The "T" in LGBT stands for Transgender -- and it's a group that even the L, G and B [Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual] segments of that acronym often are uncomfortable with.
Here is how GLAAD -- Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation -- defines terms dealing with this issue:
Transgender -An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term (transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.
Transsexual (also Transexual) -An older term which originated in the medical and psychological communities. Many transgender people prefer the term "transgender" to "transsexual." Some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe themselves. However, unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term, and many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.
Transition -Altering one's birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition includes some or all of the following cultural, legal and medical adjustments: telling one's family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one's name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgical alteration
Intersex -Describing a person whose biological sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations which make a person's sex ambiguous (i.e., Klinefelter Syndrome, Adrenal Hyperplasia). Parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant's body to that assignment. This practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults are speaking out against the practice, accusing doctors of genital mutilation.
I found these definitions very helpful this past spring and summer as I spent time with African Anglicans who are transgender.
Previously, I had met and spent time with a few American transgender folk and I confess I was usually uneasy at first. What should I call them? How should I act? Do I pretend I don't notice?
Notice all these questions are about ME, not them. That was my first clue that I was starting from the wrong place.
When a kind MTF transgender named Carol said gently, "You can ask me all the questions that are on your face," I was ashamed of how rude I was being and said so.
She smiled and said, "Let's talk." And we did. She was incredibly generous and patient with me as I fumbled around trying to figure out how to frame all the questions rolling around in my head.
She had known from childhood that she was a female, not a male, even though she was raised as a boy. She has had some surgery, but not all transgender folk do. This is especially true in Africa, where cost alone makes such surgery unobtainable for most people.
And yes, she thinks of herself as female and prefers to be addressed as a woman.
I am still learning about this part of God's incredibly diverse creation. But clearly some places are further along on this journey than am I if this television commercial for a bank in Argentina is any evidence.
Think what a difference it would make if we saw commercials like this more often.