What is Transgender? (The Recognized Definition and Meaning)
Our objective with this article is to clear up any confusion about the meaning of the term transgender; we answer the most common questions and tackle the recognized definition and meaning to simplify what is an often confused but fundamental question “What is Transgender?”.
First things first, throughout the last couple of decades, transgender people have developed a means of communicating a descriptive narrative of gender, or gender identity, a more suitable expression of where they sit on the gender spectrum. It is certainly true today that the traditional gender descriptive of being either a boy or a girl is just too confined and outdated. The term gender fluidity is the language of modern gender identity, being gender fluid or at least having the flexibility for wider gender expression is welcomed and embraced by the transgender and wider LGBTQ community.
“The traditional gender descriptive of being either a boy or a girl is just too CONFINED AND outdated.”
So, what is transgender and what does it mean to be trans?
Before we explain the general definition and the meaning of transgender you may want to take a look at the short video below. This video description of ‘What is Transgender?’ is a straightforward and useful reference to everyone trying to understand the umbrella definition of transgender.
Please watch this video: What is Transgender? Simply Explained
The ‘What is Transgender?’ video will try to simplify things for you.
The clinical definition of what it means to be transgender:
Transgender is a term described by people whose gender identity differs to their assigned sex at birth; often described as birth gender. The term transgender is not a clinical definition more a literal term which means ‘across gender’ and is often used to describe a person who is undergoing gender transition.
Gender identity is different from gender as it describes the personal and internal feeling of an individual towards their sense of being a man or a woman (girl or boy). The commonality of transgender people; is they do not psychologically associate with their assigned birth sex but are comfortable at differing points along the male or female gender spectrum.
The take away from this; gender identity is one of individual and personal choice, stereotypical labels have no place when referencing gender identity.
The abbreviation “Trans” is often used in reference to the word transgender.
The sexual orientation of a person in regard to gender identity:
The sexual orientation and sexual attraction, of a person, does not relate to their gender identity. Therefore, a transgender individual may have a sexual orientation of heterosexual, gay, bisexual, or lesbian. Moreover, that person may be sexually attracted to male or female, or both genders.
It is worth remembering that gender identity, as explained in our previous section, is the internal feeling of one’s gender which has no relation to their sexual preference/s.
Are the terms “transsexual” and “transgender” the same?
This is often some confusion around this question, but let me explain how these two terms can co-exist when referencing a person who is undergoing transition.
A transgender person can be transsexual if they undergo or seek surgical or hormonal treatment in order to align their physical body and sexual designation to that of their gender identity (Opposite to their sex assigned at birth).
There is no one specific surgical or hormone treatment for transsexual individuals, their choice of physical transition varies widely. A transsexual person may need: hormonal treatments such as Estrogen or testosterone, genital or gender confirmation surgery, facial feminization surgery, electrolysis or laser hair removal, breast surgery (augmentation or mastectomy), or non-surgical procedures such as vocal coaching/voice feminization, and other physical procedures or psychological support.
So, in short a transgender person can be a transsexual in the above circumstances.
Describing and referring to a transgender person:
A transgender person will often describe themselves using the following, one or more, of these terms; transgender, trans, transsexual or non-binary. When in conversation or correspondence you should try and use the term they have used.
When referring to a transgender individual you should remember that the term transgender is an adjective. Therefore, you don’t say “Rebecca is a transgender”, what you should say is “Rebecca is a transgender person”.
Using correct grammar; There is no need to use the suffix of “ed”, in relation to the term “transgender”. I am guilty myself of sometimes using the phrase “I am transgendered” when in fact I should say “I am transgender”.
What pronoun and/or name should I use when talking to a transgender person?
The use of birth sex pronouns can cause transgender people considerable anxiety, it never ceases to amaze me when I see a transgender person that presents as female or male being addressed by their birth sex pronoun. The same can be said of familiarity with a transgender persons birth name, it should never be shared unless explicit consent has been given by that transgender person.
When using pronouns, the following applies; If you have just met them then ask them their name and address them by their forename, alternatively if others are addressing them by a specific pronoun then you may adopt that pronoun in conversation. It is also reasonable to assume that if a transgender person presents themselves as a female or male that they would wish to be addressed using that pronoun.
As aforementioned, the use of incorrect pronouns can cause anxiety and make a transgender person feel very uncomfortable, please be respectful and mindful using pronouns when ‘talking to’ or ‘corresponding’ with a transgender person.
“A transgender person will often describe themselves using the following, one or more, of these terms; transgender, trans, transsexual or non-binary.”
Transgender people are unique and do not fit one box; transgender means different things to different people, it can be how that person feels about themselves and maybe how they present themselves to the world on any given day, as such there is no precise definition. My best advice to anyone wanting to understand more about ‘what is transgender?’ or what it means to be transgender is to talk to a trans person, listen and learn from their story.
You may also want to look through our transgender terms & glossary list; this breaks down the important terminology that currently defines trans and LGBTQ language. In addition, you may find want to see our ‘7 Transgender Voice Feminization MTF Coaching Tips‘ which helps you towards achieving a passable female voice.
We recommend that you take a look at our popular article on transgender transition and MTF feminization which gives tips and advice on ‘ways to feel like a girl‘ prior and during transition, this article is well worth a read.