Transgender is a gender identity and is a term which covers a variety of identities and expressions which are different that the one assigned at birth. When a person is transgender they may identify with the gender opposite the one they were assigned at birth or they may not identify with any gender (gender queer) or they may identify with multiple genders (qender fluid).

Different Transgender Identities

Transwoman (Male-to-Female): Individual assigned male at birth but who identifies with the “woman” gendered roles and behaviors and who feels a strong, intrinsic identification with femaleness.

Transman (Female-to-Male): Individual assigned female at birth but who identifies with the “man” gendered roles and behaviors and who feels a strong, intrinsic identification with maleness.

Transsexual: An individual who has undergone some or all appropriate clinical treatments for gender dysphoria.

Gender Queer: identity which rejects traditional binary views of gender. May encompass one or more of the following:

  • Bigender: identification with and fluctuation between both traditional “man” and “woman” gendered behaviors (and sometimes a third gender).
  • Gender Fluid: identification with both traditionally “man” and “woman” gendered behaviors (and sometimes a third gender). Gender fluid individuals may identify with one gender more on one day and another on another day.
  • Third Gender: identification with a gender other than man or woman.
Agender: identification with little or no gender behaviors.

How Does Gender Identity Relate to Sexual Orientation?

Gender expression and identity is different than sexual orientation. Transgender people can be gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, and more! Moreover, a person’s sexual orientation can change throughout their lifetime, and their attractions can change during their transition.

Transgender Identity and Psychological Disorders

Being transgender is not a mental disorder as being transgender does not automatically entail significant emotional distress and psychological disability. Many transgender people live successful and fulfilling lives in a variety of scientific and artistic disciplines. Because of the intense stress trans people experience in their individual processes of coming out and becoming a better version of themselves (stresses such as rejection from family and friends, the cost of health care, social alienation, etc.) many trans people suffer from higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide than the rest of the population. Most major medical and psychological organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics denounce views or therapies which would attempt to “fix” transgender people or make them feel abnormal and embrace evidence-based practices which seek to improve the quality of life for transgender patients.

Debunking Some Myths about Being Transgender

If my loved one transitions, they will regret it. This is a valid concern but is unsupported by research. In fact the majority of transgender individuals (94%) report an improvement in life satisfaction and quality of life due to transitioning. Moreover, most transgender individuals (96%) report having improved well-being due to transitioning.  

If my loved on transitions, then they will have worse mental health. Again, this is a valid concern. However, research indicates that 9 out of 10 transgender individuals reported improved personality post-transition. Moreover, 85% of transgender individuals report improved emotional stability.

My loved one is only transitioning because they feel pressured to do so. As a family member or friend of a transgender individuals, it is reasonable to want to protect your loved ones. However, transgender individuals overwhelmingly report (96%) overall satisfaction from transitioning (hormone replacement, 97%; chest surgery, 96%; genital surgery, 90%).

If I support my loved one, then I am denying my faith. Faith and spirituality can be incredibly important to many people. Faith and spirituality are also incredibly important for many transgender individuals. You do not have to agree with someone in order to love and support them. Moreover, if you are concerned about expulsion from your religious organization, there are several religious groups which are known to be supportive of transgender individuals and their allies such as the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian-Universalist Association, the Humanist Society, Reform Judaism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Metropolitan Community Church. Check out your local worshiping community to see if they are supportive!