Gender diversity is an umbrella term for gender identities that exhibit a range of expression beyond the binary framework.
For many gender diverse people, the concept of “binary gender”—having to express themselves as male or female—is constricting. Some trans, intersex and gender diverse people would rather have the freedom to explore the various gender identities or not have a gender identity at all. Others simply want to be able to openly defy or challenge more conventional gender concepts. Gender diverse people’s identities revolve around projecting a more outwardly authentic image to the world, whether they identify as differently gendered or have no gender at all.
Trans/Transgender: An umbrella term used to refer to people whose gender identity doesn’t correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth.
Cisgender: Persons whose gender identity is the same as the gender assigned at birth.
Intersex: A broad term for people who are born with varying sex characteristics that do not fit into the traditional binary definitions of male or female bodies. Being Intersex is not the same as being trans. An intersex person has a variation in their internal or external sex characteristics, while a trans person is one who is of a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth.
This is how you refer to people when not using their names. Pronouns are connected to how you express your gender identity.
If you are unsure of the pronouns a person uses, you may ask them by starting with your own. For example, “Hello, I am Ken, and I use they or them pronouns.” “What about you?” Then use the pronoun they give you and encourage others to do the same. If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun for someone, apologise and correct yourself.
Gender affirmation / transition
Most trans people seek to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity and expression.
Most trans people go through three stages of gender transition:
Social transition involves changing the name and pronouns. One starts to dress and present themselves according to their gender identity.
Medical transition refers to when one starts hormone therapy to increase or decrease sex characteristics and undergoes gender-affirming procedures to align their bodies with their gender identity. They include bottom surgery (any form of surgery that deals with reproductive organs or genitalia), chest reconstruction (which involves removal of breast tissue in order to masculinize the chest), facial feminization, etc.
Legal transition involves changing one’s name and sex marker on official documents such as school certificates, birth certificates, national identification documents, and driving licenses.
It’s important to note that not all trans, intersex and gender diverse people can or will take those steps, and that being trans is not dependent on the medical procedures one has undergone. Psychotherapy is usually recommended to help one take care of their psychosocial well-being as they affirm their gender.
AMAB stands for “Assigned Male At Birth.”
Transwoman: a person who was assigned male at birth and identifies as female.
AFAB stands for “Assigned Female At Birth.”
Transman: a person who was assigned female at birth and identifies as male.
Cultural-specific trans identities/third-gender: these are gender identities that are specific to cultures/ societies that accept more than 2 genders.They may or may not see themselves as “trans,” but these identities are unique to their cultures, and they normally take on the roles of all genders in society as well as a spiritual role. They are deeply tied to these cultures and are not an identity that people outside of these cultures can have. They include: Hijra—Indian and South Asian, Two-Spirit: Native American (used by many nations and groups), Femminiello: Neapolitan, Travesti: South American, Māhū – Hawaiian, and Tahitian
Nonbinary/genderqueer: Any identity that does not correspond to the traditional gender binary (male and female). It is used as an umbrella term for many identities that simply lie outside the binary (which itself falls under the larger umbrella term “trans”).
This refers to when you look at someone and decide whether they are male or female based on how they express themselves, whether through their dressing or how they behave or look. Outside our trans community and our allies, social attribution always applies inside a binary framework. So one is a man or a woman, and it can’t be neither or both. Gender attribution is immediate, and anything confusing is met with hostility or leads to discomfort for the person attributing.
It can be really difficult for trans people to be seen as the gender they identify with. Some may not have the resources to change their expression. Some may not want to change so as to fit in this heteronormative society. Some may be nonbinary and cannot pass no matter how they dress or express themselves since they live in a cisnormative society. Most governments do not recognise third-gender markers.
The media, for a very long time, has idealised gender as just male and female. Growing up, images of men and women have been of individuals who are white, thin, straight, able-bodied, and at the extreme ends of masculinity and femininity. No one who falls in between the spectrums has been given representation. However, it’s really difficult, even for cisgender people, to live up to these standards. If cisgender people cannot live up to these standards, neither should trans people have to.
How to be an ally?
Create inclusive forms. Client forms may be made more inclusive by adding gender options beyond the normal gender binary of “male” or “female,” adding more gender identity options such as “transmale,” “intersex” “genderqueer,” “agender,” “nonbinary,”, or even adding a “write-in” option. This can help bring up a discussion of gender identity.
Advocate for trans-friendly policies. It is critical for trans, intersex and gender diverse people to be able to dress, live, and have their gender identity respected at work, school, and in public without fear.
Support all-gender public restrooms. Encourage public institutions and businesses to have all-gender restroom options. Some trans, intersex and gender diverse people may experience a challenge in choosing the restroom to use. Make it clear that they are welcome to use whichever restroom makes them feel the most comfortable and safe.
Know and respect the fact that there’s no one way to be trans, intersex and gender diverse . The best way to learn about us and understand us better is to talk to us and listen to our stories. And also check online (on social media platforms) for more trans, intersex and gender diverse stories.
Educate your local community. This can be done by making sure that the sex education being done is inclusive of trans, intersex and gender diverse people.
Be careful about confidentiality. Trans, intersex and gender diverse people’s gender history is personal and confidential information, and only we have the right to share it with other people. Some of us may be comfortable disclosing our life stories, while others may not. Please respect this by not sharing or disclosing that information without our consent. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, but we may also lose our source of income, jobs, family, or even our own lives when other people know about this.
Respect the term trans, intersex and gender diverse persons uses to describe their identity. Different trans, intersex and gender diverse people use different terminologies to describe their identities and experiences. Ensure you use and respect the terms (trans,, “agender,” etc.) we use. Just as you wouldn’t like someone to define your identity, do not try to define ours. Allow us to do it on our own.
Be patient with a person exploring or questioning their gender identity. since it may take some time for us to figure out their gender identity. It is important to give us space and time as we do so. If we decide to change our pronouns and names later, please be respectful enough to use the name and pronoun we use.
Don’t ask about a trans,intersex and gender diverse persons’ genitals and sexual life. It is inappropriate and an invasion of our privacy to ask about our genitals, the surgeries we have undergone, and what they are used for. Please do not ask trans people questions that you would not ask a cis person.
As an ally, do not be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. It is better to admit that you have no idea about something than to make assumptions or say something that may be incorrect or hurtful. Look for appropriate resources that will help you learn more.
Show up for the trans,intersex and gender diverse community. Attend rallies, protests, and court hearings about transgender people’s rights. As an ally, use your privilege to fight for trans,intersex and gender diverse rights, elevate our voices, and raise awareness about our issues. Donate to non-profit organisations that do grass-roots advocacy and centre trans people in their outreach activities and advocacy. This will help us grow their capacity and be able to reach out to more people.