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. 

Recent posts on Transgender

A Key Strategy Used to Accept a Mental Health Problem

By Lauren Mizock Ph.D. on October 12, 2017 in Cultural Competence
Lessons from research on resilience among transgender and gender diverse people

The Talk

By Tina Traster on October 12, 2017 in Against All Odds
Weinstein, Trump, and Cosby have brought sexual abuse to the fore. How do parents of gender-fluid children address this issue?

Some Thoughts on National Coming Out Day

By Gemima St. Louis Ph.D. on October 11, 2017 in Mind Matters
The goal of National Coming Out Day is to promote a world in which it is safe for LGBT people to be open and honest about their identities.

Talking About Sexuality with Transgender and Nonbinary Teens

Wondering how to be inclusive in your practice when talking about the intersections of gender, sexual orientation and sexual behavior? Here are some important steps to consider.

Trump's Transgender Gaslighting

By Gleb Tsipursky Ph.D. on September 05, 2017 in Intentional Insights
Is the Trump administration's spin around the transgender directive gaslighting the transgender community?

Five Things Transgender Kids Want Adults to Know

By Jack Turban MD MHS on September 03, 2017 in Political Minds
Adults on both sides on the aisle have argued passionately about how trans youth should be treated. Lost among these voices are those of the children themselves.
Coalition Famille LGBT, used with permission

Building Classroom Community

Tips for educators getting ready for a new school year.

Codifying Discrimination: Trump’s Anti-Transgender Policy

Why President Trump’s policy banning transgender Americans from military service promotes a culture of intolerance and is fundamentally flawed.

Gender Fluidity in the Gods

By Neel Burton M.D. on July 09, 2017 in Hide and Seek
And what it might mean.

Your Biases And Beliefs Are Impacting Your Decision-Making

A line must be drawn when the beliefs of one person or a group of people harm another person or group of people.

Pride in Mental Health: Visibility

An interview with LGBTQ+ activists Dior Vargas and Cole Ledford.

Pride in Mental Health: Advocacy

An interview with Jillian Weiss of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and Calvin Stowell of DoSomething.org.

Parent's Guide to the Gender Revolution

Three guidelines for discussing gender identity with your kid.

Denmark Declassifies Transgender as Mental Illness

Transgender is not considered to be a mental illness in Denmark, making it the first country to remove the link between transgender identity and mental illness.

Betsy DeVos Is Okay With Schools Banning LGBT Students

By Jack Turban MD MHS on May 25, 2017 in Political Minds
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says she will not require schools with anti-LGBT policies to end these policies in order to receive federal funding.

You Can Make a Difference

By Elijah C. Nealy Ph.D. on May 25, 2017 in Transgender Children and Youth
If your child or another child in your life came out as transgender, would you know how to respond? Here are some strategies for ensuring their health and wellbeing.

Born Both: Intersex and Happy

By Ariel Gore on May 24, 2017 in Women and Happiness
"I want parents to know that intersex kids can decide who they are for themselves and have that turn out beautifully."

Tips for Parents of Trans Kids: Lessons from 'Real Boy'

Parenting a transgender child has challenges that are unique to that experience. The documentary 'Real Boy' offers some supports and insights for parents.

Connecticut Bans Conversion Therapy for LGBT Youth

By Jack Turban MD MHS on May 12, 2017 in Political Minds
Connecticut makes it illegal to practice conversion therapy on gay or transgender youth.

The American College of Pediatricians Is an Anti-LGBT Group

By Jack Turban MD MHS on May 08, 2017 in Political Minds
A small but clever group created a legit-sounding name and spread false reports with the potential to harm LGBT youth.

Life of Agony Never Stopped Dreaming

By Michael Friedman Ph.D. on April 24, 2017 in Brick by Brick
“The most fond memories I have from the old days are of Joey and I sitting at his mom’s kitchen table in the middle of the night, eating pasta, drawing on a notebook our stage plan

60 Sex-Relevant Terms You May Not Know – and Why You Should

By Bella DePaulo Ph.D. on April 06, 2017 in Living Single
Here are 60 terms related to sex, relationships, sexual orientations, and gender identities, many of which are new or unfamiliar. More than vocabulary is at stake.

Strategies for Supporting a Transgender Child

In advance of International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, this blog focuses on offering some strategies to parents with trans children.

A Parent Aims to Decipher a Teen’s Transgender Declaration

By Tina Traster on March 07, 2017 in Against All Odds
I don’t care how cool LGBTQ is at the moment. At the end of the day, a transgender desire is not welcome news to a parent.

Uncivil Rights

Violent protests aimed at preventing “hate speech” at Berkeley show how dangerous we become when we can’t tell the difference between vile words and real violence.

The Gender Revolution Is Here

The take-down of black-and-white thinking about what it means to be a human being and liberates us all.

White House Targets Transgender Students: Bad For Us All

By Mark O'Connell L.C.S.W.- R. on February 24, 2017 in Quite Queerly
No matter what your politics are, it is in the best interest of our collective mental health to protect all of our students, not just some of them.

What Trump’s Actions Really Mean for Transgender Students

Five things to know and do in response to Trump's revocation of supportive resources for transgender youth.

Why Boys Really Need Boy Dolls

By Karlyn Crowley Ph.D. on February 15, 2017 in Woman Power
Boys deserve healthy masculinity and doll play will help get them there.

Five Things You Should Know About Gender Trends on Campus

By Marcia Morris M.D. on February 12, 2017 in College Wellness
College aged adults are redefining what it means to be a man or a woman.