the community, as defined by Hirschfield. It is important to recognize their identity instead of erasing it, as this represents the broad Trans Umbrella. I will include transsexual identities in my language to ensure inclusivity.


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