What Is Transgender?

The term transgender refers to people whose sense of their own gender differs from what would be expected based on the sex characteristics with which they are born. A transgender person may identify as a woman despite having been born with male genitalia, for example, and some transgender people do not specifically identify as men or women.

A transgender person may have persistent feelings, beginning as early as childhood, of gender dysphoria—a disconnect between the person's primary and secondary sex traits and designated gender and the gender that person identifies with. While many children who experience such feelings do not go on to identify as transgender in adulthood, long-standing gender dysphoria is a common experience of adults who do identify as transgender.

Transgender people may ultimately transition physically and socially in ways they feel are congruent with their identity. This might include physical procedures (involving surgery or hormones), changes in the way one dresses or behaves, and new markers of identification (such as a different name or gender-related pronouns). A person may also identify as transgender without making such changes. Transsexual is an older term used by some to refer specifically to those who seek or have undertaken a medical intervention to change their bodies. (Distinct from transgender people, cross-dressers identify with the gender label they receive at birth but occasionally wear clothing associated with a different gender.)

In addition to the word transgender, a variety of subordinate terms have been adopted by transgender people to characterize their gender identities. These include trans man—meaning one who has transitioned to live as a man—trans woman, and nonbinary, which connotes a sense that one is not strictly a man or a woman. 

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