“So.. ..you were born as a man?”

A statement I hear all too often, and one that makes me cringe – not to say angry. Yes of course I was born in a
man’s body but as far as I am concerned I was then and always have been female.
Note the change in terminology man/female. It may seem a small issue but one I find so important – sex and gender, as far as a transsexual is
concerened, are not interchangeable. It is this difference that makes it possible for me, in some small way, to explain what is happening to others.

In basic terms sex is what we appear to be to onlookers and at birth it is how we are categorised prior to registration of our birth. Basically is is what lies between our legs that
determines how we are labelled. Now I know that there are a lot of others who are classified as intersexed or indeterminate due to the structure of the organs at birth – be they overdeveloped or incomplete. These people have a whole different issue to deal with as they grow up and of course many will be misdiagnosed. I am restricting myself to the issue of being transsexual in this
short article.

Gender is the unseen, it is how a person actually ‘feels’ about themselves and it lies between the ears, not between the legs!

To me sex is man/woman and gender is male/female and they should not be confused. Of course we then come to the other labels we have to deal with – Transgender and Transsexual. Confused? Well don’t worry, a lot of people are. On the face of it the terms are swapped over but not if approached correctly.
Transgender is the all encompassing label for the whole community and Transsexual applies to the very small percentage who suffer from Gender Dysphoria and seek to transition – change sex. (Note change sex and not change gender a small but very important difference in approach).

‘Trans’ merely means to cross as in Transeuropean, Transamerican…etc. So Transgender in simplistic terms is to cross gender. It allows people who are comfortable in their birth gender to
express the other whether in private or public. However they are comfortable in their birth sex and have no wish to change they just have a need to explore alternatives and dress/express themselves as the opposite sex. This applies to Cross Dressers (Transvestites – direct translation) and similar.
Transsexuals although part of the Transgender community are not happy with the sex they were born with and wish to cross to the other in order that the sex matches the inner gender they feel they are born with.

So in fact we undergo SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery) rather than the sometimes used GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery) a small but, to me at least, very important difference.

These are my words and feelings so if others do not agree then that is their prerogative and please be polite should you wish to comment.

Please try to understand and use the appropriate terminology as it is just as important as the correct pronoun (he/she) following transition. I do understand it is hard for many to remember.
Just try.

Kirstie McEwan