Frequently Asked Questions

What does the word “transgender” mean?

Transgender – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender expression is different from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate).  For example, a transgender woman is a person who was assigned male at birth but knew her true self to be a woman; and a transgender man is a person who was assigned female at birth but knew his true self to be a man.


How do I know if someone is transgender?

Just like everyone else, transgender people are diverse in appearance, clothing, and interests. Some transgender people conform to our appearance expectations for men and women. Some don’t. There is no way to “tell” if someone is trans; If you’re not sure which pronoun to use with someone you’ve just met, politely and respectfully ask “which pronoun do you prefer?”

What does it mean to transition?

Transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as their true authentic gender. This process can look different for everyone. For some, they may change their name and pronouns and modify their outward gender presentation to better represent what they feel as their true gender. This may or may not include hormone therapy, gender affirming medical care or other medical procedures. Being transgender does not require someone to have had medical procedures such as gender affirming surgery or hormone therapy. At the same time, many transgender people cannot afford basic medical care including gender affirming related medical treatment nor can they access it.

Have transgender people always existed?

Yes. Transgender persons have been documented in many indigenous, Western, and Eastern cultures and societies from the distant past until the present day. However, the meaning of gender nonconformity may vary from culture to culture. Here in Washington, indigenous cultures have long acknowledged and honored their “two spirit” members. Learn more.

How many transgender people live in Washington State?

Our state is home to approximately 10,500 transgender youth aged 13-19 and 15,900 adults aged 20 and older, according to a report by the UCLA’s Williams Institute.

Can children be transgender?

Yes. Many transgender people know from a very early age that their internal gender is not the same as the gender they were assigned at birth. Some are very vocal about it as young children as early as age 5, others take more time to understand their gender identity and communicate it to others. For many, cultural expectations and norms make the process more difficult and complex.

If you know a transgender or gender non-conforming child, and would like to learn more about how to best support them here are some good resources:

American Academy of Pediatrics 
Gender Spectrum
Gender Diversity

Does Washington have legal protections for transgender people?

Yes, the law has existed for a decade. In 2006, the Washington State Legislature passed the Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination law that extended protections to people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. It provides protections against discrimination in employment, housing, credit, insurance, and places of public accommodation. The law went into effect June 8, 2006.

Can men go into women’s bathrooms or locker rooms in Washington?

No. Only women can go into women’s bathrooms or locker rooms. This includes transgender women. The law does not protect persons who go into a restroom or locker room under false pretenses. For example, if a man declares himself to be transgender for the sole purpose of entering a women’s restroom or locker room, then the law would not protect him. In Washington, voyeurism, assault, and indecent exposure are already illegal. Anyone who commits these crimes can and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Check out the WA State Human Rights Commission policy here.

What threats do transgender people face?

Transgender people face staggering levels of discrimination and violence. In 2013, 72% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women. According to “Injustice at Every Turn,” a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Task Force:

  • Transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty.
  • Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.
  • 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color.  Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
  • 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.
Is being transgender a mental disorder?

No, but this remains a common stereotype about transgender people.

Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder. For these individuals, the significant problem is finding affordable resources, such as counseling, hormone therapy, medical procedures and the social support necessary to freely express their gender identity and minimize discrimination.

Many other obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault. These experiences may lead many transgender people to suffer with anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, or related disorders at higher rates than non-transgender/cisgender people.

Learn more from the American Psychological Association. 

How can I be a good ally to my transgender friend, family, neighbors or co-workers?

Know someone who is transgender? Congratulations, only 23% of people in Washington State say they know a transgender person. First, check out our how can I help page. Then take a look at GLAAD’s tips for allies of transgender people.

What does “gender non-conforming”or “gender-diverse” mean?

Gender non-conforming and gender-diverse refers to people who do not follow other people’s ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth.

What does the word “cisgender” mean?

Cisgender – or cis – is the term used to describe people whose gender identity or expression aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.

What is gender identity and gender expression?

Gender identity refers to a person’s innate, deeply-known psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender.

Gender expression refers to the external manifestation of a person’s gender identity, which may or may not conform to socially-defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

What’s the difference between being transgender and being gay, lesbian, or bisexual?

Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things. Being transgender is about an individual’s gender identity, while being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual is about an individual’s sexual orientation, which is our romantic, emotional, and/or sexual attraction to others, including those of the same gender, or different genders. Transgender people can identify with a wide variety of romantic and/or sexual attractions, just like cisgender people