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What is a Transgender Individual?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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A transgender individual is a person with a gender identity which is not consistent with his or her assigned gender; in a classic example, someone with the genetic makeup of a man may feel that she is truly a woman. A wide spectrum of people are transgendered, and there is some dispute as to when someone should be considered a transgender individual, and when another label might be more appropriate. A transgender individual may also be referred to as “trans,” but the term “trannie” is generally deemed offensive.

It is important to distinguish between gender identity and sexual orientation, because some people confuse the two. Gender identity has to do with someone's perceived gender. Historically, gender identity has generally been confined to the binary of male and female, but in the 20th century, activists increasingly began to promote the idea that there are other ways of viewing gender, and that in fact biological gender is more of a continuum than a binary system. Sexual orientation involves sexual attraction, and is independent of gender identity.

While transsexuals are perhaps the most well-known examples of transgender individuals, other groups may also be considered transgender. For example, some people identify as a third or “other” gender beyond the familiar continuum, and they may also consider themselves to be transgendered. A person with a gender identity that agrees with his or her physical gender is known as “cisgendered,” taken from the Latin “cis,” which means “on the same side.”

Cross-dressing is also sometimes considered a transgender behavior, because it involves an exploration of gender and traditional gender roles. However, many cross-dressers do have a gender identity which conforms with their assigned gender, so they could not technically be considered transgender.

Like men and women, transgendered individuals can take on a variety of appearances. Some transsexual individuals work very hard to pass as members of the gender they identify with, for example. Some may struggle with their gender identity for some time before finding therapy, support groups, and advocacy organizations to help them. Others may be outspoken advocates for transgender issues, promoting things like unisex bathrooms and anti-discrimination policies for the workplace, while some may prefer to keep their transgender identity quiet. Fears of discrimination and prejudice often lead transpeople to keep their identities under wraps.

In all probability, you have interacted with a transgender individual without even being aware of it. In the event that you do interact with a transgender individual who is open about a transgendered status, try to remember to be polite. Genuine curiosity can be very offensive or hurtful to some transgendered people, and while many out transpeople are happy to educate people, topics like genitalia are usually considered to be taboo. It is also good form to follow a transgendered individual's example when using pronouns and other terms to describe gender and identity.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Ashley90 — On Nov 25, 2013

I'm a 23 year old guy and I have always felt that I am really a female instead of a male. Most of the times I have shaved my whole body, worn female clothes and acted like a woman in every aspect of my life, sometimes by myself and other times with other men who usually want me to do stuff for them.

I don't know how to go about telling my family and friends about this and I want to have the complete change. I want to to have the hormonal change and sex reassignment surgery. I even want to get married to a man and be his wife but I am to scared about what everyone will say.

By sm76 — On Jul 17, 2013

@anon79059: You have the right to think what you want, but forgiveness comes from the heart and I do believe it also states in the bible if you cannot forgive then I cannot forgive you. The bible does not teach intolerance or hatred towards one another. Be the better person and give up the ignorance.

By sm76 — On Jul 17, 2013

@anon324631: It might be hard at first, but no matter what, the person your entire family disowned is the same person inside. Just because they cannot identify with their sexuality does not make them bad people. All they want is to be accepted in the world and to lose family is the biggest blow you could receive.

Family is supposed to love unconditionally and I would also be worried about the same things you're worried about because to lose the biggest support group in your life is extremely devastating to anyone. I would get over my fears and reach out and at least talk and get to understand before it's too late.

It only takes one person to make a difference. Be that person. Overcome and be the one to reach out because it's hard enough coming out with something like this.

By anon324631 — On Mar 11, 2013

Well just last week, my nephew just posted that he is a transgender. He said he could not hold it inside any longer and he had to let everyone know. He posted pictures of himself dressed as a woman and explaining how he felt and knew that a lot of us in the family would not understand. Well, he was right, because when I saw what he had posted on facebook, I was just shocked and very angry. This is because my brother only had one son and and he lets everyone know what he is.

I am glad my brother never got to see this, God rest his soul. My family has disowned my nephew and so have I. It is going to take me a while before I can be able to accept and understand why he has become a transgender. The only thing that I worried is that the whole family has disowned him and I am so afraid that he will commit suicide because we don't love him anymore and he is no longer part of the family.

By anon256189 — On Mar 20, 2012

I am concerned and confused. I was just dating a woman for about six months. She just came out and told me she used to be a man. I just looked lost and confused and angry. Everything about her was a woman, even her voice. She had several surgeries at the age of 16 to 18.

How am I to adjust to such an option and understand. I am straight-but confused. What straight groups that are out there that I can attend to understand?

By anon241121 — On Jan 17, 2012

Well if it's a child, then that child needs help! If it is a man in his 50s, then something is wrong and it is not transsexual -- it is choice, because he was married for 20 years and two kids and grandchildren! Something is wrong with this picture.

By anon169882 — On Apr 23, 2011

Since a person can be born a man but identify herself as a woman and visa versa, can someone be born a human and identify herself as a giraffe? Can something be born a duck and identify herself as a goat? If there is a thing as transgender, who is to say there isn't such a thing as transspecies.

By anon161437 — On Mar 19, 2011

I felt the same way. But then again, Jesus said why are you pointing to the straw in my eye when you have a rafter in your eye?

I actually have a child with this issue. I feel horrible that he looks in the mirror and sees a man when he really thinks he is a woman. God will judge us. Let's not be the judges, because we all need things that we need to work on, because none of us are perfect and its not our job to judge. Go and fix your issues instead of everyone else's.

By anon150264 — On Feb 07, 2011

well i was born a man and i do have morals, and they do not come from what i prefer to wear or not to wear or how i feel about who i am.

as for real men, what are they other then testosterone driven individuals who want to spread hatred because someone is different than you? Grow up. i have a right to be a individual and wear and feel what i want. the fight should be to eliminate hatred and violence towards others who are simply just individuals and nothing more. --ian d.

By anon106408 — On Aug 25, 2010

@Anon79059: Since you believe in God, may he forgive your narrow minded and ignorant views.

By anon79059 — On Apr 21, 2010

It all starts in the home. No more morals in this country and no more real men to stand up for the truth. They have all turned from the truth and walk in darkness. I will never accept one of these individuals, nor will i conform to their ways or follow the crowd and say oh well, fight for righteousness and truth.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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