When we are born, we are all assigned a sex designation – usually male (M) or female (F). If you have ever questioned this designation, you might be a transgender person.
There are many ways to be trans. Transsexual people live or desire to live fully as the sex other than that assigned at birth, as in female-to-male and male-to-female trans people. Other trans people are androgynous, non-binary or gender-fluid, resisting the M and F labels. Some trans people are cross-dressers; these people, who often identify as transvestite, have usually been assigned male at birth and wish to express feminine qualities while still identifying as male.
The transgender umbrella is an inclusive term which welcomes all those who wish to identify within it. This might also include drag kings or queens, who may use exaggerated gender performances as a means of exploring their gender identity. Intersex people have bodies with reproductive or sexual anatomy which do not fit the traditional connotations of male or female. A transgender identity is a personal affiliation, rather than a label that should be placed on to an individual.
Gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation, we all have a sexual orientation and we all have a gender identity. Cisgender is the term used to refer to individuals who do identify with the sex assigned to them at birth (in other words, non-transgender).
Some trans people wish to transition they way they live their gender publically. Transition may involve a change of name, pronoun (he, she or gender-neutral they), change of gender presentation (clothing, make up, hair, etc), hormones to induce physical changes, surgery and coming out. Not all trans people wish to undergo all or any aspects of transitioning publically.
Transgender people are frequently misunderstood by society, and as a result may experience struggles with access to services, employment and finding other trans people for support and friendship. The good news is that there are supports available.
We at LGBT Ireland are here to listen in confidence and without judgment every day of the week through our LGBT Helpline. There is also an organisation called TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) who works to support and advocate for transgender people. TENI’s website is full of information and referrals, check it out on www.teni.ie
Also on the TENI website, you will find information about peer support groups, which are run in many locations throughout Ireland. Meeting other transgender people can be one of the most powerful ways of finding support.