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Frequently Asked Questions about Intersex and Transgender People
What are transgender, transsexual, and intersexed?
Transgender describes someone whose gender identity differs from the standard male/female identities. Transsexual describes someone who internally has always known themselves to be a gender other than their biological gender and may undergo hormone replacement therapy and/or surgery in order to make their bodies congruent with their identity. Intersexed referrers to someone who was born with physical genitalia that is neither only-male nor only-female, and specific differences vary from person to person.
Is it a psychological disorder?
No. Traditional medical thinking, the thinking that once defined homosexuality as a disease, diagnoses transgender and gender-variant people as having "gender dysphoria" or "gender identity disorder". More recent medial thinking conceives gender as a continuum, rather than fixed at birth, and is more sympathetic to transgender and intersex people.
Are transgender and intersexed people a part of the gay community?
Many people tend to group transgendered and intersexed people with gays, lesbians, and bisexuals; however, while intersex and transgender people are part of the "variant" community, they do not always associate themselves with gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Part of the reason is that while transgender people tend to be very strong supporters of the gay and lesbian movement, the gay and lesbian movement has done very little to help transgendered and intersexed people, and some gay and lesbian groups choose not to include transgender people into their organizations. Simply put, however, gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things; being gay, bisexual, or straight constitutes a sexual orientation and being transgendered, intersexed, or natal constitutes a gender identity. However, there are many overlaps between homosexual life and transgender life and many transgender people are homosexual or bisexual.
Does changing genders mean changing sexual orientation?
No, a person who changes their physical sex does not have to change their sexual preference, although there is no rule saying they can't. A straight physically-male person who transitions to being physically female and remains attracted to women has changed from a straight male to a lesbian female. Every person is different, and has their own unique experience. Just remember that gender is not the same as sexual orientation, and every person is entitled to their own expressions of gender and sexuality.
Is violence a real problem?
Although there has been no authoritative study, smaller studies suggest that at 80% of transgender people have been physically assaulted, 80% have feared for their lives or well being, and 50% have been sexually assaulted. Intersexed and transgendered youth are especially at risk from peer violence and domestic violence. More information can be found at Resyst.org: Queer Youth Against Police Brutality and at Remembering Our Dead.
Why do so many transgender people turn to sex work?
Because of the prejudice against intersexed and transgendered people it is very difficult for transgender and intersex people to obtain and keep jobs. Also, because domestic violence forces many transgender and intersex people onto the street at an early age, many grow up without receiving a decent education and thus have difficulty obtaining work. Not all transgender and intersex people are sex workers, a few have been successful in developing professional careers. Unfortunately, because of prejudice and oppression many transgender and intersex people are forced to enter the sex industry in order to survive.
Am I gay if my boyfriend has a vagina or my girlfriend has a penis?
It's not about gay or straight. A man isn't a man just because he does or doesn't have a penis, it is how he identifies. The same goes for a woman. The usual terms of gay or straight don't apply.
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