Transgender is not a gender identity on its own, rather it is a gender modality; it expresses that there is a difference between one's AGAB and one's gender identity.
The opposite of transgender is cisgender.
The Trans Umbrella
Transgender (also referred to as the transgender umbrella, or the trans umbrella) is most commonly understood as an umbrella term that can refer to a wide range of experiences. The term trans on its own does not solely refer to men who were assigned female at birth and women who were assigned male at birth; however, these experiences are representative of a very significant proportion of the trans community.
To reflect this, the trans umbrella includes both binary trans individuals (binary trans men and binary trans women) and non-binary trans individuals, even though not all non-binary individuals identify as transgender.
Binary Trans Men and Women
Binary trans individuals are those who identify fully, solely and statically as one of the two western binary genders (men and women). This includes both binary trans women and binary trans men, often referred to simply as trans women and trans men. It is also possible for one to be a non-binary (trans) woman/man.
- Trans women are women who were generally not assigned female at birth, most commonly referring to women who were assigned male at birth (AMAB). Trans women may also identify as transfeminine, but not all transfeminine individuals are trans women.
- Trans men are men who were generally not assigned male at birth, most commonly referring to men who were assigned female at birth. Trans men may also identify as transmasculine, but not all transmasculine individuals are trans men.
- Binary trans women and men may also have been assigned X at birth/unassigned at birth (though not all AXAB or UAB individuals are/identify as trans, or as men/women).
- AFAB Transfem and AMAB Transmasc individuals also exist.
Any individual whose gender identity is not fully, solely and/or always aligned with their AGAB may identify as trans. This means that non-binary gender identities are inherently included by the term transgender, and that any non-binary individuals can identify as transgender, if they wish to. Many, but not all non-binary individuals, however, do not identify themselves as trans and do not use the label transgender to describe their experiences/identities.
Non-binary individuals may also identify as transneutral, transfeminine, transmasculine or a number of other terms depending on an individual's gender identity.
Are GNC Individuals Inherently Trans?
Gender non-conforming cisgender individuals, crossdressers and drag performers are not inherently transgender and/or non-binary or associated with the trans community, though many are. This is because presentation does not always indicate one's internal sense of gender identity, and one may dress in a way that is seen as atypical for someone of one's gender without necessarily having a gender identity that is different to their AGAB.
Transgender people are, however, sometimes GNC. The gender presentation of GNC transgender individual would not conform to the individual's actual or current gender, rather than their assigned gender. For example, a GNC transfeminine individual would present in a way not seen as traditionally feminine.
Trans as an adjective
When writing about trans individuals, the word "trans" is be used as an adjective. One does not write "transman" or "trans-man", but rather writes "trans man", where trans is used as adjective to describe a category of men.
Trans+ and Trans*
Sometimes "trans" is written as trans+ or trans*. The asterisk or plus sign indicate inclusion of all transgender, non-binary, and associated identities (such as drag queens/kings and crossdressers), without having to write out "transgender, non-binary, and associated identities" in full every time. Many drag queens/kings and crossdressers are trans or non-binary, and use drag as a way to explore their gender identity. However, performing drag does not inherently make one trans or associated with the trans community.
Transgender vs. Transsexual
Transsexual is an older term originating in the medical and psychological communities. It was previously used interchangeably with transgender, and is still used by some transgender individuals. In the modern day, transsexual or transsex can also be used as a term to refer to individuals who have changed or seek to change their bodies through medical routes, such as hormonal replacement therapy and/or physical surgeries. However, most individuals prefer the word transgender, as it is less medicalized and is more inclusive of individuals who have not, cannot, or do not want to medically transition.
Many (but not all) transgender individuals experience gender dysphoria - a feeling of discomfort or self hatred stemming from a disconnect between their internal sense of gender and their outward appearance, their bodies, and/or how others perceive them. Gender dysphoria, often called just dysphoria, can range in intensity; it can be severe, moderate, mild, or not there at all. Sources of dysphoria can be and often are different between individuals, and these sources can change over the course of one's life and/or transition.
Passing is a term used by trans individuals to describe their appearance, and whether they can be mistaken for a cisgender individual. For example a trans man would "pass" when others assume they are a cisgender man.
Transitioning refers to the act of beginning to live as one's actual gender, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. Transitioning can be social and medical. Social transitioning typically involves going by one's chosen name, pronouns, and often changing one's clothes, hair, and other parts of one's appearance to present as one's gender. Medical transitioning is the act of changing one's body to be closer to one's desired body. It can include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and surgeries. Both of these things can help with dysphoria.
Not all trans individuals choose to fully transition, or to transition at all. Some may socially transition, but not medically transition; some may undergo certain aspects of transitioning but not others - for example undergoing HRT, but not surgery. Alternatively, some may change their name and pronouns, but still dress similarly to their assigned gender at birth due to being gender non-conforming, and may still pursue medical transition.
A transgender individual's "dead name" (often shortened into "deadname") is the name that they were given by their caretakers when they were born/at a young age. Most, but not all, transgender individuals choose to change their name as a part of their transition. The act of using a transgender individual's previous (dead) name intentionally, when one knows their real name, is called "deadnaming".
Flag and Symbols
The transgender flag was designed by trans woman Monica Helms in 1999 and was first shown in a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2000. The flag has two blue stripes, the traditional color for baby boys, two pink stripes, the traditional color for baby girls, and a white stripe, representing non-binary, transitioning, and intersex individuals.
The most common transgender symbol is a mix of the female (Venus) symbol, male (Mars) symbol, and the androgyne (Venus and Mars mixed) symbol. This symbol was designed in the early 1990s by Holly Boswell, Wendy Parker, and Nancy R. Nangeroni.
There are many variations of the transgender flag, and many more have been created throughout the years. A few common variations are as follows
The black transgender/POC flag was created by trans activist and writer Raquel Willis as a symbolic show of the level of violence towards those that are both people of colour and transgender, as a way to spread awareness and to allow trans individuals of colour to be prideful. It was first used in the United States of America in 2015 in Black Trans Liberation Tuesday. However, some feel that this flag erases non-binary identities by replacing the white stripe.
Another example of a variation of the transgender flag was "The Trans Flag", created by graphic designer Michelle Lindsay in Ottawa, Canada. This flag incorporates sunset fuscia to represent female, ocean blue to represent male, and has the unicode transgender symbol overlaid in white to represent the trans community as a whole. The colours are bold to represent confidence and pride with the sunset and ocean colours representing the unlimited horizons of the trans movement. This flag was first used in 2010 in Ottawa for the Trans Day of Remembrance and is raised yearly. This flag has also been seen in a number of pride protests.
There is also the Israeli transgender and genderqueer pride flag, consisting of a bright, neon green, base that has been defaced with the transgender symbol. This flag has been used, along with its lesser known base of a black base with a neon green symbol, in pride protests across Israel. The original creator is unknown.
In 1999, Johnathan Andrew, aka "Captain John" created a flag for the trans community which he published on his FtM (Female to Male transgender) website called "Adventures in Boyland" in Oakland, California. The pink represents female identities, the blue represents male identities, and the white stripes represent the transition between those identities. Emblazoned on the top left corner of the flag is a combination of the Venus (♀) and Mars (♂) symbols (⚥). The purple within this symbol represents the merging of the male and female identities to incorporate those that are neither female nor male transgender or are a mix of both, now perceived to be a representation of the non-binary community.
Another flag was coined by Cryptocrew at Hayden000's request on January 16th of 2021, and was first published one day later. The caterpillar and butterfly with the original transgender colors represent the transition to one's true self, whether socially, physically, or both. The colour meanings are as follows:
- Dark blue is for transgender men
- Blue-purple is for transmasculine individuals
- White is for multigender individuals and individuals with fluid genders
- Yellow is for xenic and outherine individuals
- Dark green is for agender/genderless individuals
- Purple is for androgynous/neutral individuals
- Pink is for transfeminine individuals
- Dark red is for transgender women
An alternative trans flag was created based on Monica Helms' flag by Reddit user 33ducks around February 2021, with more shades of blue and pink representing a wider variety of ways to be trans. This flag also does not keep the blue/boy on the outside and pink/girl on the inside stripe pattern.