Transgender 101: Learning The Basics
Table Of Contents;
- How to use it in a sentence
- How NOT to use it in a sentence
- How to Ask
- Gender vs Sex
- Gender Identity
- Gender Expression
- Social transitioning
- Medical transitioning
- Legal Transitioning
- What’s the difference between being trans and being gay?
- Is being Transgender a Mental Illness?
- What is the diagnosis for Gender Dysphoria?
- What are the treatment options for Gender Dysphoria?
- Aren’t kids a little young to know if they’re trans?
- How Many Trans People Are There?
- Is being transgender a new concept?
- Are there more than two genders?
- Things not to ask a trans person
- Words and phrases to avoid
- Common Misconceptions
- Suicide Statistics
- Hate Crimes
This is a rudimentary level article to assist in learning about and understanding the experiences transgender people face. In this article, there will be definitions, do’s and don’ts, and answers to the most frequently asked questions people ask about transgender people and their experiences.
Some complex topics are simplified as much as possible as a start to introduce new challenging information. This gives the reader the ability to have a starting point of topics to research or look into further.
DefinitionsTransgender; Adjective. Coined in 1965 by Dr. John F. Oliven of Columbia University¹ : “denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.²”
How to use it in a sentence:
- My friend is transgender.
- There was a trans person speaking at work today.
- She identifies as a trans woman
- I support trans people
How to not use it in a sentence:
- My friend is a transgender.
- My friend is transgendered.
- There was a transgender speaking at work today
- I support transgenders
Cisgender; Adjective. Coined in 1998 by Dr. Volkmar Sigusch³: “of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.⁴” i.e. Not transgender.Pronouns; Pronouns are words like She, her, hers, herself, He, him, his, himself, They, them, theirs, themself, and more! This is how we refer to nouns. Pronouns are also words like I, we, it, etc.
- How to ask for pronouns:
- “My name is ______ and I use _______ Pronouns, and you?”
- “What pronouns do you use?
- “What are your pronouns again?”
- She and I-Sorry, He and I went to the store
- John, I mean Jane needs this done by noon
- He is- They are having lunch right now
- It brings attention to the mistake
- It also brings attention to the person you were talking to
- Makes it obvious the person is trans, as opposed to just a slip of the tongue
Gender Identity: “is a category of social identity and refers to an individual’s identification as male, female or, occasionally, some category other than male or female. It is one’s deeply held core sense of being male, female, some of both or neither, and does not always correspond to biological sex.⁵”
Gender Expression: “the manner in which a person communicates about gender to others through external means such as clothing, appearance, or mannerisms. This communication may be conscious or subconscious and may or may not reflect their gender identity or sexual orientation.⁵”
Social Transition: Changing one’s name, pronouns, clothes, hair, toys, etc
Medical Transition: Going on hormone blockers, or Hormone Replacement Therapy, having surgeries
Legal Transition: Changing legal documents to match your identity. Changing your name and gender marker on ID’s Passports, SS cards, Birth certificate, etc.
- Google: gen·der ˈjendər Noun 1. either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female.
- Merriam-Webster: Gender 1a : a subclass within a grammatical class (as noun, pronoun, adjective, or verb) of a language that is partly arbitrary but also partly based on distinguishable characteristics (as shape, social rank, manner of existence, or sex) and that determines agreement with and selection of other words or grammatical forms 2 a : sex <the feminine gender> b : the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex
- Oxford Dictionaries: Gender: NOUN 1[mass noun] Either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female.
- Dictionary.com: noun 1. either the male or female division of a species, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behavior: the feminine gender. 2. a similar category of human beings that is outside the male/female binary classification and is based on the individual’s personal awareness or identity.
- American Medical Association: Gender includes more than sex and serves as a cultural indicator of a person’s personal and social identity.
- American Psychological Association Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways that people act, interact, and feel about themselves. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.
- Google: Sex seks/ noun either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.
- Merriam-Webster: Sex noun ˈseks : either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures
- Oxford Dictionaries: Sex: Noun/ Either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and most other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.
- Dictionary.com Sex1[seks] Noun either the male or female division of a species, especially as differentiated with reference to the reproductive functions.
- American Medical Association: Sex refers to the biological characteristics of males and females
- American Psychological Association Sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy.
Sources: Williams, Cristan. “Transgender.” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, Duke University Press, 1 May 2014, read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article/1/1-2/232/91833/Transgender.
 “GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender.” GLAAD, 7 Dec. 2019, www.glaad.org/reference/transgender.
 Sigusch, Volkmar. “Transsexual Wish and and Cis-Sexual Defense.” Psyche, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1995, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7480808.
 Parekh, Ranna. “What Is Gender Dysphoria?” What Is Gender Dysphoria?, American Psychiatric Association, Feb. 2016, www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/gender-dysphoria/what-is-gender-dysphoria.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whats the difference between being transgender and being gay?
Who you identify as. Are you a man? Woman? Both? Neither? Something else? Who you are.
Who you are romantically/sexually attracted to. Do you like men? Women? Both? Anyone? No one? Not sure? Who you love
What is the diagnosis for Gender Dysphoria?The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states In adolescents and adults gender dysphoria diagnosis lasts at least six months and is shown by at least two of the following:
- A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
- A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
- A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender
- A strong desire to be of the other gender
- A strong desire to be treated as the other gender
- A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender
How Many Trans People Are There?
There are 25 million transgender people in the world
1.4 million in the U.S. (0.6% of the U.S. population).That’s more than the population of…
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- Washington DC
Are there more than Two Genders?
Words and phrases to avoidThings you should NOT say…. TW: Homophobic/transphobic slurs
- A transgender
Considered slurs/Rarely used/Outdated/With consent only
- It/its pronouns
Phrases to avoid
- Not a real man/woman
- You were better looking as a man/woman
- You’d make an ugly man/woman
- I could never tell you’re trans!/You don’t look trans!
- You’re too pretty to be trans!
- Using one’s chosen name/pronouns as a “reward”
- That’s not a real gender/ All these genders are made up
- “Back in my day, we didn’t have all these genders”
- “You’re doing this for attention”/ “This is just a phase”
- You’d pass more if you… (changed your hair, wore/less make-up, your voice, your clothes, etc)
- They were born a man/woman or male/female
Is being Transgender a Mental Illness?
- According to The American Psychiatric Association; “A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability. Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.” They discovered a person’s gender identity in of itself is not distressing to the individual. What is distressing is the lack of any treatment and support, as well as discrimination, harassment, or violence they may receive because of their gender identity.
- “Gender dysphoria refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender. Although not all individuals will experience distress as a result of such incongruence, many are distressed if the desired physical interventions by means of hormones and/or surgery are not available. The current term is more descriptive than the previous DSM-IV term gender identity disorder and focuses on dysphoria as the clinical problem, not identity per se.”
- “Not all transgender people suffer from gender dysphoria and that distinction is important to keep in mind”
What are the treatment options for Gender Dysphoria?
Aren’t kids a little young to know if they’re trans?
Is being transgender a new concept?Not at all! Trans people have existed for thousands of years!
Elagabalus (203-222) Elagabalus wore make-up regularly and wandered around Rome in woman’s clothes. They were described as having been “delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the queen of Hierocles”. They were reported to have offered vast sums of money to any physician who could equip them with “female genitalia.”
Dr. James Barry (1795-1865) As a child, he would state “Were I not a girl, I would be a soldier!” A military surgeon in the British Army. He earned his medical degree at University of Edinburgh Medical School. He was a strict vegetarian and teetotal. He performed the first cesarean section in Africa in which both the mother and child survived the operation. He unwillingly retired from the military in 1859 where he spent the rest of his retirement in London until he passed away from Dysentery. When a nurse removed his clothes to prepare and clean his body (against Dr Barry’s wishes), she noticed he had a vagina and stretch marks that indicated he had given birth.
Dr. Alan L. Hart (1890-1962) He started identifying as a boy at a very young age and was one of the first documented transgender men to receive a hysterectomy. He started HRT in the 1940’s with his family’s support. Before his death, he had revolutionized the medical technology and procedures surrounding the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis.
Lili Elbe (1882-1931) She was one of the first documented people to receive sex reassignment surgery in 1930. While performing the surgeries, they discovered she already had ovaries, meaning Lili was Intersex. She died after her final surgery due to infection. Her story was made into a book called The Danish Girl and later made into a movie by the same name starring Eddie Redmayne as Lili.
Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) While he was not transgender himself… He was a Gay Jewish German sexologist, Studied sexual orientation and gender identity, performed some of the first sex reassignment surgeries,one of them including Lili Elbe in 1930. He founded the Institute of Sexology in 1919. Unfortunately was burned, along with books, research, and journals, by the Nazis in 1933. They stole his list of patients, which they called “The Pink List” and used it to arrest queer people to send them to concentration camps. Hirschfeld avoided getting captured since he was not in the country during the time of the attack and was advised to not return home. He moved to Nice, France where he spent the rest of his life.
Things not to ask a trans person
“Are you getting the surgery?”
- There are many different types of surgeries.
- Many involves several stages and can take 2-3 years to complete.
- Not all trans people undergo surgery or any short of medical transition.
“How do you have sex?”
- Generally speaking, the same way anyone else with different ranges of genitals and kinks. If you know how sex works between a penis and a vagina, two people with vaginas, or two people with penises, then you can figure out how sex works.
- Some trans people may avoid sex/masturbation all together because they are too dysphoric about their genitals.
So you’re a girl/boy now?
- No trans people have always felt like this, just now you know.
Do you have a penis or a vagina?
- This is really personal. You’re asking people what their genitalia looks like. This is equivalent to asking a cis man if he is circumcised or uncircumcised
So what’s your REAL name?
- This is really disrespectful. You as saying the name a trans person goes by is not their “real” name. It’s also frowned upon to ask them what their “old name” “birth name” “legal name” was.