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Classification and external resources
Specialty psychiatry
ICD-10 F64.0
MedlinePlus 001527
MeSH D014189
A trans woman with the letters "XY" written on her palm

Transsexual people experience a gender identity inconsistent or not culturally associated with their assigned sex, i.e. in which a person's assigned sex at birth conflicts with their psychological gender. A medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria can be made if a person expresses a desire to live and be accepted as a member of their identified sex,[1] or if a person experiences impaired functioning or distress as a result of their gender identification.[2]

Transsexual people are stigmatized in many parts of the world, though some cultures have historically embraced gender diverse people. Transsexual people have become more widely known in Western culture since the mid to late 20th century, concurrently with the sexual revolution and the development of sex reassignment surgery and cross-sex hormones (HRT - Hormone Replacement Therapy).

Medical diagnosis[edit]

Transsexualism appears in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD, currently in its tenth edition). The ICD-10 incorporates transsexualism, dual role transvestism, and gender identity disorder of childhood into its gender identity disorder category. It defines transsexualism as "[a] desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one's anatomic sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one's body as congruent as possible with one's preferred sex."[3]

Historically, transsexualism has also been included in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). With the DSM-5, transsexualism was removed as a diagnosis, and a diagnosis of gender dysphoria was created in its place. This change was made to reflect the consensus view by members of the APA that transsexuality is not in and of itself a disorder and that transsexual people should not be stigmatized unnecessarily.[4] By including a diagnosis for gender dysphoria, transsexual people are still able to access medical care through the process of transition.

Similarly, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has recommended the removal of transsexualism from the mental health chapter of the upcoming ICD-11, due to be released in 2017.[5]


The current diagnosis for transsexual people who present themselves for psychological treatment is "gender dysphoria" (leaving out those who have sexual identity disorders without gender concerns). According to the Standards Of Care formulated by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH),[6][7] formerly the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, this diagnostic label is often necessary to obtain sex reassignment therapy with health insurance coverage, and states that the designation of gender identity disorders as mental disorders is not a license for stigmatization, or for the deprivation of gender patients' civil rights. However, some people diagnosed with gender identity disorder have no desire for sex reassignment therapy, nor for genital reassignment surgery, and/or are not appropriate candidates for such treatment.

Many transsexual people have asked the World Health Organization to remove it from ICD-10, where it has been listed for some time. Some believe that at least some mental health professionals are being insensitive by labeling transsexualism as "a disease", rather than as an inborn trait, which those who have it believe it to be.[8] The Principles 18 of The Yogyakarta Principles, documents on international human rights law[9] opposes such diagnosis as mental illness as medical abuse, as well as "Activist's Guide to the Yogyakarta Principles".[10]

Relation to gender roles[edit]

Transsexual people may refer to themselves as trans men or trans women. Transsexual people desire to establish a permanent gender role as a member of the gender with which they identify. Many transsexual people pursue medical interventions as part of the process of expressing their gender.

These medically based, physical alterations are collectively referred to as sex reassignment therapy, and may include female-to-male or male-to-female hormone replacement therapy, or various surgeries. Surgeries may include genital surgery such as orchiectomy or sex reassignment surgery; chest surgery such as top surgery or breast augmentation; or, in the case of trans women, facial surgery such as trachea shave or facial feminization surgery. The entire process of switching from one physical sex and social gender presentation to another is often referred to as transition, and usually takes several years.

Not all transsexual people undergo a physical transition. Some find reasons not to, for example, the expense of surgery, the risk of medical complications, medical conditions which make the use of hormones or surgery dangerous. Some may not identify strongly with another binary gender role. Others may find balance at a mid-point during the process, regardless of whether they are binary-identified. Many transsexual people, including binary-identified transsexual people, do not undergo genital surgery, because they are comfortable with their own genitals, or because they are concerned about nerve damage and the potential loss of sexual pleasure and orgasm. This is especially so in the case of trans men, many of whom are dissatisfied with the current state of phalloplasty, which is typically very expensive, not covered by health insurance, and which does not result in a fully erectile, sexually sensate penis.

Some transsexual people live heterosexual lifestyles (see heteronormative), while some identify as gay, lesbian,[11] or bisexual. Many trans people find that a shift occurs in their sexual orientation as they undergo transition.[citation needed] Many transsexual people choose the language of how they refer to their sexual orientation based on their gender identity, not their birth assigned sex,[11] though some transsexual people still find identification with their community: many trans men, for instance, are involved with lesbian communities.


Gender was originally a linguistic term. In many languages, words can be considered masculine, feminine, or neutral, completely independently from the attributes of the things to which the word applies. Different languages manifest gender in various ways, recognizing two genders (female, male), three genders (female, male, neuter), or in some cases none at all. In some (e.g., the Romance languages), variation by gender is indicated by relatively simple changes in nouns and adjectives, while others require more complex grammatical changes. In English, a transsexual person's first step in transition often includes the request to be referred to using pronouns for their target gender (she rather than he, her rather than him, and hers rather than his, or vice versa). Some English speakers[who?] who feel that they are best described as something in between or other than masculine or feminine prefer to use "they" and "them", as well as "ze" and "hir" (examples of gender-neutral pronouns in English) or other invented neutral pronouns.[12]

Norman Haire reported that in 1921,[13] Dora-R of Germany under the care of Magnus Hirschfeld, began surgical transition from 1921, ending in 1930 with a successful genital reassignment surgery. In 1930, Hirschfeld supervised the second genital reassignment surgery to be reported in detail in a peer-reviewed journal on Lili Elbe of Denmark. The German term, "Transsexualismus," was introduced by Hirschfeld in 1923.[14]

The neo-Latin term "psychopathia transexualis" and English "transexual" were introduced by D. O. Cauldwell in 1949,[15] who subsequently also used the term "trans-sexual" in 1950.[16] Cauldwell appears to be the first to use the term to refer to those who desired a change of physiological sex.[17] (In 1969, Benjamin claimed to have been the first to use the term "transsexual" in a public lecture, which he gave in December 1953.[18]) This term continues to be used by the public and medical profession alike.[19] It was included for the first time in the DSM-III in 1980 and again in the DSM-III-R in 1987, where it was located under Disorders Usually First Evident in Infancy, Childhood or Adolescence.

Christine Jorgensen created an international sensation when in 1952 she was the first widely known person to have sex reassignment surgery—in this case, male to female.

The word transsexual was used by Harry Benjamin in his seminal 1966 book, The Transsexual Phenomenon, to describe transsexual people on a scale (later called the "Benjamin scale") that recognizes three levels of intensity of transsexualism: "Transsexual (nonsurgical)", "Transsexual (moderate intensity)", and "Transsexual (high intensity)".[20][21][22] In his book, Benjamin described "true" transsexualism as the following:

"True transsexuals feel that they belong to the other sex, they want to be and function as members of the opposite sex, not only to appear as such. For them, their sex organs, the primary (testes) as well as the secondary (penis and others) are disgusting deformities that must be changed by the surgeon's knife."[23]

Benjamin suggested that moderate intensity male to female transsexual people may benefit from estrogen medication as a "substitute for or preliminary to operation."[20] Some people have had SRS but do not meet the common definition of a transsexual (e.g., Gregory Hemingway).[24][25] Other people do not desire SRS although they meet Dr. Benjamin's definition of a "true transsexual".[26]

Beyond Benjamin's work, which focused on male-to-female transsexual people, there are cases of the female to male transsexual, for whom genital surgery may not be practical. Benjamin gave certifying letters to his MTF transsexual patients that stated 'Their anatomical sex, that is to say, the body, is male. Their psychological sex, that is to say, the mind, is female'. Beyond 1967 Benjamin abandoned his early terminology and adopted that of "gender identity."[11]

Relation to transgender identities[edit]

Transsexualism is often included within the broader category of transgender identities, an umbrella category for people who do not conform to typical gender roles. It includes cross-dressers, transvestites, and people who identify as genderqueer. Transsexualism refers to a specific condition in the transgender realm. Although an individual who crossdresses and an individual who identifies as transsexual are both classified as transgender people, their identities differ radically.[27][28] Though some people use transgender and transsexual interchangeably, they are not synonymous terms.[29]

The term transsexual originated in the medical and psychological communities, and is an older term than transgender. Many prefer the term transgender and consider transsexual to be outdated and derogatory, due to its roots in describing the identity as a disease.[30] Additionally, transsexual is considered a misnomer by some people because the underlying condition is related to gender identity and not sexuality.[31] Others prefer to identify as transsexual, and object to being included in the transgender spectrum. Anthropologist David Valentine provides context for this objection in his 2007 book Transgender, an Ethnography of a Category.[32] He writes that transgender is a term coined and used by activists to include many people who do not necessarily identify with the term. He observes that many current health clinics and services set up to serve gender-variant communities employ the term, but that most of the service-seekers do not identify with this term. The rejection of this political category, first coined by self-identified activist Leslie Feinberg, illustrates the difference between a self-identifier and categories imposed by observers to understand other people.[33] However, these observations are contested by the Transgender Health Program at Fenway Health in Boston.[31] They note that there are no universally accepted definitions, and terminology confusion is common because terms that were popular in at the turn of the 21st century may now be deemed offensive. They suggest that transgender is the more widely accepted term. They recommend that clinicians avoid the term transsexual unless they are sure that a client is comfortable with it. It is best to ask an individual which term, if any, is preferred.

Historically the reason that transsexual people rejected associations with the transgender or broader LGBT community is largely that the medical community in the 1950s through the late 1980s encouraged this rejection of such a grouping in order to qualify as a 'true transsexual' who would thus be allowed to access medical and surgical care. The animosity that is present today is no longer fed by this same kind of pressure from the medical community.[34]

Though the beliefs of some modern-day transsexual people that they are not "transgender" reflect this historical division, other transsexual people state that those who do not seek SRS are very different from those who need to be of "the other sex", and that these groups have different issues and concerns and are not doing the same things.[22] The latter view is rather contested, with opponents pointing out that merely having or not having some medical procedures hardly can have such far-reaching consequences as to put those who have them and those who have not into such distinctive categories. Notably Harry Benjamin's original definition of transsexualism does not require that they need to have had SRS.[20]


The word "transsexual" is most often used as an adjective rather than a noun – a "transsexual person" rather than simply "a transsexual". Transsexual people prefer to be referred to by the gender pronouns and terms associated with their target gender. For example, a transsexual man is a person who was assigned the female sex at birth on the basis of his genitals but, despite that assignment, identifies as a man and is transitioning or has transitioned to a male gender role. He has or will have a masculine body. Transsexual people are sometimes referred to with "assigned-to-target" sex terms such as "female-to-male" for a transsexual man or "male-to-female" for a transsexual woman. These terms may be abbreviated as "M2F", "F2M", "MTF", "FTM", "F to M", etc.

Individuals who have undergone and completed sex reassignment surgery (SRS) are sometimes referred to as transsexed individuals;[35] however, the term transsexed is not to be confused with the term transexual, which can also refer to individuals who have not yet undergone SRS, and whose anatomical sex (still) does not match their psychological sense of personal gender identity.

Alternative terminology[edit]

The term "gender dysphoria" and "gender identity disorder" were not used until the 1970s,[19] when Laub and Fisk published several works on transsexualism using these terms.[36][37] "Transsexualism" was replaced in the DSM-IV by "gender identity disorder in adolescents and adults".

Male-to-female transsexualism has sometimes been called "Harry Benjamin's Syndrome" after the endocrinologist who pioneered the study of dysphoria.[38] As noted above, the present-day medical study of gender variance is much broader than Benjamin's early description.[11] Use of this term has been criticized for delegitimizing gender-variant people with different experiences.[39][40]


The DSM-IV (1994) says that roughly 1 in 30,000 assigned males and 1 in 100,000 assigned females seek sex reassignment surgery in the US. The most frequently quoted estimate of prevalence is from the Amsterdam Gender Dysphoria Clinic[41] The data, spanning more than four decades in which the clinic has treated roughly 95% of Dutch transsexual clients, gives figures of 1:10,000 among assigned males and 1:30,000 among assigned females. Though no direct studies on the prevalence of GID have been done, a variety of clinical papers published in the past 20 years provide estimates ranging from 1:7,400 to 1:42,000 in assigned males and 1:30,040 to 1:104,000 in assigned females.[42]

Olyslager and Conway presented a paper[43] at the WPATH 20th International Symposium (2007) arguing that the data from their own and other studies actually imply much higher prevalence, with minimum lower bounds of 1:4,500 male-to-female transsexual people and 1:8,000 female-to-male transsexual people for a number of countries worldwide. They estimate the number of post-op women in the US to be 32,000 and obtain a figure of 1:2500 male-to-female transsexual people. They further compare the annual incidences of SRS and male birth in the U.S. to obtain a figure of 1:1000 MTF transsexual people and suggest a prevalence of 1:500 extrapolated from the rising rates of SRS in the U.S. and a "common sense" estimate of the number of undiagnosed transsexual people.

Olyslager and Conway also argued that the U.S. population of assigned males having already undergone reassignment surgery by the top three U.S. SRS surgeons alone is enough to account for the entire transsexual population implied by the 1:10,000 prevalence number. This excludes all other U.S. SRS surgeons, surgeons in countries such as Thailand, Canada, and others, and the high proportion of transsexual people who have not yet sought treatment, suggesting that a prevalance of 1:10,000 is too low.

A study in 2008 examined the number of New Zealand passport holders who changed the sex on their passport and estimated that 1:3,639 birth-assigned males and 1:22,714 birth-assigned females were transsexual.[44]

A presentation at the LGBT Health Summit in Bristol, UK,[45] based upon figures from a number of reputable European and UK sources, shows that this population is increasing rapidly (14% per year) and that the mean age of transition is actually rising.


Psychological and biological causes for transsexualism have been proposed, i.a. by professor Dick Swaab, with evidence leaning toward prenatal and genetic causes.[46][47][48] One such proposed cause is related to the bed nucleus of a stria terminalis, or BSTc, a constituent of the basal ganglia of the brain which is affected by prenatal androgens.[49] In one study, the BSTc of male-to-female transsexual women was similar to those of cisgender women whose psychological gender identity and assigned sex are the same. However, those of both heterosexual and homosexual men were similar to each other but different from those of women (both cis- and transsexual).[47] Another study suggests that transsexuality may have a genetic component.[50] There is considerable evidence that prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting anti-miscarriage drugs such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) may also be positively associated with transsexualism, though research in this area has yet to establish a firm causal link.[51][52][53][54]

Some people consider research into the "causes" of transsexualism to be based on the possibility that it is a pathology, a possibility that is rejected by many transsexual people.[citation needed] Others think of the condition as a form of intersex, and support research into possible causes, believing that it will verify the theory of a biological origin and thereby reduce social stigma by demonstrating that it is not a delusion, a political statement, or a paraphilia. Note that social stigma has a role to play in the development of and adherence to both viewpoints. See the transfeminism article's section on GID for further discussion.

Harry Benjamin wrote, "Summarizing my impression, I would like to repeat here what I said in my first lecture on the subject more than 10 years ago: Our genetic and endocrine equipment constitutes either an unresponsive, sterile, or a more or less responsive, that is to say, fertile soil on which the wrong conditioning and a psychic trauma can grow and develop into such a basic conflict that subsequently a deviation like transsexualism can result."[55]

Sex reassignment therapy[edit]

Sex reassignment therapy (SRT) is an umbrella term for all medical treatments related to sex reassignment of both transgender and intersex people. Though SRT is sometimes called "gender reassignment", those who use the word "sex" to describe an individual's biology and "gender" to describe their personal identity and social role consider this usage to be misleading. The process of changing from one gender presentation to another is often called transition.

Individuals make different choices regarding sex reassignment therapy, which can include hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to modify secondary sex characteristics, sex reassignment surgery to alter primary sex characteristics, facial feminization surgery and permanent hair removal for trans women. Transsexual people who transition usually change their social gender roles, legal names and legal sex designation.

To obtain sex reassignment therapy, transsexual people are generally required to undergo a psychological evaluation and receive a diagnosis of gender identity disorder in accordance with the Standards of Care (SOC) as published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.[6] This assessment is usually accompanied by counseling on issues of adjustment to the desired gender role, effects and risks of medical treatments, and sometimes also by psychological therapy. The SOC are intended as guidelines, not inflexible rules, and are intended to ensure that clients are properly informed and in sound psychological health, and to discourage people from transitioning based on unrealistic expectations.

Psychological treatment[edit]

Psychological techniques that attempt to alter gender identity to one considered appropriate for the person's assigned sex are typically ineffective. The widely recognized Standards of Care[7] note that sometimes the only reasonable and effective course of treatment for transsexual people is to go through sex reassignment therapy.[7][56]

The need for treatment is emphasized by the high rate of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and various addictions, as well as a higher suicide rate among untreated transsexual people than in the general population.[57] These problems may be alleviated by a change of gender role and/or physical characteristics.[citation needed]

Many transgender and transsexual activists, and many caregivers, note that these problems are not usually related to the gender identity issues themselves, but the social and cultural responses to gender-variant individuals. Some transsexual people reject the counseling that is recommended by the Standards of Care[7] because they don’t consider their gender identity to be a cause of psychological problems.

Brown and Rounsley[58] noted that "[s]ome transsexual people acquiesce to legal and medical expectations in order to gain rights granted through the medical/psychological hierarchy." Legal needs such as a change of sex on legal documents, and medical needs, such as sex reassignment surgery, are usually difficult to obtain without a doctor and/or therapist's approval. Because of this, some transsexual people feel coerced into affirming outdated concepts of gender to overcome simple legal and medical hurdles (Brown 107).

Medical aspects[edit]

After an initial psychological evaluation, men and women may begin medical treatment starting with hormone replacement therapy[7][59] or hormone blockers. People who change sex are usually required to live as members of their target sex for at least one year prior to genital surgery, gaining real-life experience sometimes called the "real-life test" (RLT).[7] Transsexual individuals may undergo some, all, or none of the medical procedures available, depending on personal feelings, health, income, and other considerations. Some people posit that transsexualism is a physical condition, not a psychological issue, and assert that sex reassignment therapy should be given on request. (Brown 103)

Regrets and detransitions[edit]

People who undergo sex reassignment surgery can develop regret for the procedure later in life, largely due to lack of support from family or peers, with data from the 1990s suggesting a rate of 3.8%.[60][61] A review of Medline literature suggests the total rate of patients expressing feelings of doubt or regret is estimated to be as high as 8%.[62] In a 2001 study of 232 MTF patients who underwent GRS with Dr. Toby Meltzer, none of the patients reported complete regret and only 6% reported partial or occasional regrets.[63] An issue reported by some is the inability to find sexual partners.

Legal and social aspects[edit]

Poland's Anna Grodzka[64] is the first transsexual MP in the history of Europe to have had sex reassignment surgery.[65]

Laws regarding changes to the legal status of transsexual people are different from country to country. Some jurisdictions allow an individual to change their name, and sometimes, their legal gender, to reflect their gender identity. Within the US, some states allow amendments or complete replacement of the original birth certificates.[66] Some states seal earlier records against all but court orders in order to protect the transsexual person's privacy.

In many places, it is not possible to change birth records or other legal designations of sex, although changes are occurring. Estelle Asmodelle’s book documented her struggle to change the Australian birth certificate and passport laws, although there are other individuals who have been instrumental in changing laws and thus attaining more acceptance for transsexual people in general.

Medical treatment for transsexual and transgender people is available in most Western countries. However, transsexual and transgender people challenge the "normative" gender roles of many cultures and often face considerable hatred and prejudice. The film Boys Don't Cry chronicles the case of Brandon Teena, a transsexual man who was raped and murdered after his status was discovered. The project Remembering Our Dead, founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, archives numerous cases of transsexual and transgender people being murdered.[67] In the United States, November 20 has been set aside as the "Day of Remembrance" for all murdered transgender people.[68]

Jurisdictions allowing changes to birth records generally allow trans people to marry members of the opposite sex to their gender identity and to adopt children. Jurisdictions which prohibit same sex marriage often require pre-transition marriages to be ended before they will issue an amended birth certificate.[citation needed]

Health-practitioner manuals, professional journalistic style guides, and LGBT advocacy groups advise the adoption by others of the name and pronouns identified by the person in question, including present references to the transgender or transsexual person's past.[69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77][78][79][80] Family members and friends who may be confused about pronoun usage or the definitions of sex are commonly instructed in proper pronoun usage, either by the transsexual person or by professionals or other persons familiar with pronoun usage as it relates to transsexual people. Sometimes transsexual people have to correct their friends and family members many times before they begin to use the transsexual person's desired pronouns consistently. Deliberate mis-gendering is perceived[by whom?] to be a form of transphobia.

Both "transsexualism" and "gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments" are specifically excluded from coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act Section 12211.[81] Gender dysphoria is not excluded.[82]

Coming out[edit]

Employment issues[edit]

Transsexual people can have difficulty maintaining employment. Most find it necessary to remain employed during transition in order to cover the costs of living and transition. However, employment discrimination against trans people is rampant and many of them are fired when they come out or are involuntarily outed at work.[83] Transsexual people must decide whether to transition on-the-job,[84] or to find a new job when they make their social transition. Other stresses that transsexual people face in the workplace are being fearful of coworkers negatively responding to their transition, and losing job experience under a previous name—even deciding which rest room to use can prove challenging.[85] Finding employment can be especially challenging for those in mid-transition.

Laws regarding name and gender changes in many countries make it difficult for transsexual people to conceal their trans status from their employers.[86] Because the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care require a one-year RLE[clarification needed] prior to SRS, some feel this creates a Catch 22 situation which makes it difficult for trans people to remain employed or obtain SRS.

In many countries, laws provide protection from workplace discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression, including masculine women and feminine men. An increasing number of companies are including "gender identity and expression" in their non-discrimination policies.[66][87] Often these laws and policies do not cover all situations and are not strictly enforced. California's anti-discrimination laws protect transsexual persons in the workplace and specifically prohibit employers from terminating or refusing to hire a person based on their transsexuality. The European Union provides employment protection as part of gender discrimination protections following the European Court of Justice decisions in P v S and Cornwall County Council.[88]

In the National Transgender Transgender Discrimination Survey, 44% of respondents reported not getting a job they applied for because of being transgender.[89] 36% of trans women reported losing a job due to discrimination compared to 19% of trans men.[89] 54% of trans women and 50% of trans men report having been harassed in the workplace.[89] Transgender people who have been fired due to bias are more than 34 times likely than members of the general population to attempt suicide.[89]


Many transsexual men and women choose to live completely as members of their gender without disclosing details of their birth-assigned sex. This approach is sometimes called stealth. Stealthy transsexual people choose not to disclose their past for numerous reasons, including fear of discrimination and fear of physical violence.[90] There are examples of people having been denied medical treatment upon discovery of their trans status, whether it was revealed by the patient or inadvertently discovered by the doctors.[91]

Stealth transsexual people are occasionally criticized, both by people within the trans community for failing to act as role models, and by some trans-phobic cissexual people for being "deceptive".

In the media[edit]

Nina Poon, a transsexual model who has appeared in Kenneth Cole ads, at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

Transsexualism was discussed in the mass media as long ago as the 1930s. The American magazine Time in 1936 devoted an article to what it called "hermaphrodites", treating the subject with sensitivity and not sensationalism.[92] It described the call by Avery Brundage, who led the American team to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, that a system be established to examine female athletes for "sex ambiguities"; two athletes changed sex after the Games.

Before transsexual people were depicted in popular movies and television shows, Aleshia Brevard — an actual transsexual whose surgery took place in 1962 — was actively working as an actress and model in Hollywood and New York throughout the 1960s and '70s. Aleshia never portrayed a transsexual person, though she appeared in eight Hollywood produced films, on most of the popular variety shows of the day including The Dean Martin Show, and was a regular on The Red Skelton Show and One Life to Live before returning to University to teach Drama and Acting.[93][94]

Thomas Harris's Silence of the Lambs included a serial killer who considered himself a transsexual. After being turned down for sex reassignment surgery due to not meeting necessary psychological evaluations, he then harvested female bodies to make a feminine suit. In the novel, it is noted that the character is not actually a transsexual; this distinction is made only briefly in the film.[95]

In film[edit]

Films depicting transgender issues include: Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, The World According to Garp, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, All About My Mother and The Crying Game. The film Different for Girls is notable for its depiction of a transsexual woman who meets up with, and forms a romantic relationship with, her former best friend from her all-male boarding school. Ma Vie en Rose portrays a six-year-old child who is gender variant. The film Wild Zero features Kwancharu Shitichai, a transsexual Thai actor. When the main character is conflicted about falling in love with a "woman who is also a man", Guitar Wolf tells him "Love knows no race, nationality or gender!"

Although Better Than Chocolate is primarily about the romance of two lesbians, a subplot in the 1999 Canadian film has Judy (Peter Outerbridge), a trans woman with a crush on Frances (Ann-Marie MacDonald), the owner of a lesbian bookstore. Within the film has a few scenes showing how Judy loses her parents who are unable to accept her, and buy her off with a bye forever present in purchasing a home for her.

Southern Comfort is a 2001 documentary by filmmaker Katie Davis, which follows the final months of the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual living in Georgia. Eads was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and rejected for treatment by over two dozen doctors due to his transsexuality. The documentary follows Eads and several of his closest friends, a support group of transsexual southerners known as "Southern Comfort". The documentary won several awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, First Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, and the Special Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival.[96]

Two notable films depict transphobic violence based on true events: Soldier's Girl (about the relationship between Barry Winchell and Calpernia Addams, and Winchell's subsequent murder) and Boys Don't Cry (about Brandon Teena's murder). Calpernia Addams has appeared in numerous movies and television shows, including the 2005 movie Transamerica, in which Felicity Huffman portrays a transsexual woman.[97]

In fall 2005, the Sundance Channel aired a documentary series known as TransGeneration. This series focused on four transsexual college students, including two trans women and two trans men, in various stages of transition.[98] In February 2006, Logo aired Beautiful Daughters, a documentary film about the first all-trans cast of The Vagina Monologues, which included Addams, Lynn Conway, Andrea James, and Leslie Townsend.[99] Also in 2006, Lifetime aired a movie biography on the murder of "Eddie"/"Gwen" Araujo called A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story.

In television[edit]

Transsexual people have also been depicted in popular television shows. In part of the first season of the 1970s t.v. comedy series, Soap, Billy Crystal plays Jodie Dallas, a gay man who is about to undergo a sex change in order to legally marry his male lover, who breaks off the relationship just before the surgery. In Just Shoot Me!, David Spade's character meets up with his childhood male friend, who has transitioned to living as a woman. After initially being frightened, he eventually forms sexual attraction to his friend, but is scorned, as he is 'not her type'. In an episode of Becker Dr. Becker gets an out-of-town visit from an old friend who turns out to have undergone SRS, it plays out very similar to the situations in Just Shoot Me!. In a 1980s episode of The Love Boat, McKenzie Phillips portrays a trans woman who is eventually accepted as a friend by her old high school classmate, series regular Fred Grandy. In the 1970s on The Jeffersons, George's Navy buddy Eddie shows up as Edie and is eventually accepted by George.

Dramas including Law & Order and Nip/Tuck have had episodes featuring transsexual characters and actresses. While in Nip/Tuck the role was played by a non-transsexual woman, in Law & Order some were played by professional cross-dressers. Without a Trace and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have had episodes dealing with violence against transsexual characters. Many transsexual actresses and extras appeared on the CSI episode, "Ch-Ch-Changes," including Marci Bowers and Calpernia Addams.[100] The trans woman victim, Wendy, was played by Sarah Buxton, a cisgender woman. Candis Cayne, a transsexual actress, appeared in CSI: NY as a transsexual character. From 2007 to 2008, she also portrayed a transsexual character (this time recurring) in the ABC series Dirty Sexy Money.

Hit & Miss is a drama about Mia, played by Chloë Sevigny, a preop transsexual woman who works as a contract killer and discovers she fathered a son.

There's Something About Miriam was a 2003 reality television show. It featured six men wooing 21-year-old Mexican model Miriam without revealing that she was a pre-operative trans woman until the final episode.

"Coronation Street" once had a transsexual woman named Hayley, who was Harold in her childhood. She died on 20 January 2014.

In pageantry[edit]

Since 2004, with the goal of crowning the top transsexual of the world, a beauty pageant by the name of The World's Most Beautiful Transsexual Contest was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant accepted pre-operation and post-operation trans women, but required proof of their gender at birth. The winner of the 2004 pageant was a woman named Mimi Marks.

Jenna Talackova, the 23-year-old woman who forced Donald Trump and his Miss Universe Canada pageant to end its ban on transgender contestants, competed in the pageant on May 19, 2012 in Toronto.[101]

On Saturday, January 12, 2013, Kylan Arianna Wenzel was the first transgender woman allowed to compete in a Miss Universe Organization pageant since Donald Trump changed the rules to allow women like Wenzel to enter officially. Miss Wenzel was the first transgender woman to compete in a Miss Universe Organization pageant since officials disqualified 23-year-old Miss Canada Jenna Talackova the previous year after learning she was transgender.[102][103]


Transgender researcher and activist Prempreeda Pramoj Na Ayutthaya claims that there is notable discrimination against transsexual people in relation to education and job opportunities in Thailand.[104] An article in Bangkok Post in 2013, claims that there is societal discrimination against transsexuals in Thailand.[105] An editorial in Bangkok Post in 2013, said "Yet it is also true that we don't find transgenders as high-ranking officials, doctors, lawyers, scientists, or teachers in state-run schools and colleges. Nor as executives in the corporate world. In short, the doors of government agencies and large corporations are still closed to transgender women. It is why they must be self-employed or work as freelancers."[106] Thai law does not give "post-operation" male-to-female transexual people—who are government employees—the right to wear female uniforms at work.[107]

In 2013 Bangkok Post said that Jetsada "Note" Taesombat, coordinator of the Thai Transgender Alliance, "believes it is crucial for transgender men and women to be legally recognised as part of society. At present, they are legally identified as their sex at birth. 'Transgender men and women also want the civil partnership law to pass, since gender recognition is the most important issue. To legalise same-sex civil partnerships would mean that we, as people with sexual diversity, can finally be recognised legally. The most important thing for me and for everyone is to be accepted as part of society,' Note says."[108]

A 2014 Bangkok Post article said that a Mayathom 1 [grade school] textbook had been criticized for discrimination and lack of gender sensitivity, because the textbook denoted transgender people as gender confusionkhon long pate,[109] and illustrations in the textbook "feature performances by transgender dancers".[109] The word long "has negative connotations. Transgender or kham pate is more suitable".[109] It was reported that Officials at the Education Ministry would look into the matter.[109]

A 2014 Bangkok Post article said that LGBT "still face discrimination affecting their social rights and job opportunities", according to a report by US Agency for International Development—and the United States Development Programme".[110] Furthermore LGBT "still face difficulty gaining acceptance for non-traditional sexuality, even though the tourism authority has been promoting Thailand as a gay-friendly country".[110] Furthermore "transgendered people cannot change identity papers, and male-to-female transgender people still have to perform military service".[110] Furthermore "examples of inequality among LGBT"[110] include the case of "a hospital which refused to allow a transexual to stay in a woman's ward, even though she had undergone sexual reassignment surgery". (The report was "prepared and researched over two years", and it "is part of the project, 'Being LGBT in Asia'—a project also held "in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam".[110])

In 2015 ILO researcher Busakorn Suriyasarn said that "Despite transgenders’ educational qualifications, they are barred access to full-time positions, executive positions or work promotions in both the public and private sectors".[111] “Repeated refusals from employment discourage them from trying to engage in the professional world further. They are often discouraged from entering the job market or the professional world because they have been refused on the basis of their gender identity. "Different treatment in the workplace also cuts their careers short because they cannot withstand daily discrimination and humiliation.” Her "research interviews with transgender people revealed a wide range of harassment — verbal, physical and sexual."[111]

History and other cultures[edit]

An apparent transsexual named Elagabalus was the Roman Emperor from 218 to 222.[112][113]

A number of Native American and First Nations cultures have traditional social and ceremonial roles for individuals who do not fit into the usual roles for males and females in that culture. These roles can vary widely between Nations, because gender roles, when they exist at all, also vary considerably among different Native cultures. However, a modern, pan-Indian movement among LGBT Natives, known as Two-Spirit, has emerged in recent years.[114]

Customs and traditions[edit]

Transgender Day of Remembrance[edit]

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is held every year on November 20. This event is held in honor of Rita Hester (killed Nov. 28, 1998), a victim of an anti-transgender hate crime. TDOR serves a number of purposes:

  • memorializes all of those who have been victims of hate crimes and prejudice
  • raises awareness about hate crimes towards the transgender community
  • honor the lost ones and their relatives by expressing respect for each other[115]

Trans March[edit]

The Trans March is one of three protests held in San Francisco, California during "Pride Weekend" during the last weekend of June. Every year people from the transexual community gather in San Francisco, CA to protest social justice and equality for them. In addition, through the march they strive to inspire everyone from the transexual community to come out to an environment where power is shared and where one can feel safe and cared for. The event also hosts comedians, music, and dancing at the park. After parties are often followed after the event.[116]


All About Trans[edit]

Main article: All About Trans

All About Trans is an organization in the UK whose goal is to influence and improve media professionals' understanding and portrayal of transsexual people. They do this by connecting media outlets with members of the transsexual community throughout the UK in order to foster a greater sensitivity toward this group of people.[117] Paris Lees works as a facilitator with this organization and was recognized on The Independent on Sunday's Pink List in 2013 for being the most influential figure in the LGBT community in the UK.[118]

Transgender At Work[edit]

Transgender At Work (TAW) is an organization with a focus on addressing issues in the workplace for transsexual individuals. Its goal is to allow transsexual employees to work productively without feeling as if they must hide an essential part of themselves. This includes addressing such issues as transsexual individuals being excluded from employer health care on the basis of their transsexuality.[119]

National Transgender Advocacy Coalition[edit]

The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition is a lobbying organization in the United States dedicated to preserving the civil rights of transsexual individuals. It began in Virginia in 1999 and held its first lobbying event in 2001. It has no paid employees, but consists of a board of experienced lobbyists and activists.[120]

Renaissance Education Association[edit]

The Renaissance Education Association is a non-profit organization founded in Pennsylvania that is dedicated to providing education and social support regarding transgender issues. This includes providing educational programs, support groups, and resources to community care providers. It also strives to provide personal and educational resources for individuals struggling with issues related to transsexuality and those close to them.[121]

Survivor Project[edit]

Survivor Project is a non-profit organization founded in 1997 that is devoted to assisting intersex and transsexual survivors of domestic and sexual violence. This is done through caring action and education. The Project provides presentations, workshops, and consultation materials to many communities and universities across the United States. It also works to find information regarding the specific issues faced by intersex and transsexual individuals who are victimized. Empowering survivors and allowing them to participate in anti-violence activism is one major philosophy of the organization.[122]

Transgender Law and Policy Institute[edit]

The Transgender Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) was founded by Paisley Currah, Associate Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College. It is dedicated to engaging in effective advocacy for transgender people in our society. The TLPI brings experts together to work on law and policy initiatives designed to advance transgender equality. Their website provides information and resources on legislation, case law, employer and college policies and other resources.They also work with the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in New England.[123]


Trans*topia is section of Youth Resource (a project of Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit organization located in Washington D.C.) designed for the needs of transsexual youth. Their website includes articles about being young and transgender, both personal accounts and scientific articles that are intended to help transgender youth become more informed and comfortable with their sexuality and gender.[124]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]