Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children…
Julia Serano

On transgender vs transsexual terminology

Thanks for writing such a detailed and nuanced piece. I sincerely hope that the people who most need to understand this information will read it.

On the transsexual vs transgender distinction: I sometimes feel like I am one of only a handful of people under 50 still using the word “transsexual”. I keep reading, often from self-appointed allies, that it is horribly wrong to use the word “transsexual”, and that we must now always and only use the word “transgender” to describe trans people. I think part of the reasoning is to avoid confusion with the term “homosexual”, which is about attraction, not identity (and is itself deprecated).

My own identification as a transsexual male was strongly influenced by the first book I read by a trans person, Just Add Hormones by (the late and missed) Matt Kailey. From his writing and experience, I understood transsexual to mean a person who desired physical transition to the “opposite” sex, whether or not they were able to access hormones and/or surgery to fulfill this desire. That describes me, as I was assigned female and desired the physical characteristics that are typical of cis males. I didn’t care as much about the behavior that is expected to accompany one’s physical sex characteristics, hence I also identify as agender.

I now typically just say “trans” without qualifiers to avoid the language battles, because I know most people (sadly) haven’t read books or essays by trans people like yourself, and don’t have the requisite understanding of our histories. It’s difficult enough just trying to explain that “cisgender” is a legitimate, established word, not a slur, and that “singular they” is a legitimate, established personal pronoun for (some) non-binary people (like me). Or more basically, just using a men’s restroom without fear, when I am still not consistently cis-passing, over 2 1/2 years into my hormonal transition. In public settings, no one cares about my identity or pronouns; they just make snap judgments based on my surface appearance. I have to choose my battles.