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Transgender is an umbrella adjective describing people whose gender is other than the one they were declared to be at the time of their birth. Under the umbrella are trans men, trans women, bigender people, those of a third gender, those who don't identify with any gender, and many more.
To be absolutely precise, transgender is an adjective describing people who identify with a gender different from their assigned sex at birth (which often but does not always fall into the gender binary). Transsexual is an adjective generally reserved for people who have physically transitioned to living with a different gender & sex than was assumed at birth, or who desire to do so. Those who have not had genital reassignment surgery usually continue to be referred to as transgender. A crossdresser, on the other hand, is a person who dresses as the opposite sex despite not identifying as such. The reasons for doing so vary, as it can be of a performance (drag), fancy dress or a sexual fetish.
Transgender people can be of any sexual orientation, although it is common among non-binary transgender people to use terms like "androphile" and "gynephile" rather than "heterosexual" or "homosexual", because the latter terms require that one partner be of one gender identity and the other partner be of the opposite/identical gender identity, which may not be possible if one partner self-identifies outside the gender binary.
Intersexuality, like sexual orientation, is also a concept related to, but independent of, transgender. An intersex person, assigned female at birth, who remains within the female gender role and identifies as female is cisgender (but is still considered a valid member of LGBTI+ community, with the letter I being specifically added to both this acronym and the less letter soup MOGAI to denote that); an intersex person, assigned male at birth, who identifies with a third gender is transgender.
Transitioning is the modification of one's body and/or social role to better fit one's gender identity. Medically speaking, trans people may take hormones, undergo genital/facial reconstruction, and opt for cosmetic procedures to correct their primary and secondary sex characteristics. However, not all trans people want to undergo all procedures. A "non-op" trans person is a person who chooses not to undergo genital reconstruction. (Non-ops often still take hormones, because their secondary sex characteristics are the source of dysphoria.)
Trans people can also socially transition. Social transitioning is a mostly aesthetic process that can involve clothing, hair, and makeup. Trans men can opt to wear a binder (garment that hides the breasts), and trans women can wear breast forms. Additionally, trans individuals may ask friends to refer to them by their preferred name and pronouns. Some may also legally change their name and gender.
Neuroscience studies of trans people in recent years are increasingly suggesting that gender identity is a biological phenomenon rather than a purely psychological one, as transsexuals' brain structures tend to have a strong resemblance to the brains of their identified gender, even before beginning hormone replacement therapy.
The American Religious right criticises transgender people regularly, often while remaining willfully ignorant about what being transgender is really like. The basic idea is that God has personally assigned everyone's sex (and with it their gender), and deviating from that is against God's plan. Thankfully, far from all Christians follow this restrictive teaching, and many more liberal Christian groups accept and welcome transgender people as the gender they are.
Pope Francis has criticised transgender people, claiming that being transgender "goes against God" and that increasing social acceptance of transgender people "negates traditional God-given values". On the related topic of transgender people, Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, also criticised Caitlyn Jenner's sex change, motivating it with the tautological truth that "people are born either male or female".
Controversy over access to public toilets
When a person was assigned one gender at birth but presents as the other, a problem arises about use of public toilets — or what Americans unaccountably call bathrooms despite the universal lack of a bath in such facilities.
Some men protest that they don't want women dressed like men peeing alongside them in their toilets, ignoring the fact that such people, many of whom do not have the right equipment (many trans men do not undergo genital surgery, as the process is long and the results often unsatisfactory) and would not use urinals anyway but (and certainly already do) pee in private stalls.
Women protesting the converse have a slightly more defensible position, in that men posing as women could have sinister, exploitative or even illegal reasons for gaining access to toilets labeled Women. However, legislation is probably not a strong deterrent in this case.
Oddly, neither group complains about gay or bi men/women using the same facilities as them. This is a source of great puzzlement to trans people.
In the USA, state laws have been notably divided on the issue. Several states mandate that people must use the facilities that match the gender on their birth certificates. The standard-bearer for this extreme point of view is the State of North Carolina, which passed a so-called "bathroom bill" in March 2016, in a whirlwind legislative session that saw Democrats walking out in protest. At the other extreme, the megastore Target created a furore in April 2016 by declaring that its customers could freely choose which toilet to use. The Cooper Union, a small New York City university, also took an extreme position in the same month by removing all gender-specific signs from its toilets. The facilities that were formerly "Men's" were changed to “urinals and stalls", while former women’s rooms now carry the label "stalls only".
Coming as it did in the midst of an unusually contentious election primary season, this issue attained political "hot button" status very rapidly. There is no federal law on the issue, but in May 2016 the Justice Department declared that North Carolina's "bathroom bill" violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the White House sent a directive to all public schools requiring them to allow transgender students to use toilets matching their gender identity. Eleven US States filed a lawsuit challenging the directive. On 18 May, a declared "International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia", the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, loudly dissented and signaled that his state will be the next North Carolina. Abbott tweeted "JFK wanted to send a man to the moon. Obama wants to send a man to the women's restroom." At the GOP's state convention, he added, "I want you to know, I am working with the governor of North Carolina, and we are going to fight back." In a further development, on 20 May, a bill was introduced in the Oklahoma State Legislature urging the state's congressional delegation to start an effort to impeach President Barack Obama over the issue. There was no official reaction from the White House, but pedestrians on Pennsylvania Avenue later that day could have sworn they heard laughter coming from the Oval Office.
Legal protections and status
Legal protections for trans people are controversial and depend on the area. In the US, 30 states still allow businesses to fire or evict people because of their gender identity. 31 states allow businesses to refuse service to trans people. 37 states still allow trans people to be denied credit. All 50 states allow name changes for trans people, as well as gender changes on driver's license. However, the requirements for a gender change depend on the state. Some may require sex reassignment surgery, while others only require a doctor's note. Some states even require a medical note for a name change.
- Sex assignment at birth
- Gender transition
- LGBT rights
- Non-binary gender
- "Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus", The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, May 2000.
- Jessica Hamzelou, "Transsexual differences caught on brain scan", New Scientist, 26 January 2011.
- The Religious Right comments on the Transgender Workplace Discrimination Hearings
- The Real Christian Debate on Transgender Identity
- Pope Francis Calls Transgender People An “Annihilation of Man As Image of God”
- On 19 May 2016, on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah mocked the protesters, pointing out the absurdity of imagining perverts waiting for the law to legitimize their activity.
- North Carolina Bans Local Anti-Discrimination Policies Dave Phillips in New York Times, 23 March 2016. The bill was enacted in swift response to an ordinance approved by the City of Charlotte in February, asserting the contrary position.
- Target takes stand on transgender bathroom controversy Robert Mclean in CNN Money, 20 April 2016. The statement read We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.
- New York College Decides To Make ALL Bathrooms Gender-Neutral Blake Neff in Daily Caller, 1 April 2016
- No More Men's or Women's Rooms Josh Logue in Inside Higher Ed, 31 March 2016. "I cannot change the outside world and how it treats transgender and gender-nonconforming people, but I can change the Cooper Union environment to help everyone feel safe when they are inside our buildings." (said Bill Mea, Acting President)
- Justice Department says North Carolina anti-LGBT law violates Civil Rights Act Matthew Teague in The Guardian, 4 May 2016
- U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms Julie Herschfeld and Matt Apuzzo in New York Times, 12 May 2016. The directive was not legally binding, but it included an implied penalty for non-compliance in terms of reduced or terminated federal subsidies. The State of Texas stands to lose $10 billion.
- Eleven US states oppose transgender schools edict --BBC, 25 May
- Texas poised to be the next bathroom battleground in transgender fight Tom Dart in The Guardian, 18 May 2016
- Some in Oklahoma statehouse urge Obama impeachment over bathroom rule --Heide Brandes in Reuter's, 20 May 2016 (retrieved 23 May)
- Forth Worth judge blocks Obama transgender guidelines --Texas Tribune , WFAA 8:43 AM. CDT August 22, 2016
- Supreme Court to hear transgender school bathroom case --BBC News, 28 October 2016
- HB2 law: North Carolina to repeal 'bathroom bill' --BBC, 19 December 2016
- Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students --New York Times, 22 February 2017