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Las Vegas, Nevada - Want to better understand what it means to be transgender? Here's a primer on the basics, as well as the definitions of common terms used to describe gender identity.

Defining transgender

The word "transgender" encompasses more than you might realize. It covers a range of gender identities and expressions that might fall outside of the idea that all people can be classified as only one of two genders — male or female (gender binary).

Transgender is an umbrella term used to capture the spectrum of gender identity and gender-expression diversity. Gender identity is the internal sense of being male, female, neither or both. Gender expression — often an extension of gender identity — involves the expression of a person's gender identity through social roles, appearance and behaviors.

People who are transgender include:

The relationship between gender identity and sexual orientation

Being transgender doesn't say or imply anything about a person's sexual orientation — physical and emotional attraction or sexual behavior. Sexual orientation is an inherent component of every individual. A person's sexual orientation can't be assumed based on gender identity or gender expression.

Understanding gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might accompany a difference between gender identity, sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics. This type of distress doesn't affect everyone who is transgender.

Gender dysphoria is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose mental conditions. Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis that is given to individuals who are experiencing discomfort or distress due to the difference between gender identity, sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.

Knowing helpful terms

Concepts of sex and gender

Concepts of sex and gender

Other terms that might come up in a discussion about being transgender include:

If you have further questions about gender identity, consider checking out resources such as The Fenway Institute or the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at the University of California, San Francisco.