LGBTA-Q Resource Center
I Think I might be Transgender...
- What does it mean to be Transgender?
- Learning to like yourself
- Emergency Contact Numbers
- Who should I tell?
- Why should the general lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) community care about transgender issues?
- Transgender Terms Defined
What does it mean to be Transgender?
Transgender people are those whose appearance, behaviors, or personal characteristics differ from stereotypes about how men and women are supposed to be. The group includes crossdressers, transsexuals (both male to female - MtF and female to male - FtM), and can include intersex people (individuals who were born with ambiguous genitals, and raised one gender which later conflicts with their internal self).
Transgender people often suffer both internal confusion and suffering and prejudice or violence from others. Transgender people face enormous discrimination in society - from immediate family, neighbors, and co-workers. The pressures to conform to gender stereotypes are so overwhelming that many transsexuals attempt suicide before seeking treatment. Unfortunately, far too many fail by succumbing to suicide while many other individuals suffer their lives in seclusion and secrecy.
Fortunately, the Transgender movement and support has increased drastically. Individuals who identify themselves as trans are leading very happy lives. There is now a lot of support and services to help individuals who are transitioning or would like to explorer their internal sense. Not all trans individuals become performers and not all performers are trans-identified.
Learning to like yourself:
It is not easy to discover that you are transgender. Our society makes it very clear what it thinks of transgender people. We all hear the terrible jokes, the hurtful stereotypes and the wrong ideas that circulate about transgender people. People tend to hate or fear what they do not understand. It is no wonder that you might choose to hide your feelings from others. You might even be tempted to hide them from yourself.
You may wonder if you are normal. Perhaps you worry about people finding out about you. Maybe you avoid other people because of what people will think. Working this hard to conceal your thoughts and feelings is called being in the closet. It is a painful and lonely place to be, even if you stay there in order to survive.
It takes a lot of energy to deny your feelings, and it can be costly. You may have tried using alcohol or other drugs to numb yourself against these thoughts. You may have considered suicide. If so, please contact the BGSU's Counseling Center at 419-372-2081 and they are open Monday & Thursday 8:00 am-7:00 pm and Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday, 8:00 am-5:00 pm.
If it is an emergency, call the police (419-372-3246 or 911). There are alternatives to denying your very valuable feelings.
- BGSU Police Department (101 Commons): 419-372-3246 or 911
- Behavioral Connections , The Link (1022 North Prospect): 352-1545. Crisis Intervention Center , 24-hour Crisis Hotline, Information and Referral, and Victims Advocacy Program (for victims of violent crimes).
- Wood County Hospital (950 West Wooster ): 419-354-8910. Immediate attention for physical crisis; seek attention at the Emergency Room.
- Bowling Green City Police (175 West Wooster ): 419-352-2571
- BGSU Student Health Services : 419-372-2271
- BGSU Wellness Connection : 419-372-9355
- BGSU Counseling Center : 419-372-2081
Who should I tell?
More and more transgender individuals are learning to feel better about themselves. As you start to listen to your deepest feelings and learn more about what it means to be transgender you will begin to be comfortable with your gender identity. This is the process called coming out.
The first step in coming out is to tell yourself that you are transgender and say, "That's OK." Later you may want to tell someone else--someone you trust to be understanding and sympathetic. You might choose a friend or a family member. You will probably want to meet other transgender people for friendship or other individuals for a more intimate relationship.
Some transgender individuals are able to come out to their families. You need to decide whether or not to tell your family, and to choose the right time. Lots of people, including parents, simply do not understand transgender people and are difficult to come out to. In the beginning, be cautious about whom you tell.
But it is crucial to be honest with yourself. Just as self-denial costs you, coming out pays off. Most people who accept their gender identify say they feel calmer, happier, and more confident.
Why should the general lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) community care about transgender issues?
The reason this is so important to the LGB community is that someone who is viewed as being gender different, regardless whether they identify as transgender or not, is often subject to the exact same oppression, the same violence as those of us who do identify as being transgender. Being perceived as gender different is the leading reason given for "gay-bashing."
Gender rights are ultimately human rights. Each of us is assigned a gender role at birth that we are expected to conform to, regardless of how we might feel or view ourselves as being. As a most basic human right, each of us should be free to express our gender as we wish.
Transgender (ed) / Trans: An umbrella term encompassing other terms defined below. It refers to anyone who is "crossing the male-female dichotomy" in any way. Trans is a more modern term used as a synonym for transgender.
Sex: Sex is the physiological makeup of a human being, referred to as their biological or natal sex. Sex is usually thought of in a bipolar way, dividing the world into males and females. In reality, sex is a complex relationship of genetic, hormonal, morphological, biochemical and anatomical determinates that impact the physiology of the body and the sexual differentiation of the brain. Although everyone is assigned a sex at birth, approximately 2% of the population are intersex and do not easily fit into a dimorphic division of two sexes that are "opposite."
Gender: Gender is a social construct that divides people into "natural" categories of men and women that are assumed to derive from their physiological male and female bodies. Gender attributes vary from culture to culture, and are arbitrarily imposed, denying individuality. Most people's gender identity is congruent with their assigned sex, but many people experience their gender identity to be discordant with their natal sex. A person's self concept of their gender (regardless of their biological sex) is called their gender identity.
Gender Role: Gender role is the expression of masculinity and femininity and has often been referred to as "sex roles." Gender roles are thought to be a reflection of one's gender identity and are socially dictated and reinforced. Gender roles are how gender is enacted or "performed" (consciously or unconsciously) and may or may not be related to gender identity or natal sex.
Transsexual: A person who wishes and seriously acts upon the sense of having the wrong gender body, often-- though not always--culminating in sexual reassignment surgery. Pre-operative transsexuals include those not yet undergoing surgery; post-operative transsexuals are those who have received surgery; non-operative transsexuals are those who, for whatever reason, cannot or choose not to have surgery.
NOTE ON PRONOUNS: All transsexuals are referred to by the pronouns of the gender they see themselves as being, whether they are pre-operative, non-operative, or post-operative. If in doubt, ask the individual.
Female to Male (FtM)/Male to Female (MtF): These terms are widely used in the trans community to define the direction of crossdress or transsexuality. There are harsh critics of these terms due to the assumption of duality.
Sexual Reassignment Surgery (Sex Change): The term used for the set of surgeries to alter the gender of an individual. For male-to-female transsexuals, it usually involves amputation of testicles and most of the penis, inversion of the penis skin into a vagina, and optional breast implants, tracheal shaves, and labiaplasty. For female-to-male transsexuals, it involves mastectomy, hysterectomy, and optional attempts at creating a penis and scrotum. Preparatory and follow-up hormonal treatment is almost always given, and M-to-Fs often undergo long, expensive, painful electrolysis.
Transition: This is the process of changing gender role, and also the time period in which the change occurs. The time period starts, more or less, with the decision to change gender, and ends with surgery. The term is also used in the sense of an event, usually when a person begins working in the new gender role.
Androgynous/Androgyn: Between genders or without gender.
Intersex: The term preferred by people born with both female and male characteristics; the more commonly used term in history is hermaphrodite. Children born with obvious intersexed characteristics are often operated on as an infant to remove whichever characteristics the family or surgeon decides should disappear. This may or may not coincide with which gender the child considers him/herself to be. Although everyone is assigned a sex at birth, approximately 2% of the population is intersex and do not easily fit into a dimorphic division of two sexes that are "opposite."
Gender Dysphoria: Clinical literature on transsexualism once spoke of transsexuals having "gender confusion." The term now used is "gender dysphoria," a fancy way of saying "extreme discomfort." Transsexuals, once given an understanding and a vocabulary for who they are, are confused mostly by society's reluctance to give them validity. The best science we currently have indicates that biological gender dysphoria is caused by hormonal fluctuations at a crucial time in fetal development.
Cross-dressing: People who desire to dress and occasionally act as a member of the opposite sex, but do not consider themselves as being the opposite sex or even want to be.
Bigender: People who see themselves as possessing both genders: man and woman. Some may feel that one side or the other is stronger, but both sides are there.
Intergender : An identity which falls somewhere between the endpoints of man and woman. It assumes an acceptance of the construct of a Gender Continuum. Given such a continuum, man and woman become bounding constructs with an infinite number of gendered states in between. One identifies as neither a man nor a woman but as something separate and unique from either extreme.
Gender Continuum: Also called the Gender Spectrum. The construct that gender is not a binary system where there are only men and women, but a continuum or spectrum spanning from man to woman with an infinite number of gendered states in between. It is an attempt to account for the obvious variety and endless differences there are in how people gender themselves.
Drag Queens/Drag King: A term used to refer to gay men (usually) who dress in a feminine manner, often exaggeratedly so. If they do it on stage as well, they also are impersonators and the terms are sometimes interchangeable. The female form of this is the drag king. Most commonly found in bars, parties, and parades, as well on television.
Gender Bender: A term used to refer to anyone who acts outside the generally accepted norms of gender behavior, usually by the way she or he dresses, without care about "what people think."
Information on this page was adapted from www.sexuality.org/l/incoming/trbasic.html .