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What is "Transgender"?

What does "Transgender mean"?

The word trans is an ‘umbrella’ term for all people who cross traditional gender boundaries – whether that is permanently or periodically. Many trans people know from a very early age that they don’t identify with the gender that is assigned to them at birth whilst others come to this conclusion much later in life. Every trans person’s journey through life is unique and individual to them. There are no right or wrong ways of being trans. It’s what works best and feels right for you! This booklet aims to provide information and guidance to anyone who identifies as a trans person or who thinks that they may be trans. It also signposts people to other sources of support and information. We hope that people who work with trans people will also find this a useful resource that will help them better understand some of the issues and challenges that trans people may face in their lives and help them to provide the best possible service to their trans clients. A

A community in transition

Although the word transgender has only been in use for the past 40 years – as a community we have been around for thousands of years.

An umbrella term for people who feel their real gender is different from their birth gender, transgender people are referenced in almost every major religion and society - with varying degrees of tolerance and acceptance.

For centuries in Britain they were a hidden minority, afraid to come out for fear of losing our families, spouses, friends, jobs and lives as we knew them. Recent equality law has in theory helped safeguard our livelihoods and the introduction of same-sex marriage has meant we no longer have to divorce our partners if we choose to transition. But it is still not a decision that people make lightly.

Although we cannot access precise figures about the size of the UK's transgender population, the community is growing - what we can be sure of, is that each individual’s experience of living a trans life is entirely unique.

A few trangender phrases

Transgender – A transgender person is someone whose personal idea of their gender does not match with his or her assigned gender role.

Transsexual – Someone who uses hormones and/or surgery to correct their gender identity from the identity given at birth.

Transvestite – Someone who dresses as the opposite gender for emotional comfort, erotic pleasure or because they feel comfortable in doing so – sometimes called a cross-dresser.

Trans Man – Someone who has transitioned from female to male. Someone who was labelled female at birth but has a male gender identity and therefore transitions to live as a man.

Trans Woman – Someone who has transitioned from male to female. Someone who was labelled male at birth but has a female gender identity and therefore transitions to live as a woman.

Transition – A trans person who wishes to live permanently in the social role of the opposite gender and who makes changes necessary for them to function in this role.

Gender Queer – A term for gender identities other than male or female. People who identify as gender queer may think of themselves as being both male and female or as being neither. Others may consider themselves to be ‘third gender’. Identify as gender less or Agender.

Many people assume that it means someone who has either had or who is currently in the process of physically (and probably surgically) ‘changing’ from a man to a woman or from a woman to a man. Because of this, many people who are just coming to terms with their trans identity also believe this to be the case – but it’s not that simple. Being trans can involve many different types of gender identity and covers a variety of life choices.

This can include:

• Living permanently with a different gender identity.

• Living part-time with a different gender identity.

• Changing your appearance to reflect another identity through choice of clothes and other methods of presenting as your true self.

• Partly or permanently changing the appearance of your body through hormone therapy and/or surgery.

• Not conforming to any gender stereotypes – for example, a trans person who was born male who has facial feminising surgery and breast implants but does not want to have any lower body surgery.

• Not transitioning but occasionally wearing clothes usually associated with the ‘opposite’ gender.

• Being gender neutral and not wishing to present as either male or female. It is important to acknowledge that not all trans people are able to or choose to have genital corrective (or reassignment) surgery. For others, however, this is an incredibly important stage in correcting the gender they were assigned with at birth and in living the life they want to live.

How you decide to live your life as a trans person is really up to you. The most important lesson is to take your time and not to rush into decisions that you may regret in later life.

Questions you may ask yourself could include:

• Do I want to live full time or periodically with a different gender identity?

• Do I enjoy dressing in a different gender identity but am happy with my body as it is?

• Does my body match with my gender identity?

• Do I want my body to be different to how it is now?

• Although my external appearance might be that of a male/female – is this really how I feel?

• If I don’t identify as male or female, what do I do?

• How do I want to live my life?

What ever you feel is your next step, rest assured, there are other people that feel the way you do. Please do not hesitate in getting help and support from one of the agencies listed below.

NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or visit

THE GENDER TRUST Offers support for all those affected by gender identity issues. 0845 231 0505

For Change Campaigning for respect and equality for all trans people.

The Beaumont Society National self-help body for trans women and those who cross-dress. 01582 412 220

GIRES Information for trans people, their families and the professionals who care for them. 01372 801 554

Mermaids Family and individual support for teenagers and children with gender identity issues. 0208 123 4819

QWEST FTM UK Self-help group for all female-to-male trans people and those exploring this aspect of their gender.

TransBareAll Works with the trans community, helping people accept their bodies and live more fulfilling lives. 0702 112 2998

Depend Support, advice & information for anyone who knows or is related to a trans person in the UK.