Being Transgender: The Basics
Identifying as transgender doesn’t necessarily mean that you would like to have or have had some kind of sex change. Quite simply, transgender is a collective term for anyone who identifies as a gender that doesn’t match the sex that they were assigned when they were born. This broader term is much more inclusive to all individuals who have decided that the sex they were born with doesn’t match how they feel, which includes quite a lot of different identities.
Here are some of the most common gender identities that are included in the term “trans”, as well as some helpful terminology regarding transgender individuals and gender as a whole:
- Gender identity: how an individual identifies themselves on an internal, personal level. This doesn’t necessarily match an individual’s gender expression.
- Gender expression: how a person expresses gender on an external level through clothing, appearance, body characteristics, and other external alterations.
- Genderqueer: can be used to describe a person who doesn’t identify as either male or female. Another popular term would be nonbinary.
- Gender non-conforming: similar to transgender, this is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender doesn’t correlate to cultural norms and society’s expectations.
- Bi-gendered: describes someone who has a gender identity that includes both male and female, whether that be certain aspects.
- Intersex: represents an individual born with some kind of biological alteration that makes their sex neither male or female
- Transition: defined as the time frame where an individual begins their journey to live as another gender. The transition can mean many different things, whether that be changing your name, wardrobe, appearance, or even biological state through surgical procedures.
- Sex Reassignment Surgery: defined as a surgery or an array of surgeries that alter the body so that it better reflects an individual’s gender identity.
- Cisgender: essentially a term for anyone who doesn’t identify as transgender, or for anyone whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth.
Negative Terms to Avoid
Within the LGBTQ+ community, transgender individuals are quite possibly the most discriminated against. There are people who are purposely discriminatory, but there are also a lot of individuals who are inadvertently oppressive simply because of the lack of education regarding the trans community, as well as misunderstanding surrounding the controversial topic of gender and gender identity. It’s important to remember that all genders are valid and the respect of gender is crucial. With that being said, here are some sayings and colloquialisms that can be considered offensive to someone who identifies as trans:
- “Transgendered”: This term has been used in the past to dehumanize trans individuals by making it seem as though it is some kind of illness or condition.
- “Sex change, post-op and pre-op”: Since trans is a very broad term and not everyone wants to have a surgery, the term “transition” is much more appropriate when discussing an individual’s change or journey to another gender.
- “Passing”: Of the words on this list, this may be considered to be the most offensive. It makes it seem as though a person’s being transgender defines them. In addition to that, it hints at the possibility of some kind of deceit. Passing is the assumption that a person must look transgender, and if they don’t, they are “passing” as the gender that they are expressing. A much less offensive term would be “visibly transgender”. However, remember that someone’s gender expression is up to them and only them. Gender is a very personal and vulnerable topic and should be respected.
- “Tranny”: This term is purposely derogatory and discriminatory towards those who identify as transgender.
In addition to all of these terms, remember that it’s very important to respect and recognize an individual’s preferred pronouns. Even if their appearance doesn’t seem like it would warrant their preferred pronoun, it’s their identity and it should be respected.