Origin of the Word “Transgender”

Where does the word ‘Transgender’ come from?

I have had a request to explain the history behind the use of the word ‘transgender’ from Chad (hi sweetie 😉 and so I am going to attempt to explain it as best I can.  The word itself can be split into 2 pieces ‘trans’—meaning ‘beyond’—and ‘gender’—which define our different physical characteristics in terms of sexuality.

origin-of-transgenderSo, to be a ‘trans’ person — either transgender, transsexual, transvestite means that you are beyond the simplistic ‘pigeonhole’ that people usually define themselves (as in male or female) and you have ‘transcended’ (haha, pun intended) the norm. The word ‘Transsexualism’ first appeared around 1965 when a psychiatrist called John Oliven, from Columbia University, coined the word in explanation of a mutable state of transgenderism, comparing it somewhat unfairly to transvestism or cross-dressing.

After 1969 the word was applied to many of the words we now associate with crossing dressing, gender dysmorphic, gender identity, sexual identity and many ‘beyond’ terms.  Many people have issues with the differences between all the ‘trans’ words because they can be quite confusing in their similarity.

In my dating guide I have sort of laid out the varying differences between the physical aspects, but just to explain briefly, ‘transsexual’ relates to a person who might feel that they were born into the wrong body and they feel the desire to accomplish life in the body or appearance of the sexual identity they should have begun life with.

‘Transgender’ has evolved to become a sort of blanket term to describe a wide variety of people on the gender continuum. Transgender can also refer to a ‘transsexual’ person but, someone who identifies as ‘transgender’ may not share the same feelings toward their physical body as a transsexual person. They may just prefer to appear as the opposite gender in the way they dress, but they will be ‘ok’ with who they are physically (although levels of each individual do vary).

A ‘transvestite’ is a man who prefers to dress as a woman, usually in private or in secret, but may be a straight, married man with kids. He could also be a transsexual who is as yet undecided about their physical future. More recently, the term ‘crossdresser’ or ‘cross dresser’ has been gaining favor, as the term transvestite is seen by many as having a derogatory connotation.

‘Drag queens’ are often gay men who like dressing up, but are not necessarily transsexual or contemplating surgery. Drag queens are often overlooked on the gender continuum or are frequently miscategorized as transvestites or transsexuals.

It really is a very odd dynamic and extremely hard to pigeonhole everyone into the mainstream categories as created by our modern society. As a transsexual person myself, I prefer to not use labels and therefore I call myself a T-Girl. While I personally don’t refer to myself as a ‘shemale’ I know others who use that term and, others again who don’t like it because it is associated with porn and sex workers.  So, again, it’s a personal preference and the history of all the ‘trans’ words have resulted in society’s need to psychologically compartmentalize every person. You might think that’s unfair. I know I do.

Check back on my next blog to follow soon, and meanwhile, if you have a question you want me to answer, let me know via my personal blog or my Facebook page and I will try to address them!

~ Amber Lynn

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