Topic Overview and Basic Terminology
Gender identity is one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither. For transgender people, their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-binary people identify their gender to be outside of the two most common categories of male and female – maybe both, neither, or fluidly changing.
Many people form their concept of personal gender identity early in life. Transgender adults often remember noticing as children a difference between how their bodies looked and how they felt on the inside. Other transgender individuals make this discovery later in life as teens or adults.
Gender expression is the external appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.
Some people feel that their bodies do not match their gender identity or expression and choose to seek medical treatment. Treatment options range from hormones to gender affirming surgery. Not all transgender or gender diverse individuals choose to seek medical intervention. Social transition refers to non-medical interventions such as using chosen name and pronouns or changing hair and clothing styles. Social transition is often the first step for many transgender individuals, especially children and adolescents.
Sexual orientation is different than gender identity and expression. Sexual orientation is an inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.
Health and Support
Transgender individuals can have distinctive health issues and health needs. Rejection, prejudice, fear, and confusion cause long-term stress in many transgender people. Constant stress can impact overall health and well-being, and studies show that transgender individuals are at an increased risk of suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, and substance use. Take any feelings of stress, sadness, or depression seriously, and talk to your doctor or a mental health specialist.
Whatever your gender identity, it’s important to remember you are not alone. There are lots of other people like you, many of whom share the same emotions and questions that you have. It can be comforting and helpful to talk to people who know what you are going through. You can find links to local and online supports below:
Resources and Supports in Maine:
Maine Trans Net https://www.mainetransnet.org/
Health Equity Alliance https://www.mainehealthequity.org/
Equality Maine https://equalitymaine.org/
Other Resources and Supports:
Human Rights Campaign Transgender Resources www.hrc.org/resources/topic/transgender
GLAAD Transgender Resource Guide www.glaad.org/transgender/resources
GLAAD Transgender Glossary of Terms www.glaad.org/reference/transgender
Transgender Visibility Guide www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-visibility-guide
National Center for Transgender Equality www.transequality.org