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American Psychological Association: Transgender People, Gender Identity and Gender Expression

What does transgender mean?

According to the APA Style guide, the term “transsexual” is largely outdated, but some people identify with it; this term should be used only for an individual who specifically claims it. While the term “transsexual” appears multiple times throughout this document, APA’s Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity is undertaking a systematic review of its use along with other terms. In the meantime, please refer to the Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People (PDF, 472KB) for more up-to-date language regarding transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics. “Trans” is sometimes used as shorthand for “transgender.” While transgender is generally a good term to use, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender-nonconforming will identify as a transgender person. The ways that transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academia and science are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge and openness about transgender people and their experiences grow.

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