If you’re like me and every other self-respecting pop-culture fanatic out there, you were glued to the Diane Sawyer interview with Bruce Jenner this past April. It seemed too good to be true: the world-renowned athlete turned reality star turned… woman? Surely, this was some kind of publicity stunt to further the Kardashian brand.
But as the interview unfolded, it became clear that this was the real deal. Bruce (now Caitlyn) was just a guy who felt completely and utterly misunderstood his entire life, and finally did something about it – hopefully to the benefit of others like him.
I felt bad about putting her story on the same level as a Real Housewives plot line. I also had a zillion questions.
Here’s a few of the most commonly asked questions about transgender folks.
What exactly is transgender?
Someone who is transgendered does not self-identify with their assigned sex. And while we’re at it, gender and sex are two different things. Sex is determined by your genitalia, but your sex doesn’t determine your gender. Your gender is your self-identity. When your gender and sex don’t match up, you’re trans.
Does this mean all transgender people are gay or lesbian?
Nope. Diane Sawyer seemed to have some trouble with this one in the Bruce Jenner interview. But as Bruce stated, he is still attracted to women and his own gender-identity does not affect that.
Do all transgender people eventually get gender-reassignment surgery?
Not all of them. This is a very personal choice, like any surgery. Some people opt to medically transition to another sex, but plenty of others decide against it.
Are transgender people mentally ill?
While many transgender people do suffer from gender dysmorphia (a state of emotional distress that happens as a result of the dissatisfaction associated with your assigned sex), trans people aren’t mentally ill. Each case is different. Like the rest of us, not all trans people share the same experiences or make the same choices.
What kinds of issues do transgender people have?
41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide, in comparison to the 1.6 percent of the rest of the population. 78 percent of transgender grade school children face harassment and 35 percent face physical assault. Needless to say, depression and bullying are huge issues in the trans community.
Can’t they just… stop being transgender?
It doesn’t work that way. Imagine if you had to stop being yourself – meaning you had to give up your interests, your mannerisms and even the way you dress. You can’t just flip a switch and stop being you. If you tried, you’d likely end up extremely unhappy. That’s a big part of the struggle of identifying as trans.
What can I do to help?
Check out GLAAD’s exhaustive list of resources, including suicide prevent hotlines. Think before you speak. Don’t make assumptions about anyone! For even more information on this topic go to GLADD’s FAQ page.
Do you or someone you know identify as transgender? Share with us in the comments!