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This ground-breaking survey was (and is) the first to provide a significant national assessment of health and discrimination among transgender people. The results are sometimes shocking.

This Trans 101 website page from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project points to the diversity of transgender experience, rather than one (or just a few) singular narratives.

While this blog entry has some "unprofessional" language, it also effectively challenges some important narratives that get repeated in Transgender 101 trainings all too often.

This 20 page resource from PFLAG, published in 2009, is designed to help parents, friends, and family become familiar with transgender concerns.

This very accessible book by Joanne Herman is a great introduction to the transgender experience.

This resource from the Human Rights Campaign details key political issues facing transgender communities and includes short anecdotes as well.

This quick reference from the National Center for Transgender Equality accompanies their Teaching Trans curriculum and provides answers to some frequently asked questions.

This 20 minute video, called "Transgender Basics," does not address issues of faith communities, but provides an excellent, audio-visual overview of transgender issues. Developed by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center (New York, NY). Available for free, on-line.

Transgender Basics

Key Points

When someone's assigned gender does not match their gender identity, we call them "transgender" -- which can still mean a lot of different things. If someone's gender expression does not match gender norms and expectations, but they still affirm their assigned gender, we call them "gender non-conforming."

Both transgender and gender non-conforming are very broad categories of experience. Being transgender is not just one thing. Being gender non-conforming is not just one thing. Each person makes many choices about how to handle their particular experience and life circumstance -- which in the end is what makes each of us unique and special.

Going Deeper: Our Varied Choices

There are many layers of decision making embedded in the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming.

Acceptance and Disclosure

The first challenge for transgender people is simply acknowledging our lived experience. To question the gender we were assigned at birth can feel like questioning everything -- especially for those of us from less flexible family or cultural backgrounds.

Even once we accept our experience, we may risk losing everything by sharing that information with others. Gender norms and expectations are a powerful force. Revealing a hidden conflict with our assigned gender can carry dramatic consequences, including loss of family, housing, and employment.

Transgender people talk more frequently about "disclosure," than about "coming out" -- though both are used. Whereas "coming out" can suggest a dynamic of "hiding" or "deceit," the frame of "disclosure" makes it more clear that these are choices we make about how we manage private information (incl. medical history).

Identity, Name, Pronoun

Words are powerful things and loaded with gender significance. Finding language for our affirmed gender is a multiple step process that often takes time and discernment.

  • What labels do I choose to describe myself?
  • How does my given name match or conflict with my affirmed gender? Will I choose a different name? Will I make those changes legally or just socially, like a nickname?
  • What pronouns do I prefer?
  • How will I communicate all of this new information to others?

Medical Intervention

Not all transgender people pursue medical interventions. It is a very personal choice -- and there is no "right" way to transition.

Conversations sometimes get stuck on "bottom surgery."  However, many people of transgender experience either don't desire "bottom surgery" or simply cannot afford it. While this is often a very significant event for those who pursue it, "bottom surgery" is by no means the first or most life-changing medical intervention.

Hormone therapy is often (but not always!) one of the first medical interventions transgender people pursue. It usually has dramatic impact, both physically and emotionally. For some people, this will be the only medical intervention taken.

Other common interventions include chest reconstruction, hair removal, or other surgeries to shape secondary sex characteristics.

Trans Basics
Gender vs. Sexuality
Beyond the Binary
Labels and Vocabulary
Myths and Sterotypes
Children and Youth
Is it an Illness?