Gender expression refers to the way a person physically displays their gender identity. For example, according to American societal norms, women will wear dresses to express their identity and men will wear ties… or any other example you can think of. Because a transgender person’s sex does not match their gender identity, often, a person who identifies as transgender will transition.


Transitioning is when a person alters their gender expression, how they look outside, to match their gender identity, how they feel inside. This can be done by changing the clothes you wear, your hairstyle, taking hormones, or undergoing gender reassignment surgery to alter your sex organs.


You may have also hear of the term transsexual when referring to transgender people. Transsexual, however, is actually an outdated term. In the past, it was generally used to describe a transgender person who had undergone gender reassignment surgery. But because many transgender people actually decide not to undergo surgery, this term has fallen out of favor. Now, we tend to simply use the term transgender in order to refer all the ways people perceive and express their gender identity.


A person, however, can still be transgender regardless of how they display their gender externally (i.e. hairstyle, clothing), or if they choose to alter their body physically (i.e. undergoing gender reassignment surgery).


Despite the fact that many transpeople decide not to undergo gender reassignment surgery, often times, you will notice that society tends to fixate on whether or not they have undergone gender reassignment surgery. Although society tends to fixate this way, whether or not a transgender person decides whether or not to undergo gender reassignment surgery, or surgery to alter their biological sex organs does not make them any more or any less transgender.


Say for example that Steve changes her name to Sally and begins transitioning or living life according to how she internally identifies her gender. Whether or not Sally wants to have surgery to alter her physical appearance does not make her any more or any less of a woman. What is important is how she identifies, not how other people choose to interpret her gender. To put it bluntly, a person’s body is nobody’s business but their own. We would never ask cisgender people about their private parts, so why should we treat a transgender person differently?


For an amazing example of a transgender person speaking out against this unfair societal practice, see Laverne Cox’s outspoken interview with Katie Couric. In it, she points out how the media’s fixation with transgender bodies distract from real issues regarding transpeople-- such as workplace discrimination, higher rates of suicide, and higher rates of assault.

Sable Liggera - 2016