Understanding Transgender 101
Posted: Feb 03 2016
Transgender is a term that is thrown around now more than ever. But many people still don’t entirely understand what it means. Transgender is defined as: denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender. Basically, a person who does not identify with the gender they were born into. Transgender people aren’t pretending to be men or women, they ARE men or women.
Here’s a quick roundup of a few more terms you may have heard.
People who are transgender are not an “it.” They are not “transgendered” (that’s not a word). They might be FtM or MtF. As in, female-to-male transgender person, someone who was assigned female at birth but is transitioning to male, or vice versa. They are never, ever a “shemale.” They might be “drag,” but remember, not everyone that does drag is transgender, but transgender people can perform in drag. Or maybe they’re “genderqueer.” Oh, what’s that? A genderqueer person is anyone who identifies as a gender besides man or woman. Check out this Buzzfeed article for even more terminology.
Belong To notes that individuals who define themselves as Trans often feel one or several of the following ways:
- Uncomfortable when being referred to as a boy/girl, or man/woman.
- Uneasy when the wrong pronoun is used to describe you.
- Feeling that your body is not in line with your deeply felt sense of self. The way your body looks on the outside may not match up with who you feel you are on the inside.
- The development of sex characteristics (such as breasts, facial hair, etc.) during puberty can be a particularly traumatic experience for some Trans’ youth. This may result in a heightened level of body image issues. Gender dysphoria is a term to describe this discomfort.
Some wonder if transgender identity is a mental illness. According to transequality.org, it is not a mental illness that can be cured with treatment. Rather, transgender people experience a persistent and authentic difference between their assigned sex and their understanding of their own gender. This can cause significant stress for some. By freely expressing your gender, wearing clothing you are comfortable in, and, for some, making a physical transition from one gender to another, can really help ease this stress. However, our society can be very judgmental of people they don’t understand, and receiving support from family, friends and employers can be a challenge.
It’s important to accept yourself and express your identity however it feels right to you. Use whatever name and pronoun you feel comfortable with and know that it is 100% OK. Your gender identity is part of who you are, and only you can decide what that is. If you are ready to talk about it, confide in someone you trust to get the conversation started.
While transgender isn’t fully understood or accepted around the world, laws and policies are changing to make life better. The amount of employers that have polices that ban discrimination based on gender identity is growing. Activists are continuing to push for anti-discrimination laws. Know that you are not alone in your feelings, and there are people out there fighting against intolerance and to educate the rest of the world on what it means to be transgender.