People often get confused with the difference between gender and sexuality, let alone the different spectrum of Gender Dysphoria and understanding of Trans community in general. Trans people often face different set of challenges and often labeled as a THIRD GENDER in India. This small article explains very basic information to the non queer people or even to someone from the community, who is going through the confusion around the same.
A cross dresser is a person who sometimes wears clothes usually associated with the opposite sex (clothes, make-up, and jewelry) as a form of self-expression. Cross dressers can be gay or straight. A swing dress, fluffy petticoat, bra with false boobs, wig, 3-inch slingback shoes, and cardigan have been deemed some of a traditional cross dresser’s arsenal. Apart from western clothes, Indian cross dressers (mostly men) fancy wearing Salwar Kameez and Sari to pursue their interest in cross-dressing.
Wherever Cross dressing is mentioned people automatically think of M2F (male to female) cross dressing. However, cross dressers exist across both spectra of genders. In a culturally fanatic country India, a woman cross dresser can walk down the street in trousers, shirt and a hat, in traditionally ‘male’ attire without being labeled a cross dresser while for men, it is much difficult to remove the stigma of dressing up.
Unfortunately, attitudes to masculinity in India are still rooted in the nineteenth century. A man wearing a skirt is derided as being less than a man or a pervert. These days, a growing number of Indian men who love wearing skirts or kilts are aghast at being called Cross dressers.
The term transgender refers to a person who identifies differently from his/her biological sex. The word is an umbrella term that describes those who have a gender that’s different from the sex assigned at birth: male, female, or intersex (a person born with or without sexual anatomy of both female and male genders). A transgender person who is biologically female may feel that male identity is a better fit and vice versa.
Having said that, the term transgender can mean different things to different people. For instance, a person who was assigned female sex at birth and has a male sense of self could be categorized as transgender in some cultures. In some countries, a person with a female sense of self who was assigned male at birth could also be categorized as transgender.
Those who are transgender can identify as a woman, man, a combination of both. An individual can identify as a transgender man, a transgender woman, or a transgender nonbinary person. Here, nonbinary describes those who have a gender that can’t be exclusively categorized as male or female.
Previously, the word transgender used to recognize the need to medically alter one’s body, hormonal makeup, or appearance. Currently, in most western and south Asian countries, this seems to be changing. The decision to pursue physical and medical changes can vary from one person to another.
A transsexual is a person who physically transitions from male to female or female to male. He or she might take hormones to suppress the attributes of the biological gender to promote the characteristics of the desired gender. This way, transsexuals, to some extent, can control traits like facial hair and breast development. In a pursuit to produce different gender physically, a transsexual may also decide to have gender reassignment surgery, in which the anatomical features of the biological gender are removed while the features of the desired gender are added.
Medically, the term transsexual has been used to indicate a difference between one’s gender identity (their internal experience of gender) and sex assigned at birth (male, female, or intersex). But, some feel that the word transsexual should not always refer to physical changes since what is considered typical male or female in one culture may be considered unusual in another. Some transsexuals no longer refer to themselves as transsexuals after their transition to another gender.
With time, professionals in medicine and mental health have now understood that having a transsexual gender identity isn’t a mental illness. They are a naturally occurring part of human gender diversity and gender experiences.