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As with many emerging human rights issues, terminology is a powerful and, at times, a controversial tool. In consultation, one group of transsexuals expressed concern about the use of the term ‘transgendered’ to describe their experience because it covers so many different types of behaviour and can undermine the importance of individual or particular issues faced by transsexuals.

‘Transgendered’ is used here as a generic term to describe people who are not comfortable with or who reject, in whole or in part, their birth-assigned gender identities. The category includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, intersexed individuals, ‘drag queens’, ‘drag kings’ and may also include female impersonators. It should be noted that each of these groups has distinct issues in relation to discrimination in society. The term ‘transgendered’ is, in effect, a form of shorthand that refers to a wide range of people and experiences. However, it is important not to allow the use of a single term to imply that their needs are identical or that their human rights issues are all the same.

Accompanying the growing visibility of transgendered persons is a shift to the politicisation of the issue where advocacy groups assert their perspectives, which include changes in terminology. On one end of the terminology continuum is the term gender dysphoria, used by the Gender Identity Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry[15] and at the other end are terms such as ‘gender euphoria’, ‘gender gifted’ or ‘whole gendered’, which have become popular, liberating terms amongst members of the transgendered community.

[15] The Gender Identity Clinic at the Clark Institute of Psychiatry defines gender dysphoria as “ A discontent with one's biological sex, the desire to possess the body of the opposite sex, and the wish to be regarded as a member of the opposite sex. These feelings may be expressed verbally, in assertions that one properly belongs to the opposite sex, or non-verbally, in cross-gender behaviour (e.g., dressing as the opposite sex). The extreme forms of gender identity disorders collectively referred to as transsexualism, usually involve the desire to live as a member of the opposite sex in society and to obtain hormonal and surgical treatment to approximate the external anatomy of the opposite biological sex. <>.

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