To be Transgender— An Extensive Analysis

The basic introduction of a multiple part series.


The term ‘transgender’ has taken quite the prevalent appearance within the media; the laws on public restrooms, the persecution in foreign countries, and deaths around the world, whether by suicide or by homicide. Despite the spontaneous occurrences that are reported, there are individuals who do not take the term into account, individuals who might not have a clear grasp nor understanding.

So, what does it mean to be transgender? Well, the answer is simple, yet the explanation behind it is complex.

The term ‘transgender’ is, “…an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth,” (American Psychology Association, Updated 2017). Gender identity is an individual’s natural psychological and biological sense of either being male, female, or anything else that falls within a wide spectrum of, not mystical nor imagined genders, yet those that exist within nature and culture. Gender is not typically associated with certain behaviors, hairstyles, or physical characteristics, yet it can be if an individual desires to fit within societal standards of a specific gender.

Sex is a characteristic that is primarily identified at birth, and is associated, “…with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy,” (APA, 2017). If the individual is to later recognize a significant psychological discomfort with their attributed sex to their gender identity, then the individual is likely to be transgender. Those who identify with their assigned sex are referred to as ‘cisgender’ by medical doctors.

Contrary to common belief, gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate characteristics. Being transgender does not correlate with being heterosexual, homosexual, or anything else— it is an entirely different aspect on its own.

Why are people transgender?, one may ask. However, “There is no single explanation for why some people are transgender. The diversity of transgender expression and experiences argues against any simple or unitary explanation. Many experts believe that biological factors such as genetic influences and prenatal hormone levels, early experiences, and experiences later in adolescence or adulthood may all contribute to the development of transgender identities,” (APA, 2017).

But most definitely, being transgender is not necessarily a mental disorder— what is a mental disorder is a condition referred to as ‘gender dysphoria’.

A mental disorder is recognized when an individual displays evident distress and disability with a certain psychological state. Those who identify as transgender do not find their gender identity to be distressing, therefore being trans does not constitute the prevalence of a mental disorder. What is a mental disorder, however, abiding by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Vol. 5), is something referred to as ‘gender identity disorder’ or ‘gender dysphoria’— the intense and persistent discomfort of one’s assigned sex misaligning with their gender identity. Gender dysphoria does not necessarily disturb all transgender people, but there are many other factors that can cause distress. These factors include, “…finding affordable resources, such as counseling, hormone [replacement] therapy, medical procedures, and the social support necessary to freely express their gender identity and minimize discrimination,” (APA–2017 and GLSEN, 2017).

Although being transgender is often portrayed as being someone entirely new, that is not necessarily the case— a transgender person still has their same personality, yet different gender. If the person has always been genuinely terrible and obnoxious, they are still terrible and obnoxious. If a person has always been kind and sweet, they are still kind and sweet— it depends on the people they are surrounded by.

There is much more to being transgender in different societies, and the ideologies of transgender people have shifted as the years have gone by, yet this is only the beginning. Within the Mead High School community, we are a home of a diverse crowd— including transgender students that may or may not be open about their differing gender identity.

Unfortunately, that does not mask that there are individuals who seek to discriminate and spread false information about the transgender community specifically. In 2016, three UCLA students and a UC San Diego student made quite the step over expressing opinions based on false facts in an image shared by Julia Nista on social media. Although the students are safe under the Freedom of Speech to express their opinion on a topic, why is it considered a good idea to share a blatantly incorrect fact/opinion (one particular student held a sign that states “Transgenderism is a mental disorder”) without any further disclaimer or sources?

Undoubtedly, opposing ideologies linger throughout our school, and the MHS Gay-Straight Alliance (which meets every week in B119) is working to reduce those existing tensions.  

Over the next weeks, the history, the biology, psychology, and more will be shared about what life is as a transgender individual.