The Beauty of Diversity: What Does It Mean to Be Transgender in Today’s Society?

Table of Contents

Today is Transgender Day Of Visibility — a day that reminds us to celebrate transgender people everywhere and the contributions and strides they’ve made for society as a whole. Why dedicate a blog to better understanding the transgender community? Because education remains an important way to combat the violence, high rates of homelessness and high suicide rates among transgender populations, while bringing policymaker attention to these issues. That’s why we’re taking today to examine the question: what does it mean to be transgender?

What Does It Mean to Be Transgender?

What Does It Mean to Be Transgender

Everyone is born with a biological sex based on chromosomes, anatomy and hormones. But phrases like “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl” carry more than a biological weight. When a person is transgender, the gender they were given at birth doesn’t feel true to who they are on the inside.

What Does Transgender Mean?

The word transgender means that the way a person feels on the inside is different from how they were identified when they were born. Transgender people may identify as a gender opposite the one they were assigned at birth, they may identify with both genders or they may not identify with either gender.

The opposite of “transgender” is “cisgender” and refers to people who identify with their biological sex.

What Percentage of the Population is Transgender?

Approximately 1.4 million adults (age 18+) and 150,000 teenagers (between age 13-17) currently identify as transgender in the United States alone. This is about 0.6% of adults and 0.7% of teenagers. There are currently no statistics available on the population of transgender children (under age 13).

Can You Be Born Transgender?

Approximately 2,000 babies are born each year with biological characteristics that don’t easily fit into our binary of “male” versus “female.” This is called being “intersex,” and is different from being transgender.

To identify as transgender, you have to be able to recognize and name how you feel, which doesn’t happen right at birth. However, that doesn’t mean that people choose to be transgender. Studies show that counseling aimed at helping people “accept” the gender they were assigned at birth when it doesn’t ring true to them — a form of counseling known as conversion therapy — is not only ineffective but can actually be very harmful.

How Do You Know if You Are Transgender?

How Do You Know If You Are Transgender

Identifying as transgender takes personal reflection. Some people say that they “just know,” and may even know when they are young children (as young as age 2 or 3). For other people, it takes longer to recognize their feelings and identify as transgender.

It’s common for some transgender people to identify their feelings as adults, and some may not recognize what they’re feeling until after they’re married or even after they have kids. The more awareness brought to the topic of being transgender, the more easily people can recognize their feelings and gender identity.

What Is a Transgender Woman?

A transgender woman (or trans woman) was assigned the male gender at birth but now identifies as female.

What Is a Transgender Man?

A transgender man (or trans man) was assigned the female gender at birth but now identifies as male.

What Are Other Transgender Identities?

Some people who are transgender may identify as gender non-conforming, gender non-binary or genderqueer. These terms all mean that their gender identity doesn’t lie on the typical binary of male or female.

Other transgender individuals may identify as gender fluid, which means that they identify as both male and female.

What Is the Difference Between Transgender and Transsexual?

Transgender is an umbrella term that can be used to refer to anyone in the transgender community. The term transsexual, on the other hand, is historically and emotionally charged and should only be used for individuals who ask to be identified as transsexual. A person may ask to be identified as transsexual if they have chosen medical intervention, such as hormone treatment or gender confirmation surgery, as part of their transgender journey.

Can a Transgender Man or Woman Get Pregnant?

A person born with a uterus and fallopian tubes who has not had surgery to have those parts removed may be able to get pregnant, whether they identify as male, female, gender fluid, genderqueer or something else. Early studies suggest that transgender men and cisgender women have similar oocyte quality and quantity.

However, transgender individuals who were born with male sexual organs cannot currently get pregnant. The possibility of a transgender woman bearing a child using a transplanted uterus is on the horizon, but is not currently possible.

Do Transgender Women Have Periods?

No, transgender women — women who were born with male sexual organs — do not have periods. However, transgender men may have periods, as may other transgender individuals born with female sexual organs. Taking testosterone medication often stops periods from occurring, but if a transgender individual born with female sexual organs stops taking testosterone, their period often returns.

How Does Transgender Surgery Work?

Transgender surgery is more commonly referred to as gender reassignment surgery or gender confirmation surgery, and it helps make a person’s body match how they feel or identify on the inside.

Not all people who identify as transgender choose to undergo gender reassignment surgery, which can be incredibly invasive and may be unnecessary for transgender people who do not struggle with body dysmorphic disorder.

In male-to-female surgery, a surgeon removes the majority of the penis and the testicles and shortens the urethra. A neo-vagina can be formed using parts of the penis.

In female-to-male surgery, the breasts, uterus and ovaries are removed. The urethra may be lengthened to allow a transgender man to pee standing up, though this can be difficult. A neophallus may be constructed using tissue from the person’s forearm and allow for some sensation.

What Are Some Ways to Approach Coming Out as Transgender?

When you’re ready to come out as transgender, you may consider living somewhere you know you’re safe no matter what you say. This may mean waiting until you can live independently before coming out to your parents if you have any fears that they won’t take the news well.

Some people may accept with open arms your new identity, pronouns and transition. Others may need some time to process what you say. And, unfortunately, some people may never accept that you are transgender.

Who Was the First Transgender Person?

Charlotte Clark was the first person in modern times to identify as transgender, while Christine Jorgenson was the first person to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Who Are Some Current Celebrities That Identify as Transgender?

Celebrities who have come out as transgender include:

  • Laverne Cox: Famous for her role on Orange is the New Black.
  • Elliot Page: Known for coming out after rising to fame as Ellen Page of Juno.
  • Isis King: The first transgender woman to compete on America’s Next Top Model.
  • Jazz Jennings: A famous trans activist with several books written about her journey.
  • Zach Barack: The first openly transgender person to appear in a Marvel movie.
  • Caitlyn Jenner: An Olympic gold-medal decathlete and the most prominent athlete to come out as transgender.

Love is for Everybody (and Every Body)

In today’s society, one of the most important things we can do is provide a voice for people who have been marginalized for far too long. Regardless of sexual identity, class, race or sexual orientation, it’s key that we come together and support one another to create a better, more loving and more inclusive future.

References

Transgender Day of Remembrance. Human Rights Campaign.

Hate Violence Against Transgender Communities. (2017). National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

Suicide Thoughts and Attempts Among Transgender Adults. (September 2019). UCLA School of Law: Williams Institute.

What It Means to Be Transgender. (July 2017). WebMD.

Age of Individuals Who Identify as Transgender in the United States. (January 2017). UCLA School of Law: Williams Institute.

Frequently Asked Questions About Transgender People. (July 2016). National Center for Transgender Equality.

Transgender Pregnancy: Moving Past Misconceptions. (October 2020). Healthline Parenthood.

Assisted reproductive technology outcomes in female-to-male transgender patients compared with cisgender patients: a new frontier in reproductive medicine. (October 2019). Fertility and Sterility.

Is There a Difference Between Being Transgender and Transexual. (October 2018). Healthline.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder. (October 2019). Mayo Clinic.

Here’s How Sex Reassignment Surgery Works. (February 2015). Washington Post.

Timeline: Transgender Through History. (2021). CBC.

A Short History of Gender Dysphoria. (March 2015). Susan’s Place Transgender Resources.