A Starting Point for Everyone
Whether you are looking to support somebody else, or you are exploring your own gender identity, here are some resources which will help you understand what being transgender is all about. It's okay if you don't know everything yet, or if some terms confuse you. Nobody is born with an LGBT+ dictionary in their head!
If you have more questions that this page doesn't answer, try these pages:
Terms and Definitions
Somebody who does not identify as their gender assigned at birth.
Being transgender is not a choice. The term “transgender” has become more popular in modern communities, due to its linguistic focus on gender, and its inclusivity. Transgender communities include binary and non-binary people.
Not all trans people can, or choose to, medically transition.
Categorising someone as male or female based on their sex chromosomes or reproductive organs.
Being transgender means that your internal sense of self (your gender) conflicts with your sex assigned at birth. Many transgender people seek hormonal and surgical interventions, in order to align their physical sex with their gender.
Most people are born endosex, meaning their innate sex characteristics conform to medical and social norms around what constitutes male and female. Some people are born intersex.
A woman who was assigned a male gender at birth, but experiences an internal sense of self that is female.
Trans women usually wish to be treated like any other woman. Trans women will usually (if they are safe to do so) go by she/her pronouns in society. Many adopt feminine haircuts and clothing, in order to be socially recognised as female, and because they are more comfortable dressing that way.
A sensation of happiness, comfort, and elation, caused by the alleviation of gender dysphoria, and the affirmation of a person's true identity.
When addressed as "she" and "her", and perhaps by a new name, a trans woman may experience gender euphoria. Inversely, when dressing in a masculine manner and being received in society as a guy, a trans man may experience gender euphoria.
AFAB and AMAB are shorthand acronyms that can help to describe a person's journey or needs. AFAB means "assigned female at birth" and AMAB means "assigned male at birth".
If a doctor was advocating on behalf of trans men and certain non-binary people, for example, it might be quicker to say, "AFAB trans people need access to gynaecological services".
A person who has changed, or wishes to change, their external gender through medical treatments.
This term preceded "transgender", and some people still do identify as transsexual. However, as the term is linguistically confusing due to “homosexual” and “heterosexual” etc, it has somewhat fallen out of favour.
According to the IHRA, “Intersex people have innate sex characteristics that don’t fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies, and that create risks or experiences of stigma, discrimination and harm.”
Being intersex is separate from gender or sexual orientation. Some intersex people are also transgender, but most are not.
Celeste is an intersex person who has Turner Syndrome, a condition in which they’re missing an X chromosome. While most people with Turner Syndrome just identify as female, Celeste identifies as non-binary, making them an intersex person who is also trans.
Someone who does not identify as their gender assigned at birth, but also feels they aren’t a man or a woman.
Male and female are binary genders; the opposite ends of the gender spectrum. Non-binary people feel that they do not fit into either of those binary boxes. Some feel androgynous, and experience a lack of gender. Some have a fluid sense of identity, and sometimes feel male, and sometimes female. Some experience gender dysphoria which is alleviated by gender-neutral pronouns, such as they/them.
We already use they/them pronouns in common English language. If your delivery is late, for example, you might say, "I hope they arrive soon". If you missed a phone call from an anonymous number, you might say, "I wonder what they wanted?" These are examples of defaulting to they/them.
Refers to someone’s enduring sexual attraction to others. Sexual attraction is separate from gender identity. This is important to understand.
Transgender people can, and do, identify with a number of different attraction labels. A trans man who is exclusively attracted to other men may label himself gay. A trans woman who is exclusively attracted to men may identify as a straight woman.
Somebody who identifies as their assigned gender at birth, AKA most men and women. "Cis" is pronounced like "sis".
This is a term used to differentiate the rest of the population from transgender people. Cisgender individuals do not identify as cisgender, per se. It is simply a way avoid using language like "normal people and trans people", which alienates trans people.
A man who was assigned a female gender at birth, but experiences an internal sense of self that is male.
Trans men usually wish to be treated like any other man. Trans men will usually (if they are safe to do so) go by he/him pronouns in society. Many adopt masculine haircuts and clothing, in order to be socially recognised as male, and because they are more comfortable dressing that way.
A medical term for distress about gender, often alleviated by being perceived differently, or altering one’s body.
A sense of distress, ranging from mild to severe, caused by a misalignment between a person's internal sense of self and their assigned gender at birth. Many non-binary people experience gender dysphoria, too.
A trans man's gender dysphoria, for example, might be triggered by breasts growing during puberty, because his brain is telling him that he ought to have different characteristics. This is an example of physical/body dysphoria, which can become evident during puberty. Social dysphoria is the discomfort a person experiences when addressed by a name they do not identify with, or by incorrect pronouns.
Somebody who does not conform to gender roles, particularly with regard to clothing choices.
Being gender non-conforming does not automatically make a person trans. Many cis people enjoy gender expression that defies stereotypical “masculine man” or “feminine woman” gender roles.
Gender non-conforming communities include masculine lesbians, who may call themselves "butch", and feminine gay men, who may be drag queens or wear flamboyant clothing.
Gender is Complicated
Everyone Has Their Own Journey
No two transitions will be the same, and transitioning can start at any age. Some trans men, for example, are able to say "I am a boy" when they are still children. Some others are unable to describe their maleness until later in life, when they encounter individuals/communities that help them understand why they are having certain feelings. No two trans men are the same, and similarly, no two trans women are the same.
Some trans men and women view their transitions as being entirely medical, and consider themselves “born in the wrong body”. Many transsexuals also feel this way. Some others, non-binary people included, have a more fluid and evolving understanding of their gender. One trans man may feel very comfortable fitting into male gender roles, and might hate feminine clothing because it causes him gender dysphoria. Another trans man may have no issue dressing up occasionally, or embracing flamboyant fashion in the same way many cis men do.
Some trans people want to slot neatly into binary society, falling into the accepted role of man or woman, whereas others may not fit into that dynamic.
The documentary A Year In Transition offers an intimate, honest, and diverse window into the experiences of AFAB trans people. It is highly recommended for anybody trying to understand trans communities.
This video, featuring a diverse range of trans people, shows community members living normal, average lives. It is highly recommended in order to get a broad overview of how trans people look, sound, and identify. Remember: being trans is only part of a trans person's life! Trans people have hobbies, jobs, partners, and interests. Just like everyone else.
Please note that some of the interviewees may be difficult to understand, so captions are available to help you discern what they're saying.
First Nations Gender Diversity
Brotherboys and Sistergirls are members of First Nations communities who experience an identity outside of colonised ideas around gender. According to Brotherboy Isaac Roberts, "Brotherboys are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were assigned female at birth, but live our lives through our boy spirit. We take on male roles in community and society, and are accepted as such within our cultural world views. Therefore, Brotherboy encompasses both our gender identity and our cultural identity."
Hayden Moon, in this article, explains the complexities of Brotherboy and Sistergirl identities. To hear the voices and perspectives of Brotherboys and Sistergirls, check out the videos below.
Not Automatically Transgender
Drag queens (men who dress in women’s clothes during performances) and drag kings (women who dress in men’s clothes during performances) are not automatically transgender. Though crossdressing communities have an amount of overlap with transgender communities, crossdressing for the sake of enjoyment or art is not synonymous with an individual experiencing a persistent need to transition into another gender.
However, some transgender people participate in drag before they are able to come out, or as an expression of a gender identity they cannot affirm throughout the rest of their life. Gender is complicated, and there is no one right way to exist as a gender-diverse individual. Some drag queens, for example, are transgender women. Some drag kings are transgender men, or masculine non-binary people, or butch lesbians. Some individuals who experience a fluid gender identity may enjoy the freedom of drag expression. Some people may choose not to label their gender at all.
Here are some videos featuring drag performers.
What About Butches?
As stated above, some drag kings are butches. Butches are very different to transgender men, because they do not want to be male, but they definitely experience gender in a different way to most women. Some butches view “butch” as a gender identity in itself, one that exists outside of the binaries, which is how famous butch activist Leslie Feinberg identified. Others steadfastly identify as women, and do not involve themselves in the trans community. Some butches use they/them pronouns as an expression of their gender non-conformity, and some use he/him pronouns while performing drag king acts. The butch community is very complex and nuanced. Here are some videos which capture butch uniqueness.
Places to Seek Local Information
Ygender: A peer led social support and advocacy group for young trans individuals
TransHub: A digital information and resource platform for all trans people and allies in NSW.
Minus18: Australia’s largest youth driven network for LGBTIQ youth
Transcend: Transcend provides parent/carer support, community connection, information, advocacy & fundraising
Transgender Victoria: TGV is an Australian organisation dedicated to achieving justice, equity and quality health and community service provision for trans and gender diverse people, their partners, families and friends.
Transfamily: A group offers a warm and supportive environment for the parents, siblings, friends and family of transgender people.
Transmasc Australia: A peer-based, Australia-wide network offering contact, social support and information for trans men and other AFAB trans people.
Gender Help for Parents Australia: created by Australian parents who have struggled to find information about services and support for issues around their children’s gender identity.