Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Transgender and Transsexual

Transgender Vs. Transsexual

Transgender and transsexual are interrelated terms but have various distinct characteristics. While a transgender individual may be referred to as transsexual, this can only happen if they wish for a medical operation to change their sex. This makes the two terms a bit confusing, and more often, most people interchange them and use one in place of the other.

However, the two words have characteristics specific to each. This draws the sharp distinction between them. The following are the definitions, possible similarities, and differences between them.


Meaning of Transgender

The term is an umbrella one used to refer to an individual whose gender expression or gender identity differs from their apparent or birth sex. The term is also used to refer to people of the third gender, cross-dressers, bigender, transsexual, genderfluid, non-binary, genderqueer, pangender, and agender.

Even though one is transgender, this is independent of their sexual orientation. This means that a transgender individual may be asexual, bisexual, homosexual, or heterosexual. The individual may also refuse to label their sexual orientation.


Meaning of Transsexual

Transsexual is a term that was coined by David Oliver Cauldwell in 1949. It was popularized in 1966 by Harry Benjamin. This was around the same time when the term transgender was coined and popularized.

Basically, the term transsexual is regarded as a subset of transgender. As such, it is used to refer to a group of people who wish to transition their gender permanently to the one that they identify with. In that sense, they seek medical assistance to change their sexuality. This process is referred to as sex reassignment surgery.

Possible Similarities Between Transgender and Transsexual

Both the transgender and transsexual people are individuals who do not identify with gender and sex constructs that they were born into.

As for sexual orientation, both the transgender and transsexual individuals find this irrelevant. This means that one can be bisexual, gay, lesbian, straight, pansexual, or asexual and still be transgender or transsexual.

Meaning of Transgender Vs. Transsexual

The term transgender refers to a group of persons whose identities differ from what is associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. In short, they defy all societal expectations regarding their gender.

Transsexual, on the other hand, refers to a group of people who experience an inconsistent gender identity. This section of people psychologically and emotionally feel they belong an opposite sex than the one they were born with.

Origin of Transgender Vs. Transsexual

The term transgender was coined by one Psychiatrist of Columbia University. The Psychiatrist, John F. Oliven used the word in 1965 when he was referencing his work “Sexual Hygiene and Pathology”.

Transsexual, on the other hand, was coined by David Oliver Cauldwell in 1949 and popularized in 1966 by Harry Benjamin.

The inclination of Transgenders Vs. Transsexuals

The considerations of transgender individuals are based on an individual’s predisposition or their psychological gender disposition. It is also based on their social expectations that accompany each gender role.

Transsexual, on the other hand, is mostly based on the physical aspects of one’s sex.

Medical Assistance

Transsexual people often believe that one can only be a true transsexual if they undergo medical surgery to change their sex while transgender people do not think such an operation is necessary to be identified as such.

Transgender Vs. Transsexual: Comparison Table

Summary of Transgender Vs. Transsexual

The term transgender is used as an umbrella term that refers to people who have a challenge identifying with their genders. Transsexual, as such, falls under transgender. However, these groups of people are clearly different from each other. Care should be taken while addressing each and interchanging the terms for each other.

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  1. I disagree. I totally realize that there is a gender continuum vs a binary system, which has definitely helped me in acceptance of myself. I would think that those calling for ‘true’ transsexuals are only fooling themselves, as clearly, we are not genetic girls. Girls sure, but a different kind of girl.

    As for the surgery, I think that’s a personal choice. And while I agree that a transgender person will not seek surgery or HRT, I do not believe that having or desiring the surgery qualifies ones as a transsexual. There are plenty of girls who opt for a complete HRT regimen without regard to any future surgery. I have no plans for removing my penis, at the same time I wouldn’t mind it one bit.

    Anyway, food for thought. It’s a crazy world and there are many, many possibilites. Nice article.

    • Can we get more of this please? Can we have people stand up and admit that althougth they may have a more male/female oriented brain (based on the neurotypical stereotypical gender expectations) that their brain deviates from the “neuro norm” and therefore, although they may exhibit characteristics more like the neuro typical girl or boy, they are actually still the sex that they were born with. Can’t more people stand up to the neuro-typical gender norms and say, hey, I’m me, I’m a man, but I wear dresses, I act “girly” etc. Or, hey, I’m a woman, I dress like the typical male. I think and act like a man, but I’m still a woman!!! Gender is sex. Masculinity and Femininity are exhibited in many variations, it doesn’t change your gender or your gender identity, just say I’m not your typical man or woman. We need to stand up to the NT’s and say, it’s okay for a man dressed like a woman to use the men’s restroom, and vice versa. Just quit trying to take the actual sex and birth sex out of the equation, because it’s there, it has meaning.

    • This is simple, a transgender is someone who is one gender but identifies with the opposite gender like me! Transsexual is someone who has sex with the opposite sex of the transition, MTF would mean having sex with men, ftm having sex with women. A transgender can be transsexual or not, but all transsexuals are transgenders. Once you change, it’s your choice. Invert the penis and grow your vagina. You are a woman technically. The rest of the package tells everyone what exactly you are! Make up, hair spray, clothes, and weight loss only does so much. If you act like a man, and look like a woman, you are a man! If you act like a woman, look like a woman, you are a woman. Don’t let anyone ever tell you what you are or not, you know who you are! It is your life, and you have a right to live it the way you want! The younger you start (16-22), the better results with out feminized surgery. I started in my 40’s and now I’m 55 and just getting surgeries to complete the task. It’s wonderful seeing the inside me come out! I love who I am, not what I was! I have 7 children and they all accept me for me, except the oldest daughter, she is coming around, but still has issues with it. Daddy has become a woman, and she just can’t deal with it. My wife is all for it. Now I just wish I had done it sooner!

    • Hit me up Patricia 769 274 4486

  2. I can appreciate the attempt by the article’s author to explain the difference between transgender and transsexual, but I truly believe they have missed the mark.
    As a transsexual woman I have done a ton of reading on the subject and I have have seen countless numbers of counselors, therapists and doctors during my transitions. I am not saying that I’m an expert, I just believe that I have a grasp of what the general consensus of what each term truly means. For me, transgender is a an umbrella term that refers to any person who is born and identified as one particular gender and during the course of their life believes themselves to be or begins to dress or present themselves as the opposite gender. Both biological males and females can be transgender and are identified as MtF (male to female) or FtM (female to male). Now within the transgender category there are several male-to-female sub-categories – crossdresser, transvestite, drag queen, and transsexual among several others. Crossdressers are “usually” heterosexual men who enjoy dressing in female clothing on occasions for fun or relaxation. Transvestites are “typically” interested in dressing as the opposite sex for fetish or sexual pleasure. Drag Queens are men who perform as females for performances and events. Drag Queens are very flamboyant and popular in the gay community. Up to this point the people in these categories only present as female part of the time and do not wish to live as a woman full time 24/7. When it comes to transsexuals, that is where the difference begins. Transsexuals are people who truly want to live and dress as the opposite sex full time. This can include changing their name to reflect a more gender appropriate name. Many transsexuals also wish to change their body to look more female by taking hormones and having surgery. The main point is that transsexuals “usually” have an internal struggle with their gender identity that can only be resolved by becoming their true gender and living their life in that gender.
    Not all transsexuals have surgery and not all transsexuals are able to proceed with transition from one gender to another. However the key aspect of trans-sexuality is the internal struggle with gender identity: the gender that you were assigned at birth v.s. the gender you feel you identify with.

    Again, I don’t claim to be an expert. This is just my take on the topic, which I feel i have a firm grasp on since I am currently going through transition. Take it for what it’s worth.

    • thanks a lot. First reply that made sense to me. thanks.

      • Thanks! You have no idea how much your explanation helped me since I have a younger brother who is Homosexual and I’m taking a human sexuality course at the university to be able to understand my brother better and support him.
        Thanks again 🙂

        • Alejandra, good for you for wanting to support your brother. I hope your human sexuality course is providing you with the information you need.
          I would like to make one more point though. You mentioned that your younger brother was homosexual, yet you commented on an article about transgender and transsexual terminology. So I’m not exactly sure if you are assuming he is transgender or if you are just getting as much info as possible. But please keep in mind that gender identity (whether you identify as male or female) does not really have any significant connection to sexual orientation (whether you are attracted to men or women or both). If your brother is gay, that doesn’t mean that he would like to become a woman. If he truly believes that he is a woman born with a male body, then you could consider her a transsexual, no matter who she was attracted too.

          It can be confusing for most people, especially if they are new to the whole idea of gender identity. Good luck to both of you, as long as you are there for each other, I’m sure things will work out for the best.

    • Very nice exaplanation. Thanks.

    • I like your response. May I suggest that where you have used the word “gender” that you consider using instead the word “sex,”
      as in an anatomical transition from man to woman (or woman to man) does, in fact, result in a change in sex as well as gender identity.

      B. T-M.

      • Hi Bill,
        Thanks for the suggestion. I can see how my interchangeable use of the terms gender and sex can be problematic. Though I don’t think a straight swap would work either. I believe the best solution would be to have said “any person who is born one anatomical sex (ie. male) and assigned the corresponding gender (ie. male) at birth but during the course of their life begins to identify as or begins to dress/present themselves as the opposite gender (ie. female).”

        Also, if a transsexual person chooses not to change their anatomy or is unable to for whatever reason, we should still refer to them as the sex and gender that they identify as, regardless of their current genital configuration.

        Finally, another indication that gender is more appropriate term is the fact that the transitional surgery (formerly known as sex reassignment surgery) is now becoming more popularly know as gender reassignment surgery or even gender confirmation surgery.

        In any case, gender vs sex could definitely use its own “Difference Between…” page.


  3. These terms are more maligned than just about any other words in the english language. People adopt a term as a self descriptor, and then twist the term to fit themselves, and then tell everyone else what this term means, which then perpetuates subjective versions of the terms, etc. And this occurs so much, and for so long, that it creates an almost organic shifting range of social contexts for the labels. So, back to basics…

    Transgender is a relatively undefined term, which most often is used as a blanket term for transsexuals, transvestites, gender benders, drag queens, and ‘other’… in all their assorted flavors, and anyone in between. It is an umbrella term which encompasses transvestism. Then again, definitions vary, wildly. So the whole idea of comparing transvestism vs transgenderism is… kind of a mess. So instead lets compare transsexualism and transvestism, which I believe is the actual intent of the article above.

    Transsexualism is a term which is a fairly poor descriptor which stands out as being somewhat out of place among all the other various labels that end in ‘ism’. The psychology diagnosis in the DSM IV is “Gender Identity Disorder”, which is quite a bit more defined, and a better description of what’s going on.

    Gender Identity Disorder (for which ‘transsexual’ is slang), is defined by a person who is physically one gender, having great discomfort with this gender and believing themselves to mentally be of the other gender. If the gender identity disorder (or GID) is severe in nature, then the patient can have a great deal of dissociative feelings, feeling like they are a helpless passenger in their own body, while they go around pretending to be the sort of person other people expect due to their physical gender.

    This dissociation can be extremely pronounced, and the feelings of helplessness and imprisonment can be severe. As a result, acute cases of gender identity disorder have one of the highest suicide rates of any demographic, higher than people in wheelchairs or people dying of cancer for example.

    Most patients with acute gender dysphoria will desire to change their physical gender to match their perceived psychological gender. Actually I think it’s safe to say that they all would like to do this, but not all of them feel that they can achieve a result which will satisfy them, so they don’t all pursue transition & gender reassignment surgery.

    Also, some with gender dysphoria do not strongly equate their genitalia with their sense of body-dissociation. Or, they may feel that the current surgical results are not as advanced as they’d like. As a result, they may feel quite satisfied changing their general appearance to the other gender, changing their name, legal status, etc, and assuming the daily life role of the other gender, without opting to get the gender reassignment surgery itself. It is perhaps also worth noting that in cases where the patient has a sexual orientation towards people of the same gender as the role they are assuming, there can be a very practical reason to consider ‘not’ changing their genital sex. Meanwhile gender dysphorics who have a stronger ‘genital organs = gender’ psychological disposition would find ‘not’ changing genital sex to seem unfathomable. But really both parties can be clearly diagnosed as transsexual (having acute gender dysphoria).

    Autogynophila, is a theory more recently proposed to explain transsexualism… I am certain that this describes what is going on for some patients. And I am certain that it completely misses the mark in describing the psychology of others. Really autogynophila is a theory which positions transsexualism as a sort of ‘extended transvestism’, suggesting a pre-conscious fetishistic motivation. I am certain that some who seek sex reassignment surgery are doing it for this reason, and frankly that is fine as far as I’m concerned, as long as they achieve long term happiness in their results. But a large number of the people seeking sex reassignment surgery (and in my opinion the majority) are doing so because of severe mind-body dissociation resulting from acute gender dysphoria. And it’s worth noting that having sensual fantasies of having intercourse in a body matching their mental gender… would be considered normal (not fetishistic) for anyone who actually is that gender… so in a way autogynophila is attempting to subtly discredit the validity of the patient’s assertions about their psychological gender. Autogynophila is a theory which is problematic at best.

    Really whether or not a person pursues to change their physical or social gender, their diagnosis is based on their psychological motivations & reasoning, not what they actually do, or have done, or have yet to do, or don’t plan to do, or would like to do but can’t afford, etc.

    I have known numerous individuals who are basically transsexual, but settle for casual transvestite-like behavior, or simply do their best to ignore their gender feelings, because they do not feel that they could achieve a result which is to their satisfaction. I would consider all of these people to be essentially transsexual (having acute gender identity disorder). And there are people who go all the way through the process including genital sex reassignment, who psychologically are likely not significantly gender dysphoric, but are pursuing it for other reasons (confused homosexuality, extreme transvestic fetish, etc). Aside from the fact that the psychological community tries to regulate the availability of gender reassignment surgery limiting it to only those who are likely to significantly benefit from it… there is nothing ‘diagnosis changing’ about having had reassignment surgery. Legally (in many municipalities, it varies), gender reassignment surgery is legal grounds for change of legal sex, which usually is pursued alongside surgery.

    Transvestism seems to come in a variety of forms and motivations, and crossdressing is slang for transvestism, it is not a separate label. The motivations can range anywhere from fetishistic activity, to milder forms of gender identity disorder, to homosexual activities. It depends very much on the individual and it varies almost as much as transsexualism does. Really we could probably subdivide transvestism and transsexualism up into half a dozen different labels if we closely examine their motivations and psychology. But we have only two terms, which each cover several types of person.

    It is also worth noting, that transsexualism is not related to sexual orientation, or fetish. Transsexualism is in fact very much about gender identity, and body dissociation, not about sensual gratification. So in this regard, transsexuals are a little bit of the odd-person-out in the GLBT community, though politically, there are shared goals, and may transitioned transsexuals are gay lesbian or bi in their new gender role, due probably to their being brought up as the other sex.

    And I’ve typed this much before even discussing genetics, physical gender, psychological gender, social gender, or intersexed people… but I think I covered the topic at hand.

    Just speaking as a transsexual who is trained in psychology.

  4. Kate,

    Thank you for your detailed, informative explanation. I have tried repeatedly to explain these differences to my students but often find it difficult. The assorted combinations of sensate satisfaction, behavioral preferences, and psychological identification make for a dizzying array of possibilities. Perhaps we might even think of these combinations as represented by a “gensex wheel” (as in “color wheel”). Different degrees of different orientations and preferences combine to form an infinite number of gender/sexuality combinations (e.g., homosexual person prefers sex with others of their same anatomical sex; bisexual; transsexual (e.g., an anatomical man self-identifying as a woman, with this intensity varying from a little to a lot, as indicated by varying preferences for superficial versus surgical redefinition; transvestism (the desire to behave and dress as do people of their complementary anatomical sex (e.g., men comfortable being men but who also like to wear dresses). Thus, each of these dimensions constitute a continuum of preferred identities and behaviors. For lack of a more appropriate term, the general population often lumps together all the above under the category of “transgender,” which some people find disrespectful and offensive. Perhaps a neologism is needed, a term that refers in a neutral way to varying combinations of gender and sexuality. “Sexgendity” might be one possibility.

    Since you are a professional in the field, may I suggest that a study factor analyzing these dimensions would be quite an interesting and a valuable contribution to the literature. It would certainly help us to discuss more accurately gender and sexuality.

    To add to the complexity of this discussion one has to also consider the subjective understandings of individuals as compared with normative understandings. Thus a person might prefer sex with someone of their same anatomical sex but not at the same time identify as homosexual. Often, therefore, self-identified sexgendity is different from socially understood (normatively prescribed) sexgendity. For instance their are Brazilian young men who perceive themselves not as homosexuals, but as men who dress as women and who enjoy passive anal sex with men). In North American society, such young men are perceived as homosexuals and, in fact, would probably themselves self-identify as homosexuals. However, in Brazil these young men to not perceive themselves as homosexuals, but solely as men who like sex with other men and who adopt sexy women’s dress and mannerisms, but without the least inclination to undergo gender reassignment.

    Your thoughts?

    –Bill Todd-Mancillas
    (retired professor)

    • Well, there are several axis you’re talking about…
      heterosexuality to bisexuality to homosexuality,
      crossdressing for autoerotic, homosexual, or social identity purposes
      and male to androgynous to female gender identity.

      This is further complicated by the issue of what exactly constitutes hetero/homo sexuality for someone who is psychologically of a gender different from their body. And perhaps still further complicated by those who are born physically intersexed. For example, what is “gay” for an intersexed androgynous individual? Some of these issues speak to deep problems in the arbitrary black&white way in which the medical profession and legal doctrines often approach gender and sexuality.

      If I had to label myself, I would be a male-to-female transsexual, with especially pronounced gender dysphoria (though largely resolved now), I have no erotic associations with any gender-typed clothing. I don’t take Blanchard’s ‘autogynephilia’ theory seriously at all. My sexual orientation (which I view as completely separate from my gender identity) is bisexual. Although it might be more accurate to say that with my life’s experiences, I have learned to pay more attention to the sentient mind of a partner, rather than their physical form.

      But any arbitrary labeling system will eventually fail to adequately describe certain individuals which fall into gray areas between accepted definitions. It’s inherent to the act of labeling and grouping… which is intended to “simplify”, but wherever you simplify by categorizing, you gloss over nuance and differentiation. For example, we say “blue” is a color. But what if it’s a warm blue, really more of a turquoise, with pearlescent hints of lavender sheen where the light reflects off it? In science, medicine, and the legal arena, generally it’s just “blue”. And so it gets treated the same as a dark navy blue, which is in fact quite different. Labels and categorizations just work that way. Actually this is one of the reasons we generally tend to dislike racial stereotyping… because people tend to feel it is unfair if they are viewed as a type of person, rather than as an individual. And it is unfair to individuals.

      About the issue of self identification vs. social identification, both can be inaccurate. Something people often fail to realize (myself included at one time) is that transsexuals don’t fundamentally want to be transsexual, they just want their physical body to match their psychological gender. If they could do it with a magic wish, that would be preferable to spending a small fortune, enduring painful surgeries, dealing with an unsympathetic society, etc. An example from my own life, of a faulty self-identification:

      When I was young, I was aware of the possibility of “sex-change operations” and I was very deeply interested. But I had heard that in order to get something like that, you had to satisfy a psychologist and a surgeon that you should be diagnosed as “transsexual”, before they would perform such a thing.

      Coming from a conservative family in a conservative community, the term transsexual conjured in my mind a vague sense of something gaudy and socially rebellious. I envisioned something in sequins, and garlands, and high heels, with a lavish wig and way too much makeup, making a bold public statement, very much not blending in seamlessly with society. A caricature which doesn’t really embody the social presentation of the other gender at all. I did not self-identify with “that”, partially because my impressions of it were shaped by shock-value television, and partly because of conservative upbringing. So I did not self identify as transsexual.

      Anyway, my young mind thought transsexuals were like something out of the rocky horror picture show, and I didn’t view myself that way at all. I just wanted to be a “normal girl”, or more accurately, to have a female body, as I already felt mentally feminine.

      My gender dysphoria was very pronounced, it often felt “suffocating” and “imprisoning”. Changing my physical gender was a matter of life & death importance to me. So, I began researching, learning about the psychology of these “transsexuals”. Learning so that I could pretend to be a transsexual, so that they would let me become a normal girl, so I could finally “be myself”. It didn’t take me very much research to discover the irony of my plan, and realize that I was in fact a textbook case transsexual.

      So, my point in all of that, is that self-identification can be a faulty standard. Conversely of course, socially imposed identifications and labels can also be faulty, or even highly discriminatory. On a good day, labels are problematic.

      About Brazilian men who dress as women and act feminine, in order to have passive sex with other men, but do not want to change their gender… You can find that behavior in almost any culture, not just Brazil.

      If the feminine attire & behavior is only present when the person is seeking sex, then I think we’d be talking about a primarily homosexual thought process. I am sure there are those who carry out much the same behavior who are more focused on the feminine attire and behavior, which if approached in an erotic manner, would be a transvestite thought process. And yet still others might approach the same behavior from the mindset of getting to be themselves, in a social setting, and probably wish they could always be that way instead of having to go back to ‘male mode’ for job or family reasons. Those last sort would probably have a mostly gender-identity based thought process regarding what they do. So the outward behavior itself is a poor indicator of the motivating thought process behind it.

      I would refrain from trying to label or categorize the Brazilians who engage in this behavior, because it strikes me as very likely that they do not all approach it with the same mindset and motivations. Some of them likely even have mixed motivations. And contrary to the description, they likely do not all engage in exactly the same behavior.

  5. Plain and simple people ! God made us in his image , each one very special male or female. We should change what the Lord hath made. And if we shall, may the lord bring down all HELL on any of you that do !!! What the hell is our world comming to ?? IDIOTS ….

  6. your article is wrong ts and tg yes close to same but way different i’m married to a transgender and i’m ok with that a transsexual is someone who has started srs but not finished yet tg is someone who wants to be the opposite sex but has not had srs it has taken years of research and therapy to understand it is caused due to a hormone imbalance and a few different issues please do the research that i have done before putting what you don’t know it has been 7 yrs and i still don’t know everything.

  7. Ok, because I can and like to cook plus like power tools makes me transgender? No way. I am a well-rounded woman — that’s all. Or, if you prefer, a woman who ignores the traditional, expected behavior that society tries to indoctrinate into females and just does what she likes. I am just a capable woman.

    Don’t steal my power by assigning me some nebulous, unproven terminology. I am not some androgynous, half woman/half man creature or someone who runs to one side of my brain and then back again all the time — All of Me Likes Power Tools And Cooking. I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR.

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References :

[0]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0c/Transsexual_symbol.svg/500px-Transsexual_symbol.svg.png

[1]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/8604821746

[2]What Difference Between Transgender And Transsexual. 2019, https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/what-difference-between-transgender-transsexual-12506598. Accessed 8 Feb 2019.

[3]Transsexual Vs Transgender – Cursed E – Medium. Medium, 2019, https://medium.com/@notCursedE/transsexual-vs-transgender-2999f427a07.

[4]"What Is The Difference Between Transgender And Transsexual?". Ajc, 2019, https://www.ajc.com/news/national/what-the-difference-between-transgender-and-transsexual/HDBZDYlss2DpZPqjl4z1RL/.

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