The spectrum of gender non-conforming people

Watch Johanna Olson, MD's video on The spectrum of gender non-conforming people...
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The spectrum of gender non-conforming people

I think a lot of people would like to know, "Where is the line a young person has to cross in order to be considered transgender?", with the terminogy transgender? I think that that becomes very complicated for multiple reasons. The first is that the language changes a lot. So, the language is very dynamic. Some of those changes come from outside of the community, and some of those changes come from inside of the community. So, when we talk about the outside of the community examining somebody, or looking at a young person, we adopt a binary, the same binary, actually, that exists before we find out that someone is gender non-conforming, male and female. What we typically think, as parents, or as providers, psychologists, doctors, we think, "Oh, someone who is transgender was assigned a birth sex gender, 100% male or 100% female, and now they want to be 100% the other piece of the binary." But the reality is that I use transgender, and much of the community uses transgender, as an umbrella term to incorporate people who feel different from that assigned birth gender. Now you hear- There are a lot of things in the lexicon. "Transsexual", this is a person who’s undergone medical treatment to live in a gender different from the one they were assigned. You hear "genderqueer". This is a group of people who define themselves as something other than their birth gender. Along that spectrum of definition, people fall along all over it. So, they may define themselves as 100% the other thing, from what they were assigned, or maybe a little bit of what they were assigned, and a little bit of the other gender, or maybe neither of the two genders. So, there are lots and lots of ways that people identify. But it’s really important to acknowledge that people self-identify. They decide what they are, what they feel, and what they want to tell the world they are. It’s really important for us as outside of them, not to attach a label to them. Now, it’s also important to understand that some people who have this experience want to undergo treatment, and some people don’t. So, there are some people that say, "I have a female body. I was given a female body at birth. I identify as male, but I’m not interested in changing my body with hormones, or changing my body with surgery to appear more male or to have a more masculine body." And maybe, those people do other things that indicate to the outside world that they’re male, along the lines of expression. So, they express more of a male gender identity, but maybe they don’t use medicines or surgeries. Then there are some people that say, "I identify as completely male, and I want to undergo hormones. I want to undergo surgeries, and I want to bring my body as close to my idea of 100% male as I can."

Watch Johanna Olson, MD's video on The spectrum of gender non-conforming people...


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Johanna Olson, MD

Medical Director, Center for Transyouth Health and Development, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Johanna Olson, MD is a pediatrician in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Medical Director of the hospital’s Center for Transyouth Health and Development.  She specializes in the care of transgender youth, gender variant children, youth with HIV, and chronic pain. Board certified in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Dr. Olson is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. She has appeared on ABC's 20/20, The Dr. Phil Show, CNN, Dateline NBC and The Doctors to educate audiences about the needs of transgender youth.

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