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Many people believe there are only two genders: man and woman. This is known as the gender binary. But that’s not how every person experiences their own gender.

If your gender is different from the “male” or “female” label on your original birth certificate, you may identify as transgender. If your gender doesn’t fit into the gender binary, you may identify as nonbinary.

What's gender identity?

Gender identity describes the inner experience of your own gender — whether you feel like a man, woman, genderqueer, agender, nonbinary, or another identity.

Remember: There’s no right or wrong way to look like a woman, man, or nonbinary person. 

What does transgender mean? 

Transgender means your gender identity is different from the gender that the doctor gave you when you were born, based on the way your body looked. That label is called “sex assigned at birth” — usually “male” or “female.” 

Transgender people use different terms to describe themselves. Always use the language and labels that a person uses for themselves.

What does nonbinary mean?

If your gender doesn’t fit under the label of either “male” or “female,” then you may identify as nonbinary. Your gender identity may be nonbinary if you’re: both a man and a woman, in between, or totally outside those categories.

What does cisgender mean?

If you have the same gender identity as the sex the doctor assigned you at birth, you’re "cisgender" — like a man who was assigned male at birth or a woman who was assigned female at birth.

What’s gender expression?

How someone expresses their gender identity is called gender expression.

Like cisgender people, transgender people express their gender identities in different ways — through dress, behavior, mannerisms, and more.

What’s a gender modality?

“Cisgender” and “transgender” are key gender modalities. Your gender modality describes whether your gender identity corresponds to your sex assigned at birth. For example, a cisgender woman’s gender modality is “cisgender” and her gender identity is “woman.”

Transgender is both a gender identity and a gender modality. For example, a woman who was assigned male at birth may have a gender identity of “transgender woman” or “woman.” Her gender modality may be “transgender” or “not cisgender.”

What’s gender dysphoria?

Many trans and nonbinary people experience gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is distress, unhappiness, and anxiety related to the mismatch between your gender identity and important aspects of your body — such as your genitals, voice, or chest. You also can have gender dysphoria if you’re treated socially as the wrong gender, like when people use the wrong pronouns for you. 

While psychologists used to call gender dysphoria “gender identity disorder,” being transgender and/or nonbinary isn’t a mental illness. Challenges and distress can be common for trans and nonbinary folks because of transphobia (AKA transmisia) — the ways that society treats transgender and nonbinary people as less than human.

Not everyone experiences gender dysphoria. When they do, it can be different for each person. The same is true for gender euphoria.

What’s gender euphoria? 

Gender euphoria is the joy, relief, or well-being that many transgender and nonbinary people feel in their gender identity. Gender euphoria might happen when someone feels harmony between their gender identity and their body and/or their gender expression. Gender euphoria also occurs when someone is treated socially in alignment with their gender identity, like when people use affirming gendered language. An example would be a trans woman feeling good when she’s called “ma’am.”

Gender euphoria can be a benefit of transitioning — making changes to live in harmony with your gender identity. Trans people use different kinds of transition to feel more like their gender identity.

Is transgender a sexual orientation? 

Nope! People often confuse gender identity, which is about who you are inside, with sexual orientation, which is about who you’re attracted to. Sexual orientation — like lesbian, gay, bisexual, and more — describes sexual or romantic attraction to different genders. Gender modality and gender identity are about what gender you are, not what gender you’re attracted to.

Just like transgender people can have any gender identity or gender expression, they can also have any sexual or romantic orientation.

What does passing mean?

Passing means others see you as the gender that you identify as. For example, a transgender woman seen as a cisgender woman is “passing.”

Some transgender people feel that passing is important emotionally because it affirms their gender identity. They may experience passing as a positive thing that sparks gender euphoria.

Other transgender people don’t care about passing or don’t want to “be read” as cisgender. For them, passing suggests transgender and nonbinary people have to look and sound like cisgender people for their gender identity to be “real.” They may also see passing as accepting transphobia/transmisia — that the only trans people who get to be safe are the ones who don’t “look trans.”

Because of transphobia/transmisia, passing can provide safety from harassment and violence. Someone who passes is likely to have an easier time moving through the world than a person who’s seen as transgender. This person has “passing privilege.”

No matter what a person "looks like," their gender identity is always valid and real.

Where can I get safe gender-affirming medical care? 

You deserve safe health care. To find an affordable trans-competent nurse or doctor, it can be helpful to do an internet search, ask trans and nonbinary people in your community, or talk to someone from a local LGBTQ+ community organization. 

Planned Parenthood health centers serve people of all genders. Anyone can visit their nearest Planned Parenthood health center for STD testing, birth control, physical exams, other sexual and reproductive health services, and referrals. Find your nearest Planned Parenthood health center and learn about the services it offers.

Many Planned Parenthood health centers are able to offer gender-affirming hormone treatment (sometimes called GAHT). The best way to learn about the services available in your area is to contact your nearest Planned Parenthood health center

If your closest Planned Parenthood health center doesn’t offer gender-affirming hormone treatments, and you want them to, you can tell them. Hearing from patients helps your nearest Planned Parenthood add services that you need. They may be able to recommend a trans-friendly doctor in your area who provides the services you need.

Are you a teenager who wants support?

  • Q Chat Space hosts live chats where LGBTQ+ teens can give and receive support.

  • imi offers guides to help queer teens explore their identity and care for their mental health.

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