For Trans People
What Does Being Transgender Mean?
A transgender person has a gender (binary or non-binary) that is different to what was presumed for them at birth. "Transgender" is often shortened to "trans" in conversation.
Gender is innate and research suggests a biological basis. Only you know your gender, no one else can work that out for you. Many trans individuals have always known, since their first memories of childhood, that their gender identity is different. For others, it's a longer journey to discovery which may not become apparent until later in life. There are no medical tests to tell if you are transgender. But, if you are questioning your gender, we want to let you know that you don’t have to work this out on your own. It is normal to have doubts and fears.
Whilst the internet can be useful, we strongly recommend that you go and get professional support from a therapist who can help you work through your feelings, and give you the space and freedom to explore your gender identity. See your GP or find a health provider on the AusPATH website. If the first therapist isn’t understanding, find another. Your feelings are legitimate, and deserve to be taken seriously.
Terms & Labels
Here is some of the terminology you may hear used in transgender spaces! This is a list informed largely by Western transgender communities, and other countries have diverse and unique spaces too... but as a starting point, and especially if you’re an Australian, this is the language that you will likely encounter as you try to find your community.
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.
A person who has changed, or wishes to change, their external gender through medical treatments.
Or, people who experience a persistent need to transition into the opposite sex. The 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 fallen out of favour.
Somebody who identifies as their assigned gender at birth, AKA most men and women.
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 term used to avoid sentences like, "transgender people and normal people". As transgender people are not abnormal, and should not be labelled insultingly, the word "cisgender" just helps create non-hostile clarification.
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.
A man who was assigned a female gender at birth, but experiences an internal sense of self that is male.
Trans men wish to be treated like any other man. Trans men will usually (if they are safe to do so) go by he/him 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 woman who was assigned a male gender at birth, but experiences an internal sense of self that is female.
Trans women wish to be treated like any other woman. Trans women will usually (if they are safe to do so) go by she/her in society. Many adopt feminine mannerisms and clothing, in order to be socially recognised as female, and because they are more comfortable dressing that way.
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.
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 sensation of happiness, comfort, and elation, caused by the alleviation of gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is caused by the misalignment between someone’s brain and their body; contrastingly, when a person’s gender is recognised, they experience the opposite sensation, often called gender euphoria. When a trans man binds his chest, he may experience gender euphoria, because he looks like a cis male. When a trans woman is addressed as “she” and by her chosen name, she may feel gender euphoria.
Refers to someone’s enduring sexual, romantic, and emotional attraction to another person.
Sexual attraction is separate from gender identity. 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 does not conform to gender roles, particularly with regard to clothing choices.
Being gender non-conforming does not automatically make you trans. Many cis people enjoy gender expression that defies stereotypical “masculine man” or “feminine woman” gender roles. It is okay to redefine what being a woman, or being a man, means to you. But, if your gender identity proves to be more complex than that, perhaps “transgender” is indeed the label for you!
There are many new and emerging non-binary labels; here are some of the more commonly known ones.
Genderfluid person: someone whose gender identity changes over a period of time, and is not fixed. Genderqueer: a synonym for “non-binary”, that indicates someone’s identity is outside of the binaries. Agender person: someone who does not identify with a gender. Demiboy/demigirl: someone who only partially identifies as a boy (demiboy) or a girl (demigirl).
Trans men who are Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander, and have a strong sense of their cultural identity.
Brotherboy is a gender identity. For more information, see the iView series Transblack, featuring interviews with four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Trans women who are Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander, and have a strong sense of their cultural identity.
Sistergirl is a gender identity. For more information, see the iView series Transblack, featuring interviews with four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
For an insightful look at non-binary identities, and the experiences of young non-binary people, check out the 4 Corners documentary episode Not A Boy, Not A Girl.
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 transgender man may feel very comfortable fitting into male gender roles, and might hate feminine clothing. Another transgender man may have no issue dressing up occasionally, or embracing flamboyant fashion in the same way many cisgender men do.
There is no wrong way to be transgender, and no two transgender people are the same. Some trans people want to slot neatly into binary society, whereas others may not fit into that dynamic.
The documentary A Year In Transition offers an intimate, honest, and diverse window into trans masculine experiences. It is highly recommended for anybody trying to understand trans communities.
What About Drag Performers?
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. Some individuals who experience a fluid gender identity may enjoy the freedom of drag expression.
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.
FTM Australia – a peer based Australia-wide network offering contact, social support and information for men identified ‘female’ at birth who medically transition to male in Australia.
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.
Trans Photos & Videos
American Boys. Photographs of transgender men and trans masculine people.
Butch Gender Experiences
If you are an AFAB person questioning your gender identity, in addition to transgender labels, you may want to consider the butch community. 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. Others steadfastly identify as women. The butch community is very complex and nuanced, and it may be your space.