Trans 101

What is does being transgender or gender expansive mean? What are general experiences of transgender Americans?

Please read below for the basics on gender identity and expression. We recommend you review and share the resources below. Further, you can schedule an in-person training with a professional educator for a full opportunity to learn about gender identity development and supporting transgender students.

In essence, understanding gender identity is similar to learning about others with varying personal characteristics, such as race, disability, or national origin. When our conversations are based in compassion for our fellow human beings, we can better realize our goal of respecting each other in the diversity of human existence. 

Trans 101: The Basics

Gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are all different personal characteristics.

Gender identity and expression relates to a person’s inward and outward sense of self, respectively. Sexual orientation is completely different as it relates to who a person is attracted to. Both gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation, exist on spectrums of identification.

Everyone has a gender identity. A person’s gender identity is deep sense of self as masculine, feminine, a blend of both, or neither. Gender identity is how an individual sees themself, and can remain constant or change over a lifetime. Gender expression is the outward manifestation of a person’s sense of gender, generally shared through clothes and apparel. Gender expansive or gender non-conforming are used to describe a person who does not identify with a binary gender. An individual’s gender identity or expression may or may not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Sex determinations are generally designations by a doctor upon birth as male, female, or intersex, in reference to observed physical anatomy or chromosomes. 

Individuals whose designated sex at birth corresponds with the gender identity they relate to are referred to as cisgender. For example, a person designated female at birth who then also identifies as a woman, would be cisgender. However, sometimes an individual could be designated one sex at birth but have a deeply and consistently held gender identity not associated with that designation. An individual’s realization of their varying gender identity can provide for them to identify as transgender or gender expansive. 

The National Center for Transgender Equality provides a Trans 101 FAQ and additional Basics on Transgender People on their website.

Experiences of Transgender Americans

The United States is home to an estimated 700,000 transgender Americans. Many transgender people in our country face large obstacles. In many spaces, physical and structural violence against transgender people prevent them from accessing schools, public accommodations, human services, healthcare, and employment.

A historic national survey in 2011 commissioned by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force, Injustice at Every Turn, provides a first and alarming understanding of the experiences of transgender Americans. As a result of widespread transphobia and bigotry, the report found from its respondents that 41% had attempted suicide and were 4x more likely to live in extreme poverty. Transgender people are at a significant risk of physical harassment, assault, and homicide, with higher rates for transgender women of color. In 2015, the US Trans Survey, issued by the National Center for Transgender Equality, found continued alarming statistics.

The effects of rejecting transgender people from full inclusion in a community can have lasting and devastating effects.

Conversely, supporting and affirming transgender people, especially as young students, can have lifelong personal impacts. In turn, embracing transgender people can raise up entire communities in dignity and respect.

Additional Informational Resources

Transgender Terms Listing from the National Center for Transgender Equality
Injustice at Every Turn (2011) – National Transgender Survey by NCTE + National LGBTQ Task Force
US Trans Survey (2015) – National Center for Transgender Equality
Welcoming Schools from the Human Rights Campaign

Organizational Resources

The Pennsylvania Youth Congress
Full listing of LGBTQ community organizations in Pennsylvania
Full listing of LGBTQ youth support groups in Pennsylvania (PYC)
The National Center for Transgender Equality
The National LGBTQ Task Force
The GSA Network