Transgender issues can certainly be seen as complex but they are also essentially straightforward. Trans people are simply human beings like everyone else, deeply lovable and capable of great love. So 'let us be!' is really the main message.
Here below however are a few basic responses of my own to often asked questions (please refer to information and support, and further reading for some pointers to other helps and more specialised information)
What does transgender mean? Cross gender (think trans-port, trans-formation etc) as distinct from cisgender (relating to someone whose gender identity matches their biological sex assigned at birth). A transgender person's sense of gender differs from their biological sex. When a transgender person transitions to a different gender, they may be referred to as male-to-female or female-to-male. Transitioning can mean anything from simply dressing and presenting as a different gender to various surgeries or hormone treatments. The steps a person takes are personal and differ based on preference and resources. People who transition normally do so after extensive counseling and reflection. Not everyone who wears the clothing of another gender is transgender.
What causes someone being transgender? No one really knows exactly - it is certainly not a mental health condition or disorder. It may have biological or formational foundations and/or be a combination of factors.. More research may confirm some interesting findings for example on brain patterns, The key thing is that mainstream medical knowledge and practice has long accepted that being transgender is simply one way of being human.
Isn't transgender a new phenomenon? Yes and no. As we understand realities like 'transgender' today (where possibilities of social and medical transitions are greater and the terminology is continually being adapted) it is a modern phenomenon in many aspects. However gender nonconforming people have existed throughout human history and in all cultures. Traditionally in many places they were also often given special roles (often spiritual ones),recognising the particular gifts they had to share to enrich their communities.
How do we know if someone is transgender? They will tell you so - if they feel safe and strong enough. Ultimately it is a matter for the individual, although qualified counsellors can assist in helping someone to understand and affirm themselves. Usually it is something that today is increasingly identified in childhood or, for those of earlier generations, something someone has known for years and often struggled with, sometimes at great cost.
What is the relationship of sexuality to gender? Although transgender people often suffer discrimination similar to that experienced by other LBGTI+ people, being transgender is about someone's identity rather than sexuality as such. As a group, transgender people exhibit a range of different sexual orientations just as the wider population does. This is not related to being transgender but simply to being human. Sadly, due to a lack of understanding and discrimination in the past, transgender people were often labelled as sexual deviants. However we know today that healthy spiritual and moral attributes are as prevalent among transgender people as in any other group in society.
What relationship issues are involved? Learning to love and appreciate in new ways - with wonderful new joys and renewing of relationships as well as challenges. With more societal support and affirmation this would be much easier for so many!
What needs to be done if someone comes out as transgender? Affirm and support! Increasingly anti-trans legal and societal discrimination is being removed in many countries. Much still needs to be done however, particularly in many less privileged parts of the world, including sections of more affirming developed societies. Suicide and self-harm rates are still much higher even than for other LGBTI+ people and transphobic violence and murder is still too common. Friends, allies, neighbours and work colleagues can therefore do much to support trans people by helping to address such attitudes and behaviours, as well as by deepening relationships. Transforming religious and spiritual negativity is an important part of this - hence this website...