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If youre reading this, I probably recently came out to you as transgender. Congratulations! You got to
be a part of one of the most awkward and scary moments of my life. Right now, you might be feeling
a bit awkward. So, to begin minimize awkwardness all around, Ive put together this guide, which I
hope will help you process this new information while also clearing up a lot of the confusion you might
have around this very misunderstood topic.

I know that it can be a bit of a shock and take some time getting used to (trust me, it took me twenty-
five years to get used to it!). Its also something thats not so readily understood. There are a lot of
misconceptions floating around thanks to poor media representation and historically discriminatory
medical and academic research. Because of all the confusion out there, you may be asking yourself
things like, what exactly does transgender mean? How does it aect your sexuality? How do I refer to
you and other transgender people?

My aim with this document is to answer all of those questions and more while also helping you get
comfortable with my new identity and with transgender people in general. Its tough enough being a
transgender person, but its even tougher when the general population and even our own loved ones
use discriminatory language, make assumptions, ask intrusive questions, or treat us as less than

With this resource document, I hope to arm you with the tools to go forth and be a supportive ally, not
just for me, but for all transgender people. This document (though substantial) is just scratching the
surface. I hope it will encourage you to go forth, do your own research, and listen, with an open mind,
to what other people have to say.

As a disclaimer: unless otherwise sourced, these words are my own. They come from many years of
diverse research, discussions with other gender variant people, and a lifetime of my own experiences.
However, my words should not be taken as gospel. Many details about sex and gender are highly
contested, constantly changing, and vary from individual to individual. Ive done my best to give you a
basic overview of the currently accepted language and concepts, but from there, its about listening to
other people and respecting what they say about their own identities and experiences.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this and investigate the resources included. Just that, in
and of itself, means a lot to me. In return, I oer patience while you become adjusted to this news and
these concepts. I know it wont happen overnight, but I want to help in any way I can.

Please dont hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or want more resources.




perhaps one of the most confusing and misunderstood words in the English language.
-Julia Serano, Whipping Girl

Transgender is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender identity does not match the sex they were
assigned at birth. The term can apply to trans women, a trans men, genderqueer individuals, cross-
dressers, and more.

According to current usage, any person who experiences any level of gender variance or
nonconformity could be considered transgender. However, some gender variant people, particularly
individuals from earlier generations, may not consider themselves transgender. Its important to let the
individual tell you how they identify and not force an identity onto them, even if their identity diers
from what someone else taught you.

Transsexual is a subset of transgender. A transsexual person is a transgender individual who socially
or medically transitions to the gender they identify as. Many individuals, especially younger ones, who
could be classified as transsexual prefer the word transgender.

A cisgender person is someone who is not transgender.1 They do not feel any disconnect between
their gender identity and the sex they were assigned at birth. You may also see the term cissexual,
which counters transsexual and has the same nuanced dierences extant between transgender and

The pre-fix cis is from the Latin for on this side. It is the antonym for the Latin trans, meaning
across or on the other side of. This term is preferred to non-transgender because referring to
cisgender people as non-transgender implies that being transgender is not normal. Giving each
identity its own name functions as an equalizer.2

Trans woman or Trans man?

A trans woman is a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies as a woman. Some trans
women might use the label MTF (Male To Female), but just as many reject that label either for its

1 See Donna Lynn Matthews: http://cydathria.com/ms_donna/tg_def.html

2 See Emi Koyama: http://eminism.org/interchange/2002/20020607-wmstl.html


clinical undertones or because they dont feel like they ever were male so it feels inaccurate. Many opt
instead for AMAB, or Assigned Male At Birth, which implies that while they were assigned male by the
doctor when they were born, that does not mean they ever have truly been male.

Likewise, a trans man is a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies as a man. Similar to
above, some trans men might use FTM (Female to Male) or AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) as
additional labels.

Preferred Pronouns
Sometimes also called Preferred Gender Pronouns or shortened to PGPs, preferred pronouns are the
pronouns an individual would like to be called based on their gender identity, not on the sex they were
assigned at birth.

While they are called preferred, that does mean its trivial. You should respect a persons pronouns,
no matter how they identify or express themselves. If youre not sure what someones preferred
pronouns are, its okay to ask politely.

Some gender nonconforming people, who do not adhere to the gender binary of male and female,
might prefer gender neutral pronouns such as they, ze, zie, or more. Heres a guide on how to
conjugate gender neutral pronouns.

Gender Dysphoria
Gender Dysphoria is the condition of feeling that your sex assigned at birth and gender identity are

It is the ocial classification for transgender people in the American Psychology Associations
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (commonly called the DSM-V),
and many equivalent manuals in other nations around the world. In previous editions, it was referred
to as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) or transsexualism. While both terms remain in use colloquially on
occasion, gender dysphoria is the preferred term.

There is some debate within the transgender community about whether gender dysphoria should be
classified as a mental health condition. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM in the 1970s and
many people believe gender dysphoria should be too - after all, the solutions for treatment are mostly
physical, not mental. However, its inclusion in the DSM can often assist in transgender people
receiving health insurance coverage though coverage is still rare and some argue its inclusion
actually leads to more gatekeepers and barriers with regards to medical access than if it were not
included. Its definition as a mental health condition also technically makes transgender people
prohibited from serving in the military.

Dysphoria can be a helpful term for transgender people to describe how theyre feeling when they
experience instances of particular dissonance between how they feel and how theyre perceived or
how their body looks.

Gender dysphoria is dierent than body dysmorphia because with body dysmorphia you see your
body as something that it physically is not. Whereas with gender dysphoria, you can see that your
body is not what you feel it should be.


Terms to avoid:
transgendered, a transgender, or transgenders

The word transgender is an adjective and should not be used as a noun or a verb. You should
say Jack is a transgender person. Not, Jack is transgendered or Jack is a transgender.
Using it as a noun rather than an adjective makes it the only thing we are, rather than a part of
who we are. Or, rather than being human first and transgender second.

This word may be used by individuals who identify with it (for example: Eddie Izzard3).
However, it has gone out of use and many transgender people associate it with historically
discriminatory and hurtful uses.

he-she, she-male, it
Phrases like these are extremely hurtful and imply that the person youre speaking to is a
separate third gender, rather than accepted as the gender they identify as.4 Always use a
transgender persons chosen name and preferred pronouns. If you are uncertain about their
preferred pronouns, you can respectfully ask.

This term refers to intersex individuals (i.e. someone whose chromosomal or anatomical make
up does not fall completely into either male or female sex categories) and does not refer to
transgender people. Most intersex people find this term to be derogatory and outdated. Only
intersex individuals themselves reserve the right to reclaim this term for themselves.

Never use this word. This word is considered a slur like the N word and the F word. You may
hear some trans women using it in reference to themselves. They are the only ones with the
right to reclaim the term.

Physical transition doesnt happen overnight or over the course of a weekend. Some [cisgender people]
assume that a female enters a hospital on a Friday night and emerges Monday morning a fully developed
and fully functional adult male. I wish I knew where that hospital was.
-Matt Kailey, Just Add Hormones

3 Though Izzard continues to use transvestite in stand-up routines where he has popularized the term in its occasional definition of a straight
man who enjoys presenting in feminine ways, he has taken to using the term transgender in reference to himself and others when speaking

4 Some people may identify as a third gender or as outside the gender binary. However, these phrases are still not appropriate to be used for
those individuals. People who identify outside of the gender binary may be genderqueer, androgynous, genderfluid, agender, bigender, or more.
Always ask someone before making assumptions or using derogatory language like above.


Transition is making steps to live ones life as ones true gender identity. There are many dierent
types of transition, including:

Social transition may include coming out to loved ones, using a new name and pronouns, or
wearing dierent clothing.

Medical transition usually (though not always) begins with Hormone Replacement Therapy,
which causes secondary sex characteristics, the bodily changes experienced during puberty.
Trans men take testosterone to grow facial hair, deepen their voices, etc. Trans women take
estrogen to soften their features, redistribute their body fat, etc.

Not all trans people choose to transition and not all trans people who do so, transition in the same
way. Every persons experience is dierent and every persons experience is valid. Even if someone
doesnt transition in the way youre familiar with, their identity, name, and preferred pronouns should
still be respected.

For more on transitioning:

Are You Done? Just Add Hormones by Matt Kailey

Testosterone Hormone Replacement Therapy from FemaleToMale.Org

A guide to hormone therapy for trans people by the NHS

Terms to avoid:
sex change, sex change operation, the surgery, pre-operative, post-operative,
pre-op, post-op
There is no one surgery that magically transforms a person into the other sex. Transition is a
long journey that can take anywhere from a few months to several years and can include many
dierent social and medical processes. Using these sorts of terms is inaccurate, fuels
misconceptions, and places unnecessary fixation on a transgender persons anatomy and
medical history.

You dont need to wait until a certain procedure has happened to begin calling someone by
their chosen name and pronouns. You should start referring to them by whatever name and
pronouns they ask, when they ask you to. Respect their choices and let them tell you how they
identify. Dont force an identity on them.

It is never appropriate to ask a transgender person about their anatomy or medical history.
Would you ask a non-transgender person about their genitals? We understand your curiosity, but
please treat transgender people with the same respect as all other humans. Googling takes the same
amount of time and doesnt make your transgender friend feel uncomfortable, exploited, or

For more on basic terminology, see Chapter One Coming To Terms With Transgenderism and
Transsexuality in Whipping Girl by Julia Serano



Sex is the label you were assigned at birth, most likely based on the anatomy your doctor observed when you
were delivered.

You can be male or female, but you can also be intersex, which means that your anatomy, chromosomes,
or some combination of both, dont completely fit into male or female. There are dozens of intersex
conditions and, because most people dont get their chromosomes analyzed, many people dont even
know they are intersex until theyre adults or ever. Studies estimate about one in one thousand people
have intersex conditions.5 It just goes to show that even sex isnt as black and white as were led to

Gender is often simplistically defined as whats in your head while sex is whats between your legs. To break it
down a bit more:

Gender Identity is your innate sense of being male, female, both, neither, or somewhere in between.
Trans people experience a dissonance between the sex they were assigned at birth and the gender
they experience in their head. Some people feel this from their earliest memories and others realize it
later in life. Both are valid.
Gender Expression is how you choose to express your gender. This can be how you do your hair, what
clothes you wear, etc. Your gender expression does not necessarily have to match your gender
Gender Roles are the masculine or feminine behaviors that are often dictated by society. People may
be pressured to adhere to one or the other, but just like gender identity is separate from gender
expression, so too are gender roles. Someone could identify as male and express their gender as
male, but feel pressure to (or choose to!) exhibit traditionally feminine roles.

This is not about who I want to go to bed with. It is about who I want to go to bed as.
-Dot Marie Jones as Coach Beiste, Glee

Just like cisgender people can be gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and more, so can
transgender people. Many trans women identify as lesbians. Many trans men identify as gay men. And every
combination in between.

5 For more on intersex conditions, including the most recent research, see this article.


Sexual orientation is about the people you are sexually attracted to, with whom you would like to have
sexual interactions with.

Romantic orientation is about the people you are romantically attracted to, with whom you would like to
have some level of intimate relationship with, but not necessarily including sex.

This is an important distinction to make because many people may be sexually attracted to some
genders, but only romantically attracted to others. Or, for example, someone who is asexual might
still feel romantic attraction to one or more genders.

Sexual behavior is about how you act on your sexual orientation.

Its important to distinguish behavior from orientation in the same way we distinguish gender roles
from gender expression. For example, a bisexual woman who marries a man does not become
straight simply because she is in a monogamous relationship with a man. Shes still bisexual. Or, a
priest who takes a vow of celibacy does not become asexual simply because he is not having sex.
He remains heterosexual, homosexual, or however he always identified.

Look, I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I can
have the most beautiful little daughter in the world, and I have that. But Im nothing if
I cant be me. If I cant be true to myself, they dont mean anything.
- Kanye West on Bruce Jenner


Online Resources
Transgender 101 from GLAAD

MTVs interactive Look Dierent project

PFLAGs support guide for friends and family

Transgender FAQ from the American Psychology Association

The Genderbread Person

Whipping Girl by Julia Serano

A Guide to Gender, A Social Justice Advocates Guide by Sam Killermann

My Gender Workbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Achieving Peace Through Gender

Anarchy and Sex Positivity by Kate Bornstein

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Hank Greens Human Sexuality Is Complicated

Laverne Coxs The T Word on MTV

Laura Jane Graces True Trans series on AOL

Fifty shades of gay TED Talk by iO Tillet Wright

trans info for family and friends by Chase Ross

FTM Transition: 5 Years on Testosterone Picture/Timeline by Skylar Kergil

Rylands Story by the Whittington Family

Did You Know? by Julie Vu

20/20: Bruce Jenner - The Interview

Voice from the podcast Pitch

Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!

Tell Me A Story by Skylar Kergil

On Birds and Bodies by Skylar Kergil

I want it to get boring If you think about it, [being] gay and lesbian has now got more
boring than it was back in the 50s and forever history before that Thats what
transgenders got to get to. Were slightly behind the curve on getting boring.
- Eddie Izzard