What does transgender mean?
First, it’s important to acknowledge the differences between sex and gender. Sex is what a person is assigned at birth. Gender is how a person feels.
- Sex is assigned based on appearance of genitalia at birth, the pattern of organs, hormones and chromosomes associated with traditional meanings of male/ female.
- Gender refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, and emphasizing, de-emphasizing, or changing their bodies’ characteristics.
Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people that challenge social gender norms. People must self-identify as transgender in order for the term to be appropriately used to describe them. When referring to transgender people, use the pronoun they have designated as appropriate, use their name, or avoid pronouns completely if you are unsure.
Note: Gender identity/ expression is NOT an indication of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is NOT an indication of gender identity/ expression.
What does it mean to be trans*?
Trans* is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum. Trans (without the asterisk) is best applied to transmen and transwomen, while the asterisk makes special note in an effort to include all non-cisgender gender identities, including transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderless, agender, non-gendered, third gender, two-spirit, bigender, gender non-conforming, and transman and transwoman.
Gender is a set of social, psychological and emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations, which classify an individual as feminine, masculine, androgynous, etc. Gender Identity is the innermost concept of self as man, woman, both or neither—what we perceive and call ourselves. Trans* people step out of their socially assigned gender roles.
Having a trans* experience is just one facet of a person – their gender identity. There are trans* people in every culture, religion, socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, profession, age, and all throughout history. Being trans* doesn’t mean anything else!
How do I know if I’m trans*?
There is no specific answer – everyone has a distinctive and personal experience. Some people have a cisgender experience (people who are comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth). Some people identify as transgender (people who are not comfortable with the gender there were assigned at birth). Some people don’t identify with either identity, and may have a gender experience somewhere along the spectrum (for example people may identify as genderqueer). Gender is not a fixed point or fact; it’s complex, fluid, and unique.
If you think you might identify as trans*, here are some questions that may help you to figure it out:
- What is gender? What makes a woman a woman or a man a man?
- Do you think the gender you were assigned restricts the way you live or the things that you do? What about the clothes you wear?
- Was the gender assigned to you the one you feel most comfortable with?
- Do you feel forced to act in certain ways because of your gender?
If you don’t have answers to these questions, it’s alright. Time and life experience will help on your journey. You may not have language to describe your feelings, and that’s ok. Gender identity develops over time and through exploration. Some people have a sense or understanding early on about their identity and some people develop it later in life.
Just remember, only you can name your gender identity!
How can I accept my identity?
It’s not easy to discover that you have a trans* experience. Sadly, some people judge trans* people. A lot of people do not understand gender identity and are uncomfortable with anyone that is not cisgender. And unfortunately, being trans* is still dangerous in our world.
It makes sense that some trans* youth might choose not to share their experience. You might feel this way….you might even choose to keep your feelings from yourself. Maybe you avoid other trans* youth that are out because it doesn’t feel safe to be associated with them. Maybe you don’t know other trans* youth and feel isolated.
“Being in the closet” (which means to not disclose your gender identity to others) can be a painful and lonely place, especially if you stay there in order to survive. It takes a lot of energy to deny or hide your feelings.
Self-acceptance is a journey; there isn’t anything that will make you feel great about being trans* overnight, but. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Surround yourself with people that care about and love you.
- Be yourself. Identifying as trans* is just one part of you, honor all your identities.
- Practice acceptance by supporting and accepting others.
- Remember that you are not alone!
The Alliance is committed to ensuring that all our youth are safe and healthy. If we can support you, let us know. We’ll be there.