What do all these words mean?
There’s a lot of words you might have heard used by, for and about trans people; a few important words that we use a lot are trans, cis and non-binary.
Trans (or trans*, or transgender): An umbrella term anyone else who identifies as something different from, or in addition to, their assigned sex (what they were assumed to be when they were born). Trans is not a sexual orientation: trans people may have any sexual orientation.
Cis (also cisgender): Not trans. Trans means across; cis means on the same side. Cis people’s assigned sex (the sex you are assumed to be when you’re born) and gender are on the same side, e.g. they were assigned male and birth and grew up to be a man.
Non-binary: Someone who identifies as neither a man or a woman, or maybe as both; someone outside the binary (only two) which assumes that there are only two genders.
Okay, but what does it mean to be trans, anyway?
Gender is a pretty complicated thing: how you feel in your head, what you biology is, and the types of roles you play in society are all different aspects. Have a look at the ‘Genderbread Person’, which shows some of the different aspects of what gender can mean.
To download the Genderbread Person, click here
Biological sex is your physical makeup, your chromosones, genitalia, hormones, etc. and includes male, female and intersex. Gender is how you feel and is not defined by what you have in your underwear! It’s your internal sense of self and includes man, woman, boy, girl, and a 101 other things. Being trans just means that the gender (male, female, or non-binary) you feel yourself to be isn’t always the gender people see.
You can also check out this Trans 101 page, created by trans and gender diverse young people in Australia!
Is being trans and being gay the same thing?
No! Being trans–having a different gender than the one you were assigned–is not a sexuality/sexual orientation; you can be trans and be straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, or asexual.
Do I need to change my body to be trans?
Being trans does not necessarily mean you will have any operations or take hormones to change your body: some people do, some people don’t. It’s a personal choice, and whatever you choose doesn’t make you any ‘more’ or ‘less’ trans.
Does that mean I should be happy with my body and not change it?
Your feelings about your body are your own! Some trans people need to take hormones or have surgery to be healthy, happy and comfortable in their bodies, and that’s perfectly okay.
Do I need to act or dress a certain way in order to be ‘really’ trans?
No! Trans people are unique individuals, just like cis people are; a cis man might like long hair or short, a cis woman might like makeup or hate it, but it doesn’t change their gender. It’s the same when you’re trans. You don’t need to fit a stereotype of what a trans person looks or acts like to be trans.
Is being trans a ‘new thing’?
Trans people have been around for as long as there have been people, it’s just come more into public knowledge recently so it seems to be very new. See the trans timeline for more information
My parents, foster carers or other people who take care of me don’t understand what it means to be trans
You can have them get in touch with us, or with Mermaids UK, which helps parents and carers of young trans people, or show them one of our guides like the Genderbread person or our Come Out and Say It Guide.
Some people find it really hard to believe someone they know is trans, because even though it’s not uncommon, it’s a very taboo subject. Bear in mind that this is something you’ve probably been thinking about for a long time and so you’ve had chance to get used to the idea of being trans. The people that you tell will probably not have given it much thought so it’s likely to be a big surprise to them. Most people come round in time. If you can, spending time with them often helps them to realise you’re who you always were, just with a different identity.
Some of these other resources might also be helpful to you and your parents, carers and teachers.
Are there any famous or notable people who are trans?
There are many famous trans people! You can read about them here.