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Gender Transitioning

Frequently asked questions

The information and definitions below are of course fluid, and not everyone would use the same terms but they provide a basis for understanding.

What is gender identity?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines gender identity as “each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is a person’s sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex.”

What is gender expression?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines gender expression as “how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender. Others perceive a person’s gender through these attributes.

A person’s gender identity is fundamentally different from and not related to their sexual orientation.”

What does it mean to be trans or transgender?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines trans or transgender as “an umbrella term referring to people with diverse gender identities and expressions that differ from stereotypical gender norms. It includes but is not limited to people who identify as transgender, trans woman (male-to-female MTF), trans man (female-to-male FTM), transsexual, cross-dressers, or gender non-conforming, gender variant or gender queer.”

What is transitioning?

Some people who identify as transgendered or transsexual decide to adjust their physical appearance, and/or name and pronouns to better represent the gender that they identify with. For some individuals this is done only by living as the opposite gender, while others choose to undergo medical treatment. This is a highly personal process and specific to each individual’s decisions.

How can I support a colleague who is transgender or transitioning?
  • Use the name and pronoun they have asked you to use – if you make a mistake, simply say sorry and move on.

  • Don’t tell anyone else about this person’s transsexual or transgender identity unless he or she asks you to. If you hear someone speculating or making fun, ask them to stop and let them know you don’t think it’s funny.

  • Respect the individual's right to be in gender-specific spaces, like washrooms or change rooms.

  • Don’t treat them any differently than you did before.


Human Rights Campaign Foundation. (2004). Transgender Issues in the Workplace: A Tool for Managers (PDF). Washington, DC.

Ontario Bar Association. (2013). Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Workplace PowerPoint. Toronto, ON: N. Nicole Nussbaum.

The 519 Church Street Community Centre. Creating Authentic Spaces. Toronto, ON.