What is “Transgender”?

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Written by Nova R.R. Gardner, TeenSource intern, who identifies as genderfluid

What is transgender? Who is transgender?

Everyone is assigned a sex (either male or female) at birth based on the appearance of their genitals. The term transgender describes a person whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. For example, someone could be assigned female at birth and identify as a man, vice versa, or they may identify as something else altogether. There are many terms for us,  There’s trans men and trans women, for those identifying with the binary, (more about that later) and there are multiple different identities for those of us who identify under the umbrella term of “non-binary.”  Identity, if it is trans or non-binary, is something we give ourselves. It’s not something that someone else puts on us.

Someone who is not transgender is considered cisgender. An example is someone who is assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman.

What does non-binary mean exactly?

The gender binary is the idea that there are only two opposite genders -- male and female – and a person must be one or the other. “Non-binary” is a large umbrella term for people who do not identify with the man/woman gender binary. There are genderqueer people, genderfluid (as I identify myself), there are agender- and neutrois-identifying people, there’s transmasculine and transfeminine (for those who do not identify with the binary, but do identify with masculinity/femininity), and plenty of other terms for those of us who identify under that non-binary umbrella.

Are transgender people “gay?”

Yes and no. For instance, identifying as transgender is not a sexual orientation in itself— it’s a gender identity. There are straight transgender people and there are queer transgender people. To call a transgender person gay is really using transphobic language because you are mixing their gender identity with their sexuality – two different things. A trans man is not straight if they only enjoy romantic or sexual relationships with other men. A trans woman is straight if they only enjoy romantic or sexual relationships with men. The point is, gender identity and sexuality are separate concepts and it is important we do not use the two interchangeably.

If you or your friends have more questions about gender identity, binary and non-binary people, and sexuality, there are additional resources and support at:


Planned Parenthood