What does being trans mean?

A trans person is someone whose gender identity is different to that which they were assigned at birth (i.e. what was put on their original birth certificate), or whose gender expression or presentation differs from the typical, and who self-defines as trans. There are a number of different identities that fall within this umbrella term, of which a few are detailed below. People may identify with one or more than one of these labels as appropriate to themselves.

Being trans is not a sexual and/or romantic orientation. Trans people can be lesbian, gay, bi+, asexual, straight, undefined and so on, just like anyone else.

What challenges do trans people face?

Trans people’s gender identities may not always be correctly read by others. As a result they may be referred to using incorrect pronouns or terms of address (Sir/Miss etc.).

Trans people are subjected to transphobia in the same way that the LGBUA+ community is subjected to homophobia. Trans people may be discriminated against in terms of employment, housing and services. They may be harassed and mistreated by others, both in public and at home by friends and family.

Trans people wishing to transition (present as a gender other than that which they were assigned at birth) using hormones and/or surgery must convince medical professionals to prescribe/refer them. (Be aware, only a subsection of trans people wish to be prescribed hormones/be referred for surgery.)

A number of trans people suffer from depression, self-harm and/or have suicidal tendencies. This can be the result of incongruence between their appearance and their identity, harassment, discrimination and prejudice.

How do I address a trans person?

Most people have a preference for which pronouns you should use to refer to them. You should always respect this choice of pronouns, whether they be male, female or gender neutral pronouns. If you’re unsure as to which pronouns someone prefers, just ask them. If you’re not familiar with a certain set of pronouns, it’s acceptable to ask for further clarification. Alternatively, an explanation should be easily available online. For example, someone preferring ‘singular they’ pronouns would be referred to as follows: “Where’s Alex?” “They went to the park with their friends. Sandy went with them”. It may seem tricky at first, but we are all used to doing this when we don’t know someone’s gender, so you will learn quickly enough.

Additionally, using the correct name for a trans person is important. The name that they are using may not always be the name on their legal identification, but it is nevertheless their ‘real’ name. Some trans people change their name a number of times before settling on one that they feel suits them. You should attempt to use the name which they prefer at the time, though it is acceptable to ask which name to use if you are unsure. Alternatively, some trans people use nicknames. If they have expressed a desire to be referred to using their nickname then that is how you should refer to them.

Making a mistake is not the end of the world, so long as you try your hardest to stick to the correct name and pronouns for the trans person you’re addressing. If you do make a mistake apologise, correct your mistake, and move on.

How can people be good allies to trans people?

A good ally to trans people is someone who is respectful of their gender identity. Using their correct name and pronouns is important; if you’re not sure what pronouns a trans person prefers, just ask. “What pronouns do you prefer?” is a perfectly acceptable question, and will be appreciated over using incorrect pronouns.

Also important is not asking intrusive questions, such as “What gender were you born as?”, or “What’s in your pants?”, as these questions are highly inappropriate, and will make many trans people extremely dysphoric and uncomfortable. Before asking a question, think about whether you would ask a cis friend the same question!

If a trans person is the subject of bullying or harassment and it is safe for you to do so, stand up for them. If the situation is unsafe, it may be appropriate to report it as a hate crime to the police, to comfort the trans person, or to speak to us at for further advice.

Educating yourself about trans issues is also helpful. There are a number of links at the bottom of the page that may be useful in this regard.

Why are trans people included in the LGBT acronym?

Trans people face many of the same problems as lesbian, gay, bi, asexual and undefined people in a heterosexist society; such as feeling isolated or ashamed of their identity, not having their identity represented correctly/respectfully (or at all) in the media, being the subject of discrimination or mistreatment due to transphobia (as compared with homophobia). Also, many trans people are lesbian, gay, bi, asexual or otherwise already part of the LGBTQUIA+ community.

Gender identity is also closely associated with sexual orientation. How you define your gender identity usually impacts how you define your sexual orientation.

Furthermore, much of the LGBTQUIA+ rights movement was started by trans people, and a lot of our successes (decriminalization of homosexuality, equal marriage, less stigma) have come as a result of hard work by the trans community. Cis (non-trans) people should aim to remember this.

Are all crossdressers and drag performers considered trans?

Following these definitions, people who use these labels are not by default considered as transgender, however it is possible for the above to also identify as trans.

Some places you can find out more information:

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