Understanding 101  

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Do you think most children during their development stage worries about their gender? It feels normal and natural for many girls to be female and for many boys to be male. But that's not true for everyone. Transgender people who are born as boys feel they should be female, and those who are born as girls feel they should be male. But try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning and upon looking into the mirror, you come to the shocking realization that the gender you portray is incorrect! Can you imagine how one would feel?

People who are transgender feel like they're living inside a body that's all wrong for them. They often say they feel "trapped in someone else's body."

When we think of ourselves as male or female, it's called gender identity. Everyone has a gender identity — the inborn sense of ourselves as being male or female. Most people's gender identity matches their anatomy. But those who are transgender feel different from their physical appearances.

What society expects of men, women, boys, and girls also affects what we feel about ourselves. Every culture has "rules" about what is expected for men and what is expected for women.  How we should act, the clothes we ware, our behavior, etc, etc. 

Society doesn't have to state these rules because we see them all over. So most people grow up believing men should act a certain way and women should act a certain way without thinking about it much. Transgender people, though, have a very different sense of themselves.

Some transgender people know they feel "different" from the time they're young children. Others start sensing it around puberty or even later. When people who are transgender become aware that they feel mismatched with their bodies, they may feel confused and emotionally conflicted. Some decide to physically change their bodies — through surgery or taking hormones — to match the gender they feel they really are. Physically becoming the opposite gender can be a long, complicated, and expensive process.

Gender-DysphoriaNot all transgender people decide to get surgery or hormones, though. Some are most comfortable keeping their physical anatomy but dressing as the opposite gender. Some aren't completely sure what they want yet, but may start by asking to be called a new name and use the pronouns that go with that name (such as "Amanda" instead of "Anthony" and "she" instead of "he").

Once transgender people start living their lives as the opposite gender, many issues may come up — like how to fill out forms that require checking "female" or "male," and even which public bathrooms to use. Not to mention how society will accept them this is the biggest issue. As with any group, not all transgender people want or think the same things. It all depends on what that particular person needs to feel most comfortable in both body and mind. The word transgender doesn't only mean that a person identifies with the opposite gender. It also can be used by people who don't feel like they're either completely male or completely female.

In addition to transgender, people use other words to describe feeling different from the gender they were born with, such as gender variant, MTF (for male to female), or FTM (for female to male). Some don't want to be called by any of the terms typically used to describe people who are questioning their gender. They just want to be known as who they are, unique in their own special way.

Gender Identity vs. Sexual Orientation

Being transgender is not the same thing as being gay. Being transgender is about gender identity — the way people see themselves and the gender they identify with. Being gay or lesbian is about sexual orientation — the gender someone is attracted to. But one can be gay and transgender meaning it is not uncommon for a MTF transgender to be attracted to another female. Just remember sexual orientation and gender are two separate things. Not to be confused with each other.

Gay men are attracted to other men and lesbian women are attracted to other women. And most of the time, they're comfortable with the gender they are.

Because sexual orientation is different from gender identity, a transgender teen can be straight, gay, or bisexual — just like other teens can.

Many health experts believe that being transgender isn't caused by any one thing. What makes a person comfortable or uncomfortable with his or her anatomy is unclear, but they believe it's the result of a complex mixture of biology, psychology, and environmental factors — and not simply a matter of choice.

For people who are transgender, the realization that they feel different from others also can be very difficult. They may face rejection, discrimination, and even anger from people who don't understand transgender identity, and it can be a challenge to deal with others' reactions. Not everyone is tolerant or accepting, and transgender teens can face situations that can feel hostile and be unfair. This may lead to feelings of depression and isolation.

Advocacy groups and a growing number of health professionals can help transgender people find acceptance, support, rights, and appropriate medical care. Many expert medical centers are available to help transgender people —and their families — address the complex physical and emotional issues they might face.

Like everyone, transgender people want to feel accepted, understood, and supported.

The key is education, for when we come to accept and understand things we are not certain about, we eliminate fears and uncertainties. The more we understand these issues and topics the easier it is to understand and support others who are going through such stages in life.

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.