Transgender facts

Explore the concepts of sex and gender and the different ways people experience them.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Want to better understand what it means to be transgender? Here's a primer on the basics, as well as the definitions of common terms used to describe gender identity.

Defining transgender

The word "transgender" encompasses more than you might realize. It covers a range of gender identities and expressions that might fall outside of the idea that all people can be classified as only one of two genders — male or female (gender binary).

Transgender is an umbrella term used to capture the spectrum of gender identity and gender-expression diversity. Gender identity is the internal sense of being male, female, neither or both. Gender expression — often an extension of gender identity — involves the expression of a person's gender identity through social roles, appearance and behaviors.

People who are transgender include:

  • Those who have a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned to them at birth
  • Those whose gender expression — the way gender is conveyed to others through clothing, communication, mannerisms and interests — and behavior don't follow stereotypical societal norms for the sex assigned to them at birth
  • Those who identify and express their gender fluidly outside of the gender binary, which might or might not involve hormonal or surgical procedures

The relationship between gender identity and sexual orientation

Being transgender doesn't say or imply anything about a person's sexual orientation — physical and emotional attraction or sexual behavior. Sexual orientation is an inherent component of every individual. A person's sexual orientation can't be assumed based on gender identity or gender expression.

Aug. 31, 2017 See more In-depth