Transgender Poorly Defined

For all intents and purposes, I am a woman,” Caitlyn Jenner states to Diane Sawyer on “20/20” Friday (April 24, 2015).

With over 750,000 transgender persons in the US, and an estimated 1transgender-cover5,000 active members in the armed forces, the Jenner story has (fortunately) propelled ubiquitous discussion about transgender – in the media, among advocates and policy makers.


old ladies


My communication needs were small potatoes. I was searching for a clear, readable explanation to send to my Mom and the Florida ladies when I really got into the thick of the problem.


Dear Reader recall,  over half the adults in the US read at 8th grade level and lower and struggle to understand health concepts and information. Less than 20% of US are science literate – know much about science, science terms  & concepts.

Example 1  Wikipedia

“Transgender is the state of one’s gender identity or gender expression not matching one’s assigned sex. Transgender is independent of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them. The definition of transgender includes:

Reading grade level approx. 17.9

Example 2.  American Psychological Association

“What does transgender mean?  Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics. “Trans” is sometimes used as shorthand for “transgender.” While transgender is generally a good term to use, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender-nonconforming will identify as a transgender person. The ways that transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academia and science are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge and openness about transgender people and their experiences grow.

Reading grade level approx. 16.9

Example 3.  Advocacy group – (has a lower reading level but still works with complex concepts)

A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” (Note: Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun, thus “transgender people” is appropriate but “transgenders” is often viewed as disrespectful.)

Reading grade level approx. 13

Example 4.  Huffington Post

Mark O’Connel writing for the Huffington post decided “we could all use some clarification on what this word actually means”. But we get a somewhat simpler text but still 13th grade level. :

Transgender is a broad term that includes people whose gender identity or self expression does not conform to, or is not associated with, the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Transgender is an authentic experience and expression of self.   Your gender expression is informed by a number of things, including your gender orientation and sexual orientation, gender stereotypes in your consciousness or subconsciousness, and social circumstances. Some of these influences on our gender expression are hard-wired–e.g., sexual orientation, gender identity–and so the cues we send are involuntary, regardless of our genitalia….”

Reading grade level approx. 13

I’ve been thinking about all this painfully tortured language.

torture rack copyGender expression

Gender identify

Assigned sex

Gender conformation

Gender non-conforming

Gender stereotypes informed by subconscious

Just what’s going on here.

Are writers actively working to obfuscate the topic? (probably not)

Do they believe they should “medicalize” the issue? (?)

Are we still unable to speak out-loud about gender and sex without tripping over ourselves (?)

I did find something for MOM.  THE CENTER: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center  has a great video .

And there’s always my go to source – John Oliver 


2 replies
  1. Thartney
    Thartney says:

    I was searching for a clear, readable explanation to send to my Mom and the Florida ladies when I really got into the thick of the problem.


    The problem with defining Transgender is that never before used language needs to be used when the public is addressing this “new” concept. Its hard to believe that people will understand pronouns like they/them when people still don’t understand how a person is born gay.
    My my mom is in her 50s,has a masters degree is an example of someone who is educated but is still so new to LGBT causes. Once when i was talking about Caitlyn Jenners Docu-series ‘I am Cait” my mom asked me if i was planing on “doing that” I identify as a gay man and am out to my mom. Her question was based solely off of the confusion of my sexual identity. She thought that somehow because i am gay that I would be more likely to be transgender even though they are completely different.
    My mom is not alone. Although resources like the “THE CENTER” are becoming more common, LGBT education in the school system is saverly lacking. Current curriculam that is being fought over by parents is “”Ninth and tenth graders will be provided definitions for heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and transgender and that persons deserve to be treated with respect regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Parents are outraged,fighting in school bourd meetings because their 15 year olds are learning the definition of sexuality. I believe that this should start in elementary school! By 15 many teens of all sexualitys are sexualy active.People like my mom are not against the LGBT cause, they have just never needed to obsorb the knowledge intill now.

  2. Susanna Banks
    Susanna Banks says:

    I think a major struggle in discussing gender identity is that so much new language was necessary, and in an attempt to gain legitimacy advocates adopted the language of academic feminism and gender studies. I’m not sure that the language is much better, but the “Gender Unicorn” can be a helpful graphic for visual learners:

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