This resource is intended to give trans people in Lethbridge, Alberta knowledge about trans identity, transition, and relevant resources. If you have information that could contribute to future revisions of this guide, please contact us!
Thank you to the individuals from Calgary Outlink for allowing Lethbridge ARCHES to adapt your amazing resource to help serve our Lethbridge community. Originally created in 2012 by Calgary Outlink volunteers, this guide was modified by Lethbridge ARCHES to expand on resources, and be specific to Lethbridge.
Used with permission from Calgary Outlink: Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity
All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2020
Lethbridge Trans Resource and Information Guide, 2nd Edition 2020
Published by Lethbridge ARCHES
There are as many definitions of transgender and gender non-conforming identities as there are people who identify with them. You get to figure out what this means for yourself and what words feel comfortable to you. Below are some definitions to help you understand what others may be referring to when using these words.
Transgender/Trans: A self-identifying term for people whose gender identity, gender expression or behaviour does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans is the abbreviated version of transgender. ‘Transgender’ or ‘trans’ can also be used as an umbrella term to refer to all people or groups of people whose identities fall outside of cisgender (see “cisgender”).
The American Psychological Association (2013) notes that, while transgender is generally a good term to use, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender-nonconforming will identify as a transgender person. Some transgender people may just identify as men or women, without the prefix of being a trans man or a trans woman. The ways that transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academia, science, and how trans communities talk about themselves are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge, and openness about transgender people and their experiences grow.
Hill and Mays (2013) describe transgender as an umbrella term which includes but is not limited to: transfeminine spectrum, transmasculine spectrum, two-spirit, genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, transgender, transsexual, androgynous, FTM, MTF, third gender, pangender, bigender, crossdressers, neutrois, trans women, trans men, and gender variant and gender non-conforming people.
Transfeminine: A self-identifying term for people who were assigned male at birth (AMAB) and are on a trans spectrum, including trans women, non-binary, genderqueer, or two-spirit people who identify as trans. AMAB persons who are not cisgender may identify with this term regardless of their identity, but in no way are required too.
Transmasculine: A self-identifying term for people who were assigned female at birth (AFAB) and are on a trans spectrum, including trans women, non-binary, genderqueer, or two–spirit people who identify as trans. AFAB persons who are not cisgender may identify with this term regardless of their identity, but in no way are required too.
Cisgender: A person whose gender identity, gender expression, and sex assigned at birth align with conventional expectations of male or female.
Gender Binary: The classification of gender into two distinct, opposite and disconnected categories of masculine and feminine.
Gender Expression: The way people communicate their gender identity to others by the way they dress, act, and/or refer to themselves.
Gender Fluid: A person who embodies characteristics of multiple genders, or whose gender identity shifts from day to day.
Gender Identity: A person’s internal sense of being male or female or anything in between (also see: Gender spectrum).
Gender Identity Dysphoria/Gender Dysphoria (GID): Gender Identity Dysphoria is the emotional discomfort an individual experiences due to internalized conflicts arising from the incongruity between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s sense of gender identity.
Gender Neutral: Something or someone that is not gendered. Can refer to language (such as pronouns or names), spaces (like bathrooms), or identities (being genderqueer).
Gender Non-Binary: A self-identifying term for someone whose gender identity is neither male nor female. The term can also be used in the same way as gender-neutral to describe language and spaces.
Gender Queer: A self-identifying term for someone who defines their gender identity outside of the gender binary.
Gender Spectrum: An alternative system to the gender binary that explains gender as existing within a range between masculine and feminine.
Intersex: A general term used to describe people who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male anatomy.
Perceived Gender: How a person is read by others in regards to their gender.
Two-Spirit: A self-identifying term used by some Aboriginal people in place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or transsexual. Historically, in many Aboriginal cultures two-spirit people held positions of special status such as community leaders and medicine people.
Some trans people feel clear about their gender identity from a young age. But for others, it’s less obvious, and how they feel about their gender may shift over time. Even though someone’s gender can shift over time, how they are feeling about their gender at any particular moment is legitimate and should be validated as such. Acknowledging how you feel about yourself often involves overcoming feelings of shame and guilt, or fear of disapproval.
If you feel a persistent discomfort about your gender and would like support or ideas to work through it, therapy or counselling may be helpful, or going to a trans support group where you can explore your gender identity. Counselling resources are provided in Appendix B.
Coming out as transgender refers to a person’s self-disclosure of their gender identity. Coming out involves an acknowledgement to yourself concerning how you feel about your gender and eventually telling others about it. Many trans people worry about how other people will react and how they’ll be treated once they decide to come out. On the other hand, for many people, it also means that they can finally be honest about how they feel and not have to continue to hide their gender. There are many reasons why some people don’t come out, or don’t come out in certain situations. There should never be pressure to come out. For instance, a person under the age of 18 may have a harder time with this process due to being a minor and being dependent on their parents or guardian for support. In addition to minors, people in institutionalized care settings, with a need for consensual or non–consensual mandate of support by the state; people who have been or are currently incarcerated; people employed in militaristic or para-militaristic organizations; some clergy; people for whom coming out will mean giving up ties to their home cultures or countries, face additional, specific barriers and challenges when coming out.
The process of coming out as transgender is different for everyone – and also different than coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, etc. There is no ‘right way’ to come out and some ways may not be relevant for some people or suitable for where they are in their transition. It is not your responsibility to come out the ‘right’ way for others in your life. Coming out can be a positive experience. Here are some things to consider if you choose to come out, or if you are supporting someone who is in the process of coming out:
- Consider your audience. If you decide to come out to your friends or family and it is safe to do so, coming out to someone who you think is the most likely to be supportive is a good way to start because they may be able to offer support to your family or friend group.
- Do some research to make your coming out as informed as possible. Prepare yourself with knowledge in case a loved one has questions. Try to imagine questions that may come up from friends and family and how you might respond or what you feel comfortable answering.
- Try not to make assumptions about the reaction that your loved ones will have. People may surprise you.
- Provide resources. Literature or videos on gender identity may help those who are drawn to learning more. Some family members may have little or no knowledge about gender identity or trans people. This can provide a lot of information to a person without you having to interact with the individual a great deal. Link them to a website, suggest books for them to read, or videos/movies to watch. Many books have been published on the transgender community. Review a couple and pick the ones that are best for your situation.
- If you decide to have a direct, face-to-face conversation, make sure to choose a time and place that will work for everyone. Try to plan for a time when you won’t get interrupted. In having a face-to-face conversation, you’ll want to prepare for any number of possible reactions. Think about whether you feel able to face those possible reactions. If any of these feel too difficult for you to face, perhaps you might want to think of a different way to come out. This option is probably best suited for those of you who are confident that the people you are telling will have a positive reaction.
- Be patient. This isn’t going to all happen overnight. Coming out is a long process that may take a lifetime. You can get the important people notified, but you may always be running into acquaintances and people from an earlier time in your life.
- Remember that you have nothing to apologize for, you are who you are, and your gender is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
One approach is to write a letter or an email. This is the best way to come out to people who you think may not be the most accepting, because it avoids face-to-face confrontation, gives you time to think about and write out exactly what you want to say, and gives the reader time to think out how they’re going to react and what they’re going to say.
In your letter, be clear about your identity and reaffirm the importance of this process.
Include facts about trans identity, and any details you want to give them about your transition etc., so that they will understand that being your gender is an important part of your identity how you see yourself in the world. A letter can also be used to come out to family members you rarely talk to or see. Search for example letters on the internet to get a good idea of what one may look like. Use the letter as a framework and tailor it to your needs.
“Transition” refers to a host of processes that some trans people may pursue to affirm their gender identity. There is no checklist or average time for a transition process, and no universal goal or endpoint. Each person will decide what meets their needs. Transition is different for everyone: no two trans people are exactly alike. It is also important to note that choosing not to transition is valid, and this decision is fully up to you! There is no wrong way to be trans and doing what feels right for you is what’s important. If you do decide to transition, some aspects of a person’s transition might include:
- Self-identification as trans or a different gender than the one assigned at birth.
- Gender presentation: expressing their gender in a way that feels right for them. This could include clothes, haircut, make up, jewelry, wigs, etc.
- Using gender affirming products to enhance their body: chest binding, tucking, packing, breast forms, etc.
- Voice therapy.
- Changing one’s name – informally or legally.
- Changing one’s pronouns (“he/him/his”, “she/her/hers”, “they/them/theirs”).
- Sharing their gender identity with important people in their life people (coming out to family, coworkers, classmates, friends, partner, spouse, etc.)
- Changing one’s gender marker on their ID, birth certificate, SIN, etc.
- Medical transition. This might include such things as hormone blockers, hormones, chest surgery, genital surgery, facial feminization surgery, electrolysis and laser hair removal.
Ultimately, the path a person takes is up to them. It can be greatly affected by personal circumstances: what feels safe and what feels best to them. There should not be any pressure for someone to do any particular aspect or stage of transition to be “legitimately trans.” A person’s gender is inherently legitimate.