Did You Know? - Trans Talk

We live in a world where gender is socially constructed. It is conceived of and practised as a ‘binary’. Only ‘two’ genders are considered legitimate: ‘male’ and ‘female’, though in some cultures, there are people who identify as hijras (in India), warias (in Indonesia), baklas (in the Philippines), to name just a few gender non-conforming people.

However, fortunately, the understanding of gender is expanding and there are many new terms that have been formed, and many more that are forming at this very moment and older meanings are being challenged, as the words and concepts below show.

Transgender Person

Is an umbrella term for someone who identifies, acts or thinks in a manner not socially approved for the gender assigned at birth. Examples of specific variants within this would include: Transvestite, Transsexual, Transman, Transwoman, etc. It is common to use just the word Trans, as well.

Transsexual Person

Is one whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth who may or may not desire to alter the body through hormonal and/or surgical procedures like Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). The person may or may not go through any/the whole gamut of medical procedures available towards this, depending on their own conceptions of their identity, as well as, factors like their health, finances, social situation and other such constraints. FTM stands for Female-to-Male transsexual person or Transman and MTF stands for Male-to-Female transsexual person or Transwoman.


Is one who dresses, for any of a number of reasons, in clothing usually worn by the other sex, but one who does not identify as the other gender.

Intersexed Person

Is one in whom the process of biological sex differentiation has been non-standard. Such individuals are often surgically reassigned a sex at birth and this practice has come to be questioned by intersexed persons themselves as a violation of their body, agency and well being.

Sex Reassignment Surgery

Any/all of a range of medical procedures that a transsexual person undergoes to allign their body with their gender identity. For FTMs the range of procedures available include: hormone therapy, mastectomy, shaping of a ‘male’ chest, removal of internal reproductive organs and lastly, phalloplasty or the construction of a penis. For MTFs, the range of procedures available include: hormone therapy and hair removal, augmentation mammoplasty or construction of breasts, non-genital surgeries like shaping the nose, revision of the thyroid cartilage and other such surgeries for a ‘feminine’ appearance, and lastly, genital surgery for the removal of the penis and testicles and construction of a vagina. Some additional interventions like speech therapy for voice modulation are also sometimes undertaken.

SRS is preceded by a psychiatric evaluation where the benefit of such a procedure is ascertained for the person desiring it. Evaluation and counselling may take any time between a year to two. Certification by two independent mental health professionals is often a requirement before undergoing SRS.

The legal status of the reassigned gender is different in different parts of the globe. Even within India e.g., Tamil Nadu has been the first state to recently grant an official status to the third sex. The ration card has a sex column marked T, instead of M or F.

Trans and Sexual Orientation

Trans people can be of any sexual orientation - heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual. Trans refers to gender identity whereas sexual orientation refers to the gender of the person whom one is attracted to. Many people think that Trans people will only be sexually attracted to members of the other sex, but this is untrue. So a person can be a Transwoman and lesbian, or bisexual or heteresexual.

Trans Network

It is useful for Trans people to know that there are networks, e lists and support groups where they can share resources and experiences.

Sampoorna is a network of Transgender/Transsexual/ Intersexual/Questioning persons who are Asian or Diasporic Asian and Non-Asians who have professional and/or social links with Asia. The network keeps connected through an e-group by the same name. This is a moderated e-list. Occasional group meetings are held in Mumbai and Delhi. The e-group came into being in April 2004 and there are currently 65 members from various parts of India and also from Sri Lanka, Canada and the United States of America. Sampoorna is a platform for networking, support and information on Trans issues specific to the Asian and Diasporic Asian experience. Membership can be requested by writing to: sampoorna@yahoogroups.com