1. What does “transgender” mean?Home The term is rather slippery It has been used in the professional community to describe any type of atypical expression of gender, and includes cross-dressers, gender-fluid, non-binary, and “transsexuals”. Today, however, the term “transgender” is conventionally reserved for those whose gender identity is other than that typically associated with that they were assigned at birth, or their “biological sex”. How many transgender people are there? Again, coming up with an accurate number is difficult. There is a marked dearth of reliable research on this relatively small population. Surveys asking this type of question show a greater percentage identifying as transgender in younger age groups. The most reasonable explanation for this is that it has become more acceptable, whereas previous generations have been reluctant to identify. Studies put the percentage, in the U.S. at between 0.45 and 2%. What is “gender dysphoria”? It is a medical diagnosis… The American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” version 5, (the DSM-5), is the professional reference for those who diagnose and treat mental health and brain-related conditions. It defines gender dysphoria for adolescents and adults as follows: a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and their assigned gender, lasting at least 6 months, as manifested by at least two of the following: A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics) A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics) A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender A strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender) A strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender) A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender) In children the diagnosis calls for: a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, lasting at least 6 months, as manifested by at least six of the following (one of which must be the first criterion): A strong desire to be of the other gender or an insistence that one is the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender) In boys (assigned gender), a strong preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; or in girls (assigned gender), a strong preference for wearing only typical masculine clothing and a strong resistance to the wearing of typical feminine clothing A strong preference for cross-gender roles in make-believe play or fantasy play A strong preference for the toys, games or activities stereotypically used or engaged in by the other gender A strong preference for playmates of the other gender In boys (assigned gender), a strong rejection of typically masculine toys, games, and activities and a strong avoidance of rough-and-tumble play; or in girls (assigned gender), a strong rejection of typically feminine toys, games, and activities A strong dislike of one’s sexual anatomy A strong desire for the physical sex characteristics that match one’s experienced gender We should note here that this is a fairly rigid set of signs and symptoms, over an extended period of time. This puts the lie to the oft-heard assertion that parents and caregivers are indulging in childish “phases”. Isn’t gender dysphoria a type of mental illness? In a word, no. It is, however, a treatable condition. This is not to say that gender dysphoria can be “cured”. Despite the insistence from some uninformed sources that dangerous “conversion therapy” can “cure” transgender individuals, the only effective treatments are gender-affirming care, which may include: Therapy Puberty blockers, for adolescents Cross-sex hormones Gender affirming surgeries What’s the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation? Sexual orientation refers to whom you are attracted to. Gender identity is about what gender you feel yourself to be. Confusion between these two very different things is common, and that confusion is commonly exploited by those who believe they might gain from fomenting the fear that might come from that confusion. Aren’t drag queens, crossdressers and transsexuals all the same thing? No. Not even close. Drag queens are men who identify as male, but who perform as females, typically as a caricature of cis women, using exaggerated costumes, wigs, and makeup. Cross dressers are men who identify as male, but who, for various reasons, like to wear various items of women’s clothing, hair styles and makeup. For many, the drive is fetishistic in nature, providing sexual stimulation. Transsexuals, and to a certain extent, gender-fluid and non-binary individuals, identify as a gender other than that aligned with their biological sex. Aren’t drag queens, crossdressers, and transsexuals actually pedophiles? No. This is just the latest in a long line of lies about gender non-comforming people, being propagated by so-called conservatives. Any even cursory examination of publicly available information, from credible sources, will show that this threat is made up. What does “gender transition” mean? Conventionally, there are three types of “transition” Medical transition, wherein the individual undergoes various treatment regimens intended to help align the patient’s body to their identified gender. Social transition, wherein the individual begins to live as the gender with which they identify. Legal transition, wherein the individual pursues legal changes to public and private records, to align those records “gender markers” with their identity. How can I be supportive of my transgender friend or family member? Educate yourself. Again, there is a virtual storm of disinformation coming from certain political quarters. Seek out information published by credible sources, like The American Medical Association, The American Psychological Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and of course, “Trans Truth”. Do your best to use the names and pronouns that they have chosen for themselves. If you don’t know, it is always proper to ask. Just remember that “deadnaming” (using the name that they no longer use) and mis-gendering are hurtful to the trans individual, even if they are “innocent mistakes”. Deliberately doing these things is inexcusable. Get support for yourself in dealing with these changes. Having that friend or loved one come out to you should show you that you mean a lot to them. Respect that trust by doing whatever you need to do to understand and accept. Counseling and support groups are available. Support organizations like The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, who are currently fighting the wave of dangerous, anti-trans legislation in the U.S. Above all, do what we do, and advocate for transgender rights. As we say in Texas, “Y’all means all”, as in “...liberty and justice for all”. You don’t have to be a sign-carrying activist, but do what you can, whenever you can, to educate those around you with the truth about transgender people. Resources: Transgender and Non-Binary People FAQ - Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org) Frequently Asked Questions about Transgender People | National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org) Understanding Transgender People: The Basics | National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org) Gender Development Program | Children's National (childrensnational.org) The American Psychological Association’s Office on Secual Orientation and Gender Diversity Programs and Projects Gender Spectrum Homepage - Gender Spectrum The National Center for Transgender Equality Trans Youth Family Allies