Nature loves variety. Unfortunately, society hates it.
It is highly likely that you have passed a transgender person on the street, at the grocery store, in the bank, at the gym, and, yes, even in a public restroom, without even knowing that that person was transgender.
A transgender person is not just a clone of another transgender person. He or she is different and unique, just as is every other person.
Transgender people are those who transgress gender norms of society by attempting to transition into the correct gender of which they should have been born.
Transgender people are not the same as transvestites, cross-dressers, drag queens, or drag kings. Being transgender is about gender identity, whereas being a cross-dresser or drag queen or king, is not.
Sexual orientation varies because gender and sex are not the same (see my previous column, Is LGBT turning into "Alphabet Soup"? for more on the differences between sex and gender).
Below are very basic terms and acronyms related to the transgender community. These are brief and simple definitions, but they serve as a good starting point for those venturing into this unfamiliar territory.
- Transsexual (TS): This describes people who elect to change their physical sex through hormones, sex reassignment surgery (SRS), and/or additional cosmetic surgeries; such as facial feminization and breast implants, in the case of male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals, or facial masculinization and breast removal in the case of female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals. Sexual orientation varies.
- Transgender (TG): This describes people who begin the process of changing their gender appearance. These steps may be in the form of wearing clothing typically associated with the other sex, undergoing hormone treatments and/or surgical procedures, removing unwanted hair, etc., as with transsexuals. The difference is that transgender people wish to transition their gender but may not necessarily want to undergo SRS. Sexual orientation varies.
- Cross-dresser (CD): A person who dresses in clothing typically associated with the other sex, but does not undergo surgery or take hormones. Cross-dressing is typically the beginning phase as one progresses through the transgender and transexual process, but the term "cross-dresser" should not be applied to these people. Most cross-dressers care about the clothing and not about changing their sex. Sexual orientation varies.
- Transvestite (TV): This is an outdated, derogatory term for cross-dressers, although many people erroneously equate it with being transsexual or transgender.
- Drag queen or drag king (DQ or DK): A man who dresses up as a woman (DQ), or a woman who dresses up as a man (DK), specifically for the sake of performance, usually very over-the-top and exaggerated. Drag is an art form about performance and not about gender identity.
Being transgender is just another characteristic of being human and does not define the person. Many transgender people want to blend in or go stealth (that is, pass in public without drawing attention to themselves) throughout their daily routines of life.
Stereotypical characters like Corporal Klinger of the M*A*S*H television series, Dr. Frank-N-Furter of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or RuPaul -- are not transgender -- they are dramatizations of cross-dressing or drag.
The popular misconception that these characters represent transgender people occurs due to the lack of transgender role models and the perception that this less-understood group has comedic value.
During the past 30 years, a few positive transgender role models, such as Renée Richards, Caroline "Tula" Cossey, and, more recently Chaz Bono, have opened their lives to the public in an effort to communicate the reality of being a transgender person.
Watch my recent video: "I Want You to Stop Being Afraid"
The more exposure real-life transgender people experience, the less inequality and discrimination that society will subject us to, simply out of fear.
More about Chris Tina Bruce
Chris Tina Bruce is a male-to-female transgender bodybuilder, spokesperson and fitness talent.
She is the founder of Be Bold Be Proud, a grassroots non-profit transgender equality organization. She is also the founder of Discover Health and Fitness, a freelance writer and the proud parent of two amazing children.
She obtained her bachelor of science degree from Georgia State University, and is also a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer.
Chris Tina lives by some very simple rules and affirmations: All of life is a transition; where you are does not have to define who you will be and together we can cultivate change. Be Bold, Be Proud, Be Yourself.
For more information about Chris, her Fitness Fun Camps, private sessions, nutrition programs or next bodybuilding show, check out her website, check out the Hillcrest Fitness, follow her Facebook page, or on Twitter, or call (972) 989-6076.