Gender identity is our internal understanding of our own gender. We all have a gender identity and it is completely invisible to everyone: think of it as the heart and mind of gender. The term “transgender” is used to describe people whose gender identity does not correspond to the gender that is assumed to align with their assigned sex at birth and/or the stereotypes associated with that sex. A transgender woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth but does not identify as a man. A transgender man is a man who was assigned female at birth but does not identify as a woman.
For many transgender individuals, the lack of congruity between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth creates stress and anxiety that can lead to severe depression, suicidal tendencies, anti-social behavior, and/or increased risk for alcohol and drug use.
Transitioning - the process that many transgender people undergo to bring their outward gender expression into alignment with their gender identity - is a medically necessary treatment strategy that can effectively relieve this stress and anxiety.
For practical tips on how to provide respectful care to your transgender patients, please see Transgender Law Center's 10 Tips for Improving Services to Transgender People.