Transgender or ‘Trans’ is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.
Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being the sex that feels right for them i.e. male or female or somewhere in between.
Gender expression refers to the way a person expresses or communicates their gender identity through their clothing, hairstyle, voice, body characteristics or behaviour. However, not everyone whose appearance or behaviour is considered gender nonconforming will identify as a transgender person.
Our sex is assigned at birth and refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormones and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways people act, interact, and feel about themselves. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.
Transgender people who want to transition (to live as their preferred sex) but haven’t had gender realignment treatment face specific difficulties. They may have started taking steps to become their chosen gender, such as changing their name or the way they dress, but find it difficult to convince people that they’re a particular gender because they may still look and sound like another gender.
Dealing with your concerns
Many transgender people worry about how other people will react and how they’ll treat them once they find out. For example, you may fear rejection from your peers or colleagues. Some transgender people feel clear about their gender identity from a young age whereas for others, it’s less obvious, and how they feel about their gender may shift over time. Acknowledging how you feel about yourself may sometimes involve overcoming feelings such as shame, guilt or fear of disapproval.
TransBareAll and The Gender Trust offer the following tips:
•Make contact with other people in a similar situation because this can build your confidence. If you know people who would understand, you’ll be in a better position to tell others.
•Talk to people you trust, and don’t tell everyone at once.
•Be prepared for questions, and make sure that you have as much information as possible to answer questions.
•If you tell someone who is close to you and they have a negative reaction, give them space. Try to put yourself in the position of the people you tell, especially partners. Your news can affect how they feel about themselves and about their sexuality, as well as how they feel about you.
•Be patient but persistent if you want someone to call you by a different name and pronoun.
•Work out what’s right for you, not what’s right for other trans people. Be open to your feelings and needs changing over time.
If you feel a persistent discomfort about your gender and you can’t work it out on your own, counselling may help. Magnolia and Wellness is available for face-to-face counseling, email counseling, a range of workshops and groups. You can also ask us about what help is available in your area.