Transgender 101

Learn more on how to be an ally to trangender people here

What does transgender mean?

Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender identity is someone's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary). For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match.

Trying to change a person's gender identity is no more successful than trying to change a person's sexual orientation -- it doesn't work. So most transgender people seek to bring their bodies more into alignment with their gender identity.

People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one (or more) of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, and genderqueer. Always use the descriptive term preferred by the individual.

Transgender people may or may not alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically, but it's important to know that being transgender is not dependent upon medical procedures.

Transgender is an adjective and should never be used as a noun. Rather than saying "Max is a transgender," say "Max is a transgender person." And transgender never needs an "-ed" at the end.

How is sexual orientation different from gender identity?

We use the acronym LGBT to describe the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The first three letters (LGB) refer to sexual orientation. The 'T' refers to issues of gender identity.

Gender identity is your own, internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary).

Sexual orientation describes a person's enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person (for example: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual).

Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a straight woman.

How do I treat a transgender person with respect?

If you'd like to learn more about how to be an ally to transgender people, please visit GLAAD's "Tips for Allies of Transgender People" page.

For a list of basic terminology - including defamatory terms and slurs to avoid, please see GLAAD's Media Reference Guide or the publication An Ally's Guide to Terminology: Talking About LGBT People & Equality.

Why is transgender equality important?

Transgender people face staggering levels of discrimination and violence. In 2012, 53% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women. According to "Injustice at Every Turn," a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Task Force:

  • Transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty.
  • Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.
  • 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color.  Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
  • 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.
  • Transgender people still cannot serve in the US Military.

Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, face shockingly high rates of murder, homelessness, and incarceration. Most states and countries offer no legal protections in housing, employment, health care, and other areas where individuals experience discrimination based on their gender identity or expression.

Learn more about transgender people and history

In spite of the tremendous challenges that come with living in a culture that does not treat transgender people equally, transgender people have made - and are making - significant contributions to society. You can read about some strong transgender advocates in the annual Trans 100 list. For a look at the history of transgender people in America, please check out Transgender History by Susan Stryker.

Return to GLAAD's Transgender Media and Education Program.

Contact GLAAD's Transgender Media and Education Program.

Recent stories

Discriminatory bills across the country would punish transgender people using public bathrooms

A flurry of bills have been introduced which seek to limit a transgender person's ability to use the public bathroom in alignment with their gender identity. The discriminatory bills are founded on debunked information and criminalize people for their gender identity.

HUD says shelters must respect gender identity

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released guidance which calls for transgender people to be placed in housing facilities that match their gender identity.

Trans Lifeline needs help to continue saving lives

Trans Lifeline, a hotline staffed entirely by trans people, needs help to raise money in the wake of transgender youth suicides.

US Defense Secretary open to trans people in the military

Ashton Carter US Defense Secretary said on Sunday that transgender people should not be precluded from military service based on their gender identity.

5 of the most unsettling realities for America's trans community

A new report, Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans, has found that transgender people are among the most vulnerable communities in America. Transgender women and trans people of color are at particular risk.

GLAAD @ Work: #GotYourBack campaign, inaccurate transgender coverage, bisexual visibility, and more

GLAAD's Weekly Update on News, Entertainment and Online Media. To subscribe, click here.

GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis talks acceptance with MSNBC's Thomas Roberts

"It's not just the law that has to change. It's people's heart," said Jenny. "My mother used to say, 'it's impossible to hate anyone whose story you know.'"

GLAAD @ Work: Poll shows path ahead for LGBT acceptance, Creating Change, and more

GLAAD's Weekly Update on News, Entertainment and Online Media. To subscribe, click here.

Unique returns to 'Glee' with 200-person transgender choir to support Coach Beiste

This Friday's 'Glee' will see the return of Unique backed by a 200-person transgender choir to sing a special song for Coach Beiste.

Trans people deserve the same access to healthcare as everyone else

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah are being called upon to overturn New York State Medicaid's regulation excluding transgender people from accessing care. Medicaid is meant to ensure that low-income people have the care they need to survive, and no one should be denied that just because of who they are. Take action now