Please let me first suggest that I don't have special license to clear up the problem, nor do I claim to have all the answers. I DO NOT speak for the community as a whole, but offer some advice for people wanting some clarity. As a group we struggle ourselves on the correct use of the many terms that describe us. The use of all these terms come from many sources
The porn industry
Our own community
Groups that claim authority to do so.
Out own community
The use of all these terms can invoke anger, disgust, indifference, and even differing of opinion within the community. I think the main reason for the term problem is the very nature of who we are as a group. To define this we first need a frame of reference. If a man or woman describe themselves as Gay they can declare it as such one day, and then go back to work the next day with no one at work the wiser. The line between being gay and straight is fairly precise. The individual never changes in dress, speech, or actions. The company continues on with an employee that is the same today as yesterday.
A transgendered persons journey is totally different. It is contrasting in as many ways as males and females are different. The minute that person declares they are transgendered they must start the journey towards the change they have always wanted. That change subsequently effects they way they look and act. That occurrence can be as dramatic, or benign as people act, and dress in a normal work environment.
The changes made by the transgendered person varies greatly, from person to person. The terms used in that process help define the position within those terms. The classic argument for many years was the Transsexual definition. That distinctness has gradually changed over the years with the continuing positive surgical, and hormonal research and applications. The changes made trough facial surgery, implants and other body modifications are very real. That has basically changed the paradigm with regard to the strict definition of being transsexual, to the current more accepted one. That is the acceptance that not all transsexuals have SRS (sexual reassignment surgery) but do live full time, and are essentially undetectable as such.
It is that ambiguity that causes most to be confused by the terms we use, and the ones thrust upon us from the listed groups above. What it leaves us with is less than a clear path agreed upon by everyone. Its totally understandable since every human being is unique. They have their own level of change, dress, and actions that defines them as the sex they always knew they were. To be defined as Gay is a lifestyle and sexual outlook as a way of life. That change does not however alter the way that person is essentially perceived in the work environment. The changes transgendered people experience is the same lifestyle change. That however, is were we diverge. Everything changes in the work environment. The way the persons dress's, acts and express themselves is clearly different. The change is based on how that person sees themselves. For example one person maybe a very fashion conscience dresser, while the other is very subtle in their dress. That expression should already be defined by company policy. That visible change effects others interactions with that person. Its starts with the way transgendered people are received by management, co workers and underlings. Also way the public interacts, with them.
All of this ambiguity muddles definitions, and cause much confusion in the work place. It therefore become essential to the institution to provide some guidance to all employees. The very nature of how we define ourselves becomes irrelevant, and the transitioning becomes a personal journey. This change helps everyone in the company understand, so that it does not impact the work environment. The terms we use, need to become less important. The individual, their usefulness to the company becomes the primary goal for the institution.
Putting this to a conclusive end. The terms help us put situations into a form we can understand. They however can be in the case of transgendered individuals less than helpful, and often times insulting. It is important to understand them in the context of current and historical definitions. They are not however useful in handling that transitioning process. Its is is a real problem when they are used to define transgendered individuals as a group. Just as all non transgendered employees find themselves unique. Transgendered human beings see themselves in that same light.