What is Transgender?


Transgender is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender is different from the one assigned at birth. People often change their bodies, names, and legal identification to match their internal sense of gender.

They may take hormones and have surgery to alter their appearances to more closely resemble their chosen genders. Many also seek counseling to help cope with stress.

Gender identity

Gender identity is a person’s own psychological sense of being male, female, neither, or both. It is different from sexual orientation, which is a person’s emotional and physical attraction to people of the opposite sex.

Gender identities can develop at any age, and some transgender individuals feel dissatisfied with the sex assigned to them at birth or by their physical sex characteristics. They may seek gender-affirming treatments such as hormone therapy and surgery.

Those who believe that gender can be other than the sex assigned at birth are more likely to say they learned this from science (48%) than to report knowing someone who is transgender (28%). They are also more likely to perceive discrimination against transgender people. These findings support the depathologizing of transgender experience and identity. Gender identity can be further defined through a person’s gender expression, such as their clothing, voice and other outward physical cues. This is called “coming out” and can be a process that evolves over time.


Transgender people often experience sexual and romantic attraction to different sexes. The terminology for sexual orientation is complex and varies by community. For example, people who identify as gynesexual feel sexual attraction to women and perceived femininity, regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth. Some also use the term genderfluid, which can be both a way of describing their gender identity and a general description of their attraction to people of all genders.

In the medical model, transexuality is viewed as a symptom of an underlying condition and is treated with hormones and surgeries. This view amplifies certain realities and silences others. This feedback loop is one reason why it’s important to have a wide range of terms for gender diversity, such as the following.


Every person faces certain health risks, and transgender people face additional concerns. Among the most serious are negative attitudes and disapproval that can lead to discrimination or abuse. This is called social stigma.

Medically, people who transition from one gender to another often have specific needs, such as hormone therapy, gynecologic care and surgery (including hysterectomy or breast or chest reconstruction), and mental health services. They may also want to discuss safe sex with their doctor. This includes the use of barriers, such as external condoms or internal dental dams, in all sex and oral and anal sex.

Studies show that transgender people seek medical care less frequently than other people, for reasons such as insurance coverage, being refused care, finding a healthcare provider who is familiar with transgender health issues, or fear of discrimination in a healthcare setting. Interventions that simultaneously address individual responses to stigma, the implicit and explicit biases that contribute to enacted stigma at the interpersonal level and healthcare systems that restrict access to necessary care at the structural level are needed to increase healthcare access for transgender people.


There are many resources available to transgender people, including online support groups and discussion spaces. Some LGBTQ organizations have specific support groups for the partners of transgender people, and there are also trans-knowledgeable therapists who can work with individuals.

It’s important for those in cisgender relationships to remember that transgender identity is only one aspect of their partner. They may have other challenges, interests, and strengths that are not related to their gender.

Some cisgender people find it helpful to join support groups for transgender people, which can provide an environment where they can discuss similar life experiences and challenges with others who understand them without needing explanations. Support groups can also be useful for those who are struggling with mental health issues, as some of these groups offer support in the form of psychotherapy treatment. Individuals can also help by working with their elected officials to pass nondiscrimination laws for transgender people at the local, state, and federal levels.