Trans 101

Definitions

A person’s Gender Identity is how someone identifies his/her own
gender — a person’s inner sense of ‘being’ male or female. Most
people, but not all, have a gender identity of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ which
is also consistent with their assigned sex at birth. There are some
people who feel their assigned sex at birth is not consistent with
their own gender identity.

A person’s Gender Expression refers to how a person expresses their
gender identity, or the cues people use to identify another person’s
gender. This can include clothing, mannerisms, makeup, behavior,
speech patterns, and more. There are some in society whose gender
expression does not conform to traditional gender stereotypes what men
or women should look or act.

Transgender is an umbrella term for people who transition from one
gender to another and/or people who defy social expectations of how
they should look, act, or identify based on their birth sex. This can
include a range of people including: male-to-female (MTF) or
female-to-male (FTM) transsexual people and, more generally, anyone
whose gender identity or expression differs from conventional
expectations of masculinity or femininity. Some transgender people
experience their gender identity as incongruent with anatomical sex at
birth.

Traditional Gender Stereotypes: Culturally defined code of acceptable
behavior for men and women. Men/boys are to exhibit masculine gender
presentation, behaviors, and social roles and women/girls are to
exhibit feminine gender presentation, behaviors, and social roles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are transgender people the same as gay/lesbian people?

No. Transgender is about gender identity and gender expression where
as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual/straight is about sexual
orientation, which is emotional and physical attraction to others.
While transgender people are sometimes assumed to be gay or lesbian
based on stereotypes about gay men and lesbians, the terms are not
interchangeable. Transgender people also have a sexual orientation,
just as everyone else in society, which can be heterosexual
(straight), bisexual, or gay or lesbian.

Can I tell if someone is transgender?

Not always. Some transgender people ‘pass’ almost always as the gender
they identify with and live as; there are many transgender people whom
no one would know they are transgender or where assigned a different
sex at birth, and who choose to keep their personal histories
confidential. Others ‘pass’ only occasionally or not at all due to a
number of factors, such as access to transgender specific medical
treatment. Sometimes transgender people are discriminated against or
harassed because others suspect them to be transgender or gender
variant. In other situations, transgender people are discriminated
against or harassed because someone shares a transgender person’s
history inappropriately with others, turning private medical
information into gossip.

A transgender person does not have to disclose that they are
transgender, just as others have the right to privacy about their
identity, their medical status, or other information that is not
pertinent in a given situation.

What is gender transition?

Gender transition is a personal process in which a
transgender/transsexual person goes through when they begin to live
and identify as the gender they see themselves as. This process
includes a social transition, which a person changing their gender
expression, such as clothes and hairstyle; pronoun; and possibly their
first name, to be reflective of the gender they are transitioning to.
This process may also include support from therapist and a medical
transition, which can be hormone replacement therapy and/or sex
reassignment surgery.

For some transgender people, they may not access medical transition
due to the prohibitive cost, access to providers, physical health
issues, lack of health insurance coverage, and/or personal choice. The
reality is that many transgender people live, present, and are
accepted as the gender they see themselves as without medical
transition, hormones, and/or sex re-assignment surgery.

Why do transgender people need legal protections?

Transgender people in Massachusetts face high levels of discrimination
and violence because of widespread prejudice and the assumption that
transgender people are “outside” of the law’s protections. This bill
amends both non-discrimination laws and hates crime laws in order to
comprehensively make clear that transgender individuals have equal
protection under the law.

The baseline rates of discrimination against transgender people are
consistently high. A review of six studies conducted between 1996 and
2006, in cities and regions on both coasts and the Midwest, showed the
following ranges for experiences of discrimination based on gender
identity1:

  • 13%-56% of transgender people had been fired
  • 13%-47% had been denied employment
  • 22%-31% had been harassed, either verbally or physically, in the workplace


1. Badgett, M.V., Lau, Sears, and Ho. Bias in the Workplace: Consistent Evidence of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute. June 2007.