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What does transgender mean?

Transgender people have a gender identity that differs from their sex assigned at birth. This definition excludes people who like to wear clothes associated with a gender that is different from that assigned at birth.

First off, just because you like to wear clothes that are associated with the opposite sex does not mean you are transgender. Gender expression is the way you present yourself outwardly, which is separate from your gender identity. You can learn more about the difference between sex and gender here. Just like sexuality, being transgender is not a choice. Being transgender is a very difficult journey and there are many challenging obstacles along the way.

What struggles do transgender people face?

Transgender people can face many different problems, such as transphobia, gender dysphoria, deadnaming, and more.


Transphobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes, feelings or actions toward transgender people or transness in general. Transphobia can include fear, aversion, hatred, violence, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who do not conform to social gender expectations. Just like gay or lesbian individuals can deal with homophobia, transgender people can deal with transphobia on a daily basis. Transphobia can lead to depression, a greater feeling of gender dysphoria, and a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Gender Dysphoria

The condition of feeling one's emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one's biological sex. One of the earliest signs of knowing one is transgender is feeling gender dysphoria. According to the UK National Health Service, feelings or signs of gender dysphoria are, but are not limited to:

  • A certainty that your gender identity conflicts with your biological sex

  • You only feel comfortable when in the gender role of your preferred identity (may include non-binary)

  • A strong desire to hide or be rid of physical signs of your biological sex, such as breasts or body hair

  • A strong dislike of the genitals you were born with

You may feel lonely or isolated from others. You may also face pressure from friends, classmates or workmates, or family to behave in a certain way. Or you may face bullying and harassment for being different.


The usage of a former pronoun of a transgender or non-binary person. Deadnaming: The usage of a transgender or non-binary person’s former/no longer used name. Deadnaming and/or misgendering can be one of the most offensive actions done against a transgender person. However, in some cases, deadnaming or misgendering can be accidental. If you were to know a person a transgender person before they discovered themselves and or transitioned, then you are most likely used to referring to them by their old pronouns and deadname.

It might be a force of habit to refer to someone by their old identity. However, it is still wrong even if accidental. If you accidentally refer to a transgender person by their old identity, name, or pronouns, simply apologize and correct yourself.

For example, a store worker asks you: “Did you find everything you were looking for, sir?” when you do not go by he/him. This was accidental (if no prior occurrence/relationship has happened with the worker), and in some establishments, it is required for employees to be formal with customers and to show great respect for customers. We know it can be difficult to deal with, as this can remind you of a time where you did not feel like yourself, but unless there are any other variables or conditions this was likely purely accidental. Calmly tell the worker your proper pronouns and if they respect them then it was simply a harmless mistake. If not, report this to the store’s management as you should be able to feel welcomed and yourself.

Furthermore, if a transgender person discovers themself, even if they have not elected to gender reassignment surgery or hormone replacement therapy, never refer to them as their previous gender identity.

For example, a male named David goes down the road of discovery and finds out that they are transgender. David’s new name is Dalia and they now go by she/her and Dalia only. You should never say “Dalia was a guy before, I think their name was David.” you should mention how Dalia transitioned or just not mention it at all.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Transgender hormone therapy, also called cross-sex hormone therapy or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is a form of hormone therapy in which sexual hormones and other hormonal medications are given to transgender people for the purpose of feeling more like their gender identity.

Hormone therapy, specifically transgender hormone therapy, can help transgender persons feel more like their preferred gender. These new hormones can help shift one’s voice and body structure. Not opting to have hormone therapy does not make your gender identity any less valid or make you any less transgender.

Gender Reassignment Surgery

Gender reassignment surgery, sometimes called sex reassignment surgery or gender-affirming surgery, is performed to transition individuals with gender dysphoria to their desired gender.

Female-to-male surgery is a type of sex reassignment surgery, which is also called gender affirmation surgery or gender-affirming surgery. This can take different forms, including the removal of breasts — a mastectomy, known as “top surgery” — and the altering of the genital region, known as “bottom” surgery. Male-to-female surgery is a type of sex reassignment surgery. During this procedure, a surgeon makes “like become like,” using parts of the original penis to create a sensate neo-vagina. The testicles are removed, a procedure called an orchiectomy. The skin from the scrotum is used to make the labia. Not opting to have gender reassignment surgery does not make your gender identity any less valid or make you any less transgender.

What are some symbols of transgender people?

Transgender people have had varying symbols throughout the past several decades. Here are a few:

Transgender Gender Symbol

The transgender gender symbol is a combination of the gender symbols for male, female, and genderqueer.

Transgender Flag

Transgender Pride Flag (1999)

A very prominent symbol of the transgender community, this flag was first designed by transgender woman Monica Helms in 1999 and first used in 2000 at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona. It starts with a baby blue, then a baby pink, then white, baby pink again, and finishing with baby blue. The colors move vertically.

The three colors represent boys (baby blue), girls (baby pink), and those who are transitioning, intersex or consider themselves as having an unidentified gender (white). Just like the Rainbow flag to represent the entire LGBTQ+ community, the transgender community has their own flag to represent and promote gender identity separately from sexual orientations.

Black Transgender Pride Flag (2015)

Black Transgender Flag

A symbol of the transgender community specifically made for black trans persons, this flag was designed by Raquel Willis and first used in 2015. It starts with baby blue, then to baby pink, moving to black, becoming baby pink again, and finishing with baby blue. The colors move vertically.

The colors have the same meaning as the more commonly used flag, except the black is meant to symbolize the high levels of transphobia, violence, and racism directed towards black members of the trans community, especially black trans women.

How to Get Support

You always deserve support. If you need some ideas or are struggling to find support check out our Where To Find Support resource article.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are amazing. Make sure to take a lot of time to think over what you want to do. A decision as big as gender reassignment surgery shouldn’t happen overnight, but it's important to live as your true self. Even if you never receive reassignment surgery or hormone therapy, this does not make you any less valid for being who you are and identifying the way you do.

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