What is transgender?

gender_gingerbread-svgWhat does transgender mean?

Transgender, or Trans, is an adjective used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned when they were born.

Gender identity is a person’s internal sense of being a male or a female or somewhere in the middle, or both, or none. For example, a person labelled a boy at birth who later realizes that their authentic self is female, would be a trans woman.  Some transgender people reject the traditional understanding of gender completely. They identify just as transgender, or genderqueer, genderfluid, transsexual, or something else. It is important to always use the preferred term chosen by the individual person.

Most transgender people look to bring their bodies more into alignment with their gender identity by transitioning from the gender assigned at birth.  They may change their names, pronouns or style of dress.  They may also express their gender identity through hairstyles, behavior, voice or body characteristics which are non-conforming to society’s gender norms. Some transgender people take hormone blockers, male hormones or female hormones to better reflect their true gender identity.

Some transgender people may have surgery to change their body to match their true gender identity. Breast surgery is the most common and accessible surgery for both transgender men (bilateral mastectomy) and transgender women (breast implants). Not all transgender people can or will take those steps. Medical procedures are not required to be transgender.

Sexual orientation

While gender identity is determined by how you identify your gender, sexual orientation is determined by who you are attracted to and fall in love with.

Sexual orientation has many aspects including a person’s romantic, emotional, and/or physical attraction to another person. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Some identify as queer, pansexual and sometimes, just sexual to emphasize the fluidity and diversity of gender and sexual orientation. Others identify as asexual and do not experience sexual orientation to a specific gender.

Like anyone else, transgender people have a sexual orientation. For example, a person who transitions from female to male and is attracted solely to women would typically identify as a straight male. A person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to women would typically identify as a lesbian.

If you have 17 minutes, this video gives a great explanation on gender: Understanding the Complexities of Gender: Sam Killermann at TEDxUofIChicago

The Gender Unicorn is a helpful graphic to understand  the distinction between gender, sex assigned at birth, and sexuality.

Terms are always changing in the LGBTQ+ community. An extensive list of updated terms can be found at  Trans Student Educational Resources.