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Transgender Basics


The Transfaith Institute is mostly about moving beyond "Transgender 101," but in one of our first inquiries, someone said,

I would like to understand the basics of transgender issues. I would like to be more prepared and informed so that when someone who is transgender visits or joins our Church, I will [be able to] offer a great welcome that is open and informed. Assume I know very little.

This is an honest request, showing an open heart and a willingness to learn. That's a great starting place! Thank you! So, we're going to start with a basic resource.

The best short video on the transgender concepts that we've seen so far is from the LGBT Community Center of New York. It's just 20 minutes and is a great way to make sure you have a handle on the basics.

And as I write this in summer 2013, Orange is the New Black (OITNB) is all the rage on Netflix. So, it's worth mentioning that Laverne Cox ("Sophia" in OITNB) is one of the main characters in this video, telling her story!

Some quick highlights:

"Our culture likes to make things simple, and gender isn't."
Carrie Davis

"It was the constant fight of me saying 'there is nothing wrong with being this kind of girl,' as opposed to, 'well, I'm not a girl.'"
Nicco Beretta

"I just knew that I wasn't as feminine as other girls. I just felt kind of different.... It was a relief. Oh! I can identify as genderqueer."
Sad Chang

"I grew up internalizing a lot of transphobia... and homophobia, as well... there was so much anxiety about me being so feminine and trying to fix me."
Laverne Cox

"It's not always easy to know how people refer to themselves... We can take a look at someone, and see based on the way they are dressed or how they look... that might be an incorrect guess."
Ray Carannante

There are lots of ways to do "Transgender 101" -- and no one video can do everything. But some of the things we especially like about this video are 

  • the way it combines concepts with the stories of real life people;
  • that it doesn't leave out non-binary identified people (for instance, neither male nor female... or both!);
  • how it shows that cultural gender expectations impact everyone, not just transgender people;
  • its presentation of a real-life mix of human need, from self-understanding to getting competent care to being treated like a whole person (not just trans).

As we are getting started with the Transfaith Institute, I want to go back to where I started this blog entry -- to reinforce the need for asking honest questions. The Transfaith Institute is designed to be a learning community -- so, your questions are more than welcome here!

"I'd rather people ask questions... even if they are not nice questions... than not try to understand."
Nicco Beretta

Note: This article is part of the Transfaith Institute community care blog, working to equip and empower community members to provide care and support for people of transgender experience. Sign-up to get email updates when new content is posted.


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