Trans woman

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Trans community volunteer SaVanna Wanzer at the 2017 Washington, DC Black Pride 2017.05.23 DC Black Pride, Washington, DC USA 5341 (34823629926) (cropped).jpg
Trans community volunteer SaVanna Wanzer at the 2017 Washington, DC Black Pride
Mela Franco Habijan, winner of Miss Trans Global 2020. Trans Global 2020 Official Photoshhot.jpg
Mela Franco Habijan, winner of Miss Trans Global 2020.

A trans woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth. Trans women have a female gender identity, may experience gender dysphoria, and may transition; this process commonly includes hormone replacement therapy and sometimes sex reassignment surgery, which can bring relief and resolve feelings of gender dysphoria. Trans women may be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, asexual, or identify with other terms (such as queer).


The term transgender woman is not always interchangeable with transsexual woman, although the terms are often used interchangeably. Transgender is an umbrella term that includes different types of gender variant people (including transsexual people).

Trans women face significant discrimination in many areas of life, including in employment and access to housing, and face physical and sexual violence and hate crimes, including from partners; in the United States, discrimination is particularly severe towards trans women who are members of a racial minority, who often face the intersection of transphobia and racism.


Both transsexual and transgender women may experience gender dysphoria, distress brought upon by the discrepancy between their gender identity and the sex that was assigned to them at birth (and the associated gender role or primary and secondary sex characteristics). [1]

Both transsexual and transgender women may transition. A major component of medical transition for trans women is estrogen hormone replacement therapy, which causes the development of female secondary sex characteristics (breasts, redistribution of body fat, lower waist–hip ratio, etc.). This, along with sex reassignment surgery can relieve the person of gender dysphoria. [2] [3]


A trans woman at a gay pride parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil Transwoman at Gay Pride in Sao Paulo, 2008.jpg
A trans woman at a gay pride parade in São Paulo, Brazil

The term trans woman originates from the use of the Latin prefix trans- meaning "across, beyond, through, on the other side of, [4] to go beyond" and woman. [5] The term was first used in Leslie Feinberg's 1996 book Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman . [5] The book describes a trans woman as "a male-to-female transgender or transsexual person." [6] This definition is widely accepted and used in the Oxford English Dictionary. However, she elaborates on it by saying that being a trans woman often has a negative connotation. [6] She states that her gender expression has made her a "target." [6] Heidi M. Levitt provides a simpler description of trans woman. She states that 'transwomen' is a common label to describe those who transition from male to female sex. [7] Levitt mentions how the abbreviation "MTF" is commonly used, meaning male-to-female. [7] A final perspective by Rachel McKinnon explains how the term is complicated. [8] While some trans women have undergone sex reassignment surgery, many struggle in society to pass as a woman and be accepted. [8] This ability to pass can cause one who was considered a trans woman to be seen just as any other woman. [8] She explains that this is controversial since trans women do not have the biological ability to reproduce and are missing a uterus and ovaries. [8] However, she concludes that "trans women are women" who challenge socially constructed norms of what it means to be a woman. [8]

Rachel Levine, a trans woman and the Assistant Secretary for Health of the United States Rachel L. Levine (HHS ASH) (cropped).jpg
Rachel Levine, a trans woman and the Assistant Secretary for Health of the United States

The CDC refers to the word "transgender" as "an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity or expression (masculine, feminine, other) is different from their sex (male, female) at birth". [9] Trans woman is commonly interchanged with other terms such as transgender woman and transsexual woman. [7] According to, transgender means "denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex." [10] However, Heidi M Levitt describes transgender as "an umbrella term that describes different ways in which people transgress the gender boundaries that are constituted within a society." [7] She then describes how one must understand the difference between sex and gender in order to fully understand transgender. [7] She argues that sex is biological whereas "gender is a social construct." [7] Thus people who are transgender express themselves differently than their biological sex. In contrast, Levitt explains that "transsexual people have a sexual identity that does not match their physical sex" and that some desire sex-reassignment surgery. [7]

In addition, the Oxford English Dictionary refers to transsexual as "having physical characteristics of one sex and psychological characteristics of the other" and "one whose sex has been changed by surgery." [5] These definitions show that someone who is transsexual expresses their gender differently than assigned at birth. In addition, they may want or undergo surgery to change their physical appearance. Thus trans women fall under the umbrella of being transgender because their gender was assigned male at birth but they identify as a woman. [7] However, not all trans women are transsexual since they may or may not choose to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. [7]

Some trans women who feel that their gender transition is complete prefer to be called simply women, considering trans woman or male-to-female transsexual to be terms that should only be used for people who are not fully transitioned. Likewise, many may not want to be seen as a "trans woman," often owing to the societal otherization of trans individuals. Among those who do refer to themselves as trans women, many see it as an important and appropriate distinction to include a space in the term, as in trans woman, thus using trans as merely an adjective describing a particular type of woman; this is in contrast to the usage of transwoman as one word, implying a "third gender". [11]

In several Latin American countries, the word "travesti" is sometimes used to designate people who have been assigned male sex at birth, but develop a female gender identity. The use of the term "travesti" precedes that of "transgender" in the region and its differentiation from the notions of "transsexual" and "trans woman" is complex and can vary depending on the context, ranging from considering it a regional equivalent to a unique identity. [12] [13]

Sexual orientation

Laverne Cox, American transgender actress who plays a trans woman on the show Orange is the New Black Laverne Cox by Sachyn Mital.jpg
Laverne Cox, American transgender actress who plays a trans woman on the show Orange is the New Black

Trans women may identify as heterosexual (or straight), bisexual, homosexual (or lesbian), asexual, or none of the above. [9] [14] [15] [16] A survey of roughly 3000 American trans women showed 31% of them identifying as bisexual, 29% as "gay/lesbian/same-gender", 23% as heterosexual, 7% as asexual, as well as 7% identifying as "queer" and 2% as "other". [17]


In a 2008 study, no statistically significant difference in libido was detected between trans women and cisgender women. [18] As in males, female libido is thought to correlate with serum testosterone levels [19] [20] [21] [22] (with some controversy [23] ) but the 2008 study found no such correlation in trans women. [18] [24] Another study, published in 2014, found that 62.4% of trans women reported their sexual desire had decreased after sexual reassignment therapy. [25]

Violence towards trans women

Trans women face a form of violence known as trans bashing. The Washington Blade reported that Global Rights, an international NGO, tracked the mistreatment of trans women in Brazil, including at the hands of the police. [26] To commemorate those who have been murdered in hate crimes, an annual Transgender Day of Remembrance is held in various locations across Europe, America, Australia, and New Zealand, with details and sources for each murder provided at their website. [27]

United States

According to a 2009 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, quoted by the Office for Victims of Crime, 11% of all hate crimes towards members of the LGBTQ community were directed towards trans women. [28]

In 2015, a false statistic was widely reported in the United States media stating that the life expectancy of a trans woman of color is only 35 years. [29] This appears to be based on a comment specifically about Latin America in a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which compiled data on the age at death of murdered trans women for all of the Americas (North, South, and Central), and does not disaggregate by race. [29] [30] [31]

In 2016, 23 transgender people suffered fatal attacks in the United States. The Human Rights Campaign report found some of these deaths to be direct results of an anti-transgender bias, and some due to related factors such as homelessness. [32]

One type of violence towards trans women is committed by perpetrators who learn that their sexual partner is transgender and feel deceived. Almost 95% of these crimes were committed by cisgender men towards trans women. [33] According to a 2005 paper looking at HIV needs analysis in Houston, Texas, "50% of transgender people surveyed had been hit by a primary partner after coming out as transgender". [28]


American activist trans women Andrea James and Calpernia Addams Andrea James and Calpernia Addams.jpg
American activist trans women Andrea James and Calpernia Addams
Isis King, American transgender model and actress, was the first trans woman contestant on the reality television show America's Next Top Model. Isis King.jpg
Isis King, American transgender model and actress, was the first trans woman contestant on the reality television show America's Next Top Model .

Trans women, like all gender variant people, often face discrimination and transphobia. [17] :8 A 2015 survey from The Williams Institute found that, of 27,715 transgender respondents, 52% whose families had rejected them attempted suicide, as did 64.9% of those who were physically attacked in the past year. [34]

A survey of roughly 3000 trans women living in the United States, as summarized in the report "Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey", found that trans women reported that: [17] [ specify ]

The American National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs' report of 2010 anti-LGBTQ violence found that of the 27 people who were murdered because of their LGBTQ identity, 44% were trans women. [35]

Discrimination is particularly severe towards non-white trans women, who experience the intersection of racism and transphobia. For example, a potential result of such discrimination is that multiracial, Latina, Black and Indigenous American trans women are twice to more than three times as likely as white trans women to be sexually assaulted in prison. [36]

In her book Whipping Girl , trans woman Julia Serano refers to the unique discrimination trans women experience as "transmisogyny". [37]

Discrimination against trans women has occurred at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival after the Festival set out a rule that it would only be a space for cisgender females. This led to protests by trans women and their allies, and a boycott of the Festival by Equality Michigan in 2014. The boycott was joined by the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National LGBTQ Task Force. The "womyn-born-womyn" intention first came to attention in 1991 after a transsexual festival-goer, Nancy Burkholder, was asked to leave the festival when several women recognized her as a trans woman and expressed discomfort with her presence in the space. [38] [39]

See also

Related Research Articles

A transgender person is someone whose gender identity is inconsistent or not culturally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth and also with the gender role that is associated with that sex. They may have, or may intend to establish, a new gender status that accords with their gender identity. Transsexual is generally considered a subset of transgender, but some transsexual people reject being labelled transgender.

Transphobia Hatred, irrational fear, prejudice, or discrimination against transgender people

Transphobia is a collection of ideas and phenomena that encompass a range of negative attitudes, feelings, or actions towards transgender people or transness in general. Transphobia can include fear, aversion, hatred, violence, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who do not conform to social gender expectations. It is often expressed alongside homophobic views and hence is often considered an aspect of homophobia. Transphobia is a type of prejudice and discrimination, similar to racism and sexism, and transgender people of color are often subjected to all three forms of discrimination at once.

Sex reassignment surgery, is a surgical procedure by which a transgender person's physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble those socially associated with their identified gender. It is part of a treatment for gender dysphoria in transgender people. The term is also sometimes used to describe surgical intervention for intersex people.

Sex reassignment therapy is the medical aspect of gender transitioning, that is, modifying one's sex characteristics to better suit one's gender identity. It can consist of hormone therapy to modify secondary sex characteristics, sex reassignment surgery to alter primary sex characteristics, and other procedures altering appearance, such as permanent hair removal for trans women.

The following outline offers an overview and guide to transgender topics.

Trans man Man assigned female at birth

A trans man is a man who was assigned female at birth. The label of transgender man is not always interchangeable with that of transsexual man, although the two labels are often used in this way. Transgender is an umbrella term that includes different types of gender variant people. Trans men have a male gender identity, and many trans men choose to undergo surgical or hormonal transition, or both, to alter their appearance in a way that aligns with their gender identity or alleviates gender dysphoria.

Gender transitioning is the process of changing one's gender presentation or sex characteristics to accord with one's internal sense of gender identity – the idea of what it means to be a man or a woman, or to be non-binary or genderqueer. For transgender and transsexual people, this process commonly involves reassignment therapy, with their gender identity being opposite that of their birth-assigned sex and gender. Transitioning might involve medical treatment, but it does not always involve it. Cross-dressers, drag queens, and drag kings tend not to transition, since their variant gender presentations are (usually) only adopted temporarily.

Transfeminism Branch of Feminism that puts a particular emphasis on Transgender issues

Transfeminism, also written trans feminism, has been defined by scholar and activist Emi Koyama as "a movement by and for trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linked to the liberation of all women and beyond." Koyama notes that it "is also open to other queers, intersex people, trans men, non-trans women, non-trans men and others who are sympathetic toward needs of trans women and consider their alliance with trans women to be essential for their own liberation." Transfeminism has also been defined more generally as "an approach to feminism that is informed by trans politics."

Transgender rights in Iran

Transgender rights in Iran are limited, with a narrow degree of official recognition of transgender identities by the government, but with trans individuals facing very high levels of discrimination, from the law, the state, and from the wider society.

Transgender sexuality Sexuality of transgender people

Sexuality in transgender individuals encompasses all the issues of sexuality of other groups, including establishing a sexual identity, learning to deal with one's sexual needs, and finding a partner, but may be complicated by issues of gender dysphoria, side effects of surgery, physiological and emotional effects of hormone replacement therapy, psychological aspects of expressing sexuality after medical transition, or social aspects of expressing their gender.

Travesti (gender identity) Latin American "third gender"

The term travesti is used in Latin America—to designate people who were assigned male at birth, but develop a gender identity according to different expressions of femininity. Other terms have been invented and are used in South America in an attempt to further distinguish it from cross-dressing, drag, or pathologizing connotations. In Spain, the term was used in a similar way during the Franco era, but it was replaced with the advent of the medical model of transsexuality in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in order to rule out negative stereotypes. The arrival of these concepts occurred later in Latin America than in Europe, so the concept of travesti lasted over time with various connotations.

<i>Kathoey</i> Gender identity in Thailand

Kathoey or katoey is an identity used by some people in Thailand, whose identities in English may be best described as transgender women in some cases, or effeminate gay men in other cases. Transgender women in Thailand mostly use terms other than kathoey when referring to themselves, such as phuying. A significant number of Thai people perceive kathoey as belonging to a separate sex, including some transgender women themselves.

Mak Nyah, alternatively spelled maknyah, is a Malay vernacular term for trans women in Malaysia. It arose in the late 1980s in order to distinguish trans women from other minorities.

Transgender Gender identity other than sex assigned at birth

Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people who desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another identify as transsexual. Transgender, often shortened as trans, is also an umbrella term; in addition to including people whose gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex, it may also include people who are non-binary or genderqueer. Other definitions of transgender also include people who belong to a third gender, or else conceptualize transgender people as a third gender. The term transgender may be defined very broadly to include cross-dressers. The term transgender does not have a universally accepted definition, including among researchers.

LGBT people in prison

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people face difficulties in prison such as increased vulnerability to sexual assault, other kinds of violence, and trouble accessing necessary medical care. While much of the available data on LGBTQ inmates comes from the United States, Amnesty International maintains records of known incidents internationally in which LGBTQ prisoners and those perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender have suffered torture, ill-treatment and violence at the hands of fellow inmates as well as prison officials.

Transsexual People experiencing a gender identity inconsistent with their assigned sex

Transsexual people experience a gender identity that is inconsistent with their assigned sex and desire to permanently transition to the sex or gender with which they identify, usually seeking medical assistance to help them align their body with their identified sex or gender.

In the United States, the rights of transgender people vary considerably by jurisdiction. By the end of 2021, at least 130 bills had been introduced in 33 states to restrict the rights of transgender people. In 2022, over 230 anti-transgender bills were introduced in state legislatures in a coordinated national campaign to target transgender rights. Many of these bills became law.

Transgender disenfranchisement is the prevention by bureaucratic, institutional and social barriers, of transgender individuals from voting or participating in other aspects of civic life. Transgender people may be disenfranchised if the sex indicated on their identification documents does not match their gender presentation, and they may be unable to update necessary identity documents because some governments require individuals to undergo sex reassignment surgery first, which many cannot afford, are not medical candidates for, or do not want.

Transgender people have existed in cultures worldwide since ancient times. The modern terms and meanings of "transgender", "gender", "gender identity", and "gender role" only emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, opinions vary on how to categorize historical accounts of gender-variant people and identities.

Transgender rights in Argentina

Transgender and travesti rights in Argentina have been lauded by many as some of the world's most progressive. The country "has one of the world's most comprehensive transgender rights laws": its Gender Identity Law, passed in 2012, made Argentina the "only country that allows people to change their gender identities without facing barriers such as hormone therapy, surgery or psychiatric diagnosis that labels them as having an abnormality". In 2015, the World Health Organization cited Argentina as an exemplary country for providing transgender rights. Leading transgender activists include Lohana Berkins, Diana Sacayán, Mariela Muñoz, María Belén Correa, Marlene Wayar, Claudia Pía Baudracco, Susy Shock and Lara Bertolini.


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