Transgender is a term that describes people whose internal sense of gender doesn’t match the sex assigned to them at birth. They may choose to express their affirmed gender through social changes (like hairstyles, clothing, and names) or medically, through hormone therapy and surgery.
The process of transitioning is a personal journey that can be limited by circumstances and access to resources. However, there are many things that every transgender person should know.
Identifying as a transgender person
People whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex at birth are known as transgender. People who are not male or female can also use terms like androgynous, multigendered, genderqueer, agender and two-spirit to describe themselves.
People may realize they are transgender at any age. Some can trace their transgender feelings back to childhood, while others come to terms with them during adolescence or much later in life.
Some transgender people choose to be open about their identities. Other people may conceal their transgender identities and present as cisgender to avoid discrimination or stigma, a practice called identity management. Studies have found that hiding one’s transgender status can negatively impact a person’s psychological health, so it’s important to find the right balance for each individual. Having identity documents that match one’s gender is an important step in this process, and is often required for accessing services or getting jobs. However, it’s also important to be able to legally change one’s name and pronouns, which is an essential part of the transition process.
Getting medical care
The first step in getting good transgender health care is finding a doctor that will be supportive. You can find a supportive doctor by asking your friends, family members, and coworkers who they recommend or looking up doctors who specialize in transgender care online.
You should also check your health insurance policy to make sure that your gender-affirming treatment is covered. It’s illegal for your health insurance company to deny you coverage of treatments typically associated with a particular gender, such as hormone therapy or surgery.
Some transgender people are afraid of physical examinations, especially from a gynecologist or urologist performing genital exams. This can lead to them not getting the needed care. The lack of appropriate medical care can lead to higher risk of disease and even death for transgender people. National research priorities should include rigorous determination of the capacity of the United States healthcare system to provide appropriate care, physician knowledge and biases in training, larger social structural barriers to accessing care, and possible solutions.
Supporting a transgender person
Transgender people can express their gender in a variety of ways. Some choose to dress and present themselves in a traditional way that sends clear, gendered messages to others. For example, a male-to-female (MTF) transgender person may wear a skirt and stereotypically feminine blouse paired with matching earrings and pristine makeup. Others may decide to dress in a more masculine manner and appear in public as a man, or they might opt for genderfluid, which means their presentation can be more masculine one day and more feminine the next.
Supporting the transgender people in your life starts with using their preferred name and pronouns. It also includes avoiding gendered language, which can be offensive to someone who is transgender. Finally, if you see hurtful language or behavior directed at transgender people, stand up for them. For example, if you hear someone calling a transgender woman a boy or a man, politely correct them. Also, consider offering your office space to a local transgender group for meetings. This can help put a face to your agency’s outreach efforts and show your commitment to the community.
Getting the care you need
Transgender people have unique health care needs. They may need hormone therapy or surgery to help them look and feel the way they want. They might also need counseling to deal with stigma and discrimination. They can also get medical treatments to treat underlying conditions like depression or anxiety disorders.
It is important to find nurses and doctors who are transgender-friendly. This can be difficult, but it is worth the effort. If possible, get a therapist who has experience supporting transgender people. You can also ask around for a LGBTQ-knowledgeable provider.
It is important to remember that a transgender person does not have to reveal their gender identity to anyone, including their medical providers. In addition, it is best not to pry into intimate procedures like colonoscopies and Pap tests. However, all people share some basic health care needs like annual checkups and meningitis vaccines. Moreover, all people should be able to access health care without being denied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.