The term shemale is one that is considered derogatory to most trans women. It refers to trans women (male-to-female transgender or transsexual people) who typically have breasts of an adult female (through hormone replacement therapy and/or through breast augmentation), and who usually have other female secondary sex characteristics, but who have not undergone genital reassignment surgery.
However, other trans women never undergo genital reassignment surgery even if they can afford it, or come to accept their genitalia, because they consider the surgery to be unnecessary for their individual gender transition. Some trans women have said they prefer the genitalia with which they were born
The term "shemale" (along with tranny, ladyboy and "chick with a dick") is commonly, but not exclusively, used in pornography and the sex industry; videos and magazines involving such people are a common sub-genre of pornography. It is often seen by transsexual people as a powerful term of abuse.
Many trans women are offended by this term for one or more of the following reasons:
- because of the word's hateful connotation
- because of the association with the sex industry, like pornography, escort services, and sex party scenes
- because many trans women who have not undergone genital reassignment surgery want it
- because their Gender identity is female, not "male," nor do they feel they are only "half-female."
While a small minority of trans women may not find the term to be pejorative, most do and it is therefore considered egregiously rude to use it. It is one of the terms considered defamatory in the GLAAD Media Reference Guide:
Defamatory: "she-male," "he-she," "it," "trannie," "tranny," "shim," "gender-bender" These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be used.
- Transgender section of the GLAAD Media Reference Guide http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender
- GLBTQ article: Pornographic Film and Video: Transsexual
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