To understand this entry, one needs to be open minded, non-evaluative and non-judgemental.
Transgender refers to individuals who do not identify with their biological gender. So, for example, transgender women were born as biological males, but identify themselves as women and vice-versa for transmen who were born biologically female but identify as men.
There are transgender people all over the world and in a wide variety of cultures. Transgender is the T in LGBT (Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals and Transgender). Transgender are not the same as crossdressers (also known as transvestites, drag queens and drag kings these terms are considered pejorative). Crossdressers are people who like to occasionally change their appearance by wearing clothes and makeup of the opposite sex. Crossdressers maintain their biological identity. Some crossdressers do it because they love this free form of expression and others find it sexually appealing.
There is confusion over whether, for example, Tiwonge Chimbalanga was transgender or gay. There is a difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. Gender identity is about one’s internal sense of being masculine or feminine while sexual orientation is the gender someone’s is attracted to. So, you can have a transwoman who is gay; that is a man who identifies as a woman and likes other women. Or, transmen who are straight, so men who identify themselves as women and have relationships with other men.
What causes one to transgender? Before answering this question, it is important to establish that when we look at gender we look at it through a cultural lens. There are, however, medical theories about what causes transgender. Some speculate it is caused by a fluctuation of hormones or the use of certain medications during pregnancy. Others suggest links between brain structures and transgender identity. Psychologist suggest other factors cause transgender. In native American cultures, transgender is a two spirited gift while on the other hand, there are those who believe that everyone has a right to choose whatever gender they think is best for them and be able to express that freely.
There are several stereotypes about transgenders such as it is a mental illness. It is not a mental illness. Transgenders experience a real emotional difference between their biological sex and what they understand to be their gender. This can cause extreme emotional distress. Some transgenders try and relieve this by freely expressing the gender they feel they should be so they may wear gender appropriate clothing. For example transwomen will wear dresses and some undergo physical transitions (transsexuals) where they undergo surgery and medical treatment to change their gender. So for example transsexual women will have their male genitalia removed and or to have their breasts enhanced.