The difference between trans and trans*

Updated for politeness – 18/11/2016

So this is a blog I’ve been promising for a while, and now is about time to do it. Considering it is #TransAwarenessMonth. Its a really important one too, because there are a lot of problems that I’ve experienced trying to advocate for trans people on my Twitter account, where people are confused about what I’m talking about. So I hope I can clear some of this up and provide a resource to explain the difference to people if they’re getting confused about what trans you are.

I’m trans, we’ll refer to this type of trans as “dysphoric trans” or dysphorics for short from this point forwards. This means I have a legitimate medical condition. It can be found in the DSM VI under Gender Dysphoria and it can be found in the ICD 10 under Transsexualism, and ICD 11 under Gender Incongruence. It’s well documented, well researched, and backed by a high percentage of the medical community. After all, the ICD is just an international classification for disease and the DSM a Diagnostic and Statistic Manual. The numbers simply refer to which version it is. ICD 11 is going to be the newest version when its released, and DSM VI is already the newest version.


According to both medical definitions you must experience dysphoria consistently and continually, and most will elect to socially transition their gender presentation. In previous versions and understandings, it was thought imperative that you must transition fully, including reassignment surgery,  if you wanted medical support. This has since been dropped to provide dysphorics with far more agency to choose what they want to do to try and manage their condition.

Some people who suffer with gender dysphoria/incongruence won’t transition at all, instead they’ll manage it another way. The important thing is that they’re comfortable and happy. If you can manage that without transition, then that’s okay too. For a lot of people with this condition however, transition is the only way forwards.  This is why the medical community have had to research and create definitions for dysphorics. It’s a super important key stone in our support that allows us the ability to be taken seriously. Not just from a medical perspective, but also from political and social ones too.

On the flip side, we get to “trans*”. These are people who, in the shortest possible explanation, are simply gender nonconforming as a sociopolitical statement. To break that down a bit more simply, they rebel against their gender out of choice, not need, as a statement about gender itself. Things like feminine guys, wearing female clothes, and their hair long, but with a big manly beard. Exactly like the drag queen who won 2014’s Eurovision, Conchita Wurst. Who interestingly, as a drag queen would be considered trans* under this latter definition of it, but not under the former.


They don’t do this out of need, they do it out of their beliefs. “Gender is just a social construct! Gender roles are just social constructs! We can all be what ever we want, whenever we want. Nobody is worse than anyone else for their gender expression!” All of that jazz. This puts them on the opposite end of the scale to dysphorics.

Whereas the majority of dysphorics will elect to transition with medical support out of necessity, the majority of trans* people don’t. They just cut their hair short and call themselves a boy now. It’s entirely not the same thing and is rooted in their idea of identity politics. The idea being whatever you identify as is how you should be respected, socially politically and legally.

Why is this something I’m writing about you ask? Because trans* people are having an impact on the world which is impacting dysphorics negatively. I wrote recently about #TransDepath and how that could sweep the whole of our medical support out from underneath us. Medical support which most trans* people don’t need, but nearly all of dysphorics do. There are other problems too, such as clogging up health care services when they don’t want to transition, which is really problematic in my country as we only have 8 gender specialist clinics.

Why do they have the same name? Because the trans of dysphorics refers to “transsexualism”. This is what our condition was referred to previous to the new names like Gender Incongruence. The other kind of trans* comes from “transgender” – which I’m not sure of the origin of, but is mostly used as an umbrella term. It’s a catch-all for anyone who is transsexual, intersex, gender non conforming etc. In short, they co-opted “trans” into an umbrella term that would include themselves within it.

So what can we do? Well in my opinion, I think we need to start calling dysphoric trans people a different word. We need to provide separation between these two very different ideas. Hence my use of “dysphorics” throughout this post. Initially I suggested “trutrans” as its already a word popularised amongst trans people, and often gets responses from the non-trutrans people in the form of a slur “truscum”. A term used to describe anyone who believes in trans as a medical condition and not as a political statement. But after talking to some non-dysphorics, I realised it was probably a little rude. To which I apologise for.


I don’t want to threaten their identity or rights, I don’t care what they do as long as it isn’t affecting me or my ability to get medical support for my condition when I need it. Most dysphorics would absolutely agree with that. Live and let live, just keep your bullshit away from me. So in honour of #TransAwarenessMonth – lets be aware of the differences between people who would use the term “trans” to describe themselves. Lets be aware that dysphorics people are different to trans* people.

People said I didn’t cover non-binary here, and although I kinda did if you read between the lines, I did a follow up over here. Thanks for the support! 


14 thoughts on “The difference between trans and trans*

  1. Violet Velvet says:

    You are fear mongering here. There is no such thing like ‘transtrenders’. It is a myth from the bigots and by sharing it into our community, you do their work.
    And you clearly didn’t understand what a social construct is. It is nothing bad, just how the world works. Everything is a social construction, ‘constructed’ from our brains in a social scheme. That doesn’t mean you can nilly willy change it how you like. It describes rather how it comes to that. But you can change gender roles of course, hence they are independent from gender itself and causing more harm than they use us.
    And you don’t have to do any operation to be allowed to call you trans. Or feeling dysphoria and hating your body. There are too many factors and differences, but ultimatly only you can say if you are trans or not. Speaking for others instead of let them speak for theirselves is bigotery and against simple human rights. You should check yourself and your discriminations here. Seperating us and fighting against the own kin is doing our enemies a favor.


  2. cursedeblogger says:

    Hi there. I disagree, I think there are transtrenders. Perhaps it isn’t the kindest of names, and I’m open to better suggestion. The whole point of this blog being that the two wings that currently make up the trans community are totally different in their motivations and aims. Those who transition out of medical need have different aims than those who transition out of identity politics. My argument is merely for the separation of terms, I dub the two distinct groups as trutrans and transtrenders, but again, you’re welcome to suggest better names. Though please make sure that they draw clear distinction between the two groups – to help them better represent their ideas.

    I didn’t say social constructs were bad, not at all. And I do know what they are – my point in this post about them is that there are those who transition out of medical necessity, and those who transition because they believe gender to be a social construct. There’s no part of this post wihich says that this is bad, just that it’s different to the aforementioned trutrans group.

    You can call yourself whatever you like – again, I don’t argue against that. My point is purely about how there is a necessity for differing terms to better represent the two groups. I don’t agree grouping very different things into one, just because they have minor overlap, does either side of them justice. It helps our ‘enemies’ less to keep the confusion and infighting, rather than separating the two ideas completely.

    Thanks for the comment and read though! 🙂


  3. ramendik says:

    The term I tend to use is “medically trans”. It recognizes the need of medical intervention while also leaving the door open for other people to be “non-medically trans”. (There is also “transsexual”, but the problem with that word, otherwise perfectly valid, is the tendency for mistaken conflation with “homosexual”).

    I have yet to hear, though, of non-medically trans people denying the need for medical intervention for medically trans people. I hear a lot about people wanting access to hormones on the basis of informed consent, though. Some of these people are probably non-medically trans and they want to modify their body to match their presentation even though they are not actually suffering from the body’s present form. This can create issues with insurance coverage but is not, in itself, a denial of medical necessity for some people.


    • cursede says:

      I disagree. There’s a small movement to depathologise trans as a medical condition. I’ve written about it before. Search about for trans depath or the hash tag on twitter #transdepath.

      They argue for trans to no longer be considered a condition which would arguably sweep kick all of our support from underneath us.

      And yeah, I’m down for using whatever term works to help keep us separated – because the two camps issues are vastly different.


      • ramendik says:

        I’ve taken a look at the tag. Many entries seem to be about small children. There was however an entry by Transgender Europe that is not about children. and we could look at this as a test of the policy: . And there was another mentioning Denmark:

        This is a recent development and definitely one to watch. How will Malta and Denmark handle their medical trans populations?

        Malta might be a hard one to watch because it has slightly over 400k people, so statistics would point to under 1500 medically trans – and just how many of those would need operations in a single year, so one could gauge public or insurance coverage?

        Denmark is much easier. Its population is slightly under 6 million, similar to Ireland where I live. It is also famous for being the place where Christine Jorgensen was operated. And to top it all, Denmark has a publicly funded medical system, so the buck stops with the state:

        Here is a Danish person, writing in 2010, explaining the situation in Denmark as it was then:

        Denmark does provide trans people with hormone treatment, surgery and psychological support reimbursed by public health insurance schemes. But people might be denied treatment if they do not fit into the standardised diagnostic schema. Only a small percentage of the trans people who seek help at Sexologisk Klinik are eventually provided with the medical and surgical support they have applied for. Compared to the other Scandinavian countries, Denmark allows very few people to change their gender. A statistical comparison shows that from 1996 to 2005 permission for a sex change was granted to 91% of the applicants in Sweden while it was only granted to 37% in Denmark.[5] Many choose to seek support elsewhere and fund the transition themselves[6] because they have difficulties conforming to the pathologising discourse surrounding the diagnosis “transsexuality”. Accepting this diagnosis includes accepting having a mental illness: “Gender Identity Disorder”. It also includes succumbing oneself to a system of labels. As the queer theorist Judith Butler has formulated it, one has to “submit to labels and names, to incursions, to invasions; one has to be gauged against measures of normalcy; and one has to pass the test. […] The price of using the diagnosis to get what one wants is that one cannot use the language to say what one really thinks is true. One pays for one’s freedom”.[7]

        So Tobias Raun appears to think that some kind of removal of the mental illness label would actually improve the rate at which Denmark approves people for surgery. Your position is the other way around. As the change has actually happened, it has become possible to test the theories.

        There’s just no way Denmark can stop performing surgical treatment of medically trans people without this fact being noticeable somehow. So I suggest we keep an eye on it as a real life test of “depath”. There is of course the language barrier. But we already know who is most likely to be watching it from the inside and to have access to the numbers – Tobias Raun. he is now an Associate Professor.

        I hope you don’t mind if I write to him and ask how it is impacting the availability of surgery?

        (I do know about hormone treatment… I overhauled Wikipedia’s article on transition therapy a couple of years ago. I keep writing specifically about surgery here, but only because surgery is a clear test of public medical funding. In most of Europe, public medicine or medical insurance does not cover your prescriptions at all. So prescription of hormones depends on what the doctor writes, not on what the state or insurance company covers. And doctor visits are covered without the need for a diagnosis, anyway).

        Liked by 2 people

        • cursede says:

          I honestly don’t mind if you do! You write really well and pack so much information into these posts, its honestly impressive! Why don’t you have your own space to write about this stuff? You’d be a force to be reckoned with for sure!

          and yeah, I’m super willing to test the theory and adjust my view point accordingly! I guess there really is only one way to find out for sure. You can CC me in if you like, my email is 🙂

          I agree there would be problems – but I think they can be easily fixed with updated definitions of what it means to be trans. “Transsexuality” is a really bad descriptor, I kinda like the ICD 11’s new title, Gender Incongruence. It seems to be a far more open idea that doesn’t imply transition to be necessary. Nor does it necessarily imply mental illness.

          Liked by 1 person

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