By BRITTNEY CUTLER
The transgender community is growing. And while this generation might be more accepting than others before, there’s still a lot of work to do.
Today, those who transition still face hurdles such as a refusal to use preferred pronouns, doctors refusing to see transgender patients and the fear and anxiety of not being accepted.
Trixie Marion, a third-year Niagara College student who is a transgender woman, knows these challenges firsthand.
She says her gym and woodshop high school teachers “didn’t know how to respond,” to her transition. Her gym teacher used to be very friendly and she was his favourite student, but after her coming out, he ignored her.
Marion said her shop teacher also belittled her and misgendered her constantly.
“It wasn’t overly negative, but it still hurt,” she said in an email interview.
But, for Marion, there were also some positive reactions to her transition.
When she came out at her summer job, she said her bosses were supportive and worked with Human Resources to install policies and procedures in case anyone came out in the future at the workplace.
Marion’s family was also accepting of her transition, which she said she was thankful for. Her mother organized an LGBTQIA+ workshop at her work and is a member on their LGBTQIA+ information team. Her circle of friends was just as supportive.
“As far as friends, it’s a bit of a joke in our group (…) At the time, there were two lesbians in the group. By the end, every person in our group was some flavour of the rainbow,” Marion said.
But it was a long road to acceptance. She said she knew something didn’t feel right when she was younger. She said she used to play with dolls, paint her nails and was always the mom while playing house.
Marion, who says that she dealt with a lot of bullying growing up, was afraid of people not accepting the person she was. She was particularly afraid of revealing her true self to her father. But he accepted her for who she is and says she got all the love and support she needed.
Towards Understanding: some definitions
The word “transgender” encompasses more than you might realize. It covers a range of gender identities and expressions that might fall outside of the idea that all people can be classified as only one of two genders — male or female (gender binary).
Transgender is an umbrella term used to capture the spectrum of gender identity and gender-expression diversity. Gender identity is the internal sense of being male, female, neither or both. Gender expression — often an extension of gender identity — involves the expression of a person’s gender identity through social roles, appearance and behaviours.
Those who have a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned to them at birth
Those whose gender expression — the way gender is conveyed to others through clothing, communication, mannerisms and interests — and behaviour don’t follow stereotypical societal norms for the sex assigned to them at birth. Those who identify and express their gender fluidly outside of the gender binary, which might or might not involve hormonal or surgical procedures
The relationship between gender identity and sexual orientation
Being transgender doesn’t say or imply anything about a person’s sexual orientation — physical and emotional attraction or sexual behaviour. Sexual orientation is an inherent component of every individual. A person’s sexual orientation can’t be assumed based on gender identity or gender expression.
Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might accompany a difference between gender identity, sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics. This type of distress doesn’t affect everyone who is transgender.
Gender dysphoria is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose mental conditions. Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis that is given to individuals who are experiencing discomfort or distress due to the difference between gender identity, sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.
Cisgender: This term is used to describe an individual whose gender identity and expression matches the stereotypical societal characteristics related to sex assigned at birth.
Cross-dressing: This involves dressing as the other gender for entertainment or pleasure. Cross-dressing isn’t necessarily a sign of a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Cross-dressing also isn’t indicative of gender dysphoria.
Gender fluidity: This is the exhibition of a variability of gender identity and expression. Gender fluid people don’t feel restricted by typical societal norms and expectations and might identify and express themselves as masculine, feminine or along a spectrum, and possibly with variations over time.
Gender nonconforming: This occurs when gender expression, gender roles or both differ from societal norms and expectations for an individual’s sex assigned at birth.
Source: Mayo Clinic