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It is biological. It is being male or female in the reproductive sense. You are a boy/man or a girl/woman. In fact there are many intermediate forms of sex in nature. Even among humans there are a variety of intermediate forms in terms of anatomy, chromosomes, hormones or developmental problems as part of natural variation. It appears that the human brain is also wired differently in males and females.


Refers to a personal sense of identity as masculine or feminine, and how one is seen by society. Most people have no issue with their gender. It correlates with their sex. They accept the role they have been brought up in, without question. Gender however is not bipolar, it is not a black and white choice between 'male' or 'female' stereotyped behaviour or self-perception. There are effeminate men and masculine women, who are content with their gender. Society has expectations of gendered behaviour and the gender roles it expects people to be or adopt are continually evolving.

Transgender People or Trans People

An ‘umbrella’ term which encompasses all those people whose gender identity or gender expression differs in some way from the gender assumptions their society made about them when they were born. Transsexual people are just one of the many different kinds of transgender people.

Gender Dysphoria
Unhappiness or discomfort experienced by someone about their physical body not fully matching their gender identity (that is, their internal sense of where they exist in relation to being a boy/man or girl/woman).

Transsexual People
This term is used to describe someone who consistently self-identifies as the opposite gender from the gender they were labelled at birth based on their physical body. Transsexual people often experience intense gender dysphoria.

Depending on the range of options and information available to them during their life, transsexual people may try to cope in a variety of ways. Many will manage (some while still children, most as young adults and some much later in life) to find a way to transition to live fully in the gender that they self-identify as. Many transsexual people take hormones and some also have surgery to make their physical bodies match their gender identity better.

Female-to-Male [FTM] Transsexual Man [Trans Man]
Is someone who was labelled female at birth but has male gender identity and therefore transitions to live completely and permanently as a man.

Male-to-Female [MTF] Transsexual Woman [Trans Woman]
Is someone who was labelled male at birth but has female gender identity and therefore transitions to live completely and permanently as a woman

Transvestite People / Cross-dressing People
These are terms used to describe people who dress in clothes associated with the opposite gender, as defined by socially
accepted norms, but who are generally happy with their birth gender and do not want to permanently alter the physical characteristics of their bodies.

They may dress as the opposite gender for emotional satisfaction, erotic pleasure, or just because they feel more comfortable doing so. The cross-dressing can provide a pleasant way for them to explore feelings and behaviours associated with the opposite gender.

Although they enjoy the actual periods when they cross-dress, some people can initially find it difficult to come to terms with their desire to cross-dress and may spend a period of time struggling alone with feelings of shame or fear.

In due course, most are able to move beyond these negative feelings and simply enjoy cross-dressing with others at supportive social evenings and occasional weekend events.

Occasionally, a person might spend a period of time thinking they are a transvestite person before realising that actually they feel more like a transsexual person or, vice-versa.

Androgyne People / GenderQueer People / Polygender People
Some people find they do not feel comfortable thinking of themselves as simply either men or women. Instead they feel that their gender identity is more complicated to describe. Some may identify their gender as being some form of combination between a man and a woman, or as being neither.

Intersex People

Sometimes a person’s external genitals, their internal reproductive system or their chromosomes are in between what is considered clearly male or female. People born with these kinds of physical variations are often referred to as intersex people and there are many different intersex conditions.


Copyright Sandyford Transwomen Support Group 2009