Educating yourself is key to being an effective trans ally. These Frequently Asked Questions and their answers can get you started.
What do I do if someone I know is transgender?
- Accept them. They are the same person you have always known. Respect the identity they claim. Try to use the same pronoun and name they use to identify themselves. Educate yourselves and others. Do not rely solely on information created by non-transgender people. Advocate for them and be an ally!
I think someone may be transgender. Should I ask? Though each individual has their own level of comfort in being open and discussing their gender identity, it is generally not considered acceptable to ask someone if they are transgender. If someone would like to discuss their gender identity with you, allow them to approach you first.
How should I identify myself if I am not transgender? One option is to refer to yourself as cisgender, rather than using the word "normal" or being identified by what you are not (such as "non-transgender"). It provides a name for a gender identity or performance in a gender role that society considers to be a match or appropriate for one's sex. The idea of cisgender originated as a way to shift the focus off of a marginalized group, by defining not only the minority group but also the majority.
What if I don't know anyone who is trangender? You may know transgender people in your daily life but not know that they are transgender. It is a personal decision to disclose whether one is transgender or not.
How are transgender people discriminated against? Transgender people may be discriminated against in many areas of their lives. Discrimination can range from having housing denied, to being unable to secure marriage/partner benefits, to being labeled and assumed to be a gender with which one does not identify.
What causes someone to be transgender? No one knows, but there are many theories. It may be caused by the bathing of a fetus by opposite birth sex hormones while in utero, or perhaps by some spontaneous genetic mutation, which is also one of the theories of the origin of homosexuality. Transsexual persons include female-to-male (FTM) transmen, as well as male-to female (MTF) transwomen. Due to the intensity of their gender dysphoria, they come to feel they can no longer continue living in the gender associated with their physical (birth) sex.
What is gender dysphoria? Gender dysphoria is the overall psychological term used to describe the feelings of pain, anguish, and anxiety that arise from the difference between a trans person's physical sex and gender identity, and from parental and societal pressure to conform to gender norms.
What is gender transition? Gender transition is the period during which transsexual persons begin changing their appearances and bodies to match their internal gender identity. Because gender is so visible, transsexuals in transition MUST "out" themselves to their employers, their families, and their friends - literally everyone in their lives. While in transition, they are very vulnerable to discrimination and in dire need of support from family and friends. Hormonal therapy can take several months to many years to effect the physical changes in secondary sexual characteristics that will produce a passable appearance, and some may never pass completely.
What is the Real Life Test? For transsexual persons seeking Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS), the Real Life Test (also called the Real-Life Experience) is a one-year minimum period during which they must be able to demonstrate to their psychotherapists their ability to live and work full-time successfully in their congruent gender. The Real Life Test is a prerequisite for sex reassignment surgery under the Standards of Care.
What are the Standards of Care? The Standards of Care are a set of guidelines formulated and recently revised by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH, formerly known as the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, Inc. (HBIGDA)) under which many transsexual persons obtain hormonal and surgical sex reassignment. While the Standards of Care minimize the chance of someone making a mistake, they have been criticized as a "gatekeeper" system. In general, a complete gender transition includes a period of psychotherapy to confirm one's true gender, the beginning of lifelong hormonal therapy, the Real Life Test, and finally, if desired, sex reassignment surgery.
What is sex reassignment surgery (SRS)? SRS is the permanent surgical refashioning of sexual anatomy to resemble that of the appropriate sex. For MTF transsexuals, SRS involves the conversion of penile and scrotal tissue into female genitalia. For FTM transsexuals, it may be limited to just top surgery (breast removal) and sometimes hysterectomy. While many transmen become satisfied with their new male anatomy, most opt out of genital surgeries for a variety of reasons, including the expense and dissatisfaction with the results. Many MTF trans people also undergo additional cosmetic procedures, including electrolysis to remove facial and body hair, breast augmentation, Adams Apple reduction, hair transplantation, liposuction and many types of facial surgeries.
What is the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation? Gender identity is a person's internal sense of being a man or a woman, a boy or a girl. Sexual orientation is someone's sexual attraction to others who may be of the opposite sex, the same sex, or either sex. Like other people, transgender people can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual. Generally speaking, their gender identity - not their physical sex status - determines their sexual orientation.
What is Gender Identity Disorder (GID)? GID is a psychological classification found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. Although GID is the only diagnosis under which trans people may receive treatment, and therefore it is necessary, it also is controversial. GID has been used inappropriately and harmfully used to treat gender variant youth. Moreover, many if not most trans people also believe they do not have a mental disorder.
from University of Austin, Texas