Transgender (trans) people are people whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth (SAAB; assigned sex).
Gender identity is the personal sense of one’s own gender. SAAB is the sex declared by another person, such as a medical professional, at birth, according to the appearance of one’s external genitals, etc.
On the other hand, people whose gender identity matches their SAAB are called cisgender (cis) people. For instance, if the obstetrician said, “It’s a healthy girl, congratulations!” when you were born, and you also identify as a woman, you are a cisgender woman. If you identify as a man, which does not correspond with your SAAB, you are a transgender man.
Are there only two genders? NO!
We’ve all been taught throughout our lives that everybody is either born female or male and live according to that. But it isn’t so simple. Some people don’t, or can’t, live as the gender corresponding to their sex assigned at birth. And some them do not fit into the female/male binary.
💙 Female and male
The two most well-known genders. The belief that all people can be classified into these two genders and the boundary between them cannot be broken is called the gender binary. However, even if we assume that there are only two genders in the world, there are people who live as a gender that differs from their assigned sex. A person assigned female at birth whose gender identity is male is called a transgender man or trans man. A person assigned male at birth whose gender identity is female is called a transgender woman or trans woman.
💙 Non-binary transgender people
Some people do not fall under the category of ‘female’ or ‘male’ discussed above. They are called non-binary trans people, which means they don’t fit into the gender binary, or genderqueer people, which means they do not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions. Some people use the term “transgenderqueer”, the combination of transgender and genderqueer.
💙 Time, space, and gender
There are some identities specific to a particular ethnic group. Two-spirit, an umbrella term for a traditional identity in Indigenous North American culture, encompasses tribe, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The existence of the time- and space-specific identity demonstrates that gender is a social construct. Female and male, the most commonly known genders, are no exceptions.
The rough journey of transitioning
Transition means a change from one form or type to another, or the process by which this happens. To trans people, transitioning is a journey for change to a gender expression that fits their gender identity. Trans people of any gender, including non-binary people, can transition. Note that not all trans people choose to transition. Each individual may choose to transition or not based on their situation and needs.
💖 Medical transition
Some trans people may go through a medical transition. This can include hormone treatment, surgery, or other actions to have a body that they think better matches their gender identity. Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is one of them. Whether a trans person chooses a medical transition, and if they do, what interventions they undergo varies from person to person. One may transition medically to reduce their gender dysphoria (especially regarding their body), for legal gender recognition, or to be perceived as the gender that corresponds to their identity. Contrary to popular myth, it’s not like you pay your surgeon, undergo a ‘gender change,’ and leave the operating room with a completely different appearance from head to foot. A trans person may choose one or more medical transition options, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT), breast removal or augmentation, uterus or testicle removal, and genital reconfiguration. In many countries, health insurance doesn’t cover most or any of these medical actions, some of which cost tens of thousands of dollars.
💖 Social transition
To live as they are, some trans people may come out to those around them, ask others to use their preferred pronouns, or change their name or appearance in such a way that others recognize their gender as the gender they identify with. - As gendered pronouns (she/her and he/him) are widely used in English, people often inform others of their pronouns. Some non-binary people prefer neo-pronouns such as xe/xir. They/them are also used as singular, gender-neutral pronouns.
💖 Legal gender recognition
In Korea, there is no act regarding gender recognition of trans people. Each judge decides on their own, referring to the guidelines for processing designated in the Supreme Court’s established rules. Therefore, the result of the application for gender recognition may vary depending on the assigned judge. Legal gender recognition in Korea typically requires a “transsexualism” diagnosis, aka F64.0, and having SRS. There are some cases of approval without genital reconfiguration, but in general, the applicant has to prove their infertility. There are only two legal genders, female and male, and you cannot be recognized as any other gender. The requirements for legal gender recognition vary widely from country to country. On the other hand, several European countries have recently removed the requirement to be infertile for legal gender recognition. Some countries, including Argentina, Iceland, and Taiwan, provide an option of “X” in addition to female and male as legal gender to allow legal recognition of non-binary people.
The dilemma of legal gender recognition
In many countries, requirements for legal gender recognition of transgender people are strict and usually include medical transition. However, trans people suffer employment discrimination and, in many cases, are not supported by their families. It is difficult for them to undergo expensive medical services that are usually not covered by insurance or public health care.
This article explained who transgender people are and how trans people’s experiences differ from cis people’s. In Volume 2, we will introduce the transgender pride flag and Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), debunk common myths about trans people, and take a look at some celebrities who came out as trans.
Do you know why you shouldn’t call a trans person ‘a woman prettier than a woman?’ To be continued in the next part!