A brief summary of the word TRANSGENDER
What does transgender mean?
is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity
(sense of themselves as male or female) or gender expression differs
from that usually associated with their birth sex. Many transgender
people live part-time or full-time as members of the other gender.
Broadly speaking, anyone whose identity, appearance, or behavior falls
outside of conventional gender norms can be described as transgender.
However, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender-atypical
will identify as a transgender person.
What is the difference between sex and gender?
refers to biological status as male or female. It includes physical
attributes such as sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, internal
reproductive structures, and external genitalia. Gender is a term that
is often used to refer to ways that people act, interact, or feel about
themselves, which are associated with boys/men and girls/women. While
aspects of biological sex are the same across different cultures,
aspects of gender may not be.
What are some categories or types of transgender people?
are transgender people who live or wish to live full time as members of
the gender opposite to their birth sex. Biological females who wish to
live and be recognized as men are called female-to-male (FTM)
transsexuals or transsexual men. Biological males who wish to live and
be recognized as women are called male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals or
transsexual women. Transsexuals usually seek medical interventions,
such as hormones and surgery, to make their bodies as congruent as
possible with their preferred gender. The process of transitioning from
one gender to the other is called sex reassignment or gender
Cross-dressers or transvestites comprise the most
numerous transgender group. Cross-dressers wear the clothing of the
other sex. They vary in how completely they dress (from one article of
clothing to fully cross-dressing) as well as in their motives for doing
so. Some cross-dress to express cross-gender feelings or identities;
others crossdress for fun, for emotional comfort, or for sexual
arousal. The great majority of cross-dressers are biological males,
most of whom are sexually attracted to women.
Drag queens and
drag kings are, respectively, biological males and females who present
part-time as members of the other sex primarily to perform or
entertain. Their performances may include singing, lip-syncing, or
dancing. Drag performers may or may not identify as transgender. Many
drag queens and kings identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
categories of transgender people include androgynous, bigendered, and
gender queer people. Exact definitions of these terms vary from person
to person, but often include a sense of blending or alternating
genders. Some people who use these terms to describe themselves see
traditional concepts of gender as restrictive.
Have transgender people always existed?
persons have been documented in many Western and non-Western cultures
and societies from antiquity until the present day. However, the
meaning of gender variance may vary from culture to culture.
Why are some people transgender?
is no one generally accepted explanation for why some people are
transgender. The diversity of transgender expression argues against any
simple or unitary explanation. Many experts believe that biological
factors such as genetic influences and prenatal hormone levels, early
experiences in a person’s family of origin, and other social influences
can all contribute to the development of transgender behaviors and
How prevalent are transgender people?
is difficult to accurately estimate the prevalence of transgender
people in Western countries. As many as 2-3% of biological males engage
in cross-dressing, at least occasionally. Current estimates of the
prevalence of transsexualism are about 1 in 10,000 for biological males
and 1 in 30,000 for biological females. The number of people in other
transgender categories is unknown.
What is the relationship between transgender and sexual orientation?
great majority of cross-dressers are biological males, most of whom are
sexually attracted to women. People generally experience gender
identity and sexual orientation as two different things. Sexual
orientation refers to one’s sexual attraction to men, women, both,or
neither, whereas gender identity refers to one’s sense of oneself as
male, female, or transgender. Usually people who are attracted to women
prior to transition continue to be attracted to women after transition,
and people who are attracted to men prior to transition continue to be
attracted to men after transition. That means, for example, that a
biologic male who is attracted to females will be attracted to females
after transitioning, and she may regard herself as a lesbian.
How do transgender people experience their transgender feelings?
people experience their transgender feelings in a variety of ways. Some
can trace their transgender identities or gender-atypical attitudes and
behaviors back to their earliest memories. Others become aware of their
transgender identities or begin to experience gender-atypical attitudes
and behaviors much later in life. Some transgender people accept or
embrace their transgender feelings, while others struggle with feelings
of shame or confusion. Some transgender people, transsexuals in
particular, experience intense dissatisfaction with their birth sex or
with the gender role associated with that sex. These individuals often
seek sex reassignment.
What should parents do if their child appears to be transgender or gender-atypical?
may be concerned about a child who appears to be gender-atypical for a
variety of reasons. Some children express a great deal of distress
about their assigned gender roles or the sex of their bodies. Some
children experience difficult social interactions with peers and adults
because of their gender expression. Parents may become concerned when
what they believed to be a "phase” does not seem to pass. Parents of
gender-atypical children may need to work with schools and other
institutions to address their children’s particular needs and to ensure
their children’s safety. It is often helpful to consult with a mental
health professional familiar with gender issues in children to decide
how to best address these concerns. In most cases it is not helpful to
simply force the child to act in a more gender-typical way. Peer
support from other parents of gender variant children may also be
How do transsexuals transition from one gender to the other?
from one gender to another is a complex process. People who transition
often start by expressing their preferred gender in situations where
they feel safe. They typically work up to living full-time as members
of their preferred gender, by making many changes a little at a time.
Gender transition typically involves adopting the appearance of the
desired sex through changes in clothing and grooming, adoption of a
name typical of the desired sex, change of sex designation on identity
documents, treatment with cross-sex hormones, surgical alteration of
secondary sex characteristics to approximate those of the desired sex,
and in biological males, removal of facial hair with electrolysis or
laser treatments. Finding a qualified mental health professional to
provide guidance and referrals to other helping professionals is often
an important first step in gender transition. Connecting with other
transgender people through peer support groups and transgender
community organizations is also very helpful.
The Harry Benjamin
International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA), a professional
organization devoted to the treatment of transgender people, publishes
The Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders, which offers
recommendations for the provision of sex reassignment procedures and
Is being transgender a mental disorder?
psychological condition is considered a mental disorder only if it
causes distress or disability. Many transgender people do not
experience their transgender feelings and traits to be distressing or
disabling, which implies that being transgender does not constitute a
mental disorder per se. For these people, the significant problem is
finding the resources, such as hormone treatment, surgery, and the
social support they need, in order to express their gender identity and
minimize discrimination. However, some transgender people do find their
transgender feelings to be distressing or disabling. This is
particularly true of transsexuals, who experience their gender identity
as incongruent with their birth sex or with the gender role associated
with that sex. This distressing feeling of incongruity is called gender
According to the diagnostic standards of American
psychiatry, as set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders, people who experience intense, persistent gender
dysphoria can be given the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder. This
diagnosis is highly controversial among some mental health
professionals and transgender people. Some contend that the diagnosis
inappropriately pathologizes gender variance and should be eliminated.
Others argue that, because the health care system in the United States
requires a diagnosis to justify medical or psychological treatment, it
is essential to retain the diagnosis to ensure access to care.
What kinds of mental health problems do transgender people face?
people experience the same kinds of mental health problems that
nontransgender people do. However, the stigma, discrimination, and
internal conflict that many transgender people experience may place
them at increased risk for certain mental health problems.
Discrimination, lack of social support, and inadequate access to care
can exacerbate mental health problems in transgender people, while
support from peers, family, and helping professionals may act as
What kinds of discrimination do transgender people face?
laws in most U.S. cities and states do not protect transgender people
from discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.
Consequently, transgender people in most cities and states can be
denied housing or employment, lose custody of their children, or have
difficulty achieving legal recognition of their marriages, solely
because they are transgender. Many transgender people are the targets
of hate crimes. The widespread nature of discrimination based on gender
identity and gender expression can cause transgender people to feel
unsafe or ashamed, even when they are not directly victimized.