What Does It Mean to Be Transgender?
Transgender people feel that the gender to which they were born, or assigned at birth, does not fit them. Transgender people include people born female who identify as male (female-to-male) and people born male who identify as female (male-to-female). Transgender people also include people who identify as gender neutral, and/or gender-free—people who may not identify as either male or female. Transsexual people are those who choose to medically transition to the gender that is right for them. Cross-dressers are people who like to wear the clothes of another gender but who don’t identify as another gender. You may find yourself identifying with one or more of these definitions pretty strongly or with none of them at all. No one has to rush to self-label, now or ever, and some people choose different labels that express more clearly how they see themselves.
How Do I Know if I’m Transgender?
You may feel that you are more comfortable expressing yourself as a gender other than the gender you were born or assigned at birth. This gender might be the “opposite” of the gender you were born or assigned, or it might be neither male nor female but something else entirely! You may feel extremely uncomfortable with the gender-specific parts of your body. For example, you may have breasts and prefer not to have them. Or, you might not feel uncomfortable with your gender-specific body parts and, at the same time, feel a deep need to have other body parts. You may feel more comfortable relating to people who perceive you as the gender you see yourself. You may simply feel you would be more truly yourself in another gender. People who are transgender may feel any or all of these emotions.
Am I Normal?
Being transgender is as normal as being alive. Throughout history, many people have felt they were transgender. Transgender people are everywhere. They are teachers, doctors, construction workers, and waiters. They attend college, have children, and enjoy careers. You may interact with other transgender people every day and not know it! Certainly, being transgender is not “typical,” and you may encounter many people who do not understand or who feel uncomfortable or even discriminatory. However, you are certainly normal.
What Will Happen When I Come Out?
Some people feel relieved and happy when they come out. Others feel as if they are thrown into a lion’s den, with challenges from parents, friends, and family. You will most likely experience a bit of both. Some transgender youth may face violence at school or in their home. Please, make sure you have people you can talk to before you come out publicly, just for this reason.
What Does It Mean to Transition? Should I Do It?
Some people who come out as transgender are comfortable telling a close circle of friends. Other people choose to change their name, their pronouns, their style of dress, and their appearance to be congruent with their gender identity. Still others choose to take hormones and have surgery to medically alter their appearance. As you decide which, if any, steps to take, it can help to talk about these feelings with others, such as a mental health professional who is competent with gender identity issues, friends and family members you trust, and other transgender people. You should express yourself the way you feel most comfortable, without pressure from others.
Medical transition, the taking of hormones and having one or more surgeries, is a big step. For some, it is absolutely necessary. Most people who choose to transition medically strongly need identity and body to match. They want to be seen all the time and without question, as the gender they feel they are. To medically transition, you must first see a therapist and, in most cases, be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder.
Gay or Straight or What?
Being transgender has to do with your gender identity: how you feel about who you are. It has nothing to do with your sexual orientation, which is about who attracts you. Some transgender people are attracted to men, some to women, some to other transgender people, and some to people regardless of their gender. People may define themselves with different labels, depending on who attracts them. For example, some transgender women who are attracted to men define themselves as straight, because they are attracted to the opposite gender. Other transgender women may feel attracted to men and define themselves as queer, to challenge the notion of “opposite” genders. Regardless of who attracts you, rest assured that many transgender people have happy, healthy relationships with people whom they love. Remember, you deserve to date people who respect you for who you are.
Transgender people can have a hard time finding safer sex information that speaks in language that reflects how they feel about their body. Because many may feel that their biological body doesn’t reflect their gender identity, they may use different terms for body parts. Finding information that corresponds to an internal/emotional body concept can be difficult. No matter how transgender youth label sexual body parts, some or all of the following tips apply to each:
How Do I learn to Like Myself?
If you have just discovered or recognised that you are transgender, remember that you are normal and you are likeable, just as you are. With big discoveries come big life changes, and it is normal to feel nervous, apprehensive, and upset about the days ahead. Remember, too, that discovering something this important about yourself can be a truly amazing experience. You are one step ahead on the journey of discovering who you truly are, and with that journey, the world becomes full of possibilities as well as challenges.