What Does Transgender Mean

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Transgender, also known simply as trans, is a term which is used to describe people whose gender identity is different from the one assigned to them at birth. In simpler terms, it designates those individuals whose gender identity incorporates traits and behaviors which are commonly associated with that of the opposite sex.

What Does Transgender Mean?

People who identify as transgender believe that the gender they were assigned at birth does not accurately reflect their gender identity. A trans person may feel like a man or woman inside even though they were born biologically as a woman or a man respectively. Trans individuals may also involve genderqueer, genderfluid, or non-binary people apart from trans men and trans women. The term can also refer to individuals belonging to the third gender and sometimes trans individuals are regarded as the third gender. One 2017 study 1 found that trans people may “feel they belong to the other gender and therefore have a binary concept of gender.” They may also think that they don’t belong to either male or female genders and maybe genderqueer, which is a non-binary gender concept. The study adds “In order to live their gender and to feel at ease with their body, trans individuals might require a diverse set of trans healthcare services.”

Due to their unique gender expression, some trans people may seek medical support to transform physically into the gender they identify with, a process known as transitioning. These individuals often identify themselves as transsexual. However, the term transsexual is now considered offensive and dated. It should also be noted that transgender and transsexual are not synonymous, as the former is an umbrella term that involves all trans people, while the latter is a part of the umbrella term and should only be used when someone wants to be identified or addressed that way. According to a 2018 study 2 , “Transsexualism refers to a condition or belief which results in gender dysphoria in individuals and makes them insist that their biological gender is different from their psychological and experienced gender.”

Research 3 reveals that trans individuals frequently experience discrimination, prejudice & other forms of stigma due to their gender identities. Moreover, these individuals may experience severe “distress, generally known as gender dysphoria, which tends to ameliorate following transition to the experienced gender,” due to their mismatched biological sex and gender identity, explains a 2018 study 4 .

Read More About Gender Here.

Understanding Transgender

The term transgender can mean different things to different individuals. Each and every individual has a gender identity. However, the majority of people never think about their gender as it matches the one assigned to them at birth. Our gender identity is our internal reflection or knowledge of who we are as a person, a man or a woman. However, for some people, their assigned gender identity at birth does not fit into their own sense of self. Researchers explain the concept as an “incongruence between one’s experienced gender, and one’s assigned gender, along with a persistent and strong desire to be of another gender.” Sometimes, an individual may also use the word ‘trans’ as the assigned sex does not reflect their sense of self or their experience in being identified as a particular gender.

Some trans people may choose to medically transition into the gender they identify with by taking hormones or undergoing surgery, while some others may live their lives as their preferred gender without undergoing surgery. They may modify their mannerisms, behavior, attire and lifestyle to fit their gender identity. However, it is not necessary that they will identify with only traditional male and female identities as it solely depends on their own and unique understanding of gender. They may feel like a particular gender inside (gender identity), behave or act like a particular gender (gender expression) and feel attracted to a specific gender (sexual orientation). Being trans is about how they feel about themselves from the inside. There is no definite way of life for trans people. They dress and feel about themselves the way they like. The best way to understand trans individuals is by listening to and understanding them. Assuming someone’s gender is considered to be rude and impolite. Hence, it is always best to directly ask a transgender person about their gender identity.

Gender Dysphoria

“Transgender or gender dysphoria (GD) has been defined as clinically significant distress resulting from the incongruence between one’s experienced gender, and one’s assigned gender, along with a persistent and strong desire to be of another gender,” explains a 2017 study 5 . As trans people typically experience a strong sense of disconnection between biological sex and gender identity, they experience a psychological and emotional disocnnection, known as gender dysphoria, which can cause significant amounts of pain and distress in individuals.

A 2020 study 6 states gender dysphoria as a “marked incongruence between their experienced or expressed gender and the one they were assigned at birth.” This was done to rectify the previously used term known as Gender Identity Disorder. It further states that “people who experience this turmoil cannot correlate to their gender expression when identifying themselves within the traditional, rigid societal binary male or female roles, which may cause cultural stigmatization.” Gender dysphoria can cause relationship difficulties between their family, peers, and friends. It can also cause interpersonal conflicts between them and hamper their way of leading a fulfilling and happy life. They tend to get addicted to various substances 7, develop symptoms of depression 8 and anxiety, and also have poor self-esteem and a negative sense of well-being. Studies 9 show that “transgender individuals have an increased risk of a depressive disorder.”

Most transgender people have no idea why they feel this way and often isolate themselves at a young age from their family or friends. Due to this, a lot of transgender people suffer from identity and mental problems at a young age. Due to social withdrawal, isolation, and social stress 10, they tend to grow up into individuals who have severe mental health 11 problems and fail to find acceptance in society when they come out about themselves. This is why education, awareness and acceptance from the community is important.

Transgender Identities

Transgender Identities

There are different ways and terms used to define and communicate gender identities of trans people. Some of the terms or identities which transgender people use to describe themselves are:

1. Cisgender

Those people who associate themselves with the gender given to them at birth based on their biological sex are called cisgender.

2. Crossdresser

This can refer to a person who is a cisgender. These people wear clothing different to the ones we normally associate with our gender. For example, a cross dressing man may wear feminine clothing in order to make a statement about their life, their personality, their political views or to have fun.

3. Drag King

This term is used to denote a female person who likes to wear male clothing. Sometimes, a drag king can also identify themselves as transgender.

4. Drag queen

This term refers to a man who likes to wear feminine clothing. A drag queen may also identify themself as a transgender.

5. Genderqueer

This term is used to identify those individuals who do not associate themselves as either a man or a woman. These people identify themselves as other genders separate from the tranditional genders, like a man, woman or a transgender.

6. Gender nonconforming

This term is used to refer to those people whose gender expressions do not fall into the traditional men or female categories.

7. Gender non-binary

This term is used to denote those people whose gender identity does not fall inside the traditional female or male categories.

8. Transgender man

This term is used to describe a person who was assigned the female gender at birth. However, that person identifies themself as a man. It can also refer to those individuals who had sex change surgery in order to look like a man. Sometimes, these people prefer to be identified simply as a man.

9. Transgender woman

This is used to denote a person who was assigned the male gender at birth. However, they identify themselves as women. It can also refer to those men who had surgery done to look more like women. A lot of transgender women out there prefer to be simply called a woman.
However, these terms are not strict. Moreover, apart from these, there may be several other terms and ways to express a trans person’s gender identity.

Transgender And LGBTQ+ Community

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, queer, questioning and others. The letters LGB here refers to our sexual orientation. Sexual orientation can be defined as a romantic or sexual attraction between men to women, men to men, women to women, to both genders or any other combination. A person can also be asexual as they have no sexual attraction to any genders or any desire for sexual activity. Some people can also choose not to be identified by any of these terms due to social or personal reasons.

The T in LGBTQ+ stands for Transgender. Transgender here can be an umbrella term used to define those men and women who do not identify themselves with their assigned sex at birth. However, a person may be trans and at the same time be attracted to the same sex he/she had their transformation to. A lot of people tend to confuse the terms gender and sexuality. These are two different terms, however the former may be used to associate all those people who do not associate themselves with their assigned gender.

Read More About Sexual Orientation Here.

Medical Treatments For Transgender People

A lot of trans people, if not all, seek medical treatments in order to look more like the gender they can associate themselves with. Sometimes, this medical care during their transitioning can be vital for their well-being. Some of the medical treatments or procedures availed by trans individuals are:

  • Hair growth treatment for individuals wanting to transition to a man or hair removal treatments for people wanting to transition to a woman.
  • Hormone replacement therapy in order to bring out the desired characteristics of a man or a woman.
  • Surgeries which include removing sex organs of the different sex. In some cases, males transitioning to females can opt to have their breasts surgically augmented.

A lot of medical institutions in the US have recognized the need for medical treatments for trans people. One 2018 study 12 has found that gender-affirming surgery (GAS) is important for the quality of life for trans people. However, although such medical procedures are typically safe and effective, it can have some adverse psychological effects. “There are serious risks associated with sex change. They include the risk of depressive illness and suicide,” explains a 2015 study 13. There is a growing amount of protest that medical care for trans people should be covered by public and private insurance. However, a lot of insurance companies deny trans people this vital medical care, in spite of existing federal and state laws for the same.

Transgender And Discrimination

Transgender people can come from different societies, cultures and regions. There are around more than 2 million transgender people in the United States alone. They can be your co-workers, your neighbors, your cousins, your friends and so on. They are an extremely diverse community that represents all ethnic and racial backgrounds as well as different religions. There are also a lot of popular celebrities out there who identify as transgender such as Elliot Page, Jazz Jennings and Laverne Cox. The transgender community is extremely diverse and varied. There are a lot of trans people who tend to identify themselves as trans women, trans men, gender nonconforming, non-binary, among others. They should be treated with the same kind of respect and dignity just like anyone else. However, in most places transgender people face serious mistreatment and discrimination 14 at their communities, work, school or even with friends and relatives. Research 15 shows that even transgender patients experinece discriminatiopn when seeking healthcare 16.
A transgender person will be more likely to face these following situations –

  • Get fired or get denied the right to get a job even after having proper qualifications
  • Face bullying and harassment at school or work
  • Most transgender people are pushed to extreme poverty and become homeless
  • They face challenges while looking for housing and accommodations. They might also be evicted without any proper reason.
  • They might be refused medical treatments and any sort of medical attention
  • They often become the victims of fictitious crimes or get targeted by law enforcements for no reason at all
  • They are subjected to all kinds of violence and physical abuse, in the community they live, their school or even workplace.

Transgender Community, Society And Laws

Most people are of the opinion that being a transgender is a mental disorder, which can be cured. However, this is where they are absolutely wrong. It is the personal right of a person to choose how they want to express themselves and choose their sexual or romantic partners. Although in recent times, there have been a lot of laws which are intended to safeguard the rights of trans people, there is no comprehensive law which actually enforces it or looks after transgender people whose rights have been violated. Moreover, there are some states in the US which are passing laws which prohibit trans people from accessing the same public bathrooms which regular people use.

Transgender people should be allowed to live without fear of violence and discrimination. They should be supported by members of the community and affirmed for who they are. This can only allow them to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives. While there is a lot of advocation going on for the improvement of their rights and passing of new bills and laws which can safeguard and look after their rights, true change can only be brought about only when people are educated about these people. There is a lot of social stigma and taboo which comes with being a transgender. There is a need for educating people about different types of gender identities in our community and how they also have a right to lead safe and happy lives.

Importance Of Passing

The term passing means that transgender people are perceived as a male, female or another gender by other people. It means that trans people want to pass as a heterosexual or as a cisgender by other people. There can be different reasons as to why people want to pass. Most people in our society have little or no understanding of what the term transgender means. This can cause a plethora of problems for trans men or women and they have to experience situations where they are often stared at in public, asked rude questions and also prevented from accessing basic public services like the subway or the washroom. However, passing can help to alleviate some of the problems for them. Some of the benefits of passing are:

  • Using public restrooms and washrooms without having to reveal their gender
  • Participating in the gender-based community or support groups
  • Avoiding discrimination by employers, landlords, etc for being trans
  • Receiving healthcare without divulging their gender

Passing can be a boon for some trans people where they can move in public and not be harassed or questioned about their gender. They can expect society to respect them much more if they pass and would also be able to avail the basic amenities provided to the general public.

We Are All Human

We all have the basic right of living a happy, safe and fulfilling life in our society. However, lack of education, awareness and social stigma often creates stressful situations for trans people. Real change can be brought about only at the grassroot level where children are educated about the various types of gender and are taught to respect all human being alike, irrespective of their caste, creed, sex, gender or religion.

Transgender At A Glance

  1. Transgender are those people whose gender identity is different from the one assigned to them at birth.
  2. A trans person may feel like a man or woman inside even though they were born biologically as a woman or a man respectively.
  3. A lot of transgender people suffer from identity and mental problems at a young age.
  4. LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, queer, questioning and others. The letters LGB here refers to our sexual orientation. The T stands for Transgender.
  5. Transgender people can come from different societies, cultures and regions.
  6. Transgender people should be allowed to live without fear of violence and discrimination.
👇 References:
  1. Eyssel, J., Koehler, A., Dekker, A., Sehner, S., & Nieder, T. O. (2017). Needs and concerns of transgender individuals regarding interdisciplinary transgender healthcare: A non-clinical online survey. PloS one12(8), e0183014. []
  2. Mohammadi, M. R., & Khaleghi, A. (2018). Transsexualism: A Different Viewpoint to Brain Changes. Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience : the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology16(2), 136–143. []
  3. White Hughto, J. M., Reisner, S. L., & Pachankis, J. E. (2015). Transgender stigma and health: A critical review of stigma determinants, mechanisms, and interventions. Social science & medicine (1982)147, 222–231. []
  4. Nobili, A., Glazebrook, C., & Arcelus, J. (2018). Quality of life of treatment-seeking transgender adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders19(3), 199–220. []
  5. Saleem, F., & Rizvi, S. W. (2017). Transgender Associations and Possible Etiology: A Literature Review. Cureus9(12), e1984. []
  6. Garg G, Elshimy G, Marwaha R. Gender Dysphoria. [Updated 2020 Nov 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: []
  7. Connolly, D., & Gilchrist, G. (2020). Prevalence and correlates of substance use among transgender adults: A systematic review. Addictive behaviors111, 106544. []
  8. Hoffman B. (2014). An Overview of Depression among Transgender Women. Depression research and treatment2014, 394283. []
  9. Witcomb, G. L., Bouman, W. P., Claes, L., Brewin, N., Crawford, J. R., & Arcelus, J. (2018). Levels of depression in transgender people and its predictors: Results of a large matched control study with transgender people accessing clinical services. Journal of affective disorders235, 308–315. []
  10. Valentine, S. E., & Shipherd, J. C. (2018). A systematic review of social stress and mental health among transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States. Clinical psychology review66, 24–38. []
  11. Becerra-Culqui, T. A., Liu, Y., Nash, R., Cromwell, L., Flanders, W. D., Getahun, D., Giammattei, S. V., Hunkeler, E. M., Lash, T. L., Millman, A., Quinn, V. P., Robinson, B., Roblin, D., Sandberg, D. E., Silverberg, M. J., Tangpricha, V., & Goodman, M. (2018). Mental Health of Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Youth Compared With Their Peers. Pediatrics141(5), e20173845. []
  12. El-Hadi, H., Stone, J., Temple-Oberle, C., & Harrop, A. R. (2018). Gender-Affirming Surgery for Transgender Individuals: Perceived Satisfaction and Barriers to Care. Plastic surgery (Oakville, Ont.)26(4), 263–268. []
  13. P Fitzgibbons R. (2015). Transsexual attractions and sexual reassignment surgery: Risks and potential risks. The Linacre quarterly82(4), 337–350. []
  14. Ozamiz-Etxebarria, N., Picaza, M., Jiménez-Etxebarria, E., & Cornelius-White, J. (2020). Measuring Discrimination Against Transgender People at the University of the Basque Country and in a Non-University Sample in Spain. International journal of environmental research and public health17(7), 2374. []
  15. Collier R. (2015). Addressing transgender discrimination in health. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne187(17), E493. []
  16. Bradford, J., Reisner, S. L., Honnold, J. A., & Xavier, J. (2013). Experiences of transgender-related discrimination and implications for health: results from the Virginia Transgender Health Initiative Study. American journal of public health103(10), 1820–1829. []
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