Difference Between Transgender and Transsexual

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 28, 2023


Difference Between Transgender and Transsexual

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In the human dictionary, there are similar words to define the same thing. Is it normal to use the same word at any place? I guess not. The dictionary tells you what words have similar meanings but does not tell you the right place to use them.

In this article, we will discuss something that defines the whole community and the right time to use the appropriate words.

Both transgender and transexual were used to define the same community. Both were used to refer to people who have a different sex identity as assigned by the doctor during their birth.

As time passed, some people started to define both words differently. Few started to find transexual offensive. People started to use transgender or trans as the only word referring to themselves. And there were many more reasons associated with not using both terms interchangeably. This article will deeply investigate the analogy behind transgender and transexual. And remember, if you are reading this, be aware before using both terms interchangeably, as it can create a bigger problem than you can ever imagine. Wait, you must be wondering. What he means by "a bigger problem"?

Then, continue this article and save yourself from creating "a bigger problem."

Transgender vs. Transexual

Reading on through the internet, you would find that transgender and transexual have the same meaning but the delivery of words at the right place is also essential. Most find the word ‘transexual’ contentious, as it is outdated and offensive. Because, of the history and roots in the professional fields of medicine and psychology, which incorrectly says that transgenders are mentally ill or sexually deviant. Though, fields of medicine and mental illness have stopped seeing it as an illness and found it is very natural to not be the person it appears to be.

The term ‘transgender’ communicates important information about someone’s experiences and understands their gender, and how they want to be referred to. Nowadays, in Western culture terms ‘transgender’ and ‘trans’ are widely accepted and are commonly used.

Difference between Transgender and transexual in tabular form

Parameters of comparisonTransgenderTransexual
DEFINITIONTransgender describes those who have different gender from what doctors have assigned them.Transexual is more of a specific term. It refers to people who have gone through medical diagnoses to change their sex or gender.
Umbrella termIt has been used as the umbrella term of 'trans’.It also comes under the same umbrella but some people reject the idea of transexual and transgender coming under one umbrella.
ExperiencesIt defines the experiences of being a different gender as assigned during birth.Some use it to define the experiences of being a different gender as assigned during birth. But, it is not used to define the experiences.
PreferencesIt is preferable.It is not that preferable as transgender.
Offensive and outdatedTransgender has been used in recent times. As it is more of the newest term used to represent a community.Transexual is defined to be contentious and outdated, as it demeans one's community.
Free to useIf you know someone as trans, you can freely prefer them as transgender.You cannot use this term freely. You need to ask the person before referring to them as transexual.
Meaning can varyTransgender is the best possible term you can use to refer to them. And its meaning does not vary that much in their minds.It depends upon the person, whom you are calling ‘transexual.’
HistoryNowadays, most places prefer calling them transgender as the abbreviated term for trans.Transexual is like the old term used for trans. It was famous, but over time it became offensive.

What is a Transgender?

Transgender is derived from the Latin word trans, which means "across or beyond”, and gender means “sex”. Transgender means “Beyond gender.”

The term refers to a community that has a different sex identity as assigned at the time of their birth. It is believed that they suffer from gender dysphoria, i.e., it is a distress a person experiences due to a mismatch in their gender expression., which is also associated with giving them different names and pronouns in the process.

Some transgenders may undergo sex reassignment therapies like hormone therapy and various gender affirming to get close to their gender expression. But some transgenders do not wish to take therapies and accept what they have, and some face financial or medical issues.

Transgender is an umbrella term for trans men, trans women, and non-binary. A person who was born male and transitioned into a female sense is known as a trans woman. And the opposite of that is known as a trans man. And someone who does not wish to categorize themselves into any is known as non-binary. The opposite of transgenders is known as cisgenders, who were assigned as males and lives as a man.


Back in 1965, the term transgender was first coined by psychiatrist John F. Oliven of Columbia University in his work Sexual Hygiene and Pathology. Later, it became popularized and got famous among the trans people community.

Virginia Prince also used this term in tranvestia at the issue of December 1969. A magazine for cross-dressers was founded.

Above, we read about the people who cannot get sex reassignment surgeries were termed as transgenderist and transgenderal in the mid-70s., And those who did change their sexual orientation may identify as transexual.

By 1984, the concept of the transgender community developed, where transgender was an umbrella term.

In the 1992 conference of transgender law and employment policy, transgender started to include terms like transexuals, cross-dressers and trans genderists. After the conference was held people started to unify all forms of gender nonconformity.

Later in the early 2000s, under the tag of transgender people were started to call as trans men and trans women (discussed above). And the term transexuals got removed from the transgender umbrella as it became offensive to some people in the transgender community. And the term became very debatable to use. We will discuss this when we will learn about transexual.

Transgendered is found to be misused in English, which was thought to deprecate the transgenders’ community, as understood that 'Transgender' is an adjective, not a verb. Organizations like GLAAD and The Guardian have also stated 'transgender' is an adjective and should not be used as a verb.

Transgenderism is a term, which was considered, but later it was found offensive, according to GLAAD. Before, it was the International Journal of Transgenderism but later it had been changed to the International Journal of Transgender Health, which sounded more appropriate.

Transition phase

When a person starts to live with their gender identity (they have come across) rather than the gender they were born with, the period is known as gender transition. And obviously, when you are in that phase it gets difficult for anyone to open up with their new identity. It also changes a person’s behaviours and thoughts, when they are in a transition phase. As time passes, people in the surroundings would start to notice the change in their attitude. This is the time when they must tell their close ones. In this process of telling other people, they risk social stigma, discrimination, and harassment. Despite these risks, if they open with their full potential makes it is life-affirming and even life-saving.


Transexual is referred to those people who have a different identity as assigned to them during birth and they also go through surgeries to acquire that different identity they have. And it is a complete change from the identity assigned to them at birth. It is their desire for a complete change in their sex. The need to change their gender identity completely through medical surgeries is known as gender dysphoria. We have discussed this term before, but here it holds more importance.

It was believed that transexual also comes under the umbrella of transgender. But many transexuals reject that label. And they do not like to be called transgender. As in the 20th century, transexuals were classified as mentally ill and subject to being completely outcast by medical sciences. Later, in the 21st century, their condition started to get recognition and many people got to know about it. People start to consider them and stopped referring to them as outcasts. They build a separate community of Transexuals and believe that they do not belong under the umbrella of transgender. And they do not like to be called transgenders.


The term Transexual had different meanings throughout history. It refers to a person who wants to change their gender through medical surgeries. But later this term was considered antiquated and pejorative too. It became offensive for some people because of its medical history. To understand everything, more properly we must first understand what is the difference between gender and sex. Gender refers to the set of social and cultural norms that are attributed to someone’s role as male, female or non-binary and sex is referred to as the personality assigned by medical professionals at birth. So, to deeply understand the meaning of transexual, we must keep the difference between sex and gender in mind.

Norman Haire began a first-ever surgical transition in 1921 under the care of Magnus Hirschfeld and ended in 1930, which was a success. In 1923, Hirschfeld gave the word transsexualismus, later which David Oliver Cauldwell introduced transexual in 1949 and 1950. Harry Benjamin used the word transexual in a public lecture in December 1953.

Relationship with transgender

Most people in the Transgender community consider being called transgender and reject transexuals. But people who have gone through sex change surgeries consider themselves to be called transexual and do not like being called transgender. The debate has gone on for a long and there was hardly any result to it. Some prefer to ask the person first what they like to be called and then referred them to that.

Recently, the trans community has taken issue with the word transexual as it over-medicalizes their experience and focuses more on their transition. Therefore, transgender emerged to break the medical monopoly and focus more on the experiences of being trans.

Main differences between Transgender and Transexual in points

  • Transgender does not focus on the medical assistance given to change the physical characteristics of a person, whereas transexual focuses more on the surgery related to changing the physical appearance of a person.
  • Transgender focuses more on the psychological side of the story of a person whereas transexual focuses more on the physiological transition from the original gender to others.
  • Transgender is a term attributed to more social and cultural roles, whereas transexual focuses more on the physical roles of a person.
  • Transgender was first given in 1965 by John F. Oliven whereas Transexual was first given in 1930 by Norman Haire after completing the first-ever genital reassignment surgery which was started back in 1922.
  • Transexual involves the change in the sex of the person, whereas transgender involves the change in the gender of the person. We can give this difference as we have discussed above the difference between gender and sex.
  • Transgender is the term that is attributed to one’s desire to show the gender they are and not the one they are assigned at the time of birth, whereas transexual involves the change in one’s gender to the one they have desired, opposite to the one they had been assigned at the time of birth.


It is very clear what both the terms transexual and transgender mean. Both terms have separate meanings according to the trans community. Despite, what history says that in Western countries transgender has mostly been adapted, as a result of finding transexual term as contentious and offensive to call out to anyone. As it sounds like you are directly referring to their sex and not their gender, which can be an issue. Now, you must have understood how both terms look the same but have opposite meanings. It must have been very clear how you can solve a bigger problem by not even creating it in the first place, by calling the wrong person transexual.


  • What’s the Difference Between Being Transgender and Transsexual? (healthline.com)
  • Transgender vs. Transsexual – Difference Wiki
  • Transgender vs. transsexual: Definitions and differences (medicalnewstoday.com)
  • The Difference Between Transgender and Transsexual Women (thoughtco.com)
  • Transgender - Wikipedia
  • What Is the Difference Between Transgender and Transsexual? (medicinenet.com)


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"Difference Between Transgender and Transsexual." Diffzy.com, 2023. Sat. 30 Sep. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-transgender-and-transsexual>.

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