Most people identify their entire life with the gender entered on their birth certificate and remain attached to this gender role, which is seemingly, pre-decided. For some, however, this is not the case.
Transgender or transsexual people do not identify or do not only identify with the sex assigned to them at birth. Often the appearance of the sexual organs determines whether the baby will be registered and subsequently raised as a boy or a girl. Over the course of time, trans* people feel that this is wrong, because they belong to “the other” gender. Or simply because they cannot or don't want to classify themselves as man or woman.
Trans* people are very diverse; some are heterosexual, others homosexual or queer. Some challenge old gender roles and create new ones for themselves. Others say: “I’m a man (or a woman) and have always been that, even if others are unable to see that.” Some feel the need to align their bodies more closely to resemble the gender that reflects their inner sense of self. Others choose to make use of only some of the available medical possibilities—among them surgery, hormone treatment or epilation. Still others feel very comfortable precisely in the body they have.
Transsexual, transgender – why so many terms?
The public often lacks sympathy for the diversity of identities of trans* people. If a trans*… label is used, a stereotypical image pops up in many people’s heads, which then determines further actions—often to the detriment of people who do not conform to gender norms. This is one of the reasons why trans* people want to have multiple labels to express their diversity. Another reason is they wish to replace existing discriminatory terms.
The reason why labels are still being used is largely because of the implicit and widely accepted presumption that all human beings identify with the sex assigned to them at birth. Following this logic, “transgender” appears as a special case that requires its very own label.
How common is trans*?
Estimates about the percentage of transgender people in the overall population differ based on the underlying definition of transgender. If we only count the people who have been ‘diagnosed’ as transsexual and undergo medical treatment, the share is roughly five per 100,000 inhabitants. However, if the definition includes those who do not fully identify or only partially identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, this percentage is approx. 1 to 4 percent.
Is being transgender a disease?
No! The fact that a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not match is not an illness or a disorder. In fact, discrimination against trans* people or forcing them to hide their gender identity can negatively impact their health.