Transgender Stereotypes

As I said a few months ago, I will be doing a series addressing stereotypes for LGBTQ+ people—talking about people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, as well as people who are intersex and asexual. I look forward to continuing through this series.

As I am going in order of the acronyms for LGBTQ (or LGBTQIA), it is time for me to discuss stereotypes associated with being transgender. But before going into details about those stereotypes, I should start by talking about what it means to be transgender and stereotypes associated with friends, fellow writers, celebrities and others who are transgender.

The consensus definition is that being transgender means that your gender identity differs from the sex that you were assigned at birth.[1] I should note, though, that not everyone has the exact same definition of the word transgender.

Now that we’ve defined what it means to be transgender, we can start to understand what sort of stereotypes are associated with being transgender. Here are a few such stereotypes:

  1. Transgender people are not “real” men or women. People who are transgender may not be “real men” or “real women” to certain individuals, but separating the real men and women from trans men and women is dehumanizing (as if trans men and trans women are somehow “fake”). Just please avoid categories of realness and fakeness.
  2. Trans women athletes have an unfair advantage. A journalist (I forget for which outlet), when covering the success of a transgender collegiate athlete, said that trans women are forgotten when they fail and delegitimized when they succeed. It is true, though, and I should add that not all trans athletes who transition from the male category to the female category (or vice-versa) succeed.
  3. Transgender people are still fundamentally the same people they were at birth. I can’t begin to emphasize how problematic this sort of attitude is. This is the sort of attitude that leads to deadnaming, which is calling someone by their birth name instead of their new chosen name. It’s also the sort of attitude that leads to deliberate misgendering of transgender people. Having an attitude that leads to deadnaming and misgendering is problematic, because for most transgender people I know, their birth name and previous pronouns are a reminder of a period of life when they tried to live as someone they were not—a great source of pain indeed.
  4. Transgender people are predators. For whatever reason, there is this stereotype among some that transgender people are predators. Because of that stereotype, some states look at, or even pass, laws that keep transgender people from using the bathroom that fits most closely with their own gender identity. In reality, however, the overwhelming majority of trans people just want to use a bathroom they feel comfortable using, without all the harassment and discrimination. Is that too much to ask?
  5. All transgender people have/had gender dysphoria. This was something I used to think and had to unteach myself, by the way. I had to unteach myself—by remembering that gender dysphoria is when someone experiences distress because their biological sex does not match their gender identity.[2] However, many transgender people do not experience discomfort from the fact that their gender doesn’t match with their biological sex, and therefore never had gender dysphoria in spite of being transgender. I would also note that by assuming that all transgender people have/had dysphoria, it promotes an attitude, whether intended or not, that being transgender is a disorder.[3]

This post hopefully covered some of the major stereotypes associated with being transgender. If anyone wants to add to any of my stereotypes, or has stereotypes of your own, feel free to comment below!

Previous posts in my series on LGBTQ+ stereotypes:


[1] This is pretty close to the definition that Merriam-Webster had for transgender: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transgender

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gender-dysphoria/#targetText=Gender%20dysphoria%20is%20a%20condition,the%20appearance%20of%20the%20genitals.

[3] While doing research for this piece, I found out that gender dysphoria used to be called gender identity disorder. When you connect the term “gender identity disorder” with being transgender, one can see how being transgender was considered a mental illness (not that I defend this, by any means, and in fact it was awful that being transgender was once considered a disorder).

Men and Mental Health

As some of my readers know, I’ve had some experiences with intrusive thoughts, which is when one struggles with unwelcome, unpleasant, and upsetting thoughts and ideas. These experiences led me to write about mental health from a faith (Christian faith, more specifically) point-of-view a couple of months ago.

Writing about mental health from a faith perspective is important. However, given the sobering statistic that 77% of those who die by suicide in the United States are men, as well as the fact that we are in the midst of Mental Health Awareness Month, I think it’s important to have a discussion about men and mental health.

The thing about men, at least in the United States, is that we have expectations connected to our gender identity that make it problematic to be open about our mental health. We’re taught to be tough, strong, not show weakness, not be vulnerable, and confident, to name a few. Characteristics required of us in order to improve our mental health when we’re struggling mentally—vulnerability, weakness, seeking help—are not “manly.” Attempts to live up to those ideals of being a man can, if we’re not careful, keep men from opening up to their families, friends, counselors, and therapists (that is, if one gets to the point of getting counseling or seeking therapy—as getting counseling or therapy is seeking help, doing so may not be considered “manly”).

Now, in my case, I thankfully had men AND women in my life who helped me confront those stereotypes about men before I had my bouts of intrusive thoughts. However, I have known other men in my life who’ve struggled with those stereotypes and struggle with mental health at the same time, and I can say this—it’s not easy.

I don’t have all the answers to male suicide rates, but I do think that we need to start by making it okay for men to be vulnerable, and for men to seek help. I think that Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps’ openness about his own past struggles is admirable and breaks many stigmas about men and mental health, but we need more Michael Phelpses in the world. We need to make it clear that it is okay for everyone, including me, to not always be okay. We need to make it clear that it’s okay for a man to struggle mentally and emotionally, and that it is okay to ask for help with our mental health.

National Suicide Hotline (United States): 1-800-273-8255

International suicide hotlines from the International Bipolar Foundation can be found here.