Getting to Know Your Transgender Peers - By Kyle Foley

In a world where being transgender is finally coming into light, I know that there are a lot of misconceptions about what being transgender really is. So who better to explain it than a trans guy? Let’s start with the basics; the term transgender is used to describe someone whose gender identity differs from their birth sex. Gender identity is a term that is used to describe a person’s sense of being a man or a woman. So for someone like me, their gender identity and birth sex do not match. This means they are transgender. If someone tells you that they are a trans boy/transgender man, this means that they identify as male and would very much like to be referred to as a man. A common term that transgender men use is FTM, which stands for female to male. For a trans girl/transgender woman, it would mean that they identify as a woman and would appreciate you treating them as such. A common term you’ll see for a transgender woman is MTF, which stands for male to female.

So, with a few of the basics out of the way, let’s move on! Why is knowing about your trans peers important? Well out of personal experience, I can simply tell you it’s because we want to be treated like anyone else you know. But also out of personal experience, I can tell you that we normally aren’t treated properly. This is because of misconceptions or just lack of knowledge. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey California Results, 75% of students who expressed a transgender identity reported some sort of harassment, 31% reported physical assault, and 13% reported sexual violence. On top of that, 19% reported harassment so severe they had to leave a K-12 school. Now the final 2 statistics I want to give you are these; according to The Trevor Project, 40% of transgender adults admitted that they have attempted suicide and 1/6 of 9th grade to 12th grade transgender students admit to considering suicide in the past year (Study results posted in 2016). Being transgender is obviously not easy. If some of you actually know me, you see me constantly smiling, but my close friends can easily see that being transgender has taken a heavy toll on me. Being transgender has caused me to grow up quicker than other people my age.

Okay so now that we have the heavy stuff out of the way, let's go back to the basics. Something that transgender people have is gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a conflict between a trans person's brain saying that they are one gender, and their physical features do not match that gender. Gender dysphoria is very painful on a person's’ mind. To the Psychology community, gender dysphoria is called gender identity disorder.

So how do we talk about people who are transgender? When referring to someone who is trans, do not say “Jane Doe is a transgender.” When referring to trans people, you should use “trans” or “transgender” as an adjective. This means that you shouldn’t say “a transgender” or “transgendered.” Another thing I would like to express is that if you find out that someone is transgender, it’s considered impolite to ask them about their body, and you shouldn’t do it. You might sit here and laugh at that one, but I honestly can’t count on 2 hands how many times someone has asked about what parts I have. It is also very rude to ask someone if they’ve had “the surgery.” Let me explain that there’s more than 1 surgery a trans person may want, and that the surgeries are personal because it’s their body.

Many trans individual opt to start HRT, which stands for hormone replacement therapy. Basically, this means that a transgender man will take testosterone so their body masculinizes. Testosterone can be taken many different ways and if you want to know all of those ways, I’ll leave it up to you to Google that. Transgender women will take estrogen to feminize their bodies. Again, this can be taken in many ways and if you’re curious you can use Google.

Some trans people are perfectly fine with telling people that they are in fact transgender. Other people don’t feel comfortable, and if you know someone who doesn’t want to tell others, please don’t tell others. It’s rude and disrespectful and just wrong because their body does not concern other people. Hopefully this was helpful and gave you a slight amount of insight.

- Kyle Foley

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