About Transgender People

With approximately 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States—and millions more around the world—chances are that you've met a transgender person, even if you don't know it.

Two trans people, one with pale skin and blue hair and the other with long black braids and darker skin, hold hands and smile happily.

About Gender

Understanding what it is like to be transgender can be hard, especially if you have never met a transgender person.

Transgender is a broad term that can be used to describe people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be when they were born. “Trans” is often used as shorthand for transgender.

To treat a transgender person with respect, you treat them according to their gender identity, not their sex at birth. So, someone who lives as a woman today is called a transgender woman and should be referred to as “she” and “her.” A transgender man lives as a man today and should be referred to as “he” and “him.” Some transgender people identify as neither a man nor a woman, or as a combination of male and female, and may use terms like nonbinary or genderqueer to describe their gender identity. Those who are nonbinary often prefer to be referred to as “they” and “them.”

(Note: A4TE uses both the adjectives “male” and “female” and the nouns “man” and “woman” to refer to a person’s gender identity.)

Gender identity is your internal knowledge of your gender – for example, your knowledge that you’re a man, a woman, or another gender. Gender expression is how a person presents their gender on the outside. That might include behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice or body characteristics. Everyone has a gender identity, including cisgender – or non-transgender – people. If someone’s gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth, then they are cisgender, or “cis" for short.

Assigned sex is often used in medical or scientific contexts. It doesn’t define who you are, or what your gender identity might turn out to be.

"I'm a transgender woman. That means my birth certificate said 'male,' but I always knew I was a girl. I was so relieved when I told my mom about how I felt – and instead of being mad, she was supportive."

Gender Transition

When a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the gender they were thought to be when they were born, this time period is called gender transition. Deciding to transition can take a lot of reflection. Many transgender people risk social stigma, discrimination, and harassment when they tell other people who they really are. Despite those risks, being open about one’s gender identity can be life-affirming and even life-saving.

Possible steps in a gender transition may or may not include changing your clothing, appearance, name, or the pronoun people use to refer to you (like “she,” “he,” or “they”). If they can, some people change their identification documents, like their driver’s license or passport, to better reflect their gender. And some people undergo hormone therapy or other medical procedures to change their physical characteristics and make their body match the gender they know themselves to be. All transgender people are entitled to the same dignity and respect, regardless of whether or not they have been able to take any legal or medical steps.

It is important to use respectful terminology, and treat transgender people as you would treat any other person. This includes using the name the person has asked you to call them (not their old name) as well as the pronouns they want you to use. If you aren’t sure what pronouns a person uses, just ask politely.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does someone know that they are transgender?
What is the difference between being transgender and being gender non-conforming?
What is gender dysphoria?
What does it mean to have a gender that's not male or female?
What does "gender transition" mean?
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