Welcome to Trans Summer School!

Happy Pride, and welcome to our new summer series we just couldn't be more excited to roll out⁠ for you: Trans Summer School!

We’re here to talk about all things trans, all summer long. We’ll be consulting with experts from sex⁠ educators to surgeons to trans people themselves (since they have the most experience with the subject!) to give you the skinny on gender⁠ — and hopefully, to help you figure out where you fit in and feel best.

    Over the course of this series, we’ll be exploring what it means to be transgender⁠ , what to do if you think you might be trans or otherwise gender nonconforming⁠ , what to expect from transition⁠ if you decide to pursue medical and/or surgical transition now or in the future, how to have fun and safe sex while trans, and much, much more.

    Here’s what this series is about: Exploring the diversity of trans identity⁠ , discussing issues the trans community faces, and thinking about how to explore your own relationship⁠ with gender.

    There is one thing we’re NOT here for: We’re not here to tell you whether you are or aren’t trans, and we want you to know that there’s no one right way to be trans, nor is there any such thing as “trans enough.”

    Everyone defines and experiences transness very differently, much as cisgender⁠ people experience gender in a variety of ways from femmes to butches to queens to so much more. It’s up to you to decide what that looks like for you. You're always enough of anything and everything.

    Experiences of gender are highly varied from person to person and all over the world. Some people experience an intense identification with another gender and decide to transition to feel more comfortable in their bodies. Others may struggle with their gender for a while, or experience a fluid relationship that changes over time — like a trans woman who later identifies as agender⁠ after transition. Some know that their experience of gender doesn’t match their sex assigned at birth, but they may not feel the need to transition. Everyone needs a safe place to explore their relationship with gender. This is a judgment-free zone.

    Are you feeling uncomfortable in your body? Boy howdy, did you ever come to the right place! Now, "uncomfortable” isn’t always easy to identify: it varies from person to person. For some people, it’s an intense, overwhelming feeling that might include alienation from their genitals⁠ , distress when forced to wear gendered clothing, and unhappiness around gendered pronouns that feel wrong. Sometimes it’s just uneasiness and sense that something isn’t quite right. We’re going to be talking to lots of trans people over the course of the summer about how they came to a deeper understanding about their gender, and you may find something to identify with in their stories.

    Gender is a huge subject that might be even more complicated than you think. For starters, sex (a biological determination) and gender (a social one) are two different things, though they're definitely related, and neither one is simple. When it comes to sex, which people often think of as "male" or "female," did you know that the American Psychological Association estimates roughly one in every 1,500 babies is born intersex⁠ ? Intersexulity can look like all kinds of things, and sometimes like nothing at all, with some people not even realizing that they have an extra sex chromosome or an endocrine system with some special features until adulthood. Right out of the gate, gender just isn’t ever as simple as “girl” and “boy”!

    Some people may find that the sex they were assigned at birth doesn’t mesh with their internal identity and experience of gender, unlike cisgender (or cis) people, who feel their assigned sex matches their gender. Some of them are highly binary⁠ transgender people, like Caitlyn Jenner, who was assigned male at birth but later transitioned to affirm her actual identity as a woman. And despite what you might have heard about feelings of being “trapped in the wrong body” or “always knowing,” everyone, including binary trans people, actually comes to an understanding about their gender in a huge variety of ways.

    Some transgender people don’t see themselves as men or women, though they may pursue hormones⁠ , surgery, and other transition options to help them feel more comfortable in their own skin. They may identify as nonbinary⁠ , genderqueer⁠ , agender, androgyne, genderfluid, genderfuck, or a huge array of other things — and that’s just within Western frameworks of thinking about gender. In India, hijra are assigned male at birth, but live as women, like muxe in Mexico, while in some Native American cultures, two-spirit⁠ people may experience gender in a variety of ways. Nadleeh people in Navajo traditions, who identify beyond male and female gender definitions, are another example of gender diversity in Native American communities.

    But not everyone who experiences gender variance is transgender or identifies that way. Some people don’t identify as cis or trans. They may describe themselves as genderqueer, agender, androgyne, genderfluid, or with other terminology, though! While they aren’t trans, these gender nonconforming individuals still don’t feel comfortable with the sexes assigned at birth and the genders assigned to them by society, and they don’t have to. You may have heard derisive comments made about members of these communities — “making it up for attention” or “special snowflakes,” perhaps, but the people who make those comments are one hundred percent wrong. Gender nonconforming people, regardless of their gender, are experiencing a very real phenomenon and deserve respect and accommodations.

    Whether you’re transgender, gender nonconforming, questioning⁠ , or just curious, we hope you enjoy our journey together as we talk about gender, culture, and identity. Over the course of the summer, we’ll be covering all kinds of things, but there’s always more to learn.

    Read next at Trans Summer School: Gender Identity, A Primer!

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    • s.e. smith

    So you've thought about sex and gender and all that good stuff and a little bird is telling you that you might be trans. But how do you know?