I've revamped this a little--It's amazing how much wrong information is out there. No definition in the Trans movement is cut and dry, and most terms are controversial and constantly changing. Please excuse me if my definitions don't match yours, and email me if you have a correction.
A crossdresser is a person who likes to wear the clothes of the "opposite" sex.
What's the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?
These traits are often confused with each other. Sexual orientation, or preference, is which sex turns you on (ex: straight, bi, gay, lesbian, fluid, etc.) Gender identity is how much maleness, femaleness, or otherness you feel you have in you.
Currently I am a hetero male who enjoys wearing women's clothes. I believe that both men and women should be able to wear whatever they want to wear. I like to be more graceful, sensitive and beautiful than society wants me to be, and find an outlet to that in wearing women's clothes.
Isn't being a crossdresser the same as being a transvestite?
Pretty much, yeah I think so. But I certainly prefer the term "crossdresser," and I think most crossdressers do too. It's a wonderful euphemism. I don't consider myself a transvestite but do consider myself a crossdresser, even though they mean the same thing. There's just so much negative associations that are attributed to the word transvestite. For one thing, transvestite is almost a bad word in our language...Look at how the media portrays it, like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. For another, Transvestite is such an awful word...I don't want to be associated with most words that end in "ite..." Parasite, termite, etc. for example.
While you're explaining all of this, you might as well go over some of the other transgender terms to create less confusion.
Transgender- The term "transgender" is usually an umbrella term that refers to crossdressers and transvestites, transsexuals, drag queens and kings, intersexuals, gender dysphorics, feminine males, masculine females, those who don't wish to be labeled, and anyone who challenges traditional gender and sex definitions. The word has several definitions, some of which include the transsexual community and some of which do not. I use it in the most inclusive way possible, but respect other people's right to define themselves.
Transsexual- A transsexual is someone who feels that their gender identity is opposite of their biological sex, and plans on or has already taken steps to alter their body to suit their identity. This can include hormones, sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), breast reductions or implants, and cosmetic surgery. "Post-op" and "Pre-op" refer to their sexual reassignment surgery status.
Intersexual- An intersexual is someone who is born with some combination of male and female genitals. While many consider this to be a medical abnormality, the trans movement explains it as just another example of how our culture's sexual dichotomy (the rigid male-female binary system) fails. Intersexuals are generally "fixed" at birth; that is, doctors assign them a sex and mutilate the conflicting genitals, another sign of medical ignorance. "Hermaphrodite" is the dated synonym not used anymore for intersexuals, probably for the same reason crossdressers don't like "transvestite" (it's that whole rhyme scheme...).
Gender- Social categories, statuses, and roles that society normally attributes to sex. I'd attribute ways of being, appearance, dress, behaviors, ways of relating to people, values, tastes, gestures, body language, opinions, and emotions as all part of your gender.
Sex- The physical makeup of your genitalia, which could be male, female, intersex, or neuter. "male" and "female" are words usually attributed with sex, while "masculine," "boy," and "man" and "feminine," "girl," and "woman" are usually associated with gender.
FTM, MTF- Stands for "female to male" and "male to female."
Are there female crossdressers and transsexuals?
Yes. The ratio of female and male crossdressers and transsexuals is about equal, however, FTM genital surgery isn't nearly as advanced as MTF surgery, and the amount of literature and publicity for FTMs is a lot less than of MTFs.
How the heck to you spell crossdress, anyway?
I don't know! Spell checks tell me it's spelled cross-dress, but hardly anyone on the internet spells it that way. The common spelling on the internet seems to lack the dash: just crossdress.
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