What Is…TGNC?

Pride flags

My “what is” series was initially designed to understand terms that are sometimes viewed as social justice jargon. However, as this series has gone on, I’ve come to realize that it is not just terms, but also acronyms, at times, that make people feel a little confused or lost.

One such acronym is TGNC. This acronym stands for transgender and gender nonconforming.

Before going any further in this post, it is worth defining what the terms transgender and gender nonconforming mean, as well as defining what birth sex, gender, and gender identity are:

  • While gender can be a challenge to define, the best definition I’ve heard about gender (in relation to one’s birth sex) is that birth sex is “between the legs” while gender is “between the ears.” In other words, birth sex refers to the sex one is assigned at birth, based on one’s body parts (e.g. seeing a penis and determining that it is a boy; hence, between the legs). As for gender, it refers to one’s own sense of how they align internally with masculinity, femininity, a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither masculinity or femininity (hence, between the ears).[1]
  • A person’s gender identity is a person’s sense of what they understand their gender to be.
  • A transgender individual is someone whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • A gender nonconforming individual is someone whose gender doesn’t conform to the norms expected of them based on the sex they were assigned at birth.

This acronym is that it is meant to cover people who do not have the experience of feeling like they have a gender identity that falls perfectly in line with the sex they were assigned at birth. In other words, it’s an acronym that covers transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Even though not everyone who identifies as transgender also identifies as gender nonconforming, and even though not everyone who is gender nonconforming identifies as transgender, the TGNC acronym can still be useful. The reason is that many TGNC individuals, regardless of whether they identify as transgender or gender nonconforming, have that shared experience of being treated awkwardly or poorly, in one way or another, because of their gender identity. And, speaking as someone who knows a number of people in that community, many of those experiences are similar, whether you are transgender or gender nonconforming. In a way, the TGNC acronym is one meant to capture people with two different identities who have, in many cases, similar experiences.

A few of my readers may ask the following: What about people who identify as non-binary? After all, individuals who are non-binary—people who feel they don’t fall into one of the typical “binary” categories for gender (male and female)—also have that experience of feeling like their gender does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth (an experience shared with transgender and gender nonconforming people). To answer this question, TGNC is usually the acronym I see when talking about people with the aforementioned experiences, which is why my “what is” post is on what TGNC stands for. However, some prefer to use the acronym of TGNCNB (transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary), in order to include individuals who identify as non-binary. Regardless of which acronym you prefer, we should not lose sight of the use of this acronym, which is to talk about people with a shared experience not held by people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

So, with all of this in mind, I wish individuals in the LGBTQ+ community a Happy Pride Month in June, and I hope individuals not in the LGBTQ+ community come away from this post a little better informed than they were before reading this.

[1] I should note that how one presents oneself in terms of clothes, makeup (or a lack thereof), hair, etc., doesn’t necessarily determine one’s gender identity, though for some how they present themselves can relate to how they identify themselves gender-wise.

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).

Introducing a Series on LGBTQ+ Stereotypes

Sometimes, this blog is a smorgasbord of social justice issues, and I’m fine with that. However, given this time in history with LGBTQ+ issues, I want to spend a bit more time on LGBTQ+ issues, and particularly stereotypes that go with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer,[1] intersex, and asexual. 

To elaborate on the time in history we are at right now (just to give a quick summary for those who aren’t fully aware), here are some important LGBTQ+ events going on, all at the same time:

  • The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is coming up at the end of June. For those who don’t know about this piece of LGBTQ+ history, these riots were a series of violent confrontations between the police and gay people at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. To read more, read this Encyclopedia Britannica piece.
  • Numerous governments across the world, including the federal government and some state governments in the United States, have tried to undermine or take away LGBTQ+ rights.
  • Several religious institutions, most notably the Methodist Church, are grappling with LGBTQ+ issues.
  • The United States Supreme Court is considering a case on whether current federal law bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Given all these events, as well as the fact that so many of the bad things that happen are the result of some of these LGBTQ+ stereotypes, it’s important to address those stereotypes here and now.

So, my plan is to dedicate a post a month (or so) to stereotypes with regards to a major group in the LGBTQ+ community. Many of the stereotypes discussed will be ones I’m aware of, but I would definitely encourage my readers (and especially people with firsthand experience of being LGBTQ+) to let me know of stereotypes that I should cover, as well.

This way, by the time the series is done, probably around December by my calculations, we are hopefully all ready to confront some of those harmful stereotypes, both within ourselves and others.

[1] The “q” in LGBTQ could also stand for “questioning.”

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A Call to Reflect on LGBTQ+ Issues

This week, I am yet again writing in the aftermath of a very public and visible injustice.

Last week, I wrote on how many of us considered the suicide from Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, and suicide in general, selfish. This week, I am writing in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s banning of transgender people from the military.

There are many things which are wrong and unjust about the transgender military ban. For starters, he is factually wrong on the claim that transgender people are medically costly for the military; in the absolute worst-case scenario envisioned by a Rand Corporation study of the cost of transgender health care, there would be “a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.” He was also factually wrong on the claim that transgender military cause disruption—just ask the United Kingdom military chiefs who praised transgender troops or the Israeli military people saying that transgender troops are not a disruption. And then there is the fact that active transgender members of the military are left in limbo as a result of Trump’s tweets. There were other wrongs and injustices that Trump committed with the transgender military ban, but those are just a few that come to my mind.

But I don’t want to spend this entire post bashing Trump for this action, because quite honestly, there are probably hundreds of blog posts which do that job already. Instead, I want to use Trump’s action as an opportunity for self-reflection among all of us.

Namely, for those of us who claim to be pro-LGBTQ+ (like Trump did in his convention speech last summer), we should reflect on whether our actions back up any pro-LGBTQ+ words.

There are a few questions I want to ask, in order to help others reflect:

  1. Do you actually do anything to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals?
  2. Do you speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ injustices in public, on social media, at home, the homes of other family or friends, or anywhere else?
  3. Do you go beyond the level of having a “gay friend” or “trans friend” (akin to the “black friend” idea), and actually do something to stand up for the best interests of that LGBTQ+ friend?
  4. Are you just welcoming of LGBTQ+ friends, or are you actually affirming of their identities?
  5. Do you really believe that LGBTQ+ people deserve the same opportunities as straight people, or do you believe that there are limitations on what they can do?
  6. What do you say to others when you talk about your LGBTQ+ friends?

I urge every one of you, as my readers, to honestly reflect on these questions, and do some reflection outside of the scope of these questions. Reflecting on questions like these helped me realize that there is more I could do, and maybe will help some of you realize that there is more you can do. If you reflect on these questions and realize that some of your actions might not support your words on LGBTQ+ issues, then at least you can make positive changes. But if you don’t reflect on questions like these, you run the risk of being like President Trump—claiming to be pro-LGBTQ+, but performing actions which show the opposite.

Author’s Note: This was written at the last minute as a response to President Trump banning transgender people from the military. As such, there may be mistakes in this post. I apologize in advance for those mistakes.