DISCLAIMER – These answers are based solely on the opinion of one transgender person, as they answer the most frequently asked questions about transgender living. In no way should you relate the answers to all other transgender people.
Helpful Introductory Terms
MTF – Male to female
FTM – Female to male
Trans – Transgender
HRT – Hormone replacement therapy
Trans man – Someone who is or has actively making the transition from female to male
Trans women – Someone who has or is actively making the transition from male to female
Gender dysphoria – A feeling of unease with one’s body, which can cause anxiety and depression
Cisgender (pronounced sis-gender) – Someone who identifies with their physical gender they were assigned at birth
Gender binary – Think two boxes, one is masculine or male the other is feminine or female. This is the binary example of gender
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1) What questions are inappropriate to ask a transgender person?
This depends entirely on the person you wish to ask questions of. However, questions about the person’s genitals, surgeries, their sex life or birth name are a big no-no, as it can cause anxiety and dysphoria. Also, those are just very personal questions. If you think that question might make you uncomfortable, then chances are you shouldn’t ask it. Although there are people out there who will answers those questions, even to someone they just met, I find these instances are rare, and it is just best to ask what they are comfortable with and they will tell you.
2) How should I know which pronouns to use?
Very easy, just ask! Online, this is one of the most frequently asked questions about transgender living. Most people are glad to tell you as it is a sign that you mean to respect their identity.
3) What does it mean to be transgender?
It means that your physical sex that you are assigned at birth (according to your genitals) does not correspond with your mental gender expression. Example – I was born a girl according to my physical sex, but ever since I was four years old, I didn’t identify with being a girl. I never did.
4) What is the difference between transgender and transsexual?
This opinion can vary depending on the person. Transgender is an umbrella term for gender variant people. People who don’t necessarily identify with their physical sex, or the gender binary, even people who dress as the opposite sex could consider themselves transgender. Transsexual is the term for someone who has such a disconnect with their physical sex that they undergo hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgeries. Personally, I am undergoing those processes, although I have never identified as “transsexual”. To me, that term is outdated and I have never actually heard someone I know refer to themselves as transsexual. When I hear that word, I think of Tim Curry when he played Dr. Frankenfurter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” even though that character was not in fact transsexual!
5) What is the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?
Since gender and sexual preference have been thrown into the same category by certain cultures and religions for some time, people tend to think that your sexual preference is based off your gender. This is one of the most frequently asked questions about transgender living. It is simply not true. Sexual orientation is who you love, and gender identity is who you are. As it has been for all time, your gender does not define who you are attracted to. They are two separate things. It is really quite simple if you don’t over think it. Example – two things I have known since I was a child, I want to be a boy and I like girls. Later in adolescence, I began to be sexually attracted to men as well, but that was not influenced by or impacted the fact that I still identified as male.
6) What does “gender transition” mean?
It is when someone makes the physical and societal transition from the physical sex they were born as, to the physical sex that they identify with. So they change their name and pronouns, go through hormone replacement therapy and eventually undergo sex reassignment surgery. However you should not assume that everyone’s transition is the same, people go through different changes at different times according to their resources, and how they wish to transition.
7) If someone hasn’t had any surgical procedure, are they still transgender?
Simple answer, yes. Like I said, transgender is an umbrella term, but also transgender is not a term that you use once you have transitioned, it is how you identify and everybody’s journey is different.
8) What kind of discrimination do transgender people face?
Trans people can be bullied, fired from their jobs for attempting to transition, physical harassed and murdered. Just for making a preferred life choice. Particularly trans women of colour have been known to receive large amounts of harassment, and it is more often than I would like, that I see articles about the murders of these women. In other countries, you can be sentenced or slaughtered if you are gay so it is only safe to assume the same of transgender people. There are all kinds of discrimination. Trans people are subject to most of it depending on the place, time and the people they deal with it on a daily basis. As one of the most frequently asked questions about transgender living, this one will hopefully adjust quickly due to awareness and policy changes.
9) Can children be transgender?
Simple answer yes. Just like with other LGBTQ people, you do not become transgender over time. Although it may take time to realize and come to terms with it. Or, you may actually identify as gender nonconforming or you just like to dress like the opposite sex, etc. You should never doubt the truth that a child can tell. All the time in the media over the past few years, you can see children coming out as trans and their parents making the effort to help them transition, and the difference it made for the children and the way they live their lives. It is becoming more common now for children to come out because being transgender has finally become less stigmatized in North America.
I have known I wanted to be a boy ever since I was 4 years old, and sometimes I think back and wonder how different my life might have been if I was able to come out at a young age. You should not ignore a child if they express the wish to be the opposite gender that they were assigned at birth, but also never just hop on the bandwagon. Make sure your child receives the necessary therapy and care and attention they need to determine whether or not they should begin their transition. Everyone’s journey is different!
10) What are some important things to know about transgender people?
We want the simple respect that is afforded to cisgender people. Never assume that because one transgender person is a certain way that another trans person is exactly the same. We are all different, just like you! Also, don’t assume that someone’s sexuality is based on their gender identity. Asking is always your safest bet. Before you ask, make sure the person is comfortable with answering. If you make a mistake, that is okay. Apologize and make sure the person knows you are making an effort to understand/respect them.
And those were the most frequently asked questions about transgender living! There are many other things to know, and if you are truly curious, look it up! There is probably an answer somewhere on the internet, but always take it in with a grain of salt. Every opinion and experience varies.