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What does it mean to be transgender?
Transgender people are people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be at birth. “Trans” is often used as shorthand for transgender.
When we’re born, a doctor usually says that we’re male or female based on what our bodies look like. Most people who were labeled male at birth turn out to actually identify as men, and most people who were labeled female at birth grow up to be women. But some people’s gender identity – their innate knowledge of who they are – is different from what was initially expected when they were born. Most of these people describe themselves as transgender.
What's the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?
Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things. Gender identity refers to your internal knowledge of your own gender—for example, your knowledge that you’re a man, a woman, or another gender. Sexual orientation has to do with whom you’re attracted to. Like non-transgender people, transgender people can have any sexual orientation. For example, a transgender man (someone who lives as a man today) may be primarily attracted to other men (and identify as a gay man), may be primarily attracted to women (and identify as a straight man), or have any other sexual orientation.
What does "gender transition" mean?
Transitioning is the time period during which a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the gender they were thought to be at birth. While not all transgender people transition, a great many do at some point in their lives. Gender transition looks different for every person. Possible steps in a gender transition may or may not include changing your clothing, appearance, name, or the pronoun people use to refer to you (like “she,” “he,” or “they”). Some people are able to change their identification documents, like their driver’s license or passport, to reflect their gender. And some people undergo hormone therapy or other medical procedures to change their physical characteristics and make their body better reflect the gender they know themselves to be.
Transitioning can help many transgender people lead healthy, fulfilling lives. No specific set of steps is necessary to “complete” a transition—it’s a matter of what is right for each person. All transgender people are entitled to the same dignity and respect, regardless of which legal or medical steps they have taken.
What medical treatments do some transgender people seek when transitioning?
While transition-related care is critical and even life-saving for many transgender people, not everyone needs medical care to transition or live a fulfilling life.
Different transgender people may need different types of transition-related care. People should make decisions about their care based on their individual needs. Medical procedures can include:
hair growth or removal treatments
various surgeries to make one’s face, chest, and anatomy more in line with one’s gender identity