Identity is complicated!
Trans (short for transgender) is a term that encompasses people for whom gender does not align with their assigned sex. Gender is a social construct that serves to categorize people based on expression, behavior, and identity. Sex can also be seen as a social construct; the way with which society assigns meaning to our bodies.
There are many identities within the trans spectrum. While some people identify as trans men or women, others do not have a gender at all, or fall somewhere along the male-female continuum.
Gender vs. sexuality
While gender has to do with who you are, sexuality is all about who you’re attracted to. Because US culture holds a relatively binary, traditional view of gender identity, many people confuse or conflate sexuality and gender.
What does all of this have to do with health?
Trans people have poorer health outcomes than most other groups, including an increased risk of mental health problems, particularly depression and suicide. One study found that 41% of trans people had attempted suicide as opposed to 2% of the general population. Tobacco, alcohol, and drug addiction is also higher among trans people.
We don’t fully understand all of the reasons why trans people have such poor health outcomes. Discrimination – workplace, housing, interpersonal, and health care – almost certainly plays a large role. Trans people are also more likely to be physically victimized. In 2017, 29 trans people were murdered across the US. Even here in Seattle, trans people routinely face violence and harassment.
Ways to be a trans ally
Are you a cisgender person who wants to support trans people?
- Respect people’s pronouns (they/them, ze/zir, she/her, he/him) even if it’s hard for you to remember!
- Don’t assume that the eventual outcome for all trans people is surgery or hormones to make them look conventionally gendered. Many trans people don’t want or need a medical intervention to express their gender identity.
- Some words can really hurt – “tranny,” “she-him,” and “shemale” evoke harassment and trauma.
- Urge institutions and businesses you frequent to implement all-gender bathrooms.
- If you hear friends or family expressing bias toward or confusion about trans people, address it then and there! It shouldn’t just be up to trans people to educate and defend themselves. This Laci Green video can help.
- Q Center – UW’s space for all genders and sexualities; offers events, advocacy, one-on-one advising, support groups, and more.
- 2014 King County Trans* Resource & Referral Guide
- Ingersoll Gender Center
- Gender Justice League
- UW Hall Health Center provider Britt Murphy is a trusted source of medical support for trans people on campus. Schedule an appointment.