A trans woman (also known as transwoman), is a transsexual or transgender woman: a person who was assigned a male sex at birth, but who feels that this is not an accurate or complete description of themselves and consequently identifies as female.
The common term "MTF" (sometimes MtF, M2F, or M→F) is short for "male-to-female", and identifies the general direction of transition (from assigned to actual), and not a conscripted "start" to "finish" process.
Even after transitioning, trans women have biological differences from cisgender women. For example, most have XY chromosomes. However, woman does not necessarily refer to biological sex; it can also refer to cultural gender role distinctions or, most importantly for many transpeople, a personal gender-identification choice.
While popular the pornography industry, the labels "shemale", "tranny", and "ladyboy", are generally considered derogatory as they deny the gender identity of the person and marginalize them into a sexual object based on genitalia.
"Transgender woman" is an umbrella term that may include anybody who was assigned male (sex) at birth, but identifies as female. For instance, some drag queens,cross dressers, androgynous, bigendered, and genderqueer people might identify as trans women. Because "transgender" is an umbrella term, it is imprecise and does not adequately describe specific identities and experiences. For example, the identity and experience of a post-operative trans woman will probably be very different from that of a male-identified drag queens who performs on weekends, but both are often lumped together under the term "transgender".
Transsexual women usually seek medical interventions, such as hormones and surgery, to make their bodies as congruent as possible with their gender identity. They usually live or wish to live full-time as members of the gender opposite to the gender they were assigned at birth.
Those who still identify as trans women after transitioning may describe themselves as "post-op" (post-operative; as distinguished from "pre-op") trans women. Trans women who either do not want, or have medical reasons for not having sex reassignment surgery, are sometimes described as "non-op".
Many trans women consider the shape of their genitalia irrelevant to how they interact in daily life, with genital surgery as only a small part of transition. They may argue that trans women should not be defined by their surgical status, and reject the terms "pre-op/post-op/non-op".
Some trans women who feel that their gender transition is complete prefer to be called simply "women," considering "trans woman" or "male-to-female transsexual" to be terms that should only used for people who are not fully transitioned. Likewise, many may not want to be seen as a "trans woman" owing to society's tendency to "Other" individuals who do not fit into the sex/gender binary, or have personal reasons beyond that to not wish to identify as transgender post-transition. For this reason, many see it as an important and appropriate distinction to include a space in the term, as in "trans woman", thus using "trans" as merely an adjective describing a particular type of woman; this is in contrast to the usage of "transwoman" as one word, implying a "third gender". 
"Transition" refers to the process of adopting a social and personal identity that corresponds to one's own sense of the gendered self, and may or may not include medical intervention (hormone treatment, surgery, etc.), changes in legal documents (name and/or sex indicated on identification, birth certificate, etc.), and personal expression (clothing, accessories, voice, body language).
Some trans women desire hair removal and voice feminization. Likewise facial feminization surgery is not always required but can be seen as advantageous for providing a psychological basis of seeing oneself transform.
Every case is unique and options available greatly depend on one's access to medical care providers and financial support. Many do not undergo any form of surgery beyond an orchidectomy, for either personal or monetary reasons.
Similar to trans men, trans women have a multitude of decisions and choices depending on what culture(s) they are presently in and what gender roles they and their supporters feel they should attain. Those who fall under the queer identity spectrum may not engage in things considered stereotypically feminine.
The stereotype of the effeminate boy who grows up to live as a woman has a very long history. It is a common misconception and stereotype that all transgendered and transsexual women are heterosexual (attracted to males). However, research on the sexual orientation of trans women in the past has been dubious at best. Many studies on this issue have suffered from reporting bias, since many transsexuals feel they must give the "correct" answers to such questions to increase their chances of obtaining hormone replacement therapy. Patrick Califia, author of Sex Changes and Public Sex, has indicated that this group has a clear awareness of what answers to give to survey questions to be considered eligible for hormone replacement therapy and/or sex reassignment surgery:
"None of the gender scientists seem to realize that they, themselves, are responsible for creating a situation where transsexual people must describe a fixed set of symptoms and recite a history that has been edited in clearly prescribed ways to get a doctor's approval for what should be their inalienable right."
Some researchers (see BBL controversy) ignore the evidence of self-identification as women and continue to view transsexual women as men, labeling trans women who feel sexual attraction to men as "homosexual transsexuals" and to women as "nonhomosexual". This is seen as disrespectful to the women whom they are supposing to study; developmental biologist and trans-feminist writer Julia Serano labels this as part of a process of "trans-objectification," the reduction of transsexual persons to research specimens and sexual fantasies.
Studies indicate that trans women have a higher incidence of decreased libido (34%) than biological females (23%), but the difference was not statistically significant. As in males, female libido is thought to correlate with serum testosterone levels (with some controversy) but there is no such correlation in trans women even though they do tend to have lower testosterone.
Notable trans women
- Calpernia Addams, actress, author, autobiographer, entrepreneur, activist, fiddle player
- Allenina, model, actress, dancer, and director
- Nadia Almada, Big Brother UK 2004 winner, transsexual
- Alexis Arquette, Actress, Musician, member of the Arquette family of actors
- Amanda Simpson, Senior Technical Adviser to the United States Department of Commerce
- April Ashley, model
- Estelle Asmodelle, actress, author, dancer, and Australia's first legal transsexual
- Georgina Beyer, the first trans person in New Zealand (and the world) to become a mayor (1995) and a member of Parliament (1999)
- Alexandra Billings, American actress
- Kate Bornstein activist, author, performance artist, playwright
- Jennifer Finney Boylan, American author and activist
- Wendy Carlos, American composer and electronic musician
- Candis Cayne, American actress and entertainer
- Lynn Conway, computer scientist and electrical engineer
- Caroline Cossey (a.k.a. Tula), English model
- Jayne County, American rock singer
- Roberta Cowell, First male to female trans person in the UK (1951)
- Katelynn Cusanelli, castmember on MTV's The Real World: Brooklyn, and the first transgender individual to star on the show.
- Molly Cutpurse, English author
- Lili Elbe first surgically reassigned person, Denmark (1930)
- Bülent Ersoy, Turkish/German singer and author
- Bibiana Fernández, Spanish presenter and actress
- Lauren Foster, Vogue model
- Ina Fried, senior writer for CNET Networks
- Harisu, South Korean entertainer, actress, and singer
- Jenny Hiloudaki, Greek model
- Dana International, Israeli pop singer
- Andrea James, Film-maker and activist
- Aya Kamikawa, Japanese politician
- Isis King, American designer and finalist on America's Next Top Model
- Christine Jorgensen, first male-to-female trans person in the US (1953)
- Members of Lipstick Conspiracy, a transgender rock band based in San Francisco, California
- Leiomy Maldonado, Dancer
- Deirdre McCloskey, American economist
- Jan Morris, British writer
- Ataru Nakamura, Japanese singer
- Judiel Nieva, alleged witness of a Marian apparition
- Kim Petras, German singer
- Renée Richards, American tennis player
- Miriam Rivera, reality television star and model
- Joan Roughgarden, Biologist
- Allanah Starr, pornographic actress and party hostess
- Notes on Gender Role Transition
- Trans@MIT: Allies Toolkit, <http://web.mit.edu/trans/TGterminology.pdf>. Retrieved on 2007-10-26
- Serano, Julia (2007). Whipping girl: a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 29-30. ISBN 1-58005-154-5.
- Julia, Dudek (April 20, 2003), Playing with Barbies:The Role of Female Stereotypes in the Male-to-Female Transition, Transgender Tapestry, <http://www.ifge.org/Article231.phtml>. Retrieved on January 2008
- From Donald to Deirdre - Donald N. McCloskey sex change to Deirdre N. McCloskey
- Elaut E; De Cuypere G; De Sutter P; Gijs L; Van Trotsenburg M; Heylens G; Kaufman JM; Rubens R; T'sjoen G (Mar 2008). "Hypoactive sexual desire in transsexual women: prevalence and association with testosterone levels". European Journal Of Endocrinology 158: 393-9. PMID 18299474.
- Turna B, Apaydin E, Semerci B, Altay B, Cikili N, & Nazli O (2005). "Women with low libido: correlation of decreased androgen levels with female sexual function index". International Journal of Impotence Research 17: 148–153. PMID 15592425.
- Santoro N, Torrens J, Crawford S, Allsworth JE, Finkelstein JS, Gold EB, Korenman S, Lasley WL, Luborsky JL, McConnell D, Sowers MF, & Weiss G (2005). "Correlates of circulating androgens in mid-life women: the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation". Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 90: 4836–4845. PMID 15840738.
- Sherwin BB, Gelfand MM, Brender W (1985). "Androgen enhances sexual motivation in females: a prospective, crossover study of sex steroid administration in the surgical menopause". Psychosomatic Medicine 47: 339–351. PMID 4023162.
- Sherwin, B (1985). "Changes in sexual behavior as a function of plasma sex steroid levels in post-menopausal women". Maturitas 7: 225–233. PMID 4079822.
- Davis SR, Davison SL, Donath S, Bell RJ (2005). "Circulating androgen levels and self-reported sexual function in women". Journal of the American Medical Association 294: 91–96. PMID 15998895.
- DeCuypere G, T’Sjoen G, Beerten R, Selvaggi G, DeSutter P, Hoebeke P, Monstrey S, Vansteenwegen A, Rubens R (2005). "Sexual and physical health after sex reassignment surgery". Archives of Sexual Behavior 34: 679–690. PMID 16362252.
- Australian WOMAN Network - The Australian WOMAN Network, a group which lobbies for the rights of Australian women living with transsexualism or of transsexual background.
- Lynn Conway - Her goal is to "illuminate and normalize the issues of gender identity and the process of transitioning."
- Mom, I Need to Be a Girl - a book by the mother of a young trans woman.
- Transsexual Women's Resources - run by Anne Lawrence, a controversial figure due to her support for the autogynephilia theory.
- Transsexual Women's Successes
- The Gender Centre Sydney Australia based support organisation
- Sexuality in Transsexual and Transgender Individuals
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