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Updated: Feb 1

What Does Transgender Mean?

Transgender individuals are people whose gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Conversely, "cisgender" describes a person whose gender identity does align with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Transgender is also an umbrella term used to describe many different identities: non-binary, demi-gender, gender non-conforming, trans-masc or femme, transgender man, bigender, agender, and more.

What is Gender?

Gender is a combination of social, emotional, and cultural ideas that define how humans interact with each other. These can be broken down into two sectors: gender identity and gender expression. ​

Gender Identity

Gender identity is how you perceive yourself on the gender spectrum. This can fall anywhere on the gender spectrum and is not limited to male or female. ​

Gender Expression

Gender expression is how you display yourself outwardly. This can include the clothes you wear, how you style your hair, or even how you talk.

You can learn more about gender identity and expression here.

Transgender Issues

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

Gender Dysphoria

This condition, formerly known as Gender Identity Disorder, is the distress a person may feel as a result of their emotional and psychological identity not coinciding with their biological sex. One of the earliest signs of knowing one is transgender is feeling gender dysphoria. 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, coworkers, or family to behave a certain way.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to experience gender dysphoria to be transgender. Not all transgender people experience gender dysphoria.


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 daily. Transphobia can lead to depression, a greater feeling of gender dysphoria, and a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Misgendering and Deadnaming

Misgendering is using a former pronoun of a transgender or non-binary person. Deadnaming is using a transgender or non-binary person’s former name.

Intentionally deadnaming or misgendering is highly inappropriate and harmful. However, in some cases, deadnaming or misgendering can be accidental. If you knew a transgender person before they discovered their gender identity, you might be 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 it is accidental. If you accidentally refer to a transgender person by their old identity, name, or pronouns, simply apologize and correct yourself.

What Not to Say

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, someone 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, and her name was David.”

  • “David was born a man but turned into a girl.”

  • “Dalia is biologically male.”

It’s important to note that Dalia was never a man; she was only assigned male at birth. If you want to mention Dalia’s transition (with her permission, of course), consider saying:

  • “Dalia was assigned male at birth, but she now identifies as female.”

  • “Dalia is a transgender woman.”

Dalia is also not a drag queen, a transvestite, a transsexual, or "a transgender."

To learn about these terms and why they are inaccurate and, oftentimes, offensive, see our Outdated Trans Terms article.

Avoid focusing on someone’s transition or presentation.

A common term you may hear when discussing transgender people is “passing” or “stealth.” This describes someone who presents themselves in such a way that you “can’t tell” that they’re transgender.

Using these terms without a transgender person’s permission is wrong for several reasons. Not only does it imply that transgender people need to physically transform in order to be valid, it also reinforces dangerous gender norms. Ultimately, it's harmful to make a transgender person feel like they are “passing as something they’re not” or “tricking” people.


Transgender people may use various medical and non-medical interventions or procedures to alter their bodies in a way that aligns with their gender identity. However, it is important to note that not all transgender people do this, and it is not required to be transgender.

These interventions and procedures are part of a greater support system known as gender-affirming care (GAC). You can learn about the many different kinds of GAC, like hormone therapy and surgery, in our Gender-Affirming Care article.

Transgender Symbols

Transgender Gender Symbol

The transgender gender symbol is a combination of the gender symbols for male and female. An alternate version also integrates the symbol for genderqueer.

The transgender gender symbol.
The transgender gender symbol.

The transgender gender symbol including the genderqueer symbol.
The transgender gender symbol including the genderqueer symbol.

Transgender Flag

Transgender Pride Flag (1999)
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.

Blue represents boys, pink represents girls, and white represents those who are transitioning, intersex, or consider themselves as having an unidentified gender.

Black Transgender Pride Flag (2015)
Black Transgender Pride Flag (2015)

Black Transgender Flag

A symbol of the transgender community specifically made for Black trans people, this flag was designed by Raquel Willis and first used in 2015. 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.

We know that the journey to discovering one's self can be a difficult one with plenty of bumps and setbacks and crying-in-the-showers. That's perfectly normal!

Just remember that there's an entire community behind you; others have been in your shoes and have felt the same fear, uncertainty, and anxiety. We get it, and we're here for you.

If you need help or are struggling to find support, check out our Where To Find Support article.



NHS website. (2021, April 20). Signs. Nhs.Uk.

Chakraborti, N. C., & Jon Garland, J. G. (2009). Hate crime : impact, causes and responses : Chakraborti, Neil : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive.

Leonard, J. (2019, October 9). What to know about female-to-male surgery. Medical News Today.,known%20as%20%E2%80%9Cbottom%E2%80%9D%20surgery

What is gender reassignment surgery? (2018, September 21). ISSM.

What Are Appropriate Labels & Terms For Transgender People? (n.d.). Planned Parenthood.

GLAAD Media Reference Guide - Transgender. (2021, March 29). GLAAD.

Lopez, G. (2015, February 18). Why you should always use “transgender” instead of “transgendered.” Vox.


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