A Trans FAQ: Let’s Help Google!

**TRIGGER WARNING: Transphobia — people are depressing sometimes.**

Here are the most frequently asked questions on Google. Let’s answer them!


Is transgender a mental illness?

The quick answer is that no, it isn’t. You can’t “cure” a trans* person by psychotherapy or psychoactive drugs, and it’s not an indication of anything “wrong”. However, for health and legal purposes, it is treated as such, as the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder. The normal treatment of GID is transition (at least for those who can or want). Under WPATH Standards of Care, you need a GID diagnosis to undergo medical transition. This diagnosis is also useful because it justifies insurance covering. All the same, it’s a bit of a fiction.

To be precise, it is frequent for trans* people to suffer from other mental issues, such as depression or anxiety, given that they often have repressed their identity for years and the discrimination and abuse they get during transition. Being trans is hard.

Is transgender real?

Pretty much, yeah.

Is transgender a sin?

I’m not a theologian or even a Christian at all, so this is going to be awkward to answer. I can’t really go in the details, having no idea what they are. But I googled this one for some minutes. My conclusion is 1) that the most antagonistic arguments seem to confuse homosexuality and transgenderism, which worketh not, and 2) that God apparently loves all Their children.

Christians discourses which distinguish homosexuality and transgenderism are generally rather sympathetic. I’ve heard of trans people with highly religious parents who expected hell from them, yet in fact, their parents were relieved to learn that their child was trans, and not gay. There are some very trans-inclusive religious people out there.

Also, listen here to homophobic preacher Pat Roberston saying that being trans is real and not a sin. It’s not the best answer or characterization of transgenderism (he understands this as “woman in a man’s body”, which is a topos I don’t like, he describes SRS as “[having] body parts amputed”, he questions “the validity of the statement” of being female), but hey, at least we’re not burning in Hell. After all, “it’s not for you to decide or to judge”. Coming from someone who said gay people could provoke hurricanes and that 9/11 was caused by “liberal civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuals and abortion rights supporters”, it’s quite refreshing.

If you are a Christian trans woman and worried about what the Scriptures say, maybe you will find this blog post inspirational.

Is transgender natural?

What is “natural”? I usually think that whatever can happen is natural. Trans people exist, they “happen”, therefore they are natural.

Gender is socially constructed, after all. Many cultures have several genders — in fact, in Southern and Southeastern Asia, the modern techniques of transsexualism are used by traditional members of regional third genders. There are cultures (in the past at least) where female-sexed person assumed male gender roles as consecrated virgins. So our modern Western idea of transgender, although particular in its own way, is certainly not unnatural.


As we see, there is some repetition. The idea that trans people ar mentally ill comes back often on Google. *sigh*

Are transgender gay? gay or straight?

Some are, some are not. A trans woman (MtF) attracted to women is a lesbian. A trans man (FtM) attracted to women is straight. A trans woman attracted to both/any is bisexual/pansexual. Basically, it works in the same way as usual.

Sexual and romantic attraction is completely distinct from gender identity, even though gender as a system assumes compulsory heterosexuality and cisgenderism.


Is transsexual offensive?

I’m gonna treat this as “Is the word ‘transsexual’ offensive to trans people”. The answer is, as often: if you’re not sure, ask. In general, the word is a bit passé, but it works. Even though I fit the label, I don’t really like it, personally, but others do. It depends. Still, it’s not wrong as a word, not in itself.

Is transsexual and transgender the same thing?

Not exactly. Transsexual is a subsection of transgender. Transsexual people are transgender, but the opposite is not true (just as a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not always a square). “Transsexual” implies some desire for medical transition, which does not apply to all transgender people (i.e. people assigned something at birth who identify within the other binary category). A transgender person who does not want any sort of medical transition would not be transsexual. Personally, I know few such people, and most of them prefered to identify as genderqueer, but then some transsexual people also identify as genderqueer.

Personally, I’m lazy. I just use trans for either, and trans* to emphasize that non-binary people are included (which is most of the time). They’re not perfect words, but oh well.


Is transsexualism a choice?

Quick answer: No. Transition may be a choice, but the dysphoria which make it necessary is not.

Long answer here.

Is transsexualism a medical condition?

It depends what you mean. I already discussed this above a bit with the idea that it’s a mental disorder. In a way, it depends how you define “medical condition”. As I said, from a medico-legal point of view, being trans is a medical condition that requires treatment, in the form of transition, but it’s really a bizarre idea.

What is true, however, is that transsexual people have to see doctors to proceed with their physical transition (hormones, surgeries, etc.). But then, cis women also go to their doctor to request contraceptives, and being fertile is not a medical condition. Personally, I consider transsexualism as a non-medical condition that requires medical supervision, like taking the pill or being a pro athlete.


Are transsexuals born that way?

Depends what you mean. We don’t know the “cause” of transsexualism. It’s rather hard to determine that something happens from birth, because newborn babies can hardly express their gender identity. Still, some children express from a very young age the desire to be a girl or a boy despite their birth assigned gender, and many trans people report knowing they were trans since childhood. But that’s not all trans people, it may not even be the majority. Some only see signs that they were trans in their childhood, but didn’t know how to understand them. Some don’t see any, I’m sure. The real decisive moment is puberty: some trans people report little or no dysphoria until puberty, and some people who lived as the other gender as children go back to their birth assigned gender at puberty.

However, the idea that transsexualism is determined at birth (i.e. that it’s strictly biologically determined) is the view that works best with the idea that gender is stable, and it’s the foundation of transnormative discourses: after all, if you’re “a woman in a man’s body”, you always were a woman, you just “received” the wrong body. (This topos is not one that is used by all trans people to describe their experience. I don’t like it, for one. It proceeds from a sort of spiritualist dualist anthropology: mind and body are two substances, and mind has precedence.)

Are transsexuals female? male or female?

The fact that the “are they female?” question comes first (and “are they male?” not at all) probably points to the fact that all attention is fixated on trans women, while trans men are forgotten. This is pretty typical, transmisogyny and all. Oh well. We get used to it.

Trans and cis women are women. Trans and cis men are men. Genderqueer people may be one or the other, both, neither, one at a time or something else entirely. However, trans women and cis men were assigned male at birth, and trans men and cis women were assigned female at birth. Also, all of them may be intersex. If you don’t know about someone, maybe you don’t need to.

If the question is about sex, well, trans people sexual characteristics can be all over the place, just as with intersex people. A trans woman may have a penis and male facial hair, yet have breast and low testosterone, for example. This shows very well how binary sex, and not only gender, is a construct.


And now, for the fun of it…


Is cisgender the same as straight?

No, it is not related to sexuality, as described above. “Cisgender” mean that someone’s gender identity matches their birth assigned gender. This has no implication on sexual or romantic preferences. A cis man can be gay.

Is cisgender a real word?

The fact that you’re using it implies that it is. There is no such thing as “real words”.A word is a unit of meaning. If you understand it, if it has meaning (even if you don’t understand it correctly), then it’s a word.

Is cisgender offensive?

Some people are offended when they are refered to as cisgender. This seems to correlate with transphobia.

Cisgender is a stupid term.

We need words to refer to things, to notions, to concepts. There is such a thing as being transgender or trans*. There is, as a result, such a thing as not being transgender or trans*. Therefore, we need a word to describe the opposite of being trans. Cis is useful for this purpose, because 1) it doesn’t imply that trans people are fake, as “real women” or “bio men” do 2) the latin preposition cis (on this side) means the exact opposite of trans (on the other side).

See also my answer to trans-exclusive feminist discourses against “cisgender”.


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One thought on “A Trans FAQ: Let’s Help Google!

  1. Alexia June 3, 2014 at 14:20 Reply

    Great article, as always. 🙂 Who would ever have guessed that Pat Robertson would believe that “being Trans is real and not a Sin.” O.o

    It helped me understand some of the terminology a little better as well. I like Transexual over Genderqueer.

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