You can only call yourself trans because the social construct of trans exists. Don't worry, I've once had this exact response to a sociologist describing aspects of my self-identity to a T by talking about a group that have these aspects in common with each other. Sociologist don't deal in individuals, they deal in aggregates. A "group" is basically just a bunch of data that is both similar yet distinct as its own cluster versus other data clusters. It does not reflect on your individuality, though getting to understand that your of individuality is tied into the history of the language and culture that surrounds you might be difficult, since it's essentially an inside-out view. I don't mind if you reject this, but any serious academic discussion will be about , and not people. Identity is a concept, and everyone's understanding of said concept will be understood in their unique ways (yes, everyone is an individual), but we can only have a meaningful discussion about a concept if we all have an understanding of what that is. To answer the OP: it's the difference between actualized and possible, as people move through the medium of language into both self-awareness AND the culture they happen to be born into. Your language(s) will teach you both concepts (the 'what' ) and HOW those concepts manifest within the cultural area in which said language is spoken. The self will actualize along lines that the culture allows for, including gender identity, but ultimately the social categories available to self-actualize must be present beforehand, or be quickly constructed (a new word or meaning) and successfully diffused among others. It is possible for new constructs to emerge quickly, but the general 'selection grid' is bound by categories that have already been spread. Please be aware that this is a social science model of explaining social reality and NOT a reflection of power relations and / or politics as they too exist in human realities. Stigma affects everyone, yet all stigmas are themselves social constructs. So: Actual status versus possible status.