What does transgender mean?

Transgender people are people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be at birth. “Trans” is often used as shorthand for transgender.

When we’re born, a doctor usually says that we’re male or female based on what our bodies look like. Most people who were labeled male at birth turn out to actually identify as men, and most people who were labeled female at birth grow up to be women. But some people’s gender identity – their innate knowledge of who they are – is different from what was initially expected when they were born. Most of these people describe themselves as transgender.

A transgender woman lives as a woman today, but was thought to be male when she was born. A transgender man lives as a man today, but was thought to be female when he was born. Some transgender people identify as neither male nor female, or as a combination of male and female. There are a variety of terms that people who aren’t entirely male or entirely female use to describe their gender identity, like non-binary or genderqueer.

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What does intersex mean?

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A variety of conditions that lead to atypical development of physical sex characteristics are collectively referred to as intersex conditions. These conditions can involve abnormalities of the external genitals, internal reproductive organs, sex chromosomes or sex-related hormones. Some examples include:

  • External genitals that cannot be easily classified as male or female.
  • Incomplete or unusual development of the internal reproductive organs.
  • Inconsistency between the external genitals and the internal reproductive organs.
  • Abnormalities of the sex chromosomes.
  • Abnormal development of the testes or ovaries.
  • Over- or underproduction of sex-related hormones.
  • Inability of the body to respond normally to sex-related hormones.

“Intersex” was originally a medical term that was later embraced by some intersex persons. Many experts and persons with intersex conditions have recently recommended adopting the term “disorders of sex development” (DSD). They feel that this term is more accurate and less stigmatizing than the term intersex.

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