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Transgender: What does it mean?

There are many terms in use over the years that may be unfamiliar or confusing to a wide range of people. Because June is LGBTQIA2S+ month (Pride Month), the Justice & Inclusion team believes it pertinent to define at least one term more clearly.

“Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which assigned at birth” (“Answers to Your Questions. . . “). Essentially, if a person was assigned female at birth, that person may express more culturally “male” tendencies. That might mean they dress in clothes typically worn by men, or have haircuts seen more on men than women. This is just one of the many reasons gender stereotypes are not accurate or helpful for defining people in general.

Some may also choose to undergo hormone therapies to change their physical appearances. This also goes the other direction where people assigned as male at birth want to express themselves as a culturally feminine person. There are also people who do not wish to conform to the binary idea of only male or female, but want to be free to identify themselves in a more “fluid” fashion.

Gender identity is not the same as who a person is attracted to, which is a sexual identity. Gender identity is about who the person is inside, and which traits feel more normal and natural to follow.

There are many opinions about transgender folks that I will not address here. In the spirit of inclusion, it is most respectful to use terms and names that each individual prefers. This may include gendered pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/hers), trans or transgender, or male/female/gender fluid. Generally speaking, it is acceptable to ask what pronouns are preferred, what preferred name a person uses, and to share your own preferences. What may not be safe is to make assumptions based on appearances. It is also acceptable to apologize sincerely and briefly, make the correction, and move on if you do not use correct pronouns. It is also not polite to ask deeply personal questions that you would not ask someone who is not transgender.

The idea of a transgender neighbor may feel new to some of us. However, the experience the feeling in the wrong body has been around for centuries. Other terms may have been used: transsexual, intersexual, gender non-conforming, or terms specific to a particular culture. Artistic depictions of people with both male and female sex organs date back to the Neolithic period; human remains that are characteristically male have been found in a female burial ground; there are records or eunuchs performing “female” tasks. This source has a brief timeline of things you probably don’t know about the history of transgender people. Another source offers a map that shows cultures that recognized and celebrated transgender folks through the ages.


“Answers to Your Questions about Transgender People, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression.”, 2014,

“Planned Parenthood.”, 2022,

“Seven Things about Trans People That You Didn’t Know.” Human Rights Campaign, 2018,

“Transgender People Have Always Existed.” ACLU of Ohio, 10 June 2016,

‌“What Is Trans History? | Perspectives on History | AHA.”, 2018,

‌Wikipedia Contributors. “Timeline of Transgender History.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 June 2022,


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