Your sexuality also covers your gender. For many people that’s easy you are either a boy or a girl – simple. For some people however, their gender is far more complicated and anxious affair. We are finally starting to recognise and understand that for many young people – gender is not an either or option and that regardless of what genitals you were born with, does not always determine whether you class your self as a boy or a girl.
Even today in an age of sexual equality, we have very strong gender roles. From day one we are either labelled as a boy or a girl and then treated as such. We dress our children in pinks and blues, give them dolls or cars to play with, encourage them to play football or attend dancing classes. However, we have always noticed and not really worried when some children don’t seem to fit these patterns.
However, for some young people their bodies just do not seem to fit and they feel really strongly that they were born the wrong sex. Everything inside them, how they feel, how they act does not seem to fit and they feel strangers trapped inside their own bodies. This can be very disturbing and isolating for both the young person and their family.
For many young people they will have shown tendencies from very early childhood and may even dress openly as the opposite sex. Some will grow out of it and come to accept their actual gender. For others the onset of puberty can be a very scary experience as their body’s start change and take on the form of either an adult female or male which is completely alien to how they feel inside and it becomes much harder to hide their real gender.
A young person who suffers from these feelings is said to suffer from gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria. Although some people find theses terms offensive – as it is not a disorder – it is simply who they are and instead prefer the term Trans*. (this is not to be confused with a transvestite, which is someone who dresses as the opposite sex but still recognises as their given gender).
There is also the assumption which comes from TV shows like sex change hospital, that all transsexuals must have had or want a sex change operation. The fact is that sex changes are very difficult and complicated procedures, which we are not actually all that good at. The majority of transgender people will dress and live as the opposite sex but will keep their original genitals. Some may choose to have hormonal treatment that will encourage their body to take on the shape of the opposite sex – so for example a girl taking male hormones, they will grow hairier and more muscular, their voice will deepen and their periods will stop. Some people may choose to have breast surgery, to either remove their breast or as a guy to give them boobs for the first time.
As you can see being transgender can be very complicated and confusing. And that is even before we mention sexuality. Just because you are transgender does not mean that you must be gay or straight, it is a completely different issue. So you may be born a girl but feel that you should actually be a boy and yet fancy boys, which would make you a gay transgender male – like I said it can be confusing.
How schools deal with a transgender pupil can feel like a rather big challenge. Many schools feel absolutely lost when it comes to thinking about what a young person should be allowed to wear, which toilets they should use or where they should get changed. It can feel a bit of a minefield… but to be honest, it is really all very simple.
There are many help groups out there now for transgender young people and doctors are far more likely to take these feeling seriously now – when before it was seen as a phase that a kid would grow out of. Now there are medical experts who specialise in gender identity disorder and can listen and give you options of how you move forward. Most areas now have LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender) groups especially for young people, so they can meet and get together, share their own experiences and support one another.
Gender identity Definitions:
CIS: is a term used mainly by people who work within the arena of gender identity. It basically means ‘not trans’ – so this means that your gender (how you identify yourself) and your biological sex match up. It is a term designed to be more inclusive for everyone and move away from terms like ‘normal’
Gender Queer: is generally someone who doesn’t neatly fit into the blue box labelled ‘boys’ or the pink box labelled ‘girls’. People who identify themselves as gender queer believe that the gender binary (girls/boys) doesn’t really exist and is instead socially constructed.
Trans* is an umbrella term covering transsexuals, cross-dressers, transvestites and gender queers or anyone else who doesn’t identify as either female or male.
Identifying as Trans* has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation.
FTM – Female to Male Trans*
MTF – Male to Female Trans*
Transgender: Is someone whose biological gender doesn’t match their gender identity. It can be very confusing and isolating however we are slowly getting better at understanding and supporting young trans* people.
Transvestite: Is someone who enjoys (sometimes sexually) dressing up in the clothes of the opposite sex. This mainly fits guy’s dressing as girls, as it is nowadays acceptable for girls to wear trousers etc. (there was a time when it wasn’t!)
To find out more about what makes your personal identity follow the links below:
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