What Is Transgender?

By Ellen Kershner on May 27 2020 in Society

Existrans 2017. A march by transgender people demanding their rights. Image credit: Julie Missbutterflies from Lannion, France
Existrans 2017. A march by transgender people demanding their rights. Image credit: Julie Missbutterflies from Lannion, France
  • transgender people feel like they have been born to a “wrong body.”
  • The word “transgender” is like a blanket term, and can include other phrases. Some
  • Transgender people have different ways of showing their gender identities (gender expressions), whether it be through mannerisms, behaviors, clothing, and lifestyles.
  • Forty percent had attempted suicide in their lifetimes.

To fully understand what the word transgender means, it helps to explain what gender identity is.  Although people can be born with the usual female or male anatomies, transgender people feel like they have been born to a “wrong body.” In simpler terms, a transgender person who has male anatomy may feel as though they are actually female, and vice versa. In other words, the inside might not match the outside.

This person might look like a male, but their gender identify is different; it is female. Their inner personal sense of which gender they identify with is in contrast with their appearance. It is also good to know that “transgender” is an adjective rather than a noun. Instead of saying, “Linda is a transgender,” it is correct to say, “Linda is a transgender person.”

Self-Expression

The word “transgender” is like a blanket term, and can include other phrases. Some people also prefer to discard the traditional gender divisions of male and female, and identify as genderfluid or whatever makes the most sense to them.

Transgender people have different ways of showing their gender identities (gender expressions), whether it be through mannerisms, behaviors, clothing, and lifestyles. Others choose to take hormones or have surgeries to enhance their bodies to match their gender identities.

Gender Identity vs. Sexual Orientation

A set of trangender icons. Image credit: Ashley Van Dyck/Shutterstock.com

These two phrases are definitely not the same. While gender identity reflects the person’s inner sense of being female, male, or otherwise, sexual orientation describes who people are attracted to romantically, emotionally, and physically. This is who people want to partner up with. Therefore, a transgender person could be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or have other preferences. So, a transgender person who identifies as male – even though born as a female – could be homosexual, and date men.

Gender Dysphoria

It is not unusual for transgender people to feel anxiety, depression, and unhappiness, especially when they do not have support from others. A mismatch between gender identity and one’s body can be a source of distress and isolation. Many people seek and receive medical treatment to help them transition emotionally and physically, and they end up living happy, rewarding lives.

Discrimination And Worse

Camille Cabral, a French transgender activist at a demonstration for transgender people in Paris, October 1, 2005. Image credit: Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA 

Transgender individuals can face serious barriers that can prevent them from realizing their potential. As recently as 2016, 27 were killed; eight transgender women of color were murdered after January 1, 2017. The National Center for Transgender Equality also completed a 2015 survey of transgender people, which showed:

  1. Forty percent had attempted suicide in their lifetimes. This is nine times the average rate in the United States.
  2. Thirty-one percent had been mistreated in places of public accommodations. This included verbal harassment, the denial of equal service, and physical attacks.
  3. Thirty percent claimed they had been mistreated in their workplaces because of their gender identities. Examples include being denied promotions and being fired.
  4. Transgender people have higher unemployment rates than the general population. Transgender people of color rank even higher, at four times the national rate.
  5. Thirty percent also reported they had been homeless at a point in their lifetimes.
  6. Twenty-nine percent live in poverty. For the general population, this number is 14 percent.

For more information, there are online support groups like glad.org and the Intersex Society of North America.

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