Generally, transgender describes people whose gender identity and/ or expression may not match their physical, sexual characteristics or sex assigned at birth.
But the word can mean different things to different people. Journalists covering transgender people must ensure they correctly understand and communicate the parameters of the community or communities about which they are reporting.
In a strict sense, the term transgender includes people who were assigned as male or female at birth and later identified as the other. But it sometimes is understood as an umbrella term covering other people with nontraditional gender identities, possibly including but not limited to genderqueer and agender people.
Some cross-dressers, drag queens and kings, female or male impersonators, and intersex people may also identify as transgender.
In news coverage, identify people as transgender only when relevant to the subject matter and only if they are widely known or describe themselves as such. Otherwise, describe trans men as men and trans women as women.
Using it as a noun — as in a transgender or a conference of transgenders — is inaccurate and offensive. Do not use transgendered, which is offensive and implies something must have happened to make a person transgender. People can be transgender regardless of age, but journalists should take the usual legal and ethical precautions when reporting on children.
Terminology is constantly evolving and new terms emerging.
Updated December 2020