Transgender and transsexual people reserve the right to call themselves what they want and we must respect that. That said, you’d be hard-pressed by find anyone calling themselves “tranny” or “shemale” because these terms are derogatory and offensive. Shemale is a jargon term used in the porn industry and by sex workers. This is a two-dimensional pornographic character, who greatly departs from realism.

Within the sex industry, shemale is also used to describe a transgender woman who still has a penis, but has received breast implants or other augmentation.

Most transgender people find “tranny” (or the T-word) highly offensive, but some do use it. Even so, you should never call them that.

“Trans” would be the safest and best option to use. This term usually describes women who were male at birth and perceived as male in childhood, but grew up to realize they were female and came to live in a female gender role as adults. Trans is a general term to describe a person whose gender identity or expression are different than their sex at birth. Sometimes, there is an asterisk at the end of trans*. In this case, the word is taken to include all people, whose gender identities and expressions are not consistent with the associations with their sex that are common among their community.

“Trans” can mean transgender man (sometimes Female-to-Male, Trans Man, F2M, F to M, or FTM) apart from transgender woman (sometimes Male-to-Female, Trans Woman, MTF, or M2F). This is a person who was female at birth, but whose gender identity is male. Most trans men identify as men, and most trans women – as women.

These identities can also indicate a person who was surgically assigned the female gender at birth despite actually being intersex.