Transgender people may take steps like changing their appearance, clothing, or name to affirm their gender. They may also undergo medical affirmation, such as hormone therapy or surgery.
They may use pronouns that align with their gender, and they may refer to themselves as she or they. This can be a painful process for some.
What is transgender?
Transgender is an umbrella term that describes people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth. This can include people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or agender. Some transgender people choose to go through a medical process of affirmation to match their gender identity, which may include hormone therapy or surgery. But every person’s journey is different, and some people don’t transition at all.
Gender identity is how a person feels internally, rather than what they look like on the outside. The majority of trans adults identify as male or female, but some people also use terms such as genderqueer, agender, or nonbinary.
Many people who are exploring their gender find it helpful to join a safe and supportive group, such as a LGBTQ+ student or community center. This can help them share their experiences, feelings, and fears, as well as offer support. They can also seek advice from a therapist or counselor who specializes in gender issues.
Gender identity refers to one’s innermost concept of self as male, female or nonbinary. It may be the same as assigned sex at birth, or it can differ from it. Gender identity does not correlate with sexual orientation, which refers to a person’s innate preference for romantic or sexual relationships with men, women or both.
Most of us think there are two genders, male and female (also known as the gender binary). But gender isn’t based on genital anatomy – it’s about who you know yourself to be.
Some transgender people may want to make their assigned sex match their gender identity, but this is not always possible or desirable. This process is called transitioning and can include social (like telling people which pronouns to use) or medical changes (like hormone treatment or surgery). It’s important to respect each person’s gender identity, no matter what it is. They don’t have to come out as something other than their true self at all times, and it’s okay if they take the time to “become” that person slowly.
People with gender dysphoria experience distress as a result of the conflict between their inner sense of gender and the sex assigned to them at birth. They may seek social affirmation (using the pronouns and public bathrooms of their affirmed gender), medical affirmation (taking hormones to suppress puberty or change body shape), or surgery to reduce physical differences between the sexes.
A growing number of transgender people are experiencing distress from their gender identity and may wish to pursue a different sex identity or transition. They may also be at risk for substance abuse, self-harm behaviors and suicide.
Gender dysphoria can be lessened by a supportive environment and knowledge of treatment to reduce the gap between one’s internal sense of gender and their sex assigned at birth. People with a gender-diverse diagnosis can find comfort in support groups, such as those at community or LGBTQ centers. They can also seek mental health care, such as counseling or medication to address negative feelings and learn new coping skills.
Transition-related medical care
Many transgender people have medical needs related to their gender identity and expression, such as hormone therapies and surgery. These can help decrease anxiety and depression, increase self-esteem, and reduce symptoms of gender dysphoria. Experts agree that transition-related health care is medically necessary.
Unfortunately, it is often difficult or impossible to get the care that you need. For example, some private insurance plans exclude transition-related health care. This is discrimination, and it’s illegal. Check out NCTE’s Health Coverage Guide to learn more about how to get access to the care that you need.
Gender-affirming health care is vital to transgender people’s mental and physical health. Seemingly small interventions, like listing patient pronouns and using gender-neutral language, can have big impacts on patients’ lives. But it will take a concerted effort by all providers, regardless of specialty, to make sure that all patients can receive the health care they need. To do so, they will need to build centers of clinical excellence and address these patients’ health needs within their general practices.