Trans 101: Information for Trans Public Education Campaigns

Part of the "Campaign-in-a-Box" & the Transgender Freedom Project

The success of campaigns for nondiscrimination protections hinges on the effectiveness of efforts to build familiarity with, and understanding of, transgender people. Misrepresentations of transgender people have been used to stop nondiscrimination protections and even repeal existing laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

Public education efforts are critical to overcoming this challenge. And because we know that early and repeated education about transgender lives is a crucial inoculation against the opposition’s attacks, community advocates should consider implementing these efforts long ahead of formal nondiscrimination campaigns. This guide includes the most essential information needed to help introduce transgender people to a public that needs accurate information about their lives. It also includes sample Trans 101 resources that campaigns can consider reproducing in their own education work.

Key Terminology

Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the gender  determined at birth. Gender identity is a person’s internal, personal sense of their gender. For transgender people, the gender determined at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match. Gender identity is not visible to others.

Transgender is an adjective, not a noun. Be careful not to call someone “a transgender.” Do not add an unnecessary “-ed” to the term (“transgendered”), which connotes a condition of some kind. Never use the term “transvestite” to describe a transgender person. (Source: Movement Advancement Project)

Being transgender is different than being lesbian, gay, or bisexual, which are terms that describe someone’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation describes a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person, while gender identity describes a person’s internal personal sense of their gender. Transgender people may be gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight, just like non-transgender people. (Source: GLAAD).

For more more key transgender terminology, visit the National Center for Transgender Equality here. Understanding gender and sexual orientation can be complicated. For a deeper explanation, we recommend reviewing the Genderbread Person (v3.3) here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many transgender people are there?

The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates that there are nearly 700,000 transgender people in the United States. According to new analysis by the Williams Institute, at least 300,000 transgender Americans could be affected by anti-transgender legislation introduced in 2016.

Is being transgender a mental illness?

According to the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, being transgender is not a mental illness. However, the negative experiences transgender people may encounter because of anti-transgender bias may lead transgender people to suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is a medical diagnosis for people who experience intense, persistent incongruence between the gender listed on their birth certificate when they were born and the gender a person knows themselves to be. All major, mainstream national health organizations agree that gender dysphoria is a legitimate medical condition that, in some — but not all — cases, necessitates medical intervention. Treatment for gender dysphoria may include counseling, hormone therapy, and/or medical surgeries. (Source: American Psychological Association)

More Transgender FAQs here.

Examples of General Transgender Public Education Campaigns

  • I AM: Trans People Speak: A video-based storytelling campaign by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) and GLAAD.
  • I AM: Transgender Virginia Speaks: Modeled off the MTPC and GLAAD campaign, Equality Virginia has launched a video campaign aimed at showing the diversity of transgender people.
  • #TransRespect: An ad campaign by the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. The campaign aimed to increase awareness and respect of transgender people while educating Washington, DC residents of their right to report discrimination with the Office of Human Rights.
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