OK, if a man or woman has changed their gender through surgery, what should we call them?

Can we call them transgender people?

According to Google, transgender (adj) means "denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender." Source

So, in that case, transgender does not tell us whether that person transformed his or her sex through surgery or not? Maybe he or she was born without his or her gender identified.

  • apparently "transsexual" may at one point have been used with this meaning. I don't mean this as a recommendation to use the word today. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – herisson
    Sep 18, 2015 at 1:52
  • 1
    Please tell us how you need to use this word; it's a requirement for single-word requests. (It could be as simple as an example sentence.)
    – herisson
    Sep 18, 2015 at 1:56
  • 1
    I'd wager that the person would want to be called "a woman" or "a man"
    – Jim
    Sep 18, 2015 at 2:57
  • Transsexual
    – Jimmy
    Sep 18, 2015 at 3:12
  • Surgery does not change a persons gender, as gender is a psychological concept. Surgery changes the persons sexual characteristics, or just 'sex'. See the genderbread man
    – Jekowl
    Nov 8, 2015 at 23:32

3 Answers 3


transgender is an umbrella term that refers to anybody who has a gender identity different to their at-birth sex, regardless of whether they have had sex reassignment surgery or not.

transsexual refers to somebody who has had sex reassignment surgery.

Transgender people will typically refer to themselves as the gender they identify with.

For example a person that has male genitalia but identifies as a woman, will introduce themselves as a transgender woman.

For further clarity transsexuals might prefix with a 'male-to-female' or 'mtf'. eg. 'I'm a male-to-female transsexual woman'.

Here's some more information here: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Transgender_vs_Transsexual

To answer your specific questions:

  1. People who have had sex reassignment surgery are transgender. People who have not had sex reassignment surgery are also transgender.

  2. If someone identifies as transgender, they are providing no clue as to whether they have had sex reassignment surgery or not.

  3. You can refer to someone that has had sex reassignment surgery as transsexual.

  • 2
    Point 3 seems misleading to me. You literally "can" refer to the person this way; you also literally "can" refer to them as a zucchini. The question is, should you? The term "transsexual" is controversial. Some people identify as transsexual; others do not. If the person does not identify as transsexual, it will generally be taken as rude (or in some social contexts, completely unacceptable) to refer to them with this term, even if they fit the definition.
    – herisson
    Sep 18, 2015 at 2:22
  • so is it ok to say "She is a transsexual person" or "a transsexual woman". But if that is the case, then does it mean "she was a female previously and became a male after surgery" or "she was a male previously and became a female after surgery". A bit confused!!!
    – Tom
    Sep 18, 2015 at 2:23
  • @sumelic, transsexual mean "a person who has undergone treatment in order to acquire the physical characteristics of the opposite sex." google.com/…
    – Tom
    Sep 18, 2015 at 2:25
  • @Tom: since you are using the present-tense "is" in that sentence, as well as female pronouns, the person is definitely female at the present time.
    – herisson
    Sep 18, 2015 at 2:25
  • @Tom: besides the literal meaning of words, I assume you are also concerned with their social appropriateness? My point is simply that this is an area where people often take offense at certain terminology, even if it is technically accurate.
    – herisson
    Sep 18, 2015 at 2:28

We would call them either a man or woman, whichever they identify with.

  • 3
    I think the original poster is actually looking for a term that would cover both men and women who have undergone one of these surgeries, and only men and women who have undergone one of these surgeries.
    – herisson
    Sep 18, 2015 at 1:54

While the answer by @dwjohnston is good, it is not entirely accurate.

The term transgender covers the wider range of people who do not fit the cis-gender binary of just "male" and "female". This can include people who are intersex, transsexual, gender-queer and agender. Please note that these are all adjectives. A transgender person is not "a transgender".

The term transsexual literally means "to change sex from one to another". Someone may be a transsexual without having sex reassignment surgery (also knows as gender confirmation surgery) to change their primary sex characteristics, but may be on a regime of hormones to change the secondary sex characteristics to align their body more closely with their identified gender. This term applies to both transsexual men and women.

Not every transsexual person needs or requires surgery. The correct terms are:

  • Non-operative transsexual: Someone who has or is using hormone replacement (such as oestrogen for trans women or testosterone for trans men), but does not feel the need to have sex reassignment surgery.
  • Pre-operative transsexual: Someone who requires surgery to feel complete but has not yet had the procedure.
  • Post-operative transsexual: Someone who has had sex reassignment or gender confirmation surgery.

Again, all of these terms apply to trans men and trans women. For more information, refer to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care V7.

Of course, if you are wondering what you should address someone as who is transgender, the rule of thumb is to address them as the gender they are presenting as, or what term/pronouns they ask you use.

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