Making decisions on whether or not to undergo procedures is a matter of personal choice for those who are transgender. (Photo Credit: kriss75 via Adobe Stock)

As an umbrella term, the word transgender implies that an individual expresses his/her/their gender differently than his/her/their assigned gender at birth. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), a transgender individual has a disorder known as gender dysphoria, which entails extreme discomfort accompanied by a range of negative feelings when an individual’s physical appearance does not match the way they feel internally.

In order to alleviate the symptoms associated with gender dysphoria, individuals often undergo a range of different surgeries as well as taking hormone therapy and estrogen or testosterone blockers. In addition to these measures, individuals often pursue counseling as well as participate in support groups.

Many transgender individuals do not pursue hormone therapy as well as surgeries, but simply feel they are a certain gender despite the biological reality. An individual’s gender may be more of a state of mind, and may even be interchangeable — with an individual’s gender identity or expression alternating from male to female on a daily basis.

As to the physical changes an individual makes to their body in order to appear more like their preferred gender, many eventually undergo sex-reassignment surgery in the final stages of their transition. However, not all transgender individuals find it necessary to have this type of procedure.

Fortunately, society’s awareness and knowledge of transgender people has greatly improved in recent years. Many social media platforms have begun providing users with an array of gender identity options, as Facebook added more than 50 custom gender options in 2014 for those who do not identify as male or female.

qnotes met up with Octavia Moore, a transgender woman who began her transition of more than 15 years ago.

Moore said she always knew that she was not a man from a very early age.

“Both I and family knew that I wasn’t a boy from the time I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” said Moore. “I loved wearing dresses and sashaying around in my mother’s high-heel shoes.”

While Moore always knew that she did not feel like a man, she said she did not make the decision to transition until she went to college. A close friend of Moore’s encouraged her to transition and took her on her first shopping trip to purchase a more fitting wardrobe.

“While I hadn’t begun taking hormones yet and had very little breast tissue, the feeling I felt when I put on a bra for the first time was monumental,” Moore said. “Who knew a single article of clothing could produce such an amazing feeling.”

Upon making the decision to transition, Moore began taking hormone therapy as well as testosterone blockers, which in time, altered Moore’s body providing her with a more feminine and curvaceous frame as well as breast tissue. The combination of hormones and testosterone blockers also greatly reduced Moore’s body and facial hair and also softened her voice.

“After being on hormones for a few years, I started looking a lot more feminine,” Moore said. “I never really had a lot of body hair, but the hormones and T-blockers really helped to reduce the growth of my facial hair. The muscles in my arms softened up, my waist got smaller, and my hips got wider.”

Many individuals presume that the majority of transgender individuals have a desire to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. However, according to Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), “sex-reassignment surgery, also called gender confirmation surgery (GCS), is only one small part of the transition.”

“Not all transgender people choose to, or can afford to, undergo medical surgeries,” GLAAD said.

GLAAD also advises journalists to avoid overemphasizing the role of surgeries in the transition process.

For Moore, having male genitalia does not cause her to experience any type of distress or discomfort, and said it doesn’t detract from her identity of being a transgender woman.

“Being a woman isn’t all about looking the part,” said Moore. “While I do enjoy having a more feminine appearance, I don’t find it necessary to have surgeries in order to feel like a girl.”

Moore said she’s thought about having breast augmentation surgery, but due to her being a diabetic, she decided against it in the end. She also said that she’s fairly satisfied with the size of her breasts and knows plenty of cisgender girls who have smaller cup sizes.

“Breasts nor any other part of my body make me any more or any less of a woman,” Moore said. “For me, it’s more about how I feel on the inside, regardless of how I look on the outside.”

When asked about her thoughts on sex-reassignment surgery, Moore replied, “it’s never even crossed my mind.”

“For one, the surgery is so expensive, most middle-class people, like me, can’t afford it,” said Moore. “And, more importantly, there are so many possible complications that can arise after someone undergoes the operation.”

Whether it’s breast augmentation for a transgender female or a double mastectomy, known as top surgery, for a transgender male, the path a transgender individual takes to alleviate their symptoms of gender dysphoria varies greatly from person to person. While many individuals undergo numerous surgeries and procedures to aid in the alignment of their bodies with their gender, a large percentage of the transgender population choose not to make any type of alterations to their bodies at all.