Transgender (often shortened to trans) is a term referring to people who do not identify as the gender assigned to them at birth. It commonly refers to men who were assigned female at birth (trans men), and women who were assigned male at birth (trans women); these examples are known as binary transgender people. All non-binary people are also inherently included under the term transgender, because their gender is not what was assigned to them at birth; However, some non-binary people choose not to use "trans" as a label.
Transgender is not a gender identity on its own, rather it is a gender modality; It shows that there is a difference between one's assigned gender at birth and one's actual gender.
The opposite of transgender is cisgender.
When writing about trans people, the word "trans" should be used as an adjective. One should not write "transwoman" or "trans-woman", but should rather write "trans woman", where trans is used as adjective to describe a category of women in this case.
Sometimes "trans" is written as trans+ or trans*. The asterisk or plus sign indicate inclusion of all transgender, non-binary, and associated identities (such as drag queens/kings and crossdressers), without having to write out "transgender, non-binary, and associated identities" in full every time. Many drag queens/kings and crossdressers are trans or non-binary, and use drag as a way to explore their gender identity. However, performing drag does not inherently make one trans or associated with the trans community.
Transgender vs. Transsexual
Transsexual is an older term originating in the medical and psychological communities. It was previously used interchangeably with transgender, and is still used by some older transgender people. In the modern day, transsexual or transsex can also be used as a term to refer to people who have changed or seek to change their bodies through medical routes, such as hormonal replacement therapy and/or physical surgeries. However, most people prefer the word transgender, as it is less medicalized and is more inclusive of people who have not, cannot, or do not want to medically transition.
Many transgender people (but not all) experience gender dysphoria, a feeling of discomfort or self hatred stemming from a disconnect between their internal sense of gender and their outward appearance, their bodies, or how others perceive them. Gender dysphoria, often called just dysphoria, can range in intensity; It can be severe, median, mild, or not there at all. Sources of dysphoria can be and often are different between individuals, and these sources can change over the course of one's life and/or transition.
Passing is a term used by trans people to describe their appearance, and whether they can be mistaken for a cisgender person. For example a trans woman would "pass" when people assume they are a cisgender woman.
Transitioning refers to the act of beginning to live as one's actual gender, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. Transitioning can be social and medical. Social transitioning typically involves going by one's chosen name, pronouns, and often changing one's clothes, hair, and other parts of one's appearance to present as one's gender. Medical transitioning is the act of changing one's body to be closer to one's desired body. It can include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and surgeries. Both of these things can help with dysphoria.
Not all trans people choose to fully transition, or to transition at all. Some may socially transition, but not medically transition; Some may undergo certain aspects of transitioning but not others - for example undergoing HRT, but not surgery. Alternatively, some may change their name and pronouns, but still dress similarly to their assigned gender at birth due to being gender non-conforming, and may still pursue medical transition.
A transgender individual's "dead name" (often shortened into "deadname") is the name that they were given by their parents when they were born. Most transgender people choose to change their name as a part of their transition, though not all will. The act of using a transgender individual's previous (dead) name intentionally, when one knows their real name, is called "deadnaming".
Transmasculine, or trans masc/transmasc people are men, men-aligned people, or masculine aligned people who were assigned female at birth (AFAB). Transmasculine people (mostly binary trans men) might also be called FtM, F2M (female to male). Some transmasculine identities include:
- Trans men.
- Demiboys who are AFAB.
- Proxvir people who are AFAB.
- AFAB genderfluid people who are often masculine.
- Solarians who are AFAB.
- Neptunians who are AFAB.
- Juparians who are AFAB.
- Other AFAB non-binary people who strongly identify with masculinity.
Many trans men and transmasculine people change to presenting in a traditionally masculine way. This can include having short hair and wearing traditionally masculine clothes. Some may wear packers to simulate the appearance of having a penis. Many choose to wear binders to flatten and masculinise their chest. However, binding can be dangerous and can lead to deformation of the rib cage, especially if done incorrectly or for long periods of time. There are many resources available online on how to bind safely, even for those without access to a binder.
Transmasculine medical transition typically involves taking testosterone hormone replacement therapy in the form of injections or gel. Surgical elements can include a mastectomy to remove breasts (known as top surgery, as "mastectomy" is often dysphoria inducing), and a metoidioplasty and/or phalloplasty to create a penis (known as bottom surgery). It is also not uncommon for transmasculine people to have a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries), or both. However, those surgeries can also be unviable for many transmasculine people, and in place of that they may undergo tubal litigation. Due to the effects of testosterone hormone replacement therapy, transmasculine people are less likely to undergo body masculinisation surgery, but it is not a rare procedure.
A transmasculine person may do all, some, or none of these things. Some may not feel a need to transition, and some may be unable to transition due to other medical reasons, location, or monetary status.
Transfeminine or trans fem/transfem people are women, women-aligned, or feminine aligned people who were assigned male at birth (AMAB). Transfeminine people (mostly binary trans women) might also be called MtF or M2F (male to female). Some transfeminine identities include:
- Trans women.
- Demigirls who are AMAB.
- Juxera people who are AMAB.
- AMAB genderfluid people who are often feminine.
- Lunarians who are AMAB.
- Venusians who are AMAB.
- Lunettians who are AMAB.
- Other AMAB non-binary people who identify strongly with femininity.
Many trans women and transfeminine people change to presenting in a traditionally feminine way. This can include having long hair, wearing traditionally feminine clothes, and wearing makeup. They may wear breast forms to give the appearance of breasts (often before starting estrogen hormone replacement therapy). Some may tuck, which is the act of pushing the testicles back into the body and pushing or taping the penis back to get rid of the bulge created by the penis. This is dangerous to do for extended amounts of time, especially with tape, and it may be impossible for some transfeminine people as their body may not physically allow them to push their testicles back into their body. However, similar to binders, there is an article of clothing called a gaff that many transfeminine people use to tuck more safely, and there are many resources available online about tucking safely.
Transfeminine medical transition typically involves taking testosterone blocking medication and estrogen hormone replacement therapy in the form of pills, gel, or more rarely injections. Surgical elements can include an orchiectomy to remove the testes, a penectomy to remove the penis, a vaginoplasty to create a vagina from the penis and testes, a labiaplasty to create labia, and a clitoroplasty to create a clitoris. Some transfeminine people choose to undergo breast augmentation or obtain breast implants. Breast augmentation and breast implants are not always necessary or desired, as estrogen and progesterone cause breast growth. Some transfeminine people may undergo facial feminization surgery and many choose to undertake laser hair removal.
A transfeminine person may do all, some, or none of these things. Some may not feel a need to transition and some may be unable to transition due to other medical reasons, location, or monetary status.
Transneutral people are neutral-aligned non-binary people. They may have been assigned female at birth or assigned male at birth. Transneutral people might also be called MtN/M2N (male to neutral) or FtN/F2N (female to neutral) depending on their assigned gender at birth. Some transneutral identities include:
- Neutrois people.
- Agender people.
- Demigender or Deminonbinary people.
- Genderfluid people who are often neutral.
- Maverique individuals.
- Other nonbinary people who identify as neither feminine or masculine.
Many transneutral people change to presenting in a way that is either a combination of both masculine and feminine, or in a way that is gender neutral. What this looks like often depends on one's assigned gender at birth; A transneutral person may wear breast forms or binders to give the appearance of breasts or a flat chest; Some may tuck, and some may simulate the bulge created by the penis via packing.
Medical transition can involve elements of transfeminine and/or transmasculine procedures, such as orchiectomy/penectomy/vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, breast implants, breast removals, and hormone replacement therapy, depending on one's assigned gender at birth. However, many transneutral people choose to not undergo these procedures, or only undergo some of them. Others may be unable to undertake any procedures due to other medical reasons, location, or monetary status.
Flag and Symbols
The transgender flag was designed by trans woman Monica Helms in 1999 and was first shown in a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2000. The flag has two blue stripes, the traditional color for baby boys, two pink stripes, the traditional color for baby girls, and a white stripe, representing non-binary, transitioning, and intersex individuals.
The most common transgender symbol is a mix of the female (Venus) symbol, male (Mars) symbol, and the androgyne (Venus and Mars mixed) symbol. This symbol was designed in the early 1990s by Holly Boswell, Wendy Parker, and Nancy R. Nangeroni.
There are many variations of the transgender flag, and many more have been created throughout the years. A few common variations are as follows
The black transgender/POC flag was created by trans activist and writer Raquel Willis as a symbolic show of the level of violence towards those that are both people of colour and transgender, as a way to spread awareness and to allow trans people of colour to be prideful. It was first used in the United States of America in 2015 in Black Trans Liberation Tuesday. However, some feel that this flag erases non-binary identities by replacing the white stripe.
An alternative flag was created by user Arson to explicitly include POC non-binary people into the POC trans flag.
Another example of a variation of the transgender flag was "The Trans Flag", created by graphic designer Michelle Lindsay in Ottawa, Canada. This flag incorporates sunset fuscia to represent female, ocean blue to represent male, and has the unicode transgender symbol overlaid in white to represent the trans community as a whole. The colours are bold to represent confidence and pride with the sunset and ocean colours representing the unlimited horizons of the trans movement. This flag was first used in 2010 in Ottawa for the Trans Day of Remembrance and is raised yearly. This flag has also been seen in a number of pride protests.
There is also the Israeli transgender and genderqueer pride flag, consisting of a bright, neon green, base that has been defaced with the transgender symbol. This flag has been used, along with its lesser known base of a black base with a neon green symbol, in pride protests across Israel. The original creator is unknown.
In 1999, Johnathan Andrew, aka "Captain John" created a flag for the trans community which he published on his FtM (Female to Male transgender) website called "Adventures in Boyland" in Oakland, California. The pink represents female identities, the blue represents male identities, and the white stripes represent the transition between those identities. Emblazoned on the top left corner of the flag is a combination of the Venus (♀) and Mars (♂) symbols (⚥). The purple within this symbol represents the merging of the male and female identities to incorporate those that are neither female nor male transgender or are a mix of both, now perceived to be a representation of the non-binary community.
Another flag was coined by Cryptocrew at Hayden000's request on January 16th of 2021, and was first published one day later. The caterpillar and butterfly with the original transgender colors represent the transition to one's true self, whether socially, physically, or both. The colour meanings are as follows:
- Dark blue is for transgender men
- Blue-purple is for transmasculine people
- White is for multigender people and people with fluid genders
- Yellow is for xenic and outherine people
- Dark green is for agender/genderless people
- Purple is for androgynous/neutral people
- Pink is for transfeminine people
- Dark red is for transgender women
An alternative trans flag was created based on Monica Helms' flag by reddit user 33ducks around February 2021, with more shades of blue and pink representing a wider variety of ways to be trans. This flag also does not keep the blue/boy on the outside and pink/girl on the inside stripe pattern.