By Julia Kaye @upandoutcomic
Being transgender has its difficulties. But the experience of discovering who you are and growing into that person can be an experience of joy and self acceptance.
Figuring out that you are trans can be scary; it upends one of the most basic and binary assumptions about who you are and who you are going to be. But you don’t have to have all the answers. Just take it one step at a time, one thing at a time.
Try things out: how do these clothes make me feel? What does it feel like to be referred to as he? As she? As they? These are all the pieces of the puzzle. Some people see the picture with only a few pieces; others need more before it’s clear. Your process transitioning and your relationship with your gender won’t be exactly the same as someone else’s. And that is fabulous!
Even if you’re not out, or not out in every situation, there are little things you can do to feel more at home in your body.
Things like this may seem small, but it’s a good reminder that you are real, and exist in your true gender. You’re trying your best, and taking care of yourself, and that is what’s important. These are just suggestions: these ideas might not work for you, but try to find a way to care for your body and affirm your true self.
And for everyone: be nice to yourself. If you see that you are speaking to yourself in a negative or abrasive way, think about a person you love. You wouldn’t tolerate someone speaking to them like that: so you shouldn’t treat yourself like that either.
It can be powerful to imagine a future version of you who is happier and more at home in their body having love and compassion for who you are now. You’re going to get through this, and that future self is waiting on the other side with all the love you need.
Tips to feel more Masculine:
Buy some masculine deodorant! Smelling more like yourself can help ground you.
Don’t shave your legs or armpits: but maybe shave your face?
Buy some boxer briefs/new underwear: it doesn’t show on the outside, but it goes a long way.
Tips to feel more Feminine:
Buy some feminine deodorant! Little things like this can make you feel more like yourself.
Paint your nails. (You can paint them clear if you want to be discreet)
Shaving. This might help with some dysphoria! Soft legs in your sheets make everything feel a little bit better.
Gender, Sex, Expression
The Genderbread person is a great way to break down some of the complex ideas of gender. Gender is a complicated and nebulous thing to navigate. By separating these different aspects, exploring gender can feel a bit more approachable.
It also separates gender and sexuality, which is important.
Sexual Orientation (straight, gay, bi, etc.) is who you love. Gender (boy, girl, agender, genderqueer) is who you are. Two separate axes!
Terms to Know:
The classification of a person as male or female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy. (This is what is written on the birth certificate.)
A person's sex, however, is actually a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics. There are more than two sexes: people who are intersex display
A person’s internal and deeply held sense of their gender. Most people have a gender identity of man or woman (or boy or girl). For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two choices (see non-binary and/or genderqueer below.)
External manifestations of gender, expressed through a person's name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, and/or body characteristics.
Someone’s romantic and sexual attraction to others. (aka who you love.) Separate from gender identity (who you are.)
The prefix trans indicates something that passes from one side to another (like the transcontinental railroad.) The term transgender describes anyone who identifies with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. Gender assigned at birth is what the doctor said; they look at a baby and say “That’s a girl.” If that baby (years later) disagrees, they are trans.
Transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures, although many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. Some undergo surgery as well.
Transgender is an adjective. It’s not accurate to write “transwoman” because trans is a description of the type of woman she is. You wouldn’t say “tallwoman” or “women and tallwomen”
"Cis-" is a Latin prefix meaning "on the same side as," and is therefore an antonym of "trans-." Cisgender people are those who identify with their sex assigned at birth, and the term is used to describe people who are not transgender.
A term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity. Not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender; nor are all transgender people gender non-conforming. Many people have gender expressions that are not entirely conventional – that fact alone does not make them transgender. Many transgender men and women have gender expressions that are conventionally masculine or feminine. Simply being transgender does not make someone gender non-conforming.
Non-binary and/or genderqueer
People who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman often use these terms to describe themselves. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, completely outside the concept of woman and man, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms.
Gender Dysphoria is typically understood as the discomfort and disconnect between one’s perceived gender and one’s true gender identity. There are many types of dysphoria, such as social dysphoria, and physical dysphoria. People’s experience of dysphoria is personal and may vary widely. There is no wrong or right way to experience gender dysphoria.
Gender Euphoria is the feeling of joy and content when one’s true gender is affirmed. It is feeling good in your skin, and seen as who you are. If you’re cisgender, you probably don’t even realize that you are feeling gender euphoria. For trans people, it is often much more obvious. Some trans people feel dysphoria more acutely, while others are more focused on the euphoria of experiencing life in their true gender.
Transitioning is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition can include some or all of the following personal, medical, and legal steps: telling one's family, friends, and co-workers; using a different name and new pronouns; dressing differently; changing one's name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) one or more types of surgery. The exact steps involved in transition vary from person to person. Transitioning is often a response and a remedy to gender dysphoria and allows transgender individuals to live more authentic and happy lives.
Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS)
Also called Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS). Refers to doctor-supervised surgical procedures to transform the genitals, and is only one small part of transition (see transition above). Avoid the phrase "sex change operation." Do not refer to someone as being "pre-op" or "post-op." Note: not all transgender people choose to, or can afford to undergo medical surgeries.
An older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. Still used by some people who have permanently changed - or seek to change - their bodies through medical interventions, including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries. Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender. Do not use transsexual unless a person has made it clear that they use this term.
Drag, Crossdressing, Transvestism:
Crossdressing means dressing up as another gender: women wearing stereotypically men’s clothing and vice versa. Transgender people are not crossdressing because they are dressing as themselves, as their true gender, not across gender. In the past, the term transvestism was often used to describe trans people (the suffix -vest means to wear). However is it not an appropriate way to describe trans people today.
Drag is a little more complicated. Although drag is traditionally understood as a man dressing up as a caricature of a woman, trans people have been important participants throughout the history of drag. It is best to understand Drag performers as performing a character: some drag queens are trans, some are cis. The different is when a drag queen takes the costumes off, a trans woman is still a woman whereas a cis man is a man. Being trans isn’t a costume- drag is.
“Transgenders,” “a transgender”
Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun.
For example, "Tony is a transgender man," or "The parade included many transgender people."
“A transgender person,” “transgender people”
For example, "Tony is a transgender man," or "The parade included many transgender people."
The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous "-ed" tacked onto the end. An "-ed" suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors. It also brings transgender into alignment with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer. You would not say that Elton John is "gayed" or Ellen DeGeneres is "lesbianed," therefore you would not say Chaz Bono is "transgendered."
Use transgender as an adjective, a descriptor of the type of person you are discussing.
This is not a term commonly used by transgender people. This is a term used by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to "a condition."
Refer to being transgender instead, or refer to the transgender community. You can also refer to the movement for transgender equality and acceptance.
"sex change," "pre-operative," "post-operative"
Referring to a "sex-change operation," or using terms such as "pre-operative" or "post-operative," inaccurately suggests that a person must have surgery in order to transition. Avoid overemphasizing surgery when discussing transgender people or the process of transition.
When discussing someone before they came out, they can be referred to as “pre-transition.”
For example, “Pre-transition, he was really unhappy.”
"biologically male," "biologically female," "genetically male," "genetically female," "born a man," "born a woman"
Problematic phrases like those above are reductive and overly-simplify a very complex subject. As mentioned above, a person's sex is determined by a number of factors - not simply genetics - and a person's biology doesn’t determine a person's gender identity. Finally, people are born babies: they are not "born a man" or "born a woman."
"assigned male at birth," "assigned female at birth" or "designated male at birth," "designated female at birth"
These phrases describe the way people were categorized, rather than presupposing some fact about them.
"passing" and "stealth"
While some transgender people may use these terms among themselves, it is not appropriate to repeat them in mainstream media unless it's in a direct quote. The terms refer to a transgender person's ability to go through daily life without others making an assumption that they are transgender. However, the terms themselves are problematic because "passing" implies "passing as something you're not," while "stealth" connotes deceit. When transgender people are living as their authentic selves, and are not perceived as transgender by others, that does not make them deceptive or misleading.
“Visibly transgender”, “publically out as transgender”
Again, these phrases focus on the assumptions others have, rather than talking about a transgender person's choice to disclose their transness.
These vocabs lists were edited from:
Trans Feminine is an umbrella term that describes trans AMAB people (Assigned Male At Birth), including binary trans women and nonbinary people assigned male at birth.
MTF (or M2F) stands for Male to Female. It is often used in medical contexts to succinctly describe transgender women. However, many trans feminine people have issues with this term, as it assumes that they were once male, or men, when they have always been women.
Outside of a medical content, it is best to say trans girl, trans woman, or nonbinary person according to their identity.
Trans Masculine Terminology:
Trans Masculine is an umbrella term that describes trans AFAB people (Assigned Female At Birth), including binary trans men and nonbinary people assigned female at birth.
FTM (or F2M) stands for Female to Male. It is often used in medical contexts to succinctly describe trans men. However, many trans masculine people have issues with this term, as it assumes that they were once female, or women, when they have always been men.
Outside of a medical content, it is best to say trans boy, trans man, or nonbinary person according to their identity.
Trans FAQ by Riley J Dennis [CC]
Transgender Rights: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
For Captions, click here.
Gender assigned to us at birth should not dictate who we are by Sarah McBride (TedTalk) [CC]
Becoming Him by Chella Man (TedXTalk) [CC]
Kai Shappley: A Trans Girl Growing Up In Texas by them. [CC]
MTV Docs: Transformation by MTV [CC]
Trans 101 Series by uppercaseCHASE1 [CC]
This series is a great introduction to different aspects of transition.
Note: From Episode 18 on the videos are specifically geared towards trans men and trans masculine people.
7 Tips For Beginning Your MTF Transition by Aaliyah’s Diary
It’s (NOT) Just a Phase - The Experiences on Nonbinary Folks 30-70 Years of Age by Ash Hardell [CC]
FTM: Advice if you think you might be transgender by Jammidodger
What is Gender? by Philosophy Tube [CC]
Pronouns are the way that we refer to people when we aren’t using their names.
Using people’s correct pronouns is important because it makes us feel seen and respected.
Learning new pronouns can be tricky, especially if you are in the habit of using a certain pronoun for someone. Even if it’s hard or you mess up, the effort to use the right shows a trans person that you are on their side.
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Names are important. They are how others know and remember us, but they are also how we think of ourselves. For many trans people, transitioning means choosing a name that feels more like them and doesn’t signal a gender they don’t identify with.
Being trans doesn’t mean you have to change your name. If your name is Daniel and you are a girl, then it’s a girl’s name. Because it is yours! What matters is that you feel comfortable with it. Your name is your own. You don’t have to worry about making anyone comfortable but yourself.
To parents and guardians: you probably put a lot of thought into the name you gave to your child. A name is given, like a gift. Many people, trans and cis, change their names to something more authentic. Your child was never going to be who you thought they would be: take this as an opportunity to help them be (and see for yourself) who they are becoming.
Someone’s old name given to them at birth is often called a “deadname” or a “birthname”. It is up to the individual to share that name with others. It is never appropriate to reveal someone’s birthname without their knowledge and consent.
How Transgender People Choose Their Names by Adryan Corcione
An article full of anecdotes about trans people’s journeys to find their names.
Naming Yourself - Transition 101 by Stef Sanjati [CC]
What is important when choosing a name? Stef Sanjati shares her experience.
RENAMING GODS CHILDREN by Miles McKenna
Choosing a name can be fun too! Miles McKenna helps other trans folks by throwing out names that might just fit.
The Year Without A Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham
A beautiful piece about self discovery, gender, and the in-between spaces of naming.
Image Description: A rainbow pride flag with a triangle entering from the left side. The triangle has the trans flag colors and brown and black lines representing the importance of POC in the LGBTQ community.
A short history of trans people’s long fight for equality by Samy Nour Younes (TED) [CC]
Trans people aren’t new! This TedTalk is an introduction to the history of trans and gender diverse people, across time and culture.
Short documentaries about trans stories. From bathrooms, different cultures, to the meeting of trans people of different generations, this short series offers a glimpse into a wide and rich history of transness.
First Time I Saw Me: Trans Voices | Tiq Milan with Netflix and GLAAD
Tiq Milan talks about his identity, representation, and how it helped him discover himself.
Check out Disclosure documentary on Netflix for a look at the long and complex history of trans representation in media, with interviews with a diverse range of transgender actors, filmakers and activists. Highly recommended.
A documentary about Stonewall that highlights the leadership of transgender women in the modern LGBT movement.
More links on LGBT History:
Transforming History | Retro Report | by The New York Times
Trigger Warning: Discussion of sexual assault and violence.
Opinion | Milestones in the American Transgender Movement by The New York Times
Depression, Transphobia & Suicidality
The root of transphobia isn't just a dislike and hatred of trans people being their authentic selves, but the false people that trans people aren't real (aren't really who they are)
Navigating a world that doesn't seem to have space for you can be difficult.
But you do belong. You are real, you are who you know yourself to be, and you are capable of great joy and creation.
Transgender identity exists in the intersection of multiple identities and experiences. All trans experiences are different, with notable differences around race, class, and gender.
Black trans women are one of the most vulnerable populations in the world, facing violence, discrimination, and harrassment for their blackness, womanhood and transness. It is black trans women who kickstarted pride, and yet they still face difficulties from every conceivable direction.
Until black trans women are free, none of us are.
The Gender Creative Child by Diane Ehrensaft Phd
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Trans* (But Were Afraid to Ask) by Brynn Tannehill
Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community by Laura Erickson-Schroth
This book is huge and packed with information. Sections on relationships, transition, disability, sexuality, coming out… the list goes on. This tome contains over 600 pages about a wide variety of trans topics.
Note: There are explicit discussions of sex, including a few drawings in the relevant section.
The Gender Quest Workbook by Rylan Jay Testa PhD, Deborah Coolhart PhD, Jayme Peta MA
This workbook has prompts, questions and exercises to help you explore your personal sense of gender identity and expression.
Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
Introducing Teddy written by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson
The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Lily and Duncan by Donna Gephart
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee