trans talk

It took 35 years before I was ready to begin grappling with my gender identity, and nearly another four to truly accept I was transgender. There's no single path to follow on a journey like this, but I hope sharing my story and struggles might be helpful for others.

I know there are some of you who might not understand what it means to be trans, or might object to my embracing this aspect of myself. I ask you to take the time to at least read my story, my thoughts on what this means for my faith, my hopes and my fears to appreciate where I'm coming from. Thank you for your time!

new to "trans stuff?"

No worries! It has been an educational journey for me too :). If this is a new topic for you, then I recommend starting here:

trans topics 101 »

frequently asked questions

This section is being written now, but will be coming soon!

Detransition - regret over transitioning occurs at a rate of less than 2% (Dhejne et al., 2014; Johansson et al., 2010)

glossary

Some common words you'll encounter when learning about the trans experience.

  • Gender / Gender identity

    One’s internal, deeply held sense of being male or female, neither of these, both, etc. In some circles, gender identity is falling out of favour, as one does not simply identify as a gender, but is that gender.

  • Transgender / Trans (adj.)

    An umbrella term used to describe someone whose gender is different than the sex assigned at birth. Sometimes shortened to trans, often to emphasize inclusiveness of a variety of identities that fall under the transgender umbrella. Some people put an asterisk on the end of trans* to reinforce that expanded definition.

    Transgender/Trans is an adjective, and should NOT be used with an -ed or -s at the end as that is not grammatically correct. You wouldn’t say that someone is gayed, womaned, or Latinoed. Similarly you wouldn’t call someone transgendered or refer to multiple trans people as "transgenders."

  • Cisgender / Cis

    Someone whose gender is the same as the sex assigned at birth. Contrary to some malignant gossip, cis is not an insult, but is actually Latin, and serves as a complement to "trans," helping to reinforce that all people have an innate sense of their gender, not just trans people. The prefix "cis-" and means "on this side of" as opposed to "trans-" which means "on the other side of." "cis-" and "trans-" help to understand and talk about gender identity, just like "hetero-" and "homo-" help to understand and talk about sexual orientation.

  • Gender expression

    The expression of one’s gender through clothing, hairstyle, voice, make up, body shape, pronouns, behavior, haircut, etc. Society typically identifies these cues as masculine and feminine, though that changes over time and varies by culture. Many - but not all! - transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender (who they are).

  • Presentation / Passing

    A person's presentation is related to how others unconsciously perceive them. Many transgender people have a goal of refining their presentation (via altering their gender expression or pursuing medical remedies) so that that others will perceive them as the gender they wish to be read as (usually used in a binary cisgender context). Often the term ‘passing’ was used to signify successfully presenting as desired, though that word is falling out of fashion as it is seen to imply that one should desire to look cisgender, or that having a presentation others unconsciously perceive as one gender or another is a "trick" or falsehood.

  • Gender dysphoria

    A clinical term referring to dissonance between one’s assigned gender and/or one’s body, and one’s personal sense of self. Prior to the DSM-V, the term gender identity disorder was used, but that was removed as it often led to gender variance being stigmatised and misdiagnosed as a pathological condition.

    Gender Dysphoria is now similarly being moved away from, in favor of Gender Incongruence. The necessity of a psychiatric diagnosis remains controversial, as both psychiatric and medical authorities recommend individualized medical treatment through hormones and/or surgeries to treat gender dysphoria. Some transgender advocates believe the inclusion of Gender Dysphoria in the DSM is necessary in order to advocate for health insurance that covers the medically necessary treatment recommended for transgender people.

    Not all transgender people experience gender dysphoria, or if they do they may experience it in wildly different ways. Having dysphoria is not required for a person to "qualify" as transgender.

  • Sex

    The system for assignment and classification of people as male or female based on imprecise perceptions of their physical anatomy. At birth, infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy. (This is what is written on the birth certificate.) A person's sex, however, is actually a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics. Sex is not fixed or immutable, and no single criterion (e.g. genitals, chromosomes, hormones, fertility) definitively describes one’s bodily shape or configuration.

  • Sex characteristics

    Sex characteristics include external genitalia, gonads or reproductive organs and fertility, gamates, chromosomes, sex hormones. Secondary sex characteristics include breast development, patterns of hair growth such as facial hair and body hair, voice development, and may be said to include many other features of development based on sex characteristics. These can be natal or may change later, including through medical treatments.

  • AFAB / AMAB

    Acronyms meaning assigned female at birth or assigned male at birth. When the ‘C’ is added, it stands for ‘coercively’. In cases when it’s necessary to refer to the birth-assigned sex of a trans person, this is the best way to do it.

  • Transition

    Altering one's birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition can include some or all of the following personal, medical, and legal steps: telling one's family, friends, and co-workers; using a different name and new pronouns; dressing differently; changing one's name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) one or more types of surgery. The exact steps involved in transition vary from person to person, and there is no "right" way to transition. Avoid the phrase "sex change".

    While extremely rare (likely less than 1%), some people detranstition, which is entirely valid. It is more common earlier in transition, often before surgeries. For many who choose to detransition, harsh treatment and/or opposition from family, friends or society is cited as the primary motivating factor vs. "regret" or no longer "feeling trans."

  • Bottom surgery / SRS / GRS

    Bottom surgery, Sexual Reconstruction Surgery (SRS) or Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS), refer to several different types of gender affirmation or transition related surgical procedures which alter the patients genitalia.

    These terms are preferred over “sex change operation” or anything with “reassignment.” Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have GRS. Overemphasising the importance of GRS to the transition or affirmation process should be avoided.

    Choosing to pursue any sort of surgical procedure is a personal choice, and is not necessary to "qualify" as transgender. Disclosing any information regarding surgical procedures is a up to each individual, and just like all information regarding another's person's genitalia, is none of your business unless that person chooses to share with you.

  • Sexual orientation

    A person’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to others. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Trans people can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, pansexual, queer, etc. just like anyone else. For example, a trans woman who is primarily attracted to other women may identify as lesbian. A trans woman who is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a straight woman.

Sources for most of these definitions: