Myths about Gender and Transitioning

Whilst working out and about in the community, we get asked lots of different questions, and try our best to clear up lots of sexual health myths. Here are some of the most common myths/questions we have come across, regarding gender and transitioning.

There are only 2 genders (boy or girl), and you are the gender you are born into

Lots of people mix up gender identity and biological sex! Biological sex is, basically, what’s between someone’s legs (genitals), along with physical and genetic traits. Gender identity is the way that we see ourselves, describe ourselves and how we express this. It is our own unique identity, and it is not about our body. When we are born, a health professional will assign us a sex, based on our genitals, and it is assumed that our gender identity will match this sex. In the UK, this is “boy” or “girl”. A small number of babies, develop differently before they are born; this can mean that what their genitals look like on the outside doesn’t fit exactly in to male/boy or female/girl. This is often referred to as a baby having been born intersex; and healthcare professionals will carry out tests and speak with the baby’s parent/s to decide the sex which will be assigned.

Sometimes people can feel like their true gender identity doesn’t match the one they were assigned at birth. They may identify with a different gender; feel that they don’t fit into a “set” gender identity at all, or go between different genders.

People don’t have to identify as “boy” or “girl” their whole life, because of what is between their legs, or how they were labelled when they were born. Everyone has the right to identify however feels right for them; or not to label their gender identity at all!

Being trans is a mental illness

Being trans is not a mental illness: there is nothing “wrong” with a trans person, and trans identity isn’t anything that needs to be (or can be) “cured”.

We are given a gender identity when we are born, based on our genitals, but not everyone feels like this is their true identity (see above!). Think about all the things that go with being labelled a “boy” or “girl”…stereotypes, appearance, pro-nouns (he/she), family/relationship/society role, personality…it is not a mental illness for somebody to feel like they don’t identify with all of these things! Trans people can experience gender dysphoria. This is when someone feels like their body, and the gender they were assigned at birth does not fit with the way they feel about themselves. This is not a mental illness (and is understood to develop before a person is born) but gender dysphoria can make a person feel uncomfortable, unhappy, anxious and like they are struggling to cope; which can negatively impact their mental health.

Organisations, like Mind LGBT+ Mental Health Information, can offer support. It is really important for anyone experiencing gender dysphoria to know that they are not alone. Like gender identity, everyone’s experience is unique to them; but there are lots of people out there who can help you feel like your true self by sharing their experiences. See our Useful Links Page for a list of organisations which can offer support and advice.

If someone is trans, then they are also gay

Being transgender has nothing to do with someone’s sexuality: gender identity and sexuality are two separate things. Sexuality is about who a person is attracted to and/or falls in love with; gender identity is how somebody feels about and describes themselves.

Some trans people may be gay, but other’s aren’t. Sexuality is personal to everyone, it can change throughout people’s lives, and it is not linked to their gender identity. Lots of people don’t feel like they need to label either of these things! Find an example of some different sexualities here.

All trans people will have surgery

Having “surgery” usually means somebody having different medical procedures to change their body (which can include genitals) and physical appearance, to match their gender identity.

Some trans people may have surgery to different parts of their body, and/or take hormones, but other trans people do not. Some people feel comfortable just changing their name and pronouns, or changing their appearance with clothes/make-up/hairstyle, without any medical transition.

There are no rules; transition is different for everyone! You don’t need to have any medical procedures to live as your true gender.