This article seeks to start a discussion that may help us understand why the category “transgender,” created to include all trans* experiences, has excluded some. If “transgender” cannot fully include all trans* people, can it still be a useful category to adequately capture and analyze the lived experience of historical actors? It is in tracing back the genealogy of transgender, in the search for a name that could encompass the multiple and sometimes contradictory relationships between one's body and its social recognition, that we may attempt to discover why transgender has eclipsed terms such as transsexual and transvestite. The article first examines the parallels between recent debates in the historiographies of gender and transgender as terms that can express the complex social representation of bodies negotiated by language. Second, it studies how much a genealogy of transgender in the past reveals in fact a multiplicity of terms to express a realignment between body and a self that can be read by society. Ultimately, the author proposes the study of first-person narratives as the best way to comprehend the multiple terms used to express the diverse and sometimes contradictory identities an individual can embody.

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