CHAPTER 1 What Does It Mean to Be Transgender? One of the most obvious characteristics of human beings is how variable we are·while we certainly have much in common, we also differ from each other in many ways. We are all human, but we are also all unique. While this has always been the case, it was not until the late 20th cen- tury that it became common to acknowledge the fact that one of the ways that people vary is in their gender identity. While for centuries the simple male/female dichotomy was assumed to be adequate, and it was assumed that gender was determined by physical characteristics present at birth, we now know that human gender identity is far more complex than previously understood, and that an individualÊs gender identity can change over time over the course of their life. This chapter will set the stage for chapters to follow by discussing some key terms used through the book, reviewing what is known about the number and characteristics of the transgender population in the United States and worldwide, and introducing the topic of intersectionality, which is key to understanding the lives of many trans- gender people. SOME BASIC DEFINITIONS The study of minority sexualities and divergent sexual identities is rela- tively recent, and the terminology used within this field is still evolving. Certain terms that used to be commonly used are now considered offen- sive, while new terms are regularly introduced that may be unfamiliar even to people who work in this field. Every effort has been made in this book to use terms that are accurate but not offensive, but because people differ
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