What Does it Mean to be Trans, Non-Binary or Gender Non-Conforming?

Gender non conforming child playing outside

What Does it Mean to be Trans, Non-Binary or Gender Non-Conforming?

Pride is a celebration, but it began as a protest led by trans people of color.  If we’re gonna talk pride, we need to talk about those who continue to be marginalized at higher rates than many other members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community: trans people.

What does it mean to be trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming?  It can mean a lot of things and it is different for every person.

drag kid, with her chihuahua

At the Beginning

When we are born, someone looks at our genitals and uses that to determine our gender: boy or girl.  This is referred to as “gender assigned at birth”. For many of us, they get it right. We feel like our insides match our outsides.  But for many people, they feel this label does not fit.  Children as young as three-years-old express feelings that the gender they have been labelled with is incorrect.

Shane, who identifies as non-binary and gender-fluid on the LGBTQIA spectrum

I’m Not What You Think I Am

When the gender assigned at birth does not fit sometimes there is another gender that feels like it does fit.  For example, a person assigned male at birth might proclaim “I am a woman”.  Others say they don’t feel like a woman or a man. These folks often identify as non-binary, gender neutral, gender queer, or gender non-conforming.  Understanding your trans identity is usually a process and it’s not one with a start and finish.  Identity is a constantly shifting thing, and not just for trans people. Regardless of how you identify your gender, you may find that the ways you understand yourself change as time goes on and you have different experiences.

Pride makeup

Transition

Transition is a word used to describe many things.  There is social transition: where a trans person changes their gender socially by coming out and sometimes changing the ways they present in terms of clothing, hair styles, etc.  There is medical transition: this can involve taking hormones, gender affirming surgeries (chest, genital, facial, etc.).  Some people with trans identities choose not to transition at all.  Transitioning does not make one more trans, they are simply choices people make about their own bodies and about how they want to feel and present in the world.  Transition is highly personal and it’s usually not appropriate to ask questions about someone’s choices unless they invite you to.

Pride parade

Are All Trans People Gay? Straight?

Being trans is about gender.  It has nothing to do with sexual orientation.  Trans folks identify in all kinds of ways. Straight, gay, bi, pan, ace—knowing that someone is trans tells us nothing about who they are attracted to or with whom they choose to have romantic relationships.

Transgender Spelt Out With Beads

How Do I Know Who is Trans?

You don’t.  And you don’t need to.  Please don’t stare at a person to try to determine their gender.  Instead, ask yourself, why does it matter?  If you’re meeting new people or running a group, offer your own pronouns and invite others to share theirs.  This way gender is not assumed by what’s on the outside.  Only the individual themselves can tell you their gender.

transgender male

Pronouns

We use them all the time.  Mostly we use he/him and she/her, or when we’re talking about more than one person, we say they/them.  Some trans folks use they/them as a singular pronoun.  It feels funny at first, but like anything, a little practice goes a long way.  In fact, you can use they/them pronouns to refer to anyone. Using non-gendered language reduces the unnecessary emphasis we put on gender and protects people who don’t identify as woman or man from being excluded.  Think about replacing “ladies and gentlemen”, “boys and girls” with something more neutral.

Did you know that CMHA has started a program exclusively serving trans, non binary and gender diverse clients?  For these clients, the Gender Affirming Health Clinic provides primary care, counselling and transition support in our monthly clinics in Vaughan and Aurora.  For more information, please contact GAHC@cmha-yr-on.ca