A trans-identified, transgender or transsexual person is someone who feels they were born in the wrong body (for example, someone born either with female anatomy who feels male, or with male anatomy who feels female, on a deep, psychological and emotional level) and therefore has a gender identity that is different from their birth gender. Just because someone is trans-identified does not mean that the person is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Gender identity and sexual orientation, although interwoven concepts, are separate issues. Gender identity is “one’s internal and psychological sense of oneself as a male or female, or both or neither.”
Anne Fausto-Sterling says, “biologically speaking, there are many gradations [of gender] running from female to male.” Gender as a continuum allows for each of us to self-identify our place on the gender spectrum, taking into consideration physical, emotional and societal considerations. However, in social reality, the concept of gender on a continuum is only in the exploration stages. Binary gender is deeply ingrained in our social and legal system. Whether it would be advantageous or realistic to move toward a spectrum approach to gender is a matter for gender activists and future generations to examine. Also many people who are questioning their gender identity strongly believe in there being two genders; they just feel that they were born in the wrong body.
Many transgender people know as early as when they are toddlers that their physical gender does not match their gender identity. Some are devastated by the physical changes that result from puberty, because they are convinced that their physical body will somehow change to fit their psychological identity. The process of coming to terms with being trans-identified can be profoundly confusing, especially for a youth who has no support in this discovery.
Once a transgender person comes out there are many more challenges to face. If the person is a youth living at home, parents will have a say in the youth’s transition. People disagree on what an appropriate age is to decide that one is transgender or transsexual, especially if that decision involves hormone therapy or surgery.
See the ACLRC pamphlet Employer’s Guide: Trans-identified people in the workplace.