What Does It Mean to Be Transgender?

· Updated on December 14, 2023

Being transgender is an aspect of gender identity where individuals’ gender experience doesn’t align with the sex assigned to them at birth. Transgender individuals may identify with a gender different from the one typically associated with their biological or physical characteristics. Exploring and understanding transgender experiences is crucial for fostering inclusivity and acceptance within the broader community.

In this article, we’ll delve into what it means to be transgender and the various dimensions of navigating this unique aspect of gender identity.

Where does the word Transgender come from?

The term “transgender” has its roots in the late 20th century, emerging as a way to describe individuals whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth. It emphasizes the fluidity and diversity of gender experiences, recognizing that gender is not strictly confined to a binary.

The word we know and use today became popularized by trans woman writer Virginia Prince in the December 1969 issue of Transvestia, the magazine she started in the 1950s.  Her normalization of the word consequently led to the word transgender becoming an umbrella term in the mid-70s, while the words “transgenderist” and “transgenderal” were used to refer to transgender people who didn’t follow through with gender reassignment surgery. 

It wasn’t until the mid-1990s and early 2000s that we saw a shift in the word transgender. This is when the terms trans*, “trans man” and “trans woman” came about. The term became closer to the definition we use today. In later years, the term transgender began to include genderqueer people as well. 

Other ways to say “Transgender”

Language evolves, and individuals may prefer different terms to express their gender identity. Some alternative ways to refer to being transgender include:

  • Trans
  • Non-cisgender
  • Gender diverse
  • Genderqueer
  • Gender nonconforming

It’s essential to respect individuals’ preferences regarding the language used to describe their gender identity.

Understanding Transgender Identity Today

Being transgender involves recognizing a misalignment between one’s gender identity and societal expectations based on assigned sex at birth. This realization is deeply personal and can occur at any stage of life. Transgender identity is diverse, encompassing nonbinary and genderqueer experiences, with an acknowledgment that gender identity is fluid, allowing for personal evolution over time.

The transgender community has faced a variety of trials and tribulations regarding being treated with respect and having access to basic needs. In contemporary transgender politics, advocacy can focus on legal protections against discrimination, healthcare access, and streamlined identity documentation processes. Media representation plays a crucial role in shaping public perceptions and fostering understanding. In recent years protests and social media have been helpful in bringing awareness to the community.

While progress has been made, challenges persist. Ongoing efforts aim to address these challenges and create a world where transgender individuals can live authentically with full recognition of their rights. 

It is important to keep up to date with transgender news so that we may better aid the movement and bring awareness to unjust policies. You can explore some of these issues on our website.

Here are some articles that can help you understand how the transgender identity falls into today’s politics:








Is this identity for you?

Understanding one’s gender identity can be a complex process. If you’re questioning whether you identify as transgender, consider reflecting on the following:

Do you feel a disconnect between your gender identity and the sex assigned to you at birth?

Transgender individuals often experience a profound sense of mismatch between their gender identity and the gender assigned to them at birth. Reflecting on whether you feel aligned with your assigned sex or if you identify with a different gender is a crucial step in understanding your gender identity. Many transgender people experience gender dysphoria, the feeling of emotional and psychological discomfort that can arise when a person’s gender identity doesn’t align with the sex they were assigned at birth. 

How do you envision your gender expression?

Consider how you see yourself in terms of gender expression. Does your self-perception align with societal expectations based on your assigned sex, or do you feel more comfortable expressing a gender that differs from those expectations? If so, that is wonderful! You shouldn’t feel guilt or shame when coming to these realizations. 

How does the term “Transgender” make you feel?

It is important to think about whether or not you want to adopt a label. Does this word evoke feelings of pride and joy? Reflecting on your emotional response to the term “transgender” can offer insights into your understanding of your gender identity. It’s normal for this process to take time, and some individuals may choose not to use labels at all.

Transgender Representation in Media

Media plays a significant role in shaping societal perceptions and understanding of diverse identities. Engaging with books, movies, TV shows, and other forms of media that depict transgender characters is an excellent way to gain insight into transgender experiences.

Here are some great options:

  • Disclosure: A documentary that explores the representation of transgender individuals in film and television, offering insights into the impact of media portrayals on societal perceptions.
  • Boys Don’t Cry (1999): Based on a true story, this film tells the tragic tale of Brandon Teena, a transgender man, and the challenges he faced.
  • If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: This young adult novel is a work of fiction about a transgender girl named Amanda who moves to a new town and faces the challenges of being open about her identity.
  • Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: This comprehensive resource provides information and perspectives on various aspects of transgender life, covering topics from medical aspects to relationships. A must read if you are looking to expand your knowledge on the transgender identity. 

Our culture page is a valuable resource for more content related to LGBTQ+ identities, including transgender experiences.

The Transgender flag


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A post shared by Hecate Design. (@hecate_design_)

The transgender flag, designed by transgender activist and Navy veteran Monica Helms in 1999, consists of five horizontal stripes. The colors represent:

  • Light blue: Traditional color associated with boys
  • Pink: Traditional color associated with girls
  • White: Represents those who are nonbinary, genderqueer, or identify as gender nonconforming
  • Blue: Symbolizes masculinity
  • Pink: Symbolizes femininity

Displaying the transgender flag is a meaningful way to show pride in one’s identity and promote visibility and acceptance


Understanding and acknowledging transgender experiences are essential for fostering inclusivity and acceptance within society.Respecting and using the language preferred by transgender individuals is crucial for creating supportive environments.

The transgender community is diverse, and identities within this community extend beyond the binary understanding of gender. It is also important to know that if you are feeling alone there is a vast community waiting to embrace you and offer you support. 

If you resonate with the ideas above and are contemplating exploring or expressing your gender identity, take the time to do so in a safe and supportive environment. Reach out to resources and communities that can offer guidance and support on your journey of self-discovery and understanding.

In addition, be sure to learn about the other LGBTQ+ identities, subscribe to the INTO newsletter to learn more.  

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