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Monday, October 6, 2008

Transgender & Gender Queer 101

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Transgender is the common umbrella term for people who transgress gender norms or cross society's idea of gender lines. Transgender folks can identify their sexual orientation as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Transgender is about gender identity and gender expression not sexual orientation.

Gender- Self-expression, performance, actions, behavior, dress, grooming of culturally prescribed norms based on binary of male and female.

Gender Identity - Inner sense of ‘being’ male or female, both, or neither, includes sense of self and one’s image presented to the world. Self-identification.

Gender Binary System - Culturally defined code of acceptable behavior only for 2 gender system of male/female. Men/boys are to exhibit masculine gender presentation, behaviors, and social roles. Women/girls are to exhibit feminine gender presentation, behaviors, and social roles.

Assigned Sex/Gender -Based on physical anatomy of genitalia.

The Transgender community includes, but not limited to the following labels and identities:


MTF (male to female) transsexual woman- person born/ Assigned Gender at birth as male/boy transitions to live and identify full time as female/woman

FTM (female to male) transsexual man- person born/ Assigned Gender at birth as female/girl transitions to live and identify full time as male/man

Live Full Time- to live and identify in the gender they have transitioned to or self identify as, may or may not use medical intervention such as hormones or sex reassignment surgery (SRS) depending on financial ability, health, and access, but does do a socail transistion and identify and live as the “opposite” the gender they were born. Social transistion can include changing name (legally or through common usage), dressing in clothing of gender they identify with and using pronouns of gender they identify with. Sexual orientation may or may not change with the person’s transition and transsexuals can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Other identities under the Transgender umbrella:

Cross Dresser- person who wears clothing opposite their assigned gender, usually not all the time. Does not identify as the opposite gender identity. Example, men who wear what we consider to be women's clothing and women who wear traditionally male attire.
* Why cross-dress? This varies and can include playfulness (i.e., performance), sexual pleasure, or feelings of comfort and relaxation. Some describe feelings of relief when cross-dressed as the pressures associated with their gender role are shed with the clothing. identify as cross-dressers may question their gender role or gender expression (how they are "supposed" to appear or act), but not their gender identity. They generally do not want to live as the opposite gender; in other words, most male cross-dressers identify as male, are comfortable being male, and do not want to change that.
* Adapted from Making Women's Shelters Accessible to Transgendered Women Allison Cope & Julie Darke October 1999

Drag Queen- person, sometimes gay men, impersonating famous females, usually for performance also called female illusionists.

Drag King- person, sometimes lesbians, impersonating famous males, usually for performance

*GENDER NON-CONFORMING PEOPLE “Gender non-conforming” refers to people whose gender expressions do not match stereotypes of how girls/women or boys/men are “supposed to” look and act. In reality, most people in general don’t meet all gender expectations and stereotypes either; almost nobody is perfectly masculine or perfectly feminine. The reason gender nonconforming people are included in the list of transgender people is that there are some people who identify as transgender, but are not transitioning gender, and do not consider themselves cross-dressers, androgynous, or genderqueer.


GenderQueer term started to come into use in approximately the late 1990’s. It has been associated with primarily youth communities and those who are white and where born female and are now along the masculine spectrum, but there are many folks along the age and race/ethnic spectrum that use it to describe themselves and also those who where born male and are along the feminine spectrum. Has also been written as Gender Queer or Genderqueer.

Current working definition:

GenderQueer: those who identify their gender outside the gender binary system of male and female, maybe fluid with gender presentation or not conform to gender stereotypes and may use gender neutral pronouns such as “sie, hir, hir, hirs, hirself” or "zie, zir, zir, zirs, zirself" or choose to use the pronoun closest to the end of the masculine or feminine spectrum they are presenting. Some may do some or all of medical transition or none at all. Some may change their birth name. It is also used by some to describe both their gender identity and their sexuality as queer.

Other terms that gender non-conforming or those who have gender identities outside the binary gender system are boy dyke, dyke boy, boi, and by some youth in communities of color are femme queens, butch boi, or drags.

Intersex (is not a transgender identity)
*intersexuality is a set of medical conditions that features "congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system." That is, a person with an intersex condition is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered "standard" for either male or female.
*Adapted from “Introduction to intersex activism” from Intersex Society of North America

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