Transgender FAQ

To learn more about how to be an ally to transgender people, check out GLAAD's Tips for Allies of Transgender People.

What does transgender mean?

Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender identity is a person's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or boy or girl.) For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into those two choices. For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match.

People in the transgender community may describe themselves using one (or more) of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, and non-binary. Always use the term used by the person.

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 into alignment with their gender identity. This is called transition. 

As part of the transition process, many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies. Some undergo surgeries as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and 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. For example, rather than saying "Max is a transgender," say "Max is a transgender person" or "Max is a transgender man." And transgender never needs an "-ed" at the end.

How is sexual orientation different from gender identity?

We use the acronym LGBTQ to describe the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community. The Q can also sometimes mean questioning. 

Sexual orientation describes a person's enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person (for example: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual), while gender identity describes a person's, internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman, or someone outside of the gender binary.

Simply put: sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to and fall in love with; gender identity is about who you are.

Like everyone else, transgender people have a sexual orientation. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a straight woman. A person who transitions from female to male and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a gay man.

What name and pronoun do I use?

For some transgender people, being associated with their birth name is a tremendous source of anxiety, or it is simply a part of their life they wish to leave behind. Respect the name a transgender person is currently using. If you happen to know a transgender person's birth name (the name given to them when they were born, but which they no longer use), don't share it without that person's explicit permission. Sharing a transgender person's birth name and/or photos of a transgender person before their transition is an invasion of privacy, unless they have given you permission to do so. 

If you're unsure which pronoun a person uses, listen first to the pronoun other people use when referring to that person. Someone who knows the person well will probably use the correct pronoun. If you must ask which pronoun the person uses, start with your own. For example, "Hi, I'm Alex and I use the pronouns he and him. What about you?" Then use that person's pronoun and encourage others to do the same. If you accidently use the wrong pronoun for someone, apologize quickly and sincerely, then move forward with intention. The bigger deal you make out of the situation, the more uncomfortable it is for everyone.

How do I treat a transgender person with respect?

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 guide to basic terminology, including defamatory terms and slurs to avoid, please see GLAAD's Media Reference Guide.

Why is transgender equality important?

Transgender people face staggering levels of poverty, discrimination, and violence. In 2016, 27 transgender people were killed. Since January 1, 2017, eight transgender women of color have been murdered.

According to the "2015 U.S. Trans Survey," a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality:

  • 29% of transgender people live in poverty, compared to 14% of the general population
  • 30% of transgender people report being homeless at some point in their lives, with 12% saying it was within the past 12 months
  • Transgender people experience unemployment at 3x the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to 4x the national unemployment rate
  • 30% of transgender people report being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing mistreatment in the workplace due to their gender identity in the past 12 months
  • 31% of transgender people experienced mistreatment in the past year in a place of public accommodation, including 14% who were denied equal service, 24% who were verbally harassed, and 2% who were physically attacked because they were transgender
  • 40% of respondents reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the United States (4.6%)

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 being an ally

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

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. Watch HBO's The Trans List to find out about some strong transgender advocates.

For a look at the history of transgender people in America, check out Transgender History by Susan Stryker and the GLAAD Media Award-winning films by Rhys Ernst We've Been Around and This is Me.

 

Recent stories

Air Force Times Respectfully Explores Discrimination Transgender Veterans Face The Air Force Times just published a very well-done piece exploring the discrimination transgender veterans face, a story that stands in marked contrast of the problematic media coverage we see on transgender people and issues. This military media outlet offers lessons to mainstream media in how to fairly and accurately write about transgender people and issues.
Top Stories Today - 08.27.2008

National News:

Los Angeles Times - EDITORIAL: A Gay President?

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