Transgender people feel that the gender they were born , or assigned at birth, does not fit them. Transgender people include people born female who identify as male (female-to-male/FTM) and people born male who identify as female (MTF). It also includes people who identify as ‘genderqueer’ or gender neutral and/or gender free- people who may not not identify as either male or female.

Transgender people may feel more comfortable expressing themselves as a gender other than the gender born or assigned at birth. It might be neither male nor female but something else entirely! You may feel extremely uncomfortable with the gender-specific parts of your body. Transgender people might not feel uncomfortable with your gender-specific body parts and, at the same time, feel a deep need to have other body parts.

Being transgender is as normal as being alive. Many people in history have been transgender. You may interact with other transgender people every day and not know it! They are everywhere and have families, children, and careers and attend school. Certainly being transgender is not ‘typical’ and you may encounter many people who do not understand or feel uncomfortable or even discriminatory.

Questions about Gender Identity and being transgender

What is it like to be young and transgender?

Some young people who are transgender feel a great relief that they have discovered how they are most comfortable expressing themselves. Other youth feel frustrated at being discriminated against or because they aren’t yet able to transition. Still other people find that being transgender is just one part of who they are and that they mostly think about all the things that everyone else thinks about-school, dating, work and family.

What does transgender mean about my sexual orientation?

Being transgender has to do with your gender identity: how you feel about who you are. It has nothing to do with your sexual orientation: who you are attracted to. Some transgender people are attracted to men, to women, to both, to other transgender people or to people regardless of their gender expression.

People may define themselves with different labels, depending on who attracts them. For example a transgender women who is attracted to men may identify as straight because they are attracted to the opposite gender.

How do I learn to like myself?

If you have just discovered that you are transgender, remember that you are normal and you are likeable, just as you are. It is normal to feel nervous, excited or upset about the days ahead. Remember that something as amazing as knowing your true self can be great!

Transition

What does it mean to transition? Should I do it?

Some people who come out as transgender are comfortable telling a close circle of friends. Other people choose to change their name, their pronouns, their style of dress and their appearance to eb congruent with their gender identity. Still others choose to take hormones and have surgery to medically alter their appearance.

As you decide, which, if any steps to take, it can be helpful to talk about these feelings with a professional who is competent with gender identity issues. You should express yourself the way you feel most comfortable, without pressure from others. You can call to make an appointment to speak with our counselor around gender identity questions.

Medical transition, the taking of hormones and having one or more surgeries, is a big step. For some, it is absolutely necessary. Most people who choose to transition medically strongly need identity and body to match. To medically transition you must first see a therapist and find a physical who is knowledgeable about transgender health. Please contact Calgary Sexual Health for the most up to date resource list for therapists and doctors involved in transgender issues.

Who should I tell?

There is no obligation to tell anyone about your identity, but some people find it important to share their identity especially if you plan to transition publicly. If you decide to share your identity, first tell people with whom you are comfortable and that you feel will understand. They might include a trusted teacher, counselor, sister, brother, parent, friend or people at a youth group or gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people.

Some young people stop there and choose to transition more fully later in life, but other youth choose to begin to live full-time as their identified gender. If you choose to do this, you may need to come out to many different people. You should definitely look for support when going through this process, from a therapist, a youth group, friends, family and others.

What will happen when I come out?

Some people feel relieved and happy when they come out. Others feel as if they are thrown into a lion’s den, with challenges from parents, friends and family. You will most likely experience a bit of both. Some transgender youth may violence at school or in the home. Please make sure you have people you can talk to before you come out publicly, just for this reason. To make coming out easier, surround yourself with as much information, knowledge and support as possible.

If a man changes to a woman can she have children?

When a person challenges gender, they are called Transgender or Trans-Identified. In this case this individual does not feel that her gender assigned at birth matches who she is inside. It is really important to remember to respect the gender pronoun of a trans-identified individual. “It” is not usually a positive term to use – in this case ‘she’ would likely be the appropriate pronoun to use. Remember that even pro-nouns are self identifying and if you are not sure it is best to ask nicely. To answer the question, there is no way for someone who was born male that has transitioned to a female to have children. She can have surgery to look physically like the gender she embodies but would not have the physical capability to bear children.

How does sexual reassignment surgery happen?

It is a complex procedure with many stages.

1) A person would undergo Counselling and psychiatric evaluation.

2) After that a person will begin taking hormones. Those hormones will produce secondary sex characteristic effects like deepening voice, hair growth (face, body) for women hips round, breasts enlarge.

3) Then they must live as MTF or FTM for 2 years.

4) Then a person can choose surgery (if someone wants, some people do not get surgery). For a MTF her penis and testes are removed but without severing sensory nerves of the penis. A vaginal pouch and vulva can be created from the original genital tissues. An FTM surgery is more complex. He may have his breasts removed and his penis and testes can be created from skin from the genitals and forearm. After surgery he will not be capable of erection on his own so various devices (rods, pumps etc) are sometimes used to create an erection. Another option to create a penis is to extend the suspensory ligament of the clitoris, making it appear longer. Testosterone supplements increase clitoris size as well. It’s important to remember that this is just a list of options. Not all people choose to have any one type of surgery or to use hormones.

Gender Identity

A person’s self-identified sense of being male, female, neither or both; how we think about and express our gender. An easy way to think of the different between sex and gender is ‘sex is between your legs and gender is between your ears’.

Transgender

A self-identifying term for someone whose gender identity or expression differs significantly from the gender they were assigned at birth. Transgender is also a political umbrella term used to refer to everyone who crosses gender roles in one way or another including transsexuals, drag queens and transvestites. Some people (“transgenderists”) live in a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth but without wanting to change their genitalia.

Transsexual

Someone whose gender identify is different from the biological sex that they were assigned at birth. A transsexual person might change their physical sex by having surgery (known as Sex Reassignment Surgery or SRS), take hormones (testosterone or estrogens), do electrolysis and/or wear gender specific clothing. This process of change is known as transitioning. Transsexuals may be referred to as female-to-male (FTM: a trans man) or male-to-female (MTF: a trans woman). A trans woman should absolutely be referred to as “she” and a trans man as “he”. Transsexual or transgendered people may identify as gay, lesbian, straight or bisexual or otherwise.

TS/TG or Trans

A short form for transsexual and transgendered.

Two-Spirited

A First Nations term used in various ways by people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or transsexual, or who literally embody both a male and female identity and perspective. This term particularly refers to gender. Two-Spirited people had positive and elevated status among some Aboriginal nations prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Intersex

Refers to people who are born with a combination of male and female anatomy. The term “hermaphrodite” used to be used, but is now considered inappropriate and offensive.

Cross-dresser

Someone who chooses to wear clothing that is associated with the opposite gender. It is a word that has replaced the word “transvestite”.

Primed: The Backpocket Guide for Transmen and the Men who Dig Them http://www.queertransmen.org/images/primed.pdf

Brazen: Transwomen Safer Sex Guide http://library.catie.ca/pdf/ATI-20000s/26424.pdf

Reproductive Health Options for Trans People: http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/admin/contentEngine/contentDocuments/Reproductive_Options_for_Trans_People_.pdf

Trans folks and Pap Tests http://www.checkitoutguys.ca/

Trans Health Connection Resource Database: http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/transhealthconnection/home/resourceResults.cfm

PFLAG: www.pflag.org

Youth Resource: www.youthresource.com

Misc Youth Network: http://www.miscyouth.ca/

Calgary Outlink: www.calgaryoutlink.ca

Trans Equality Society of Alberta: http://www.tesaonline.org/

Calgary TransHub http://www.calgarytranshub.com/

Understanding Transphobia

What is Transphobia

Definition: Transphobia is the fear, hatred or dislike of, or discrimination towards, a person because that person is transgender. The consequences can be very serious.

Transphobia is a form of hate that’s perpetuated towards trans and not trans people for a variety of reasons, which is usually because of misinformation and a general lack of education around the issues trans people face and in fact, just who trans people are.

The word transphobia actually describes a range of negative attitudes aimed towards people who either are trans or who are perceived to be. Other words used to describe this kind of behaviour are, ‘cissexism, ‘transprejudice‘ and ‘trans-misogyny/trans-misandry‘. The word transphobia though is perhaps the most powerful and sits along side words like Homophobia and Biphobia in meaning

Examples of Transphobia

Transphobia has many forms, which can vary from bullying in the home, street, school or work, harassment and torment, right through to the more extreme end of the scale where people experience hate, abuse, violence and even murder.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was started to honor the lives of those who were lost to violent transphobia.  Started as a web-based project and candle light vigil in San Francisco by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance began as “Remembering Our Dead” and was originally created to honor Rita Hester whose murder on November 28th, 1998 has yet to be solved.  The International Transgender Day of Remembrance is now recognized in over 185 cities and more than 20 countries.

Transphobia can:

Lock all people into rigid gender roles inhibiting creativity and self-expression

Limit all peoples’ ability to communicate positively with others and form close relationships

Lead to the inhibition of other types of diversity by promoting a message there is only one way to be.

Transphobia and prejudice against trans people are sadly all too common in our society and trans people often meet with discrimination and prejudice when they trying to get on with their lives and perform everyday activities.

The following are a few examples of transphobic attitudes:

The belief that trans women are not “real women”

The belief that trans men are not “real” men

The belief that non-binary genders are invalid

The belief that trans people are gay people in denial and wish to have sex reassignment surgery to attempt to restore ‘heteronormativity’

The refusal to acknowledge a trans person’s true gender

Refusal to use the correct name for a trans person

Repeated and deliberate mis-gendering of trans people

Exclusion of trans people from activities, services or conversations

In essence, these actions are severely discriminatory and harmful. Trans people can suffer transphobia in a range of situations, simply for being who we are. We are regularly denied work and medical care, evicted from housing, targeted in work and school, disowned by families en-mass and even find it hard to visit the toilet in a social situation because of the ignorance many people have towards the trans community.

Being a Trans Ally

(written by a young trans man)

  • Don’t ever “out” trans people. This is dangerous to their safety and invalidates their identity.
  • Don’t ask trans people what their “real” name is (i.e. the one they were born with). If you do know the birth name of a trans person, don’t tell it. If a trans person wants people to know, he or she is the one who should disclose it.
  • Don’t ask trans people to educate you. Do your own homework and research. It is not trans people’s duties to spend their time and energy on you so you “get it.”
  • Recognize your privilege and prejudices as a normatively gendered individual.
  • Don’t use prefixes like bio- or real-; instead use trans and non-trans. Also use “male/female assigned at birth” rather than “born as a girl/boy.”
  • Don’t tokenize. Adding a T to LGB does not make you progressive, cool or an ally. Make sure you have the resources, knowledge and understanding to deserve that T. Make sure you are prepared to engage in the fight for trans rights and visibility. Make sure you have educated yourself. Make sure you are prepared to be a good ally and offer more than mere lip service.
  • Don’t confuse gender with sexual preference. Trans people are straight, gay, bi, pansexual, asexual, etc. Gender is not tied to sexual preference, and like any non-trans person, there are a million ways to express desire.
  • Don’t ask trans people about their bodies, how they have sex, if they have a penis/vagina, etc. It’s rude and it’s none of your business.
  • Don’t ask about surgery or hormone status. Don’t ask trans people: “When are you going to have THE surgery” or “Are you on hormones?” or anything surrounding their bodies, the medical establishment or private details regarding their lives.
  • Don’t assume that the only way to transition is through hormones/surgery, and don’t assume that all trans people want hormones/surgery.
  • Recognize that trans women deal with sexism in a very real way, on top of transphobia.
  • Don’t assume all trans people identify as “men” or “women.” Many trans people and genderqueer people identify as both, as neither, or as something all together different.
  • Recognize that not all trans people or genderqueer folk are out there trying to smash the binary. Recognize that it is not their responsibility or something they even support. If you want to smash the binary, then you do it!
  • Don’t assume trans people feel “trapped in the wrong body.” This is an over-simplification and not the way (all) trans people feel.
  • Do listen if a trans person chooses to talk to you about his or her transhood. Don’t tell that person about chromosomes, a class you took in school, etc. It is the trans person’s life, and it is not your place to put theory, judgments, beliefs, etc. on him or her.
  • Think about what makes you feel uncomfortable and why.
  • Recognize the diversity of trans and genderqueer lives, and that these identities are part of other identities that often intersect with race, class, sexual preference, etc.
  • Don’t let transphobia slide. Transphobia comes in countless guises and as a non-trans ally it is your duty to confront it. Trans issues are rarely if ever discussed and when they are it is more often than not in a negative light. Transphobia is equally as oppressive as sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, racism, and so on.
  • Talk about trans issues/rights. Engage people in discussions and share your knowledge. The majority of the “information” people have surrounding trans people are stereotypes and assumptions. To most people, trans folks are the freaks from Jerry Springer.
  • Don’t just mourn or take action when trans people are murdered. Celebrate trans lives and work at making trans and genderqueer individuals more visible on a day-to-day basis.
  • Above all, RESPECT and SUPPORT trans people in their lives and choices without treating them like novelties or celebrities.

Sources:

http://www.wipeouttransphobia.com/history/transphobia/

http://transparentcanada.ca/?file=kop7.php

http://www.stop-homophobia.com/transphobia.htm

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