What Does It Mean To Be Transgender?

What Does It Mean To Be Transgender?

Popping up all over the media lately is the concept of being transgender. From Caitlin Jenner to Lavern Cox, with shows like Transparent becoming mainstream, lots of people are curious.

Transgender is nothing new; people have been living differently then dictated by their genitalia for centuries. In recent times, many transgender individuals have felt they have to hide who they are. I am hopeful that this new media attention will bring this to the forefront of public consciousness, and lead to more discussion and open-mindedness.

Many transgender individuals have felt they have to hide who they are.

 

What is transgender?

Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex noted by their birth genitalia. In other words, a person who identifies as a woman was born with a penis, and vice versa.

Feeling like a woman or a man may have nothing to do with the genitalia you are born with. Gender identity is a person’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman. For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth is different from the gender to which they identify.

Feeling like a woman or a man may have nothing to do with the genitalia you are born with.

 

How do people who are transgender try to conform in society?

Trying to change a person’s gender is no easier than changing sexual orientation. Many transgender people chose to match their gender they feel on the inside with how they appear on the outside. Dressing in the sex they identify with, cutting or growing their hair, wearing makeup or having surgeries are some ways to ‘appear’ externally as transgender people feel on the inside.

Some transgender people are prescribed hormones to change their body to that which they identify. Transgender men may take testosterone to appear more masculine, and transgender women may take estrogen to appear more feminine. Surgery to remove breasts, or change the genitalia can be performed.

Others chose to live as the gender they associate with but not change their physical appearance at all. It is a personal decision, and no two cases are alike.

Are all transgender people gay?

This is a common question and misconception. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same. Sexual orientation describes a person’s physical, emotional and romantic attraction to another person. Someone can be straight, gay, bisexual or other. Gender identity describes a person’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or in between).

Transgender people may be straight, gay or bisexual like everyone else. A transgender person who transitions from female to male may be attracted to women, and identifies as straight. A person who transitions from male to female and is attracted to women may identify as a lesbian.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same.

 

How to treat a transgender person with respect:

  • Use the name and pronouns the person prefers.
  • Respect the terminology the transgendered person uses to describe their identity. They may identify with the words transgender, transsexual, gender-queer or cross-dresser or many others.
  • Don’t make assumptions about a transgendered person’s sexual orientation.
  • Don’t ask a transgendered person what their birth name is. This can be a huge source of anxiety.
  • Practice confidentiality – the transgender person can chose a time to disclose to others, or not. It is their choice.
  • Respect that there is no standard way to feel or transition. Each transgender person has their own path and outcome.
  • Be patient and be open to conversation when wanted, and no discussion when wanted.
  • Do not ask about the transgendered person’s sex life or surgical status. Let them bring it up.
  • Support the transgendered community by challenging anti-transgender remarks, encouraging unisex bathrooms and challenging stereotypes. Set an inclusive tone in your workplaces and personal spaces.
  • Be open-minded and listen. Don’t judge. Seek out appropriate resources when you don’t know something.

(adapted from http://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies)

 

Why we need more awareness and sensitivity towards the transgendered:

Sadly, the transgendered face much discrimination. They are four times more likely to live in poverty and have 2-4 times the rate of unemployment. 90% of transgendered people report experiencing harassment, discrimination and mistreatment in their workplace. Almost half of transgender people report attempting suicide, compared to less than 2% of the general population.

Almost half of transgender people report attempting suicide.

 

Let’s work together to open our minds and hearts, be inclusive and love everyone for who they really are. I hope we teach our children the same.

Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

About Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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