So perhaps your child or friend (referred to from here as – loved one) has just come out as transgender or gender queer and perhaps you’re feeling a little confused because you’re unsure what gender fluidity means and don’t really know how to best support your loved one. Not to fear, I’m going to break it down for you here. The first step is increasing your understanding, so Part One aims to explain some terms.
What does transgender or gender queer mean?
There are many different terms that people use to identify their own gender and sexuality; I’ll go into those terms later on but first let’s answer the question at hand.
The term transgender refers to a person whose gender identity and expression does not correspond to their assigned gender at birth. Typically people will experience gender dysphoria, which translate to experiencing distress as a result of the gender they were assigned at birth because it does not match the gender they identify with. The distress can present in many ways such as depression, anxiety, withdrawal, self-harm/suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
A transwoman is the term people use when they were assigned male at birth but they identify their gender as a woman/female. Alternatively, a transman is the term some people use when they were assigned female at birth but their gender identity is as a man/male. Gender queer refers to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both or a combination of male and female genders.
Now you might be thinking, “hang on, what do you mean ‘gender assigned at birth’ – my child was born a boy” and to a certain degree you’re right because when your child was born a relative, nurse or doctor would have looked at your baby’s genitalia (unless ambiguous at birth) when they were delivered and made a statement such as ‘you’ve got a baby boy’. However, examining ones genitalia only gives us information about the biological sex of a child rather than their gender because gender is something we develop as part of our identity. For most, ones gender identity is congruent with their biological sex (hormones, anatomy) but for some their identity is not congruent with their biological sex. If you see in the diagram, biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are all on a spectrum.
I’ll talk through the diagram with an example; please note that this example is for demonstrative purposes and may not represent all transwomen’s identity/experience.
So, let’s say someone identifies as a transwoman; their biological sex would be on male side of the spectrum, as they would have been born with a penis and XY chromosomes. Their gender identity would be on the woman side of the spectrum, as their psychological sense of self is as a woman. Their gender expression (how they communicate, dress and behave) would be on the feminine side of the spectrum and their sexual orientation could be anywhere on the spectrum because one’s gender does not relate to one’s sexual orientation. In other words, gender is how you identify yourself and sexual orientation is whom you go to bed with.
We can all place ourselves on these spectrums because each of us identifies and expresses our gender in our unique way despite our chromosomal make up. This is because gender expression and identity are fluid rather than fixed in a male/female binary.
What does the term LGBT or LGBTIQA+ mean?
LGBT is a shorter version of LGBTIQA+ and the acronym stands for – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, Asexual and the ‘+’ refers to other people who do not fit into a cisgendered heteronormative label.
What does cisgendered mean I hear you ask!
Please see below, I’ve got some terms listed here that can help you communicate with and understand your loved one. Please note that there are many terms available and this is not a complete list of terminology.
|Advocate/Ally||A person who supports, respects and advocates for equality of marginalised groups|
|Asexual||Experiencing little or no sexual attraction to other people.|
|A person whose identity fluctuates or moves between traditional male and female gender-based behaviours.|
|Bisexual||A person who is sexually attracted to both men and women.|
|Cisgendered||A person whose gender identity and biological sex is aligned (e.g. a man and assigned male at birth). An easy way to think about this is if you’re not transgender then you’re cisgendered. The term can also be shorted to ‘cis’.|
|FtM/F2M; MtF/M2F||An abbreviation for female-to-male transgender or male-to-female transgender.|
|Gay||A person who is primarily sexually attracted to members of the same sex and/or gender. The term is more commonly used when referring to men who are attracted to men, but the term can be applied to women as well.|
|Gender Binary||The concept that in the world there are only two genders (male and female) and that each person is one of those two.
Note: ascribing to this concept silences and discriminates against those to identify outside of this binary.
|Genderqueer||A term for gender identity used by those who do not identify with the gender binary man/woman. Can be also used as a broad term for many gender non-conforming identities.|
|Heteronormativity||The assumption that everyone is cisgendered and heterosexual (e.g. asking a woman if she has a boyfriend, assuming pronouns) contributes to the assumption of binary gender identity and that all people are heterosexual.
Note: ascribing to this assumption silences and discriminates against those to identify outside of this binary.
|Intersex||A term used for a combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs and genitals that differ from the two expected patterns of male and female.|
|Lesbian||Women who are romantically and/or erotically attracted to women.|
|Pansexual||A person who experiences sexual and/or emotional attraction to others of all gender identities|
|Passing||An adjective and a verb used to describe trans people as being accepted or, able to ‘pass as’ their self-identified gender without being identified as trans.|
|Transition/ transitioning||A term used to refer to the process a trans person undertakes when changing their bodily appearance. This is typically to be more congruent with their identified gender.|
|Trans||A broad umbrella term used to describe the larger group of non-binary, transgender men and transgender women. The term can also be used to shorten ‘transgender’ e.g. trans man, trans woman.|
|Ze||An alternative pronoun that is gender neutral and preferred by some trans people or those who do not embrace the plural pronoun of ‘they/their’ as a gender neutral singular pronoun.|