Transgender identities are in the news a lot lately. Learn about transgender identities and what scientists have to say about their origins.
DeeWho is Dee?
Hi! I’m here to help you explore what it means to be transgender. There’s a lot of attention, confusion and questions around this topic these days, so let’s start with the basics: ‘Transgender’ is not a sexual orientation. It’s about the intersection of gender identity (our core sense of who we are), gender expression (how we show up in the world) and biological sex (the physical parts we’re born with). Come on, let’s dive in…
Explore what it means to be transgender.
Terms to know
There's a lot of terminology around transgender identities. Here's a quick introduction to terms you'll want to know.
Transgender people discuss their identities and experiences.
"I was worried that you liked me as a girl"
Listen to a conversation between Gabe, a young transgender boy, and his mom, Chris Lopez.
“Why did God make me wrong?”
Learn about Jacob and his family's journey from confusion to acceptance.
"It's just how you really are inside"
Watch this update for the latest on Jacob and his family's story.
“I watched her die inside”
When DeShanna Neal’s son began to dress and act like a girl, she saw the impact of societal shunning firsthand: “I watched her die inside.”
"I had to do something"
Ryland Whittington knew he was a boy. The question was, would other people accept that?
"It was like a weight off my shoulders"
Watch to learn why Kaleb's mom considers him to be "one of the bravest people" she knows.
Growing up transgender and Mormon
“I had this fantasy . . . that a fairy godmother would come and turn me into a girl and make everything better.”
"I went as macho as I could be"
Alexis grew up in the 1960's in a housing project. Being open about her transgender identity was not an option.
The life journey of a Black trans woman
"There’s a teenaged girl I didn’t quite get to be and I’ve built the life she would have wanted.”
"We're the front-liners"
Sylvia Rivera was a tireless advocate for transgender people and the larger LGBTQ+ community, yet few people have heard of her. Learn about her struggles and accomplishments.
"You are my sister"
Two transgender veterans share their story of friendship and unconditional love.
"Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty"
Christine Jorgensen gained fame as a transgender woman at a time when most members of the LGBTQ+ community were attacked and vilified.
Experiences, Challenges and Hopes
Explore the experiences, challenges and hopes of transgender and nonbinary persons in a report based on focus groups held by the Pew Research Center.
Creating an inclusive workplace
Learn about some practical ways to be supportive of transgender persons in the workplace.
Transgender women of color face distinct challenges
Killed for being transgender
Learn why the American Medical Association is warning of an “epidemic” of violence against transgender persons, with transgender women of color the most frequent victims.
What does it mean for a person to transition? This section covers the essentials.
Making the decision to transition
Decisions around transitioning are highly personal and vary from one individual to the next.
No more “watchful waiting.” Read why the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates a gender-affirming approach in caring for transgender and gender-diverse children.
Scientists are researching the biological basis of transgender identities.
Understanding our brain
Neuroscientists are comparing brain structure and function in transgender and cisgender persons with notable results.
How transgender research is changing science
As transgender awareness grows in society, science is catching up. Find out what’s being done to close that gap and what we’ve learned so far.
How many people are transgender? It might be more than you think.
Transgender population in the US
Explore the state-by-state data on the distribution of transgender people by age across the U.S.
(Noun) A term used to describe a person's gender, based on their innate understanding of themselves -- as opposed to the gender they were assigned at birth. A person can affirm their gender socially (e.g. changing one's pronouns), legally (e.g. legal name change), and/or medically (e.g. gender-affirming surgery). Increasingly used in place of older terms, such as preferred gender or chosen gender. Learn More
(Adj.) Describes a person who does not identify with any gender. Learn More
Androgyne / Androgyny / Androgynous
(Adj.) Identifying and/or presenting as neither masculine nor feminine. Learn More
(Adj.) Refers to a match between gender identity and sex characteristics observed at birth, i.e., a person born with female anatomy who identifies as a girl/woman. Learn More
(Noun) A slang term used for nonbinary. Enby is the phonetic pronunciation of “NB,” an abbreviation for nonbinary. Learn More
(Noun) A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity and ascribe qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and vary between cultures. Learn More
Gender Affirming Surgery
(Noun) Surgical procedures that allow persons to match their physical bodies to their gender identity. These procedures can include “top surgery” (e.g. reshaping a chest or providing breast augmentation) and/or “bottom surgery” (e.g. reshaping genitals). Also referred to as gender-confirming surgery, gender reassignment surgery or medical transition. Learn More
(Noun) Clinically significant distress that can occur in persons whose gender identity differs from the sex they were thought to be at birth. Can also describe a desire to change the characteristics that are the source of the distress, such as physical anatomy. Learn More
(Noun) The ways that a person communicates a gender identity to others such as dress, behavior, hairstyle, voice, and/or mannerisms. Learn More
(Adj.) Describes a person who identifies their gender as shifting within a spectrum of gender identities and expressions. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of two (or more) genders, but may feel more one gender some days, and another gender other days. Gender-fluid people may or may not also identify as transgender. Learn More
(Noun) One’s deeply held, core sense of being a man, woman, or some other gender. A gender identity can be a combination of two or more genders (such as gender fluid), and some individuals don't identify with any gender at all--described as being agender. Learn More
(Adj.) Describes a person who does not behave in a way that conforms to traditional expectations for their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category. Also known as gender variant. Learn More
(Noun) The concept that gender exists along a continuum beyond man/masculine and woman/feminine. Some people may be more aligned with masculine or feminine aspects, some move fluidly along the spectrum, and some exist outside the spectrum entirely. Learn More
(Noun) Refers to a situation in which a person uses multiple pronouns, such as she/they or they/he/she. Generally, mixed pronouns can be used interchangeably. However, the desired balance among different pronouns can be different for each person. Learn More
Sex / Sex assigned at birth / Biological sex
(Noun) A person's sex (male, female, or intersex) is often determined based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth. In reality, biological sex is more complicated, referring to a combination of anatomical, physiological, genetic, and physical attributes. These include genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, genes, and secondary sex characteristics. The phrase "sex assigned at birth" is used by some to emphasize that genitalia alone are not always a sufficient indication of a person's sex, as well as the fact that a person's gender identity is not always aligned with the sex characteristics observed at birth. Learn More
Transgender / Trans*
(Adj.) Describes a person whose gender identity does not match their sex characteristics observed at birth. People who identify as transgender (sometimes shortened to "trans") may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity. This word is also sometimes used as a broad umbrella term to describe those who transcend conventional expectations of gender identity or expression, such as people who identify as genderqueer, gender variant, gender diverse, or androgynous. Learn More
(Noun) The process by which some people strive to more closely align their outward appearance with their internal feelings/perceptions of their gender. This may, but does not always, include hormone therapy, surgical or other medical procedures, and changing names, pronouns, identification documents, and more. Often referred to as gender transition. Learn More
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Citations & Sources
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Bakker, J. (2018) Brain structure and function in gender dysphoria. Presented at the 20th European Congress of Endocrinology. Endocrine Abstracts, 56(S 30.3). https://www.endocrine-abstracts.org/ea/0056/ea0056s30.3.htm
Bodkin, H. (2018, May 22). Transgender brain scans promised as study shows structural differences in people with gender dysphoria. Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/22/transgender-brain-scans-promised-study-shows-structural-differences/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_fb
Burke, S., Kreukels, B., Cohen-Kettenis, P., Veltman, D., Klink, D., & Bakker, J. (2016). Male-typical visuospatial functioning in gynephilic girls with gender dysphoria - organizational and activational effects of testosterone. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 41(6), 395–404. https://doi.org/10.1503/jpn.150147
Chokshi, N. (2017, February 23). One in every 137 teenagers would identify as transgender, report says. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/us/transgender-teenagers-how-many.html
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Database of transgender homicides 2010-2018. (2019). Mic. https://unerased.mic.com
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Flores, A.R., Herman, J.L., Gates, G.J. & Brown, T.N.T. (2016) How many adults identify as transgender in the United States? Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/trans-adults-united-states/
Garcia-Falgueras, A. & Swaab, D.F. (2008). A sex difference in the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity. Brain: A Journal of Neurology, 131(12), 3132-3146. https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/131/12/3132/295849/A-sex-difference-in-the-hypothalamic-uncin...
Garloch, K. (2017, February 6). ‘I want to be a girl all the time,’ child told parents. Now, mom’s story helps others. Charlotte Observer. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/health-family/karen-garloch/article131054374.html
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