On Sunday, Jeffrey Tambor won his second Emmy for his work as a transgender woman on Amazon’s lauded comedy series Transparent, which debuts its third season on September 24. New episodes will surely bring about another tide of awareness around all things transgender, especially as transgender issues continue to alienate mainstream politics in a tumultuous election year.
As a refresher, in March North Carolina’s governor ruled to regulate bathroom usage for the trans community, requiring transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificates. That law is now costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The ACC and NCAA have pulled all of their 2017 championship games from the state and companies like Paypal are moving their operations elsewhere.
Controversial and discriminatory laws like this, along with the Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out, have placed the T in LGBTQ in the national spotlight as both the subject of political grandstanding and public curiosity. Jenner has been the face of this moment since her July 2015 Vanity Fair cover and she is keen on raising awareness. “I want to help people in my community. We have a long way to go, but at least we got a really good beginning,” Jenner said.
Most trans people never have sex reassignment surgery. Transgender is all about gender expression, which means it’s never solely about the physical.
Yet even with increased awareness, much of the public still doesn’t much know about transgender life. Jennifer Boylan, a political activist and costar of Jenner’s docu-series I Am Cait, says what people often misunderstand about transgender people is that they are not homogenous. In other words, Jenner’s experience does not mirror the T community’s at large. “There are so many ways of being trans and it’s impossible to put the entire community in a box of any kind,” Boylan said.
Much of these misunderstandings pertain to anatomy. Historically, trans communities have had to bear the weight of public presumptions related to the body, surgery, genitalia and objectification. In 2014, on Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, actress Laverne Cox spoke to this, saying, “The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people and we don’t get to really deal with the real lived experiences.”
Amplifying Cox’s statement is the fact that U.S Census Bureau information about the trans community isn’t accurate. Many people choose to never “reveal” themselves to the world. Out of 300 million Americans, only a small number of trans people choose to identify themselves as such. And most trans people never have sex reassignment surgery. Some don’t even take hormones or change the way they dress; the reasons for these decisions vary from financial costs to personal safety and job security. Transgender is all about gender expression, which means it’s never solely about the physical.
Zoe Dolan, a trial lawyer and author of There Is Room for You: Tales from a Transgender Defender’s Heart, says bringing forth details about transgender transitioning can only be beneficial. “If the community doesn’t talk about it, it might actually be doing itself a disservice.” Dolan says.
In other words, the public can only receive a proper education if transgender people, activists and experts educate it. Thus, Playboy presents A Visual Guide to Sex Reassignment. While none of the following procedures are necessary for transition, this infographic does depict the various journeys trans individuals might undertake.
This article and infographic was created with consultation by several experts, including Asa Radix, senior director of research and education at Callen Lorde; Dr. Paul Steinwald a leading plastic surgeon practicing in Denver; Dr. Kathy Rumer, a leading aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon practicing Philadelphia; Dr. Scout, the Director of LGBT HealthLink; and activists Jenny Boylan and Caitlyn Jenner.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) promotes the use of a Standards of Care (SOC) for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People (originally published in 1979 but updated frequently) as a way to “provide clinical guidance for health professionals to assist transsexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming People”. WPATH acknowledges that most of their evidence is based on American or Western European sources as well as that terminology in gender is “rapidly evolving.”