Some people feel that the sex they were assigned at birth doesn’t match their gender identity,
or the gender that they feel they are inside. These people are often called transgender.
Transgender is a term that includes the many ways that people’s gender identities can be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
There are a lot of different terms transgender people use to describe themselves.
For example, sometimes the word transgender is shortened to just trans, trans*, or trans male/trans female. It’s always best to use the language and labels that the person prefers
Transgender people express their gender identities in many different ways. Some people use their dress, behavior,
and mannerisms to live as the gender that feels right for them. Some people take hormones and may have surgery to change their body so it matches their gender identity.
Some transgender people reject the traditional understanding of gender as divided between just “male” and “female,”
so they identify just as transgender, or genderqueer, genderfluid, or something else.
Transgender people are diverse in their gender identities (the way you feel on the inside),
gender expressions (the way you dress and act), and sexual orientations (the people you’re attracted to).
When people’s assigned sex and gender identity are the same, they’re called cisgender.
Identifying as transgender (or trans) means knowing that your gender identity is different than the sex assigned to you at birth. For example,
it could mean that you were assigned male at birth but you know that your gender identity is female.
It could also mean that you were assigned male or female at birth, but understand that your gender identity is neither one or the other. In that case, your gender identity might be best described as non binary.
Many people know that they’re trans from a very young age — even as young as age 3. For others, it may not be something they fully understand about themselves until later in life.
It’s OK not to know, or to be questioning your gender identity. No matter what, your gender identity is valid.
Here are some things that may help you better understand your gender identity, and if you might be transgender.
Remember to make your personal safety a priority, and only do what feels safe to you. And most importantly: you’re not the first person to ask these questions about your gender identity, and you’re not alone
Transgender people have a range of experiences with transitioning. Some may transition socially, legally, and medically, some may transition only socially, and some may not do any of these.
Transitioning is the process of changing the way you look and how people see and treat you so that you become the gender you feel on the inside.
Transitioning can means lots of different things. It can involve medical treatment and hormones. It can involve changing your name and preferred pronouns.
It can involve changing your appearance and dress. It can involve coming out to your friends and family.
It can be a long and ongoing process. Or it can be something that happens over a short period of time.
Transgender people have the same basic health care needs as cisgender people.
They also have health care needs related to their transition and require competent care.
Transgender people have the same health care needs as cisgender people, such as basic physical exams, preventive care,
and STD testing. But you may also have special health care concerns and needs.
If you wish to transition medically by using hormones or having surgery, expert care is needed to avoid problems.
Accessing health care can be challenging for transgender people.
Not all nurses and doctors are sensitive to trans issues or informed about the health care needs of transgender people.
You may worry about revealing your gender identity regardless of whether you wish to transition medically. You might not feel comfortable with your body or feel comfortable having a nurse or doctor examine you.
Transgender people who want to transition medically should look for qualified nurses and doctors who can provide the best treatments and care. Unfortunately,
these treatments are not easy to access for many people who want them — they can be expensive and are often not covered by insurance. You may need a parent
or legal guardian’s permission if you’re under 18. Sometimes finding a provider who offers these treatments can be difficult depending on where you live.
Because finding doctors who will help you safely through medical transition can be difficult, some people use hormones that they obtain from other sources.
Using hormones without medical guidance is dangerous — it can increase your risk for blood clots, high blood pressure, liver disease, and other serious complications
. If you use needles to give yourself injections without learning how to do it safely from a nurse or doctor, you could increase your risk for HIV, hepatitis, and other infections.
Transgender people who want to feminize their bodies and can’t access surgeries may get people who aren’t nurses
or doctors to inject “street” silicone into their bodies. Street silicone might give your body feminine curves,
but it’s extremely dangerous and can lead to infections or even death. Some people who use street silicone eventually need to have it removed from their bodies by a doctor.
Planned Parenthood health centers are open to people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Whether you’re transgender or cisgender,
you can visit your local Planned Parenthood health center for STD testing, birth control, physical exams, other sexual and reproductive health services, and referrals.
Find your nearest Planned Parenthood health center and learn about the services it offers.
At this time, only some Planned Parenthood health centers are able to offer hormone treatments for trans people.
The best way to learn about the services available in your area is to call your nearest Planned Parenthood health center.
Below is a list of Planned Parenthood health centers that currently offer trans services
If your closest Planned Parenthood health center doesn’t offer hormone treatments and you want them to, tell them.
Let them know that you’re interested in this service and what it would mean for you. This goes for any service you’d like to get at your local Planned Parenthood.
Our health centers do their best to meet the needs of their communities, so let them know.
If they aren’t able to offer hormone treatments, they may be able to recommend a trans-friendly doctor in your area who does.
You can find support in a lot of places, including:
Not everyone lives in a place that has lots of trans people or an LGBTQ community center.
If this is your situation, check the Internet for communities and support.
Transgender and gender nonconforming people may experience harassment or discrimination from people who are scared or uncomfortable with these identities.
Transphobia is the fear, hatred, disbelief, or mistrust of people who are transgender,
thought to be transgender, or whose gender expression doesn’t conform to traditional gender roles. Transphobia can prevent transgender
and gender nonconforming people from living full lives free from harm.
Transphobia can take many different forms, including
Transphobia can create both subtle and overt forms of discrimination. For example, people who are transgender
(or even just thought to be transgender) may be denied jobs, housing, or health care, just because they’re transgender.
People may hold transphobic beliefs if they were taught them by other people,
including parents and families who encourage negative ideas about trans people and who hold strict beliefs about traditional gender roles.
Some people are transphobic because they have misinformation or have no information at all about trans identities.
They may not be aware of transgender people or trans issues or personally know anyone who is trans.
The stress of transphobia on trans people can be very harmful and can cause:
No one has the right to discriminate against another person, or to hurt them emotionally or physically. There are things you can do to help stop transphobia:
When addressing transphobia in others:
It’s okay if you mess up a person’s pronouns or name by accident sometimes, especially if their transition is new to you. If this happens, apologize and make an effort to use the correct pronoun in the future.
When it comes to language, the following things are bullying:
The word “transgender” is an umbrella term that describes those who have a gender that’s different from the sex assigned at birth: male, female, or intersex.
“Transsexual” is a more specific term that fits under the transgender umbrella. This word can be contentious and shouldn’t be used unless someone specifically asks to be referred to this way.
Read on to learn more about the difference between being transgender and being transsexual, why someone might choose one term over the other, and more.
The main difference between the word transgender and the word transsexual has to do with the way it’s used and experienced.
Many transgender people report having negative associations with the word transsexual.
Current best practices in transgender health still use the word transsexual,
but acknowledge that it’s no longer the most inclusive and affirming term to describe someone who has a gender that’s different from the sex assigned at birth.
Transgender or trans are now the generally accepted and promoted terms that Western societies use to describe those who have a gender that’s different from the sex assigned at birth.
While some transgender and transsexual advocates have argued that the word transsexual doesn’t always have to include medical changes,
this notion hasn’t yet been widely accepted by the larger transgender community.
Generally, the word transgender recognizes the need to medically alter one’s body, hormonal makeup, or appearance isn’t required for everyone who identifies with a gender that’s different from the sex assigned at birth.
The decision to pursue physical and medical changes can vary from transgender person to transgender person.
Transgender tends to be more inclusive and affirming than transsexual because it includes the experience of those who pursue medical changes to affirm gender as well as those who do not.
The term transsexual can be contentious because it was historically used to categorize transgender people as mentally ill. It often served as justification for discrimination, harassment, and mistreatment.
This term is heavily debated both within the transgender community and outside of it.
Some people feel it’s necessary and important to have a medical diagnosis or surgery to validate one’s transgender experience.
Others feel a medical or mental health diagnosis and requirement for intervention only perpetuate the inaccurate assumption that transgender people have an inherent medical or mental health problem
In the past, transsexualism, transvestism, and gender identity disorder were the labels used to medically
and psychologically categorize someone who has a gender or appearance that differs from the sex assigned at birth.
Current medical and psychological guidelines have moved away from using these terms to convey the idea that being transgender or transsexual, in and of itself, isn’t a mental illness or medical problem.
More accurately, it’s the lack of access, acceptance, and understanding of gender diversity that contributes to the mental health issues many transgender people face.
Gender dysphoria is the current diagnosis used to describe the distress an individual may experience as a result of having a gender that’s different from the sex assigned at birth.
Gender dysphoria is a term that psychologists and doctors use to describe the distress,
unhappiness, and anxiety that transgender people may feel about the mismatch between their bodies and their gender identity.
A person may be formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria in order to receive medical treatment to help them transition.
Psychologists used to call this “gender identity disorder.” However, the mismatch between a person’s body and gender identity isn’t in itself a mental illness (but it can cause emotional distress), so the term was changed to reflect that.
People often confuse gender identity with sexual orientation. But being transgender isn’t the same thing as being lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Gender identity, whether transgender or cisgender, is about who you ARE inside as male, female, both, or none of these. Being lesbian,
gay, bisexual, or straight describes who you’re attracted to and who you feel yourself drawn to romantically, emotionally, and sexually.
A transgender person can be gay, lesbian, straight, or bisexual, just like someone who’s cisgender.
A simple way to think about it is: Sexual orientation is about who you want to be with. Gender identity is about who you are
Passing describes the experience of a transgender person being seen by others as the gender they want to be seen as.
An example would be a trans woman using the women’s bathroom and being seen as female by those around her.
Passing is extremely important for many transgender people. Passing can be emotionally important
because it affirms your gender identity. Passing can also provide safety from harassment and violence.
Because of transphobia, a transgender person who passes may experience an easier time moving through the world than a person who is known to be transgender or looks more androgynous.
But not all transgender people feel the same way about passing. While passing is important to some people, others feel the word suggests that some people’s gender presentation isn’t as real as others. They may feel that passing implies
that being seen by others as cisgender is more important than being known as transgender. Some transgender people are comfortable with and proud to be out as trans and don’t feel the need to pass as a cisgender person
There are two different types of transition, or ways to affirm your gender: social transition and medical transition.
Social transitioning may include:
For trans men and some non-binary people medical transition may include any of the following:
For trans women and some non-binary people medical transition may include any of the following:
No, not all transgender people transition. For those who do, not all transition in the same way. Some may transition socially and not medically.
Some may transition medically by doing one or only a few of the procedures listed above. Some may take hormones and decide not to have any surgeries,
or just choose one kind of surgery and none of the others.
There are many reasons for the differences in how people transition.
These medical procedures can be very expensive, which means that not everyone can afford them. Some transgender people may have health insurance that covers transition-related procedures,
and some may not. And finally, but most importantly — not all trans people want all of the available medical procedures.
Regardless of whether a transgender person chooses to transition and how they choose to do it, they’re no more “real” than other trans people who don’t transition.
Someone’s gender identity should always be respected no matter how they decide to transition socially or medically
Coming out as transgender to friends and family can range from scary and difficult to exciting and liberating.
It’s different for everyone. There’s no one right way to come out.
Coming out as transgender may mean that you tell people about your preferred pronouns (if you wish to be referred to as he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.).
It may also mean that you ask people to call you by a new name and to think of you by the gender identity that you’re comfortable with.
Coming out as trans is a very personal decision and different for everyone. Some people choose to come out before they medically or socially transition,
and some choose to come out after or during the process. You may choose to come out to different people at different times,
or to not come out to some people at all. All of this is okay — only you can decide what’s right for you.
Although both involve telling friends and family about your identity, there are differences between coming out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and coming out as transgender.
A lot of people know what it means for a person to be gay, but there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about what it means to be trans.
And sometimes coming out or being outed as transgender can mean your identity is misunderstood, disrespected, or disbelieved.
If you choose to come out as transgender, make sure it’s to people you trust and that you have a support system in place.
This can include friends, family, or a support group. It’s important to feel as confident as possible that coming out won’t jeopardize your safety, health, or living situation.
There’s no one correct way to come out to your family and friends. You’re the expert in what feels right to you, and who it feels safest to tell.
Here are some general tips for coming out:
The Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Visibility Guide is a good, step-by-step resource for helping you come out as trans and also includes information to help the people in your life understand your identity.
Outing is the act of revealing someone else’s transgender identity or sexual orientation without their consent or permission.
Sometimes outing is intentional and sometimes it’s accidental, but by sharing information about someone’s gender identity against their wishes,
you risk making them feel embarrassed, upset, and vulnerable. You may also put them at risk for discrimination and violence.
If someone shares their trans identity with you, remember that this is very personal information and it’s an honor that they trusted you enough to tell you. Always ask them what you’re allowed to share with others, and respect their wishes.
People who experience transphobic harassment often feel alone and afraid to tell anyone what’s happening. You should never have to deal with transphobia, and you’re not alone.
You may find support from:
Not everyone lives in a place that has a supportive school administration or an LGBTQ community center. In this situation, the Internet can help you find online communities and support with dealing with transphobia and discrimination.
If you’re a young person who’s experiencing transphobic harassment at school, it’s important to tell someone, even if that seems scary. Young people who experience transphobia at school sometimes stop going, which can affect your grades,
friendships, and future plans. Some schools may have an anti-bullying and harassment policy, and some states have adopted a Safe Schools Law, which means
that your school administrators are legally required to stop the harassment. If possible, find a teacher or adult who’s an ally to LGBTQ students and ask for their help.
If you’re experiencing transphobia and it’s causing you to feel depressed or suicidal, there’s help available:
The term transgender can mean different things to different people. There are a number of other labels individuals who are transgender use to describe their gender.
This can be confusing at first, particularly if you or someone you know think they might be transgender.
For example, a person who was assigned a female sex at birth and has a male sense of self could be categorized as transgender.
A person who was assigned male at birth and has a female sense of self could also be categorized as transgender.
Those who are transgender can identify as a woman, man, a combination of both, or something else altogether.
The word transgender can also be used in conjunction with other labels to indicate the gender or sex someone knows themselves to be.
For example, someone can identify as a transgender man, a transgender woman, or a transgender nonbinary person.
Nonbinary is an umbrella term that describes those who have a gender that can’t be exclusively categorized as male or female.
Sometimes, those who are transgender use the abbreviated term “trans” to convey the idea that the sex they were assigned at birth doesn’t fully and accurately reflect their core sense of self or internal experience of gender.
As a rule of thumb, the term transgender provides information about the extent to which someone identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth.
The following word often communicates important information about the way someone experiences and understands gender, as well as how they might want to be referred to.
For example, a transgender male is someone who doesn’t identify with the sex assigned at birth and has a sense of self that’s male.
Some transgender people change their appearance, body, name, or legal gender marker to convey and affirm their internal experience of gender. Others don’t feel the need to make these changes to express and validate this aspect of who they are. Either way is OK.
Historically and medically, the term transsexual was used to indicate a difference between one’s gender identity (their internal experience of gender) and sex assigned at birth (male, female, or intersex).
More specifically, the term is often (though not always) used to communicate that one’s experience of gender involves medical changes,
such as hormones or surgery, that help alter their anatomy and appearance to more closely align with their gender identity.
Similar to the word transgender, the meaning of the word transsexual can vary from person to person, culture to culture, and across history.
Despite their similar definitions, many transgender people don’t identify as transsexual.
Transsexual isn’t an umbrella term. It should never be used to refer to the entire transgender community.
It’s important to remember that the term transsexual doesn’t include or reflect the experience of many who are a part of the transgender community.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be used to refer to someone — unless they specifically assert that preference.
Further, some transgender people find the word transsexual to be offensive and stigmatizing.
This is because of its history and roots in the professional fields of medicine and psychology, which used this term to incorrectly label all transgender people as mentally ill or sexually deviant.
Professionals in medicine and mental health now understand that having a transgender or transsexual gender identity isn’t a mental illness,
and that transgender identities are a naturally occurring part of human gender diversity and gender experiences.
Despite this history, some in Western countries and other cultures across the globe continue to use the word transsexual to refer to themselves and the experience of having a gender that’s different from the sex assigned at birth.
Many who use the word transsexual to describe their gender see a medical diagnosis, medical transition using hormones, and gender confirmation surgery
as important parts of their experience. They use the term to help communicate that viewpoint.
If a particular culture, community, or individual experiences and uses the word transsexual as a respectful and authentic descriptor, then it can be used in that particular situation or context.
“Gender identity disorder,” “transvestite,” and “tranny” are other terms that were historically used to label transgender people as mentally ill, sexually deviant, or inferior.
These terms are also commonly associated with instances of discrimination, harassment, mistreatment,
and misunderstanding. It’s best to avoid using them in both casual and professional conversations.
The best way to determine which term you should use to refer to someone is to ask them.
If you’re unsure, asking the person is always the best option.
The word someone uses to describe their gender can be a private and sensitive topic. Many people don’t share that information publicly or with strangers.
If you’re in a situation where asking isn’t possible or doesn’t feel appropriate, the next best option is to ask someone else
— who ideally knows the person — if they know how the person in question likes to be referred to.
If you need to refer to someone but don’t know their gender or pronoun, it’s best to avoid gendered language and use the person’s name instead.
It isn’t always necessary to know or agree with how someone identifies their gender in order to interact with them respectfully