WHAT DOES TRANS*GENDER MEAN?
Trans*gender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity and/or gender expression/behaviour does not conform to that which is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. This can include people who identify as transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens, drag kings, genderqueer, masculine-identified females, feminine-identified males, MTFs, FTMs, transmen, transwomen, androgynous, and other differently gendered people.
Trans*gender people feel their gender identity does not fully match their assigned sex or societal gender norms attached to their assigned sex. Some trans*people undergo full surgical transitions while others opt for only some of the surgeries. Some folks take hormones (with or without surgery) while others simply dress in the clothing of the gender that matches their identity. Other trans*people live in-between the masculine/feminine gender roles our society prescribes. The important thing to remember is that gender is about who you are on the inside, not about what your body may say about you on the outside. As well, gender is different than sexual orientation and, just like cisgender people, transgender people identify along all parts of the sexual orientation spectrum.
Gender is between your ears and not between your legs.
~ Chaz Bono
How Do I Know If I’m Trans*gender?
Some people can tell that their gender identity does not match their sex from their earliest memories while others may not figure it out until much later in life. Gender is very complicated and it can take years to really figure out where you fall along the spectrum. What works best for some is cross-dressing occasionally, living somewhere in between genders, or abandoning gender entirely (“gender retirement,” as musician Rae Spoon calls it). Others feel the need to completely transition to living fully as the opposite sex.
Your gender identity is an important part of your identity as a whole person and you are your own best resource and advocate for your own identity! It’s okay to question your gender and to feel uncertain, and there are many resources available to help you explore your identity. Check out books from your local library or the library at University of Saskatchewan. You can also contact places like the Avenue Community Centre to learn as much as you can about other trans*people and the many possibilities that exist for your life. Remember that sexual orientation is separate from your gender identity and who you are attracted to does not change who you are.
Okay, I’m Trans*gender. Now What?
If you’ve come to the realization that you are trans*gender, you may need to make some decisions. You don’t need to figure it all out right away, but you should start considering whether you want to make changes to your life (for instance, going by different pronouns or a different name) to be more comfortable in your skin. Talking with other trans* people and allies can be a huge help during this process.
If you find that you would feel most comfortable transitioning to living as the other sex physically as well as socially, there are many options out there, including hormone therapy, surgeries, and other procedures. Refer to places like the Avenue Community Centre, to trans-friendly medical professionals, and to the internet for more information. Regardless of the information you access, the decision to transition—including any relevant medical stepping stones—is your decision. Other people can advise you but only you will know what is best for you.
…gender is not sane. It’s not sane to call a rainbow black and white.
~ Kate Bornstein
The first step of coming out is actually coming out to yourself—thinking honestly about your gender identity and accepting who you are. This can be a difficult process and it can be helpful to have support, whether an accepting friend or other trans* individuals. Finding a gender therapist or a therapist who supportive of the GSD (gender and sexually diverse) community is another good step.
You should also think about who you will tell. As well, it is completely up to you how, when, and if you disclose your gender identity. Writing a letter to your parents can be a good way to explain to them a complicated situation that they might not understand; talking to a close friend about coming out to family members can be another good way of preparing yourself for their reactions beforehand. There is no set of rules for coming out, and every individual and every situation is different.
You will need to be realistic about coming out. It can be difficult for people to understand and accept that you are trans*gender. Keep in mind that while you may have had years to think about your identity, this information is potentially brand new to your friends and family. In some cases, those who have known you a long time will feel like “the old you” has died and that they need to mourn that loss. Some people may need a lot of time to come around to being supportive while others may never accept your identity. This is part of the reason why many trans* people wait until they support and love themselves before coming out.
Where Can I Find Other Trans*gender People?
The gender variant community is very diverse and they don’t all hang out in the same places. Check out places like the Avenue Community Centre to find groups for trans*gender people or trans*gender individuals. The trans* community is also very active online; try searching the internet for “transgender forums” and you will find plenty of safe spaces to ask questions. Also check out GSD magazines and GSD friendly spaces for more options.
Do I Need To Worry About HIV/AIDS?
Every sexually active person needs to be aware of the risks they are taking when having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Using fresh, undamaged latex condoms, dental dams, and latex gloves will substantially reduce the risk of transmitting HIV/AIDS or a number of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
It is important you never take risks you are uncomfortable with. If you need more information on lowering the risks of getting HIV/AIDS or other STIs, contact the Avenue Community Centre or your local sexual health clinic or AIDS organization.
Sexual Health Services at the ACC
Some trans* people find it difficult to access proper medical care for fear of discrimination or misunderstanding. The Gens Hellquist Queer Sexual Health Clinic at the Avenue Community Centre is a queer-positive alternative for services such as pap and STI/HIV tests. The Clinic is open on Thursday nights from 6 to 9 pm; you can either drop in or book an appointment.
The Transgender Flag
The transgender flag is composed of a light blue stripe, the traditional color for masculinity, a pink stripe, the traditional color for femininity, and a white stripe for those who are intersex, transitioning, or consider themselves as having a non-binary or undefined gender. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying transfolks finding correctness in their lives.
No matter who you are or how you identify, you have a right to be happy, safe, and fulfilled. Being trans is a wonderful thing and gives you a unique perspective on life and the world. And at the end of the day, it’s your life and your choice how to live it. Choose being your happiest, most fulfilled self!
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
~ Lao Tzu
TransSask Support Services: http://www.transsask.org/
Transgender Transition & Medical Consumer Guide - www.transgendercare.com
American Educational Gender Information Services - www.gender.org/aegis
Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide - www.ftmguide.org