The Definition of Transwoman

Transwoman - An Explanation of Gender Terms

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A transwoman is a woman who was assigned a male gender at birth, but that is not consistent with her sense of self. She lives and identifies as a female and may have taken steps to transition into becoming a woman. This distinguishes her from a ciswoman, a shorthand term for "cissexual woman." These women were assigned a female gender at birth and they identify with it.

Transgender vs. Transsexual 

A fine line exists between transgender and transsexual individuals of either sex, and that line often blurs – the terms are used interchangeably.

 But it is generally accepted that a transgender woman is biologically a man who identifies as a woman. She may take steps to transition, but these steps do not necessarily involve surgery or physical alterations. She might dress as a woman, refer to herself as a woman, or even use a feminine name. 

A transsexual individual is one who has physically transitioned to the gender she identifies with. This often includes taking hormones to suppress the physical characteristics of her assigned gender. Many transwomen in the U.S. take hormone supplements, which can promote breast growth, increase vocal pitch, and contribute in other ways to a more traditionally feminine appearance. A transsexual might even undergo gender reassignment surgery, where the anatomical features of her assigned gender are physically altered or removed. 

Strictly speaking, there's no such thing as a "sex change operation." An individual can elect these cosmetic surgeries to alter her body appearance to match conventional norms associated with the gender with which she identifies, but anyone can have those procedures done, regardless of their sexual identity.

These surgeries are not limited to transsexual people. 

Status As a Transwoman 

Status as a transwoman is contingent on gender identity, not surgery. Transwomen – and transmen – have worked to move their fight for equal rights into the public spotlight. It's been a tough road without much in the way of marked progress.

No federal employment law exists that specifically protects transsexuals' civil rights from violation, although several states have undertaken the challenge and passed this type of legislation. Just as many states refuse to do so, however, passing laws instead that specifically remove protections from transgender individuals.

"Bathroom bills" are perhaps the most notable and recognized of these, requiring transwomen to use restrooms based on their gender identity at birth. Thus, even if a transwoman has undergone hormonal treatments and is considered a woman, she must nonetheless use the men's room in public places. The federal government has fought back, declaring that these bills unconstitutional and, in the case of North Carolina, threatening to withhold federal funding unless the state reverses its position. 

Also Known As: Male-to-female transsexual, MTF, transsexual woman, transgirl, tgirl.

Transwomen are often incorrectly identified as "transvestites," but a transvestite is an individual who wears clothing appropriate to the gender with whom he or she does not identify. A man may prefer to dress as a woman, but this does not in itself make him transgender if he doesn't identify as a woman.


Antonyms: cisman

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Your Citation
Head, Tom. "The Definition of Transwoman." ThoughtCo, Oct. 16, 2016, Head, Tom. (2016, October 16). The Definition of Transwoman. Retrieved from Head, Tom. "The Definition of Transwoman." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 27, 2018).