Transgender 101

What does transgender mean?

Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity vary from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender identity is someone’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary). For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match.Trying to change a person’s gender identity is no more successful than trying to change a person’s sexual orientation — it doesn’t work. So most transgender people seek to bring their bodies more into alignment with their gender identity.

People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one (or more) of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, and genderqueer. Always use the descriptive term preferred by the individual.Transgender people may or may not alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically, but it’s important to know that being transgender is not dependent upon medical procedures.

Transgender is an adjective and should never be used as a noun. Rather than saying “Max is a transgender,” say “Max is a transgender person.” And transgender never needs an “-ed” at the end.

How is sexual orientation different from gender identity?

We use the acronym LGBT to describe the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The first three letters (LGB) refer to sexual orientation. The ‘T’ refers to issues of gender identity.Gender identity is your own, internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary).

Sexual orientation describes a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person (for example: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual). Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a straight woman.

Transgender Myths

Transgender people live crazy lives

This is probably the most common misconception about trans people. Many people incorrectly associate being transgender with automatically living a “crazy lifestyle” based on tv and in the movies.

All transgender people do the everyday things that are a part of life. They go to work, buy groceries, see movies, kiss their kids good night.They are people. They do people things like everyone else.

Transgender people are confused

Just because a person is different, doesn’t mean they don’t know who they are. They are females, males, and intersex. Trans people have a gender. They are men, women, queer, and other genders. They know their sex and they know their gender. This can be confusing to us who inhabit more traditional gender roles, but to the transgender person, it is not confusing. It is just who they are.

That said, coming to the realization that you are trans, and coming out publicly as trans, in a society that doesn’t accept or understand you can be very confusing and hurtful. Many transgender people have experiences of feeling “defective” or “wrong.” This is a social problem, not a gender identity problem.

Transgender people are mentally disturbed

It’s true that many transgender people suffer from mental illness. But it’s not because of their gender identity alone! It’s because in a patriarchal society, being gender variant causes a lot of distress. So much distress, in fact, that it can be described by the diagnosis of a mental disorder. This diagnosis is helpful because it tells us that this person is hurting and something needs to be done to help. Transgender people have the same brains we do. They are just faced with a lot more mental and emotional stress.

Transgender people are gay

Gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely different things. One is what gender we see ourselves as being. The other is what gender(s) and sex(es) we are physically and romantically attracted to.

Knowing one doesn’t tell you about the other.


Information from GLAAD (http://www.glaad.org/transgender)

Hear and read stories from Transgender individuals in our community and around the world here.

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