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A transwoman (also spelled trans woman or trans-woman) is a transsexual or transgender individual who is (or was) biologically male but who lives or wants to live her life as female; other terms include MtF (for male-to-female), t-girl, and ts-girl.[1][2] Some individuals are labeled and assigned as males, but feel like that is not an accurate and complete description of themselves. They may desire to transition towards a gender identity as a woman to varying degrees.


"Transition" refers to the process of adopting a social and personal identity that corresponds to one's own sense of their gendered self, and may or may not include medical intervention (hormone treatment, surgery, etc.), changes in legal documents (name and/or sex indicated on identification, birth certificate, etc.), and personal expression (clothing, accessories, voice, body language).


Similar to transmen, transwomen have a multitude of decisions and choices depending on what culture(s) they are presently in and what gender roles they and their supporters feel they should attain. Every case is unique and what options are available greatly depend on one's access to medical care providers and on financial support. Some people will want and need hair removal and voice feminization although hormone replacement therapy for transwomen can mitigate those concerns. Likewise facial feminization surgery is not always required but can be seen as advantageous for providing a psychological basis of seeing oneself transform either in conjunction or as a step of genital reassignment surgery for transwomen.


Some transwomen who feel that their gender transition is complete prefer to be called simply "women", considering "transwoman" or "male-to-female transsexual" to be terms that should only used for people who are not fully transitioned. Even after transitioning, transwomen have biological differences from cisgender women. For example, most have XY chromosomes. However, woman does not necessarily refer to biological sex; it can also refer to cultural gender role distinctions or, most importantly for many transpeople, a personal gender-identification choice. Some who still identify as transwomen after transitioning may describe themselves as "post-op" (post-operative; as distinguished from "pre-op") transwomen. Many transgender people consider that the shape of their genitalia is not relevant to how they interact with most people. Transwomen who do not want, cannot afford, or have medical reasons for not having sex reassignment surgery are sometimes described as "non-op". Many transwomen consider genital surgery as only a small part of a complete transition and some argue that transwomen should not be defined by their surgical status. Others dislike the term "transsexual" and prefer to call themselves transgender women, but furthermore some women with this condition prefer to use the word intergendered or intersexed. "Shemale",[3][4] along with "tranny",[5][6] "ladyboy" and similar terms, are often used in a derogatory manner to indicate a pre-op transwoman possessing both breasts and male genitalia.[7] Like many potentially derogatory labels, some have adopted the term as an endearment or as a form of self-empowerment, for example San Francisco's club Trannyshack.[8]

Sexual orientation

The stereotype of the effeminate boy who would grow up to live as woman as an adult has a very long history.[9] Due to this history there is a deep seated notion that transwomen who are attracted to males are more genuine. This motivates many lesbian, bisexual, and asexual transsexuals to exaggerate any feminine qualities they have.[10] Research on the sexual orientation of transwomen is compromised by this phenomenon. Many studies on this issue have suffered from reporting bias, since many transsexuals feel they must give the "correct" answers to such questions in order to increase their chances of obtaining hormone replacement therapy. Patrick Califia, author of Sex Changes and Public Sex, has indicated that this group has a clear awareness of what answers to give to survey questions in order to be considered eligible for hormone replacement therapy and/or sex reassignment surgery:

"None of the gender scientists seem to realize that they, themselves, are responsible for creating a situation where transsexual people must describe a fixed set of symptoms and recite a history that has been edited in clearly prescribed ways in order to get a doctor's approval for what should be their inalienable right."[11]

Some researchers (see BBL controversy) ignore the evidence of self-identification as women and continue to view transsexual women as men, labeling trans women who feel sexual attraction to men as "homosexual transsexuals" and to women as "nonhomosexual". Some of the same researchers (such as J. Michael Bailey) are also involved in the process of bisexual erasure. This is seen as disrespectful to the women whom they are supposing to study; developmental biologist and trans-feminist writer Julia Serano labels this as part of a process of "trans-objectification," the reduction of transsexual persons to research specimens and sexual fantasies.

In light of this lack of hard uncontroversial evidence it can be said that transwomen display every sexual orientation that non-transwomen do.

Notable transwomen

See also: List of transgender people

See also


  1. Kenagy, Gretchen P. (2005). Transgender Health: Findings from Two Needs Assessment Studies in Philadelphia.. Health and Social Work, Vol. 30. Retrieved on 2008-03-29.
  2. Novic, Richard (2005). Alice In Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes Of Age. iUniverse, page 77, ISBN 0595315623. Retrieved on 2008-03-29. 
  3. She-male”,, <>. Retrieved on 2007-10-26  Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English
  4. Shemale”, WordWebOnline, <>. Retrieved on 2007-10-26 
    "(sometimes offensive) a form of transsexual, esp. one in the sex industry" WordWeb Online
  5. Transgender Terms & Definitions”,, <>. Retrieved on 2007-10-26 
    Term comes from the pornography industry
  6. Glossary of Transgendered Terms”, Transsexual Road Map, <>. Retrieved on 2007-10-26 
  7. Trans@MIT: Allies Toolkit (PDF). Retrieved on 2007-10-26.
  8. Herbst, Philip H. (2001), Wimmin, Wimps & Wallflowers: An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Gender and Sexual orientation Bias in The United States, Intercultural Press, pp. 252–3, ISBN 1877864803, <,M1>. Retrieved on 25 October 2007 
  9. Julia, Dudek (April 20, 2003). Playing with Barbies:The Role of Female Stereotypes in the Male-to-Female Transition. Transgender Tapestry. Retrieved on January 2008.
  10. Blanchard, R., Clemmensen, L. H., & Steiner, B. (1985). Social desirability response set and systematic distortion in the self-report of adult male gender patients. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14.
  11. From Donald to Deirdre - Donald N. McCloskey sex change to Deirdre N. McCloskey

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