Transgender 101: Four Things You Need to Know
There are nearly one million adults in the United States who identify as “transgender.” Yet many people know very little about them or what it means to be transgender. Since people often fear and criticize what they don’t understand, we thought it would be a good idea to provide some basic facts about being transgender.
Fact #1: Sex and gender are different.
“Sex” is the designation given to someone at birth based on their genitalia (I.e., male, female, intersex). “Gender” is how someone thinks of themselves; traditionally referred to as how masculine or feminine someone perceives themselves to be. Think of it as sex being between your legs and gender being between your ears (in your brain). People who identify as transgender experience a gender that doesn’t match their sex.
Fact #2: Being transgender doesn’t mean you’re gay.
Gender identity and sexual orientation are completely different. Sexual orientation is about what sex or gender you are romantically and sexually attracted to. Gender identity is about what how we perceive ourselves (i.e., male, female, queer*)
*Queer means someone’s gender identity is somewhere on the continuum of male to female.
Fact #3: Transgender people are not “just confused.”
While the concept of transgender may be confusing to someone who has a traditional gender role, to trans people, it isn’t confusing at all. It’s simply who they are. Like non-transgender individuals, trans people have a sex. They also have a gender.
Most of the confusion a trans person may encounter is the result of a social problem, not a gender identity one. Coming out publically as trans, in a society that doesn’t accept or understand you can be very confusing and painful.
Fact #4: Avoiding someone makes them feel invisible.
If you’re unsure of how to refer to someone because they don’t appear to have a traditional gender role, ask them. You can do this by asking, “What pronouns do you prefer?” If you see someone you haven’t seen in a while and they appear to have undergone a public transition, you can ask, “Do you still prefer to be called [their name]?”
Now that you’ve read this, you know more about being transgender than a large part of the population of the U.S.. Learning more about gender identity is the first step in making the country a safer, more inclusive place for transgender individuals.
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