SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Barack Obama has quietly done more to advance rights for transgender people than any other president, but they remain among the nation's most misunderstood minorities. Here are five things to know about transgender America:
WHO YOU ARE VS. WHOM YOU LOVE
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing. The first refers to a person's physical and emotional attractions to another person. Gender identity is a person's strongly felt sense of being female, male or perhaps neither. That's why transgender rights advocates are pushing for nondiscrimination laws that cover both sexual orientation (gay, lesbian or bisexual) and gender identity (transgender). Some transgender people also identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
WATCH YOUR WORDS
Terminology is constantly evolving. Words once tossed around casually are now considered offensive. A recent campaign pushed TV show "RuPaul's Drag Race" to stop using the words "tranny" and "she-male." (Drag queens, such as RuPaul, are not usually considered transgender because their act is based on performance, not innate identity.) "Sex change" has fallen out of polite use for the medical treatments that some, but not all, transgender people undergo to bring their bodies into alignment with their identities. Until recently, "sex reassignment" was the favored alternative, but it is giving way to "gender reassignment" and "gender confirmation."
Katie Couric was called out in January after she pressed model Carmen Carrera for details about her gender transition and "private parts." Such questions are considered rude and intrusive. As Washington Post etiquette columnist Steven Petrow has noted, "It wouldn't be appropriate to ask a non-transgender person about the appearance or status of their genitalia, so it isn't appropriate to ask a transgender person that question either." Asking transgender people what their names were before they transitioned is similarly considered ill-mannered, as is failing to make an effort to use the pronouns they prefer.