For most of the people who have not been exposed to the transgender world, it is confusing. Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer helped raise awareness about the transgender community. And since Jenner is a highly-recognizable figure people watched the interview. Yet, most people don’t know the various groups within the transgender community; there are many.
The transgender community is a diverse group of many lifestyles and labels. The term transgender is the umbrella-word for all of those who identify with a gender that is different from the gender that their genitalia would indicate. It’s a safe way of describing the original definition of the term transgender, as there are many groups that are sensitive to the word gender and how it is used.
Transgender is the T in the LGBT protected class, so this term does protect all of those identifying as a transgender person, but the similarities between the sub-groups becomes more muddied as I have learned as I have delved into the transgender, cross-dressing and non-gender conforming communities. It takes a person made of steel (that’s me) to be able to even attempt to discuss the differences of these groups, without being verbally shot, of which I seem to be every day.
There is some dissension in the transgender community building as some of the girls are questioning the role of the cross-dresser in this group and if they are “transgender enough” to be classified as a transgender woman. Both the transgender population and the cross-dressers begin dressing in the opposite gender clothing at a young age. Most are 5-6 years old when they are first attracted to this clothing and continue to be their entire lives.
As the journey of cross-dressing evolves for both communities, there is a distinct difference as to how the cross-dressers and the transgender population identify with their given gender. Most cross-dressers still identify with their male gender, choosing not to give this up, but rather free their femme self. This is a long journey for many who finally realize that they need to let the “woman” out in them, or at least acknowledge her as being an important part of who they are.
The transgender (transsexual) woman comes to another realization, sometimes very young, but often later in life that they never identified as a male and feel as if they are a female, and have always been; that they were born the wrong sex. Once they realize this, they start on a path of feminization through hormones, hair removal, plastic surgery and complete transition. Even if they can not afford it or are not healthy enough to have the full transition surgery, they still self-identify as a woman.
Then there are some cross-dressers who are still on their path of discovery who come to the realization after classifying themselves as a cross-dresser that they self-identify more as a woman, and act out mostly in their femme role, yet remain a man. Some cross-dressers are non-conforming to a gender, wear whatever they want and don’t affiliate with either gender.
The transgender women are the most vocal as they are the activists for the transgender community. Some in the community feel as if all cross-dressers are really transgender women who are afraid to convert, yet many cross-dressers will tell you that they have never wanted to become a woman. Because of the dual gender identity of the cross-dressers, many are not out in public as they are dealing with how to do this and still be accepted by their wives’ families, friends and employers. It’s more complicated for them because they don’t fit into one gender role.
For those of your not familiar with this transgender world, it is like any other group looking for acceptance from, not only society, but from themselves as they continue on to their own path of discovery. It is a long, difficult for path for acceptance for many, of which makes it more critical for the unity of the transgender, cross-dressers and the non-conforming gender groups.