Carrie Davis, Transgender Community Organizer & Director of Adult Services at The Center:
"Our culture likes to make things simple, and gender isn't.":
What is "Transgender"?
Have you heard the word "transgender" in the media, at school, or some other place recently, but you have no idea what it means? Well, you've come to the right place.
The term “transgender” means different things to different people, which can make it rather hard to define. We include a definition in our Glossary, but if you’re really new to all this, it might be hard to grasp all the concepts right away.
Let’s break it down:
- "Transgender," at its most basic level, is a word that applies to someone who doesn't fit within society's standards of how a woman or a man is supposed to look or act.
- For example, "transgender" may be used to describe someone who was assigned female at birth but later realizes that label doesn't accurately reflect who they feel they are inside. This person may now live life as a man, or may feel that their gender identity can't be truly summed up by either of the two options we're usually given (male or female). They might feel like they're in between those two options; both male and female; or outside the two-gender system, entirely, neither male nor female.
- “Transgender” can also be used as an umbrella term, meaning it groups together a variety of people with different identities. The common link is that people under the “transgender umbrella” don’t really fit within their society's standards of how women and men are supposed to look and act (in other words, they're "gender non-conforming").
Other important things to keep in mind:
- “Transgender” is a relatively new word -- it's only been around for a few decades -- but it’s not a new concept. Gender non-conforming people have existed in many time periods and cultures.
- A transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures. In other words, some transgender people have surgeries or take hormones to bring their body into alignment with their gender identity, BUT many do not medically alter their bodies, and that doesn't mean they're not transgender.
- You might think someone is transgender, but this is a personal identity that some people claim and others do not. Wait to see how someone self-identifies (or ask, respectfully) before assuming.
About Trans Basics
Trans Basics is an online educational tool created by the Gender Identity Project (GIP) at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Trans Basics contains information about and resources for trans, genderqueer, gender non-conforming people and their allies, co-workers, partners, families and friends. Return to the Trans Basics homepage.