Usually, kids don't think too much about their gender. It feels normal and natural for many girls to be female and for many boys to be male. But that's not true for everyone. Transgender people who are born as boys feel they should be female, and those who are born as girls feel they should be male.
People who are transgender feel like they're living inside a body that's all wrong for them. They often say they feel "trapped in someone else's body."
What Being Transgender Means
When we think of ourselves as male or female, it's called gender identity. Everyone has a gender identity — the inborn sense of ourselves as being male or female.
Most people's gender identity matches their anatomy. But those who are transgender feel different from their physical appearances.
What society expects of men, women, boys, and girls also affects what we feel about ourselves. Every culture has "rules" about what is expected for men and what is expected for women. These expectations can include things like hairstyles, clothing, and jobs — and how people should act or behave.
Society doesn't have to state these rules because we see them all over. So most people grow up believing men should act a certain way and women should act a certain way without thinking about it much. Transgender people, though, have a very different sense of themselves.
Some transgender people know they feel "different" from the time they're young children. Others start sensing it around puberty or even later. When people who are transgender become aware that they feel mismatched with their bodies, they may feel confused and emotionally conflicted.
Some decide to physically change their bodies — through surgery or taking hormones — to match the gender they feel they really are. Physically becoming the opposite gender can be a long, complicated, and expensive process.
Not all transgender people decide to get surgery or hormones, though. Some are most comfortable keeping their physical anatomy but dressing as the opposite gender. Some aren't completely sure what they want yet, but may start by asking to be called a new name and use the pronouns that go with that name (such as "Amanda" instead of "Anthony" and "she" instead of "he").
Once transgender people start living their lives as the opposite gender, many issues may come up — like how to fill out forms that require checking "female" or "male," and even which public bathrooms to use.
As with any group, not all transgender people want or think the same things. It all depends on what that particular person needs to feel most comfortable in both body and mind.