Transgender Mythbuster

by @RaCat

1) MYTH: “If you dress/act/like things that are not typical for your assigned gender, you're transgender.”

FACT: Gender expression doesn't alone signify that someone is transgender. It's completely fine to dress/act and have interest in anything you like, without it meaning you must be trans. (ie. someone can be a cisgender man who likes to wear dresses, and someone else can be a transwoman who likes to wear pants and hates makeup)

2) MYTH: “All transgender people have the desire to transition from one gender to another using hormonal therapy and surgery.”

FACT: Not all trans folks want, decide to or are even able to physically/medically transition due to lack of finances or conflicting medical conditions! Some people simply want to be identified as the correct gender, and some have such self-assurance that they are comfortable just knowing for themselves who they are.

3) MYTH: “Medically transitioning involves just one surgery”

FACT: There are a huge range of surgeries a person may opt to undergo, often these are believed to be in relation only to the sex organs, however there are numerous other feminising/masculinising surgeries besides these (eg. facial feminisation surgery). Transitioning means different things to different people – for some it will only involve socially transitioning, for some it will be one surgery, and for some it will be multiple. The number of surgeries a person opts to undergo doesn’t make their transition any more or less valid or “complete”. Additionally, there are various different techniques used for different body types (eg. Keyhole vs. Periareolar vs. Double Incision for Chest Reconstruction)

4) MYTH: “Transgender refers to people who haven’t medically transitioned, transsexual refers to those who have, and both are either male to female or female to male.”

FACT: Transgender is an umbrella term which can be used by anybody whose gender identity differs from that which they were assigned at birth whether or not they’ve done any medical transitioning. “Transsexual” is a term that is still used in some circles today, but is widely rejected as being outdated and insensitive.

Additionally, it’s important to understand and respect that not all trans people will choose to use the label “transgender” when describing their gender identity – a transgender woman can simply describe herself (and be described by others) as a woman. It’s good to pay attention to the ways in which individuals describe themselves – different people will be comfortable with different terminology. If in doubt, ask!

5) MYTH “All non-binary people are striving for complete physical androgyny through any and all means.”

FACT: Just like men and women, there is no one way that a non-binary person is required to look like (or even want to look like). Non-binary people can present in a traditionally masculine manner, a traditionally feminine manner, an androgynous manner, or any combination of all of the above. Some non-binary people suffer physical dysphoria - disliking the “gendered” parts of their body that align with their biological sex - and strive to change their bodies through superficial or surgical/hormonal means, but not everyone does! Some non-binary people only have social dysphoria - which includes being uncomfortable with things such as being misgendered - or have both kinds of dysphoria or even no dysphoria at all! The only thing “all” non-binary people have in common is that they feel that they don’t completely fit into either of the binary genders consistently.

6) MYTH “Your gender identity dictates your sexuality (ie. you can’t be trans and gay - there would be no point in transitioning if you could)”

FACT: Gender identity is completely separate from sexuality; someone who is trans can also have any sexuality.

MYTH: “A trans woman hasn’t undergone GCS and is only attracted to men, would that make her gay?”

FACT: A person's sexuality is in respect to their gender identity rather than biological sex (unless the individual feels otherwise, ie. A nonbinary person may identify as gay/lesbian) - if somebody identifies as female, and is sexually attracted to males only then she is heterosexual.

7) MYTH: “Drag queens/kings and crossdressers are transgender”

FACT: Typically drag queens/kings and crossdressers are comfortable with their assigned gender, but play with gender expression for fun. They may have 'alter egos' and use different pronouns while playing that character, but the person's gender identity has remained the same. Of course some people who participate in drag may also be trans, or discover their identity through participating!

8) MYTH: “You can only call yourself transgender if you are absolutely sure about your gender identity”

FACT: Gender can be a confusing thing to grasp, but the important point is the feelings surrounding your gender - not the label or having a full understanding of it. Questioning or unsure people are welcome to use the trans label if they feel they may fit into this group. It’s much more about knowing that you’re not cis than being certain of exactly how you identify.

9) MYTH: “You would know when you're young if you're transgender or not”

FACT: Many people do not discover they're trans until much later in life, since there are many factors that can impede or slow down their self-discovery. You’re never “too late” or “too old”

10) MYTH: “Children are too young to know if their gender is different to that which they were assigned at birth”

FACT: While it is completely normal for children to experiment with socially constructed gender structures even if they end up being cisgender, that does not mean that they are too young to understand what gender is or who they are. Many trans people report that they felt like they knew their gender when they were very young and the feeling remained consistent as they entered adulthood. There is a short video here, where you can learn about Rebecca’s story – definitely worth a watch!
11) MYTH: “Gender dysphoria is a mental illness”

FACT: Whilst trans people may be more vulnerable to experiencing mental health issues, being transgender is not a mental illness. In the 2013 update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (which was the 5th edition, if anyone is wondering), the term “gender identity disorder” was officially changed to “gender dysphoria” by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) so that it would no longer be treated as a disorder.

Body dysphoria is often confused with body dysmorphic disorder, which is a mental disorder closely related to OCD, where a person may obsessively worry about their appearance and develop compulsive behaviours and routines. Body dysphoira isn’t about having a distorted view of your body – it’s not about thinking you are literally a different sex, rather the distress of knowing how you feel inside isn’t reflected in your physical body. The association with BDD may have some influence on the belief that Gender Dysphoria is a mental illness – the feeling that we’re a different gender can be easily misinterpreted as thinking we’re a different sex, since people still use the two words interchangeably.  

12) MYTH: “All trans people feel body dysphoria”

FACT: Dysphoria is not a requirement for being transgender. While many trans people experience physical dysphoria, some only experience social dysphoria, some experience both forms of dysphoria, and some experience no dysphoria at all. In addition to the wide variety of experiences among each individual, the amount of physical and social dysphoria a person experiences can fluctuate over time or can be dependant upon certain circumstances. Some people may instead experience gender euphoria when able to present in the way they identify, others may have such comfort and confidence in their identity that they don’t feel the need for validation from others or any confirmation surgery.

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