What does transgender mean?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, transgender is “a person whose gender identity and/or expression is different from that typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.”
As a registered nurse, a health care professional, we educate, support and advocate for the rights, health and safety our patients. We have a professional responsibility to treat our patients with culturally competent care. We treat our patients with empathy, dignity and respect regardless of race, cultural beliefs, disabilities, religion, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or gender identity. Cultural competency has a positive effect on patient care delivery. “People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are diverse, but have a common need for culturally competent health care that recognizes and responds to medical risks specific to this population. LGBT people face greater health threats than their heterosexual peers, partly because of differences in sexual behavior and partly because of social and structural inequities, such as stigma and discrimination” (
And, as health care professionals we uphold our professional responsibilities to treat all people with dignity and respect. However, the transgender community is plagued with stigma, discrimination and violence. See these facts from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:  
  • Numerous studies have suggested that between 16% to 60% of transgender people are victims of physical assault or abuse, and between 13% to 66% are victims of sexual assault.
  • Studies have shown that suicidal ideation is widely reported among transgender people and can range from 38% to 65%. More alarmingly, studies have also found that suicide attempts among transgender people can range from 16% to 32%.
  • Alcohol and substance abuse has been identified as a major concern among transgender people in the United States. Some studies have shown that marijuana, crack cocaine, and alcohol are the most commonly used drugs by transgender people.
  • High rates of tobacco use, specifically cigarette smoking, have also been found among transgender people. Some studies suggest that tobacco use rates can range from 45% to 74%.
And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), transgender communities in the United States are among the groups at highest risk for HIV infection.
There are many public health issues surrounding transgender people. It’s important for the health care community to provide education and support for transgender people. Every person needs to be treated with empathy, dignity and respect. Period. 
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Transgender refers to people whose sexual identity (whether they are male or female), as well as their expression or behavior, do not go along with what is typically identified with the sex they were born with. In other words, an example of a transgender person would be someone who was born a girl but feels, acts and sees herself as a boy, and vice versa.
A transgender person is someone whose sex at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside. At some point in their lives, many transgender people decide they must live their lives as the gender they have always known themselves to be, and transition to living as that gender. This experience looks different for everyone. For some transgender people, transitioning medically is critical to being able to live as their authentic selves, but that is not the case for all transgender people. 

This answer is based on information provided by the Transgender Law Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.