Antonia D'orsay

Situational Membership and Stigma

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | December 20, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement, The Movement, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: affinity groups, bisexual, education policy, gender, hypocritical politicians, lesbian, LGBT values, Magic, sex, stigma, transgender, transsexual

This is a continuation of the following pieces:

I took a break to give everyone time to digest those pieces and to be ready for the ones coming up.

Today I will talk about one aspect of intersectionality: in particular, how it is that one can be gay or trans or straight or cis, and still be something else, even temporarily.

It's called Situational Membership, and it affects most of the LGBT community in one way or another, and reaches outside us, into the wider world.

Situational membership happens when you find yourself, seemingly unwillingly, thrust into a group with which you otherwise might not feel you have much in common.

Bisexual people often experience this in both the gay and lesbian communities, as well as the straight community -- entirely based on who they happen to be with. And, as a result of the underlying animosities there, they are often attacked on both sides for it, in subtle and invidious ways.

Trans folk, such as transsexuals, can find that different people's perceptions of their gender affect how they are seen in terms of sexual orientation. They might for example, be called a faggot; or perhaps when they seek to marry they are told they aren't really their particular sex, but instead a different one.

Situational membership is also easily pointed out among our loudest and most vocal opponents -- Vitter found himself a situational gay, for example.

An area many activists dislike talking about is prison -- segregation in prisons is often noted to have a high rate of both consensual sex and outright rape that results in a situation of membership in the gay community by virtue of the apparent homosexuality shown.

And if you read the press on these things, you find that often LGBT people will take a case of situational membership and use it against people, perpetuating the idea that such is negative, and thereby casting further negative connotations back on the idea of being LGBT.

More clearly, if the Advocate, for example, was writing about Vitter in a manner that seeks to embarrass him is indeed working to make the idea of being gay itself embarrassing. Or any other source, as well.

This is Stigma -- enacted, and likely felt, as well.

The is a great deal of stigma attached to the various ways by which we end up with situational membership. To avoid that stigma, we often speak out against the ideas being placed on regarding that situational membership, denying it instead of accepting it.

This runs deep, and is part of the institutional system that surrounds much of our work -- its one of the things we do that reinforces the stigma attached to us by the society we live in.

A gay man who happens, one night, to go to a party dressed in drag is a situational member of the Trans community, without ever intending to actually be part of it -- because to the rest of the world, he can be described as such.

A trans woman who is straight might be looked at as gay, since she prefers to be with men and some people (in particular, though who choose not to believe the science I talked about behind Gender, previously) may see her as a man -- usually claiming that she is *always* a man, regardless of how she dresses or acts or presents her gender (essentialism itself).

That same idea of essentialism undergirds a lot of the jokes at our collective expense, even within the community: gay men are said to be afraid of having their penis whacked off because they venerate it -- the idea being that gay men only see a penis as being what makes a man. As a result they are bothered by transsexuals -- a kind of Trans, but not the only kind -- since trans women often choose to transform theirs. Its not true -- indeed, nothing could be further from the truth.

In my discussion on What is Trans, this idea of situational membership was raised by Father Tony:

In this definition I am trans. Everytime I used eyeliner because I knew I'd be spending a night in a dark and smokey leather bar where it would help bring out my eyes or anytime I applied a coat of lip-plumper in the bathroom of said leather bar or anytime I carried my Italian hand bag or anytime I shopped on the women's side of the Gap for a sweater because they were cut shorter and fitted me better. Seriously, at those times, I was not conforming to societies expectations etc. (the evidential list is actually much longer.)

He was correct -- in all of those cases, he can be described -- due to the situational nature of those actions -- as Trans, and he gains membership in that affinity group for those times. The same applies to anyone who breaches conventional, commonplace, everyday, ordinary expectations of what gender is to be.

Situational membership is not limited to a single class, either -- one can be in several classes on a situational basis depending on the particulars involved. It is in this way that that the idea of intersectionality strikes the concept of affinity groups, and how the stigma against one is the stigma against all.

Stigma is a social element that is always reinforced negatively -- that is, you don't do that because its bad in some way. When we deal in politicians that "cross the line" and get "caught with their pants down" engaged in sexual intercourse of some form or other with another person of the same sex, we are just as prone as anyone else (if not more prone) to attack them using the power of stigma for having crossed that line into "our territory".

By making it seem like a bad thing, we reinforce the idea in general that is *is* a bad thing, even though what we are attacking is the hypocrisy itself that we see.

We use the stigma against us against them, instead of doing something that may be far more damning -- embrace them and offer shows of support, despite the obvious hypocrisy.

Trans folk are famous for using stigma against others -- not merely those around us, but our own, as well. As was also noted in the comment cited above, there are some very nasty arguments within the Trans community itself. All of them based on social stigma to some degree or other (as well as many other factors such as outright prejudice).

All of us, at one point or another, have had situational membership in the straight community -- as children, as adults, as just people, walking down the street.

The power of this stigma affects Bisexuals and Trans folk often most directly within the community -- one of the things that goes into the efforts to pass ENDA, for example, is an active erasure of them from consideration out of concern that "they are just too weird" for the average person. And in so doing, those groups become members of the gay and lesbian community.

This also works to shore up several different forms of privilege, since privilege can be a shield in many ways against some forms of stigma -- the "straight acting" and closeted gay man, for example, is shielded from the stigma of being gay while he remains straight acting and closeted. The stealth transsexual is shielded from the stigma of being attached to the GLBT community if they are straight, or shielded from the trans part if they are gay or bi.

It is all interwoven into a single structure that works to keep us separate while maintaining the tautness of the fabric that unites us. That makes the "alliance" of these groups often brittle and easily weakened, while if we were to somehow magically erase the idea that within our community being trans, or gay, or lesbian, or bi was somehow wrong, then we would likely find our community stronger, both as individuals and as a collective whole.

And Magic is a funny thing, I should point out. It always starts with you.


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Situational membership is used by a lot of people to also appropriate trans IDs as a kind of "key" to gain entitlement in the community. An example of this are some transmasculine lesbians who work for GLBT organizations and are counted as being "trans" while they basically live their lives as female-identified lesbians. Many male-bodied crossdressers bemoan their low status in the trans community, yet really only participate in that community for very short periods of time during the year... at a few social events or perhaps gender conferences. The rest of the time they continue to have (and exercise) cisgender male privilege. Moreover, I've seen a lot of Queer people who fundamentally present and live as their assigned birth gender yet maintain a transgender (by virtue of gender variance) ID and speak out on many trans issues which, quite honestly, don't necessarily affect them in their daily lives.

While I understand your concept of 'temporary transness' (Jorge Lopez Mercado, if he did ID purely as a gay man which some people claim, still died while sexworking as a transwoman) and how inclusion, on some level, might incorporate people in those situations, this is a complex issue in terms of people who 'dip their toes' into the community claiming 'trans ownership' as equals with people who walk the walk 24/7/365. Far too often, I've seen people speak out on trans issues and pretend their other cis-selves don't exist while, in fact, the vast majority of their lives aren't spent within a trans context. The anonymity of the Internet makes this especially possible to accomplish, where people create online identities for themselves which often have little to do with the 3D versions of their lives. Yes, one's 'situational transness' doesn't go away when you're living the rest of your seemingly cis-life, but that also means the cis part of your life and the privileges it brings doesn't get to be ignored when you feel like identifying as trans.

Funnily enough (or not), what you are doing right here is imposing situational cis status on the people you are describing, and based on that status assuming that they do not have personal knowledge or real say on trans issues. In essence, you are denying their trans privilege, in a context where such a privilege does in fact exist.

Yes, on the one hand Internet makes it possible for a cis person to pretend they are trans, or vice versa. So what? Is this a problem? As the saying goes, on the Internet nobody knows you are a dog. Everything here should be taken with a grain of salt; the cis or trans status of anonymous or semi-anonymous posters like us is no different.

All this reminds me of Chally's recent Feministe blog post on invisible identities. She was talking about race and disabilities, but much of what she wrote can be equally well applied to non-cis people who are not trans enough for others to notice in everyday situations. It's a good post, please go read it if you haven't already.

@Ana: I'm not assuming they don't have any knowledge of trans issues, just that they're playing both sides of the coin and not owning up to the cis status and privilege they live most of the time. Would you care to outline what their "trans privilege" would be? If it's a privilege to make policy or decisions for people who deal with trans issues 24/7, then it's not not a privilege they deserve (especially while keeping the cis privilege they live most of the time). Let's not pretend cis and trans privileges are somehow equal.

Yes, granting situational trans identity full community status can create a lot of problems. An example is what I said about many LGBT organizations who, when asked how many actual trans employees they have, will usually count lesbians who occasionally dip into trans-masculinity or GQ people who mostly live in their assigned birth genders but very occasionally play with gender fluidity. They are substituting for full time trans-IDd people and pretending they're inclusive.

On the internet, there, unfortunately, some very part-time crossdressers who go onto transwomen's sites for purposes of trying to pick up transwomen. I know a lot of young transwomen who get creeped out by these situations. So, yes, it is a problem.

While there are spectrums within communities and those spectrums need to be acknowledged, the problem happens when you have people with, say, a very minor disability piping up saying they don't need ramps at restaurants or public buildings. An equivalent of that for me are people who are cd's, GQ or flittingly trans-masculine saying using the word "tranny" is fine with them.

A bigger umbrella creates more inclusion, but it also makes for entitlement spread out to a thinner and thinner basis to people who have an even more tenuous connection to the community. So, is a straight man who dresses in drag for a xmas party entitled to speak out on trans issues? We need to ask ourselves questions like that.

What I meant by 'trans privilege' is the ability of being taken seriously in discussions such as this, without being dismissed as someone who lives most of their life fully integrated to the cis majority. In essence, and just like any other privilege, it is situational membership in those cases where that membership brings benefits of some sort. Once one realises it exists, it is pretty easy to see in various trans support forums.

I don't know what exactly you mean by 'full community status', but -- as someone who is still waiting for the first co-worker to ask how come there is a pair of breasts under my more-or-less gender-neutral clothes -- I've occasionally been made very aware that I do not have it. I can deal with this, just like I have in the past learned to deal with my lack of membership in various old boys' clubs; what really hurts is being told that I don't know what I'm talking about on those rare cases I actually do, just because I'm not yet absolutely certain how far I need to go in terms of social and legal transition.

Writing from across the Atlantic, I don't know nearly enough about American trans politics to know how common it is to have mostly-cis-identified genderqueers of various flavours as the token trans representative / employee. Apparently I'm also lucky enough that people haven't tried to pick me up, beyond what has always been happening on the net in situations where the creeps in question read me as a cis woman.

But yes, I agree wholeheartedly with you that there is a big problem when a drive for trans rights never really gets started because it is diluted by those of us who can get by without those rights. More, that's something I too have seen on occasion. Still, I don't think the right answer is to dismiss these people altogether; rather, the answer has something to do with the situational and somewhat fuzzy nature of trans privilege, or privilege in general. An occasional cross-dresser saying 'I'm trans too, and I don't see a problem' is different from someone in transition telling about the problem, but so on the other hand is also someone who doesn't see the problem because she's been in stealth for ages.

@Ana,

I'm not suggesting people who are very situationally trans shouldn't have rights within the community, just that I don't especially want someone speaking for me who isn't living 24/7 and dealing with those issues day in/day out (especially someone who doesn't acknowledge how they live with a cis-expression most of the time).

A person who is actively transitioning is not in the same situation since they're in the midst of a process, ideally, getting deeper into their target life and realization of their identity. I do, however, know people who've been transitioning 10-15 years and are still basically presenting as their assigned birth gender, although on the Internet they communicate as though they've transitioned. While I understand everyone has their own timeline, there comes a point where someone loses cred when their transition is all talk—no walk.

I'm bringing this issue up because I feel the OP is totally looking at "situational membership" from one side and not seeing the ramifications of it. So, maybe Father Tony doesn't feel trans because he puts eyeliner on (and believe me, he's NOT trans) but other people do 'dress' a few times a year or wear eyeliner/nail polish and are under the impression they are community members and therefore entitled to comment on the full range of experience within that community. The largest segment of this imposed 'broad umbrella' is supposedly made up of part-time cross-dressers who, the vast majority of time, live as men. I don't want them suddenly deciding they're going to be making decisions about which directions this supposed new all-inclusive community is going. Same with Queer-IDing people who basically live as cis-lesbians or gay men yet feel entitled to comment/judge/and work as trans people when they feel it's propitious.

While it doesn't happen often, I do agree with Radical Bitch about how having people impose a label on you doesn't feel good, whether it's a gay man being told he's 'situationally trans' or telling a transsexual woman she's transgender.

Hi ginasf :)

In your comment to me in general and your discussion with Ana W-L, you make some really good points, and bring up some concepts I'd like to address.

If someone is gender variant, then they are affected by stigmatization of such in the society around us on a daily basis. The degree and kind may vary, and while they may still possess cisprivilege in some form, they are not gaining any entitlements as a result. That does not give them the power to speak *for* all trans folk -- anymore than my being transsexual gives me the right to do so.

But the power to speak *about* trans folk is always there, provided one does not universalize one's own expereince to the whole of the diversity that trans represents.

The power to speak *for* is granted by gestalt and circumstance, not really by individuals. Donna Rose, for example, is often said to speak for transfolk -- I think she'd much rather not she speaks about them (although that is a guess, since I have yet meet her and ask in person). I do not speak *for* trans folk. I speak about them.

What separates those who do such is the degree to which their speech meets your personal expectations and expereince. When I speak, I try to incorporate both the larger awareness outside us of us, as well as our own internal awareness. Harder to do than you might realize.

Part of the Trans community's internal issues is that we are extremely diverse -- and although an individual may be cissexual or cisgender, they may, indeed, still be Trans. The two are not mutually exclusive, despite what we often like to think. But one of the common errors that trans people (and most other people, as well) make is universalizing transsexual experience and situations to the wider trans community.

There's a reason for this -- in general, i is thought that if you can help transsexuals, you can help the rest of them, since in the general mind, the major details of political effort will be solved by dealing with the full range of transsexual issues, as what transsexuals go through mirrors much of what they have to deal with at some point or another in the process.

As for ownership of cisprivilege, that's a challenging concept -- *can* one own cisprivilege while being trans? Logically speaking, the answer is no -- unless you want to say that someone who is light skinned is "really not black" by virtue of their illusory privilege granted by their appearing white.

In regards your "minor disability" speaking out and saying they do not need rmps, I think a more direct prallel wouold be transsexuals who are gifted with a passing privilege (something that can be taken from them by exposure) saying they don't need and ENDA, and forgetting the wider transsexual population that mght not be so blessed may indeed need it, due to the intersections of racism, classism, and economic privilege.

Lastly, many of your statements are transsexual specific, and speak to your dislike of other parts of the trans community. This is, ultimately, akin to a bear saying that twinks don't speak for him because they aren't part of the bear scene. (or at least, I *think* that's right).

I will be dealing with some of the transsexual specific issues later on, using them to show how there are similarities between the wider LGBT and within the T itself in terms of an overt focus on the differences and some of the issues there.

Thanks for the comments and thank you :)

@Antonia,

I disagree gender variance is in and of itself a sign of experiencing stigma. Firstly, female bodied people who are what mainstream society calls gender variant may experience little or no stigma. Someone who looks butch dresses no more masculine than many straight women do in farming and rural communities. Women can have extremely masculine expression before being stigmatized. My example of transmasculine people being disproportionately used in GLBT organizations as 'representatives of the trans community' was chosen because this is a real world situation, not just theory. Okay, "about" vs. "for"... whatever, I think in real practice this is a semiotic game you're playing. People who speak about the trans community are (in activism or to media), in real practice, speaking for us. I think Donna Rose is only seen to speak for transpeople who mostly go to gender conventions (older and white). I would hope no one would suggest she speaks for latina, African-American, poor or young transitioning trans people. Personally, I feel a lot of your attempts to solidify a very broad definition of trans is, in fact, attempting to speak for many in the trans community (which is why you're getting some hostility in towards this post).

"have to deal with at some point or another in the process.
As for ownership of cisprivilege, that's a challenging concept -- *can* one own cisprivilege while being trans? Logically speaking, the answer is no -- unless you want to say that someone who is light skinned is "really not black" by virtue of their illusory privilege granted by their appearing white."

This is a crazy statement. Of course, someone who is a crossdresser 10% of the time is, in the other 90% of their life receiving much the benefits as 100% cis people do. And whether you wish to make an academic point of light-skinned black people being black, the reality is... in many situations they aren't black in the EXACT SAME WAY dark-skinned black people are. Deny that all you want, but ask some dark-skinned black people about it and I suspect they'd not support your assumption.

I think your analogy about people in stealth isn't in the least apt in the real world. I know of no people who are in stealth who don't support ENDA (maybe a few crazy libertarians?). But there are many people who have some form of minor legally-IDd disability who, in fact, don't support the full extent of the ADA. As the "trans" community expands to accept your definition, it will potentially incorporate more and more people with a more and more limited knowledge of issues affecting the most impacted portions of the trans community. To assume a man who occasionally puts on eyeliner or cross-dresses a few times a year will understand what transsexual people (especially those of color) experience isn't very realistic. Your assumption inclusivity is always a positive for all of the community isn't well thought out.

Lastly, I don't "dislike" parts of the trans community and I really resent your categorization of that. What I don't like the way you've defined trans and your re-routing of the term to mean: very broadly in some way gender variant. That doesn't work for me and I little or no agreement for your "what is trans" article. I have nothing against cross-dressers, GQs, genderfluid people or transmasculine lesbians... but I want to hear about their specific issues without ignoring privilege many of them so, in fact possess. I'm getting sick of these surface academic essays about how all gender variance fits together into some tidy construction, because it doesn't.

I'm not universalizing the transsexual experience, you're universalizing the cliched "trans" umbrella and, quite honestly, who the hell asked you or anyone else to do so? I agree with some of the other people posting here your essays express a lot of entitlement towards the people you're categorizing and, in light of other recent events on Bilerico, turns me off this site even more.

Ginasf,

When discussing groups of people, you are not, in and of itself, discussing individuals. This is what separates sociology from psychology.
So by looking at differences (the exact same way) you fail to often see the commonalities -- for example, as a light skinned person of color, I do indeed experience racism differently from darker skinned people. I daresay I expereince it more, since I get it from not merely one primary direction but from three of them. Nor is my privilege real -- it can be taken away from me simply by somone noting I am multiracial and thereby costing me it since I am not "a full member".

I know a lot of dark skinned multiethnic folks, and they generally agree with me. Where we differ is on our response to it. I tend to remain multiethnic -- all and none. Often the will tend to lean in one direction over others. There's where we tend to disagree.

So the question is not crazy -- can they own that privilege that can be taken from them, or do they just benefit from the assumption of that privilege? You can fault them for the assumed privilege, but not for the possession of it -- they get it due to an accident of their being percieved as part of one group, not for their actual membership.

I will keep your pont in mind when I get to the article that will discuss privilege in the context that I'm rying to get to, slowly: Intersectionality. It gets a big article all on its own -- indeed, it may be two parts if I can't get it any shorter.

Indeed, it is a part of the very subject I'm discussing here -- situational membership. They are trans -- they may not be transsexuals, the may not be full time folks, but they are still trans.

I know several people who are stealth that are not in support of ENDA. Indeed, a few of them consider me to be evil incarnate and/or a tool of the oppression of my faggot masters. They don't say it like that in public, because they generally don't talk to me in public. I also know several people who are in stealth that are in favor of ENDA.

I never said that someone who falls under the definition of Trans would understand it. That's a misrepresentation of my statements, combined with a fallacy of false cause.

Part of the idea of inclusivity is that in includes those who do not like it. Which means an inclusive movement eeds to include everyone, period.
Fun, huh? And that means looking at what they all share in common, not at what they differ on.

I apologize if my portrayal is inaccurate. It is, however, how your statements came across to me.

You are free to disagree with my outlining of what's Trans, as well -- the key, however is to present a logical reason for it, not merely an emotional one. Emotional ones are narrow of range and tend to be irrational, ignoring certain things in favor of others in stead of accepting all of them.

So while it may not work for you, personally, in terms of your identity, remember that it didn't talk about identity, it talked about description. Identity waits until I get to the next one.

I am not universalizing the trans umbrella, I am describing something already there. since it exists as a gestalt structure, it's kind a foolish for me to attempt such. All I did was provide an alternative means of cataloging it because some people like to attempt to redefine it down to just crossdressers and transsexuals, and doing that is not only wrong, but utterly stupid, as it fails to account for people who do indeed exist, often outside the experience of individuals.

As for who asked me, well, I wasn't aware I needed to be asked to do so. Should I behave more apporpriately and carefully poll the population on whether or not I can share my particular methodologies and views in a column that, ultimately, I have the final say over?

I'm sorry to hear that it turns you off from Bilerico, of course -- but take heart: Ron Gold turned even more people off. Two wrongs may not make a right, but I'll bet my approach is a hell of a lot better than his, any day.

As for some of the people posting here: perhaps you are missing the inherent cisprivilege in their arguments, the consistent strawmen they argue by adding things into my stuff that I didn't write, the various irrelevant conclusions such as ad hominem, ad verecundiam, and ad populum. as well as the fallacies of accident.

Not very reasoned responses, and if you find yourself leaning towards them, then I suggest you take a course of action appropriate to you as a person.

In my case, that would be to re-examine what I thought and felt and compare the failures of logic on their part versus the logic on mine.

But I'm admittedly weird, strange, different, and intentionally not normal.

Ordinary never appealed to me.

Toni,

No, it's true you didn't state everyone who falls under your ultra-broad definition of trans (a word which, btw, historically was short for transsexual, not transgender) but you're piecing together a construct (with a lot of duct tape) which involves the biiig umbrella and with that umbrella comes privilege to determine the direction of the umbrella and to define the issues of the umbrella, etc. The reality (and I don't mean an academic reality) is the people stuffed under that umbrella (kind of like the Warsaw Ghetto?) will ultimately be talking off the top of their heads based on their experience. If their experience is mostly informed by their cis-identities and experiences, then it will be filtered through that privilege. Because of the sheer discrepancies in number between CDs/Gender Fluids/GQs/gender variants and people I would actually call trans, I can make a quick guess where this is all going. And this is why you get some very obstreperous transwomen (what Monica Roberts always calls WWBTs) who aren't into construct and what the ultimately use of it is. Btw, I hope I don't fall into that group even if I have a lot of issues with both your definitions of trans and gender identity—both of which are all about sociological constructs, not the real diverse experiences of people you're grouping together. Sorry, but if I didn't like those core aspects to your theory, I'm not waiting with baited breath to hear what you say about Intersectionality. In truth, these are all concepts trans people have had projected onto them many, many times (just perhaps not couched in your sociologists lingo... which doesn't make it any more palatable). Personally, I would get more value from your life experiences than to be the subject of yet another academic treatise.

Yes, you are universalizing the trans umbrella... your theory is no different that anything I've ever heard from transgender activists. Let's face it, academics say they're just uncovering the truth all the time when, in fact, they're constructing the truth through their own lens of reality.

bigolpoofter | December 20, 2009 1:52 PM

Thanks for breaking it all down for people, Antonia. Beyond the situational membership conferred at different times, folks really need to embrace the concept of intersectionality as it relates to all of our identities, chosen and perceived, as individuals.

Attempting to rank our oppressions as a follow-on activity, however, does nothing to solve any of them and only draws energy away from undermining the structures of stigma and privilege presented to us. Even when we receive privilege based on oppression, we suffer from being valued on other than our innate worth and objective means.

Hi ya bigolpoofter :D

Thank you for the comment.

Yes, intersection is a big deal, and something that people pointedly ignore and resist -- usuallythrough either a misreading of the material or through privilege, because much of it deals in people as groups, and a group of people is signifcantly different from a single person.

You are correct -- ranking oppressions is something of a challenge, but there is indeed a hierarchy of oppression at play, and it should be acknowledged and discussed; although I question the wisdom of doing so in the context of this article, and I find the attempt to link privilege to it in a hierarchy a rather dishaeartneing development, as privilege is never hierarachical.

The commonality is what matters, in the end, at this stae. Once the common needs are obtained, then I fear the fragile alliance will break, both among the larger parts as well as within each one, as different groups focus on different and more specific stuff related to their group needs.

The searching for differences is one of our banes, I fear, and part of what continues to deny us our equality and our liberty.

Angela Brightfeather | December 20, 2009 2:17 PM

Antonia,

this is, without any doubt, one of the best posts I have read in some time and a clear explanation of exactly what the problems are in the GLBTQS partnership of being "human beings".

I continue to wonder why it is that humans still hold onto and some of the very oldest of primal traits. Oh sure, it may seem complicated, but as you explain, it's really all about discrimination, the worst sin ever planted on the humans and the hardest to overcome for many.

While people seem surprised that many activists insist on equality, the fact is that they are actually urging people to be less discriminatory. This is the common thread in much of our advocacy and the ultimate reason why we have become the GLBT Community of humans. Not because we feel that we are one or the other, but because we all are prone to the same kind of discrimination and we know it. The biggest problem is that we tend to gather into these groups and subgroups that define the discrimination they experience as being different in some way from that experienced by other people.

In fact it is not different. It is just handly named as different to continue to be able to meet the requirements of power and law that dictate that calling someone a faggot or a tranny is less discriminatory than beating them up for being different or less acceptable to the person doing the discriminating.

Hi Angela,

Thank you.

The solution is often simple, but extraordinarly difficult to do -- far easier said than done.

And all that is required is that we stop looking from the inside out, and start looking from the outside in.

But that may be a little too metaphorical for many...

what an exellent post, Antonia.
I have been thinking a lot about this recently, but didn't have a word for it.

This reminds me of the times early in my transition when lesbians would claim me as one of their own solely based on the way I looked. I would correct them, which pissed many off because to them it seemed as if I was trying to avoid the stigma of being seen as a lesbian. It was a very tricky thing to explain that I was in fact a gay transman and my insistence on not being a lesbian had no root in homophobia. And then there times that genderqueers would claim me as on their own when I started to look gender ambiguous. Again, I would have to explain the difference and convince them that I was not afraid to be seen as gender-variant. When I entered trans support groups, I was told I was a not real transsexual because of how I acted (I'm extremely flamboyant and feminine), so I stopped seeking membership with trans people. Now, that other people see me as I want to seen, a gay man, I am claimed by other gay men as one of their own until they find out I'm trans (not always true though). My life can be considered a series of situational memberships, so that I often feel like I belong nowhere.

This could have been written by me, Kian.

Hi Kian :D,

You got the entirety of what I am talking about -- and you appear to have not made the mistake of conflating external description with internal identity.

Your denying the lesbian thing is akin to what others are doing -- and I am not foisting an identity on them (nor can I -- identity doesn't work that way unless they allow it). I am merely pointing out the descriptive nature of all of this, and how the reaction is based in that stigma of being tossed into something you are not.

THe more virulent the reaction, the more likely it is to be stigma based -- as in, there is something wrong with being classified as a member of that group, which, as I noted above, is actually working at cross purposes to our overall goal, and is visible to our opponents.

It'll get real fun when I do the next part on gestalt identity groups and the nature of affinity groups.

Toni - I really like to read your work, so thanks for the feedback. Can't wait till the next one.

a very thoughtful and interesting read...

however, regarding "stealth" (why a term with such negative and deceptive connotation? if you present yourself as a woman and you are a woman, then what's stealthy about it?). couldn't it be possible that instead of dodging stigma, some individuals make use discretion about their history because it's not actually anyone's business, or else because it doesn't come up?

there are people who transition as young children nowadays... their whole adolescence, whole adult lives to be lived as the Boys/Men or Girls/Women (bi, gay, or straight) that they truly are...

it's one thing if they identify as Trans and that is part of who they are, in that case by all means proclaim it proudly...

but if not? do you feel they have an obligation to claim membership in the Trans community (and communicate this to others) if they may not feel the belonging themselves? note that the same person may openly embrace membership in a Gay, Lesbian, Bi community...

Hello Anonymous,

Thanks for commenting.

I used the term stealth because its the currently accepted term for it, and communicates the concept effectively. Personally, I think the term (and the associated assimilationism that goes with the concept it represents) is extremely negative and damaging.

Yes, it is possible that people use discreton about their history because its not actually anyone's business. I'm that way, lol.

Do they have an obligation to claim membership in something they are part of situationally? Oh, hell no.

This isn't about oligations. This is about their being a member of such a community as a matter of circumstance and appearance.

It's called Situational Membership, and it affects most of the LGBT community in one way or another, and reaches outside us, into the wider world.

Situational membership happens when you find yourself, seemingly unwillingly, thrust into a group with which you otherwise might not feel you have much in common.

Bisexual people often experience this in both the gay and lesbian communities, as well as the straight community -- entirely based on who they happen to be with. And, as a result of the underlying animosities there, they are often attacked on both sides for it, in subtle and invidious ways.

Trans folk, such as transsexuals, can find that different people's perceptions of their gender affect how they are seen in terms of sexual orientation. They might for example, be called a faggot; or perhaps when they seek to marry they are told they aren't really their particular sex, but instead a different one.

Situational membership is also easily pointed out among our loudest and most vocal opponents -- Vitter found himself a situational gay, for example.

Antonia, why are you giving so much weight to someone "being" what someone else presupposes them to be?

As a "sometimes therapist," even if it is "pro bono," would you consider it healthy for the person to whom you're providing counsel to make other persons' perceptions of your patient more important to the patient than that patient's own perceptions of self?

As a sociologist, would you advocate a "sameness" for any community?

Of course not. If you did, you would neither be a good therapist nor a sociologist; in fact, you may be violating some principle ethics of both professions. I say "may be," as it's solely my perception and not from any research into either profession's ethical code... but I can't imagine any profession - except, perhaps, Armed Forces recruitment and/or religious sect ordination - in which sublimation of self was seen as a necessity.

Your recent flurry of postings on, essentially, "What is Trans?" have been made in the wake of the publication of one man's personal opinion. I appreciate your desire to educate, Antonia; I truly do. But I also feel you're making quite a few stretches in your attempts to have us all join hands and dance down Main St., USA, singing "It's A Small, Small World."

A gay man who happens, one night, to go to a party dressed in drag is a situational member of the Trans community, without ever intending to actually be part of it -- because to the rest of the world, he can be described as such.

In previous postings - and, to be honest, I don't recall if those postings were made by you, or by others in response to the since-removed editorial - there's been a common thread of "all GBLT are seen as experiencing a disorder concerning gender identity, so we're all trans!"

Your statement concerning a gay man going to a party in drag seems to substantiate both your "situational member" and the postings of the "hey, we're all trans!" statements.

I look at it differently: If a gay man (or even a straight man, for that matter) goes to a party in drag, then that man is wearing a costume. If someone were to go to a party dressed as Batman, would the "situational membership" of being a super-hero dictate they take to the streets after the party, looking to stop evil-doers in their tracks?

I am male. I have known from a very, very young age that the part of my psyche/soul/spirit/chi/whatever noun someone wishes to use that looked to other people as "someone to love" would be seeking that person out from among other males.

My father knew from a very, very young age that the part of his psyche/soul/spirit/chi/whatever noun someone wishes to use that looked to other people as "someone to love" would be seeking that person out from among females.

I am homosexual. I was born homosexual; I till die homosexual.

To me, to embrace a philosophy of "situational membership" and/or "we're all trans!" because that's how society is most comfortable viewing my sexual orientation means I also have to be willing to embrace the wing-nuts who would have being gay reclassified to once again being a mental illness - the right's already developed a name for it, you know: SSAD, or; Same-Sex Attraction Disorder. Or to accept the belief that I have a homosexual orientation only because I haven't met the right woman yet.

Does being gay also make me a de facto child molester, as a majority of society still believes that canard of gay men, thus forcing on me a "situational membership"?

Clouding your "situational membership" mindset even more, from what I've seen in the postings the last few weeks, a great many "trans" people who can't seem to decide exactly where some people who DO consider themselves "trans" fit in the "is someone a trans?" question.

Please pardon the irregular pacing of this posting; I've not had much sleep in the last 48 hours and I'm staring at another sleepless night tonight and, unfortunately, I no longer have my own personal editor to watch my syntax, correct my spelling and re-arrange my prose for cohesion.

Laughriotgirl once said that trans women are often seen as "really gay men," even when we're attracted to women. Often, perceptions of trans people do not even include or acknowledge our orientations.

Hi Lisa :D

Absolutely. It's one of the things that strike all of us often.

Pardon me, but all this reads to me as justification of the rights of some to define others in open opposition to their own realities or lives.

A while back there was an incident where a straight man was gay bashed for holding his girlfriend's purse while she was in a dressing room. This demonstrates that civil rights and hate crimes protection have wider implications beyond the original group but in no fashion did it make this man gay. Likewise butch lesbians would almost certainly be covered under the "transgender" sections of ENDA but it is a violence to their own identities to then label them transgender.

And this is the problem with the transgender movement, it appears to think it has the right to redefine others against their own identities via some mental sleight of hand and redefintions. A sort of gender Borg that absorbs all into the collective by violence. The transgender community would do well to drop this immediately as it is serving only to widen their alienation from otherwise sympathetic allies.

I cannot help but wonder if Father Tony, now that he has been defined as "transgendered" can better understand the position I have found myself in regarding this forced inclusion. Hope springs eternal but several commenters here have already noted their own problem with this model so perhaps this will finally enlighten some.

Wow. Thank you, Radical Bitch. You were much more succinct than I had been in my (upon re-reading it) rather rambling post.

Seconded, Radical B. It's amusing that trans-theorists think they really know what's going on inside other people. As if to say, "You may look like a woman and others may think you are a woman- but on the inside you are trans".

Nonsense.

If a person is born male, and has all the physical characteristics of a male - penis, facial hair, testosterone, testes - but has sex and gender identities of female, the majority of traits still say that this person is male. Just because he identifies as female doesn't change the fact that he is defined as male. Someone who experiences sexual attraction to both sexes is by definition bisexual, whether or not they identify as bisexual - don't get me wrong, they can identify however they wish, and that's perfectly fine, but that doesn't change the fact that they fit the definition.

Likewise, someone who falls under the category of trans* by definition but doesn't identify as trans* still is trans*. The important thing is to not make definition and identity the same thing. If a duck feels like a chicken, clucks like a chicken, and swears up and down it's a chicken, guess what? It's a duck.

As for situational membership, I think what it boils down to is that it's in everyone's best interests to eliminate stigma against a group, even if they're not a part of that group, because all it takes is for someone else to perceive that they're a part of that group for that stigma to all of a sudden get attached to them. Unfairly attached, sure, but stigma is just as unfair to the people it's directly targeting.

And I have to ask - what's so terrible about being defined as trans* in some way (gender-nonconforming, for most people who are objecting)? Really, honestly, what is the difference if you fall into the category of trans* or not? It's not changing anything about you, it's not forcing you to run down the streets screaming "Look at me, I'm trans!" What reason could you, or Father Tony, or anyone else have for objecting to falling under the definition of trans*?

Michelle, you asked a question that I'd like to take a shot at answering. I apologize in advance if my answer meanders a bit... but as I've said in an earlier post, I've been experiencing some serious sleep deprivation in the last week.

You asked:

And I have to ask - what's so terrible about being defined as trans* in some way (gender-nonconforming, for most people who are objecting)? Really, honestly, what is the difference if you fall into the category of trans* or not? It's not changing anything about you, it's not forcing you to run down the streets screaming "Look at me, I'm trans!" What reason could you, or Father Tony, or anyone else have for objecting to falling under the definition of trans*?

The answer is pretty simple, at least for me.

Comfort.

I was born male; I am male, and my emotional, romantic attractions are to other males.

I do not even attempt to hide my ignorance concerning the issues of "trans" persons, nor the different strata of "trans."

My knowledge of "trans"?

Heterosexual persons who receive some sort of satisfaction/gratification by dressing in clothing identified by "society" as "belonging" to the opposite gender are cross-dressers.

Homosexual persons who drape themselves in the attire of their opposite gender are transvestites; they enjoy the illusion of "changing genders," without actually believing their natural gender is a "mistake." Nor do they have the desire to change their gender.

Persons whose deep-rooted sense of self is one of actually being of the opposite gender - that the physicality of the gender in which they are born is some sort of birth defect - are transsexuals.

The majority of cross-dressers do not consider themselves to be transvestites, and they use their heterosexual orientation as "proof" they are not transvestites. Nor do the majority of transvestites consider themselves transsexuals; again using the shield of their sexual orientation as a shield from being labeled transsexuals.

And, of course, transsexuals are looked upon (oh, God, is this statement going to bring in the nasty replies... yet, I've got to state it) as suffering from a mental defect/illness in which a necessary component of treating that defect/illness is some sort of morphing from birth-gender to perceived-gender.

(And, NO, I'm not stating all transsexuals are defined by actual gender re-identification surgeries. In my view, "morphing" includes those transsexuals who are content and comforted simply by living, full time, as a member of their perceived gender.)

I'm fifty years old. I was raised in suburban and rural Pennsylvania. I'm fairly well educated. I'm a gay man who made a living disseminating information through the most difficult media in which to have information understood - the written word. Believe it or not, I was quite successful in achieving that goal. For over 20 of the last 25 years, I was immersed in the center of the "LGBT" world, the San Francisco Bay Area.

Yet, if I am of the perception there's a "mental defect/illness" component associated with transsexualism, I can guarantee the majority of citizens of Lickdale, Pennsylvania, or Dacula, Georgia, or Twin Branch, West Virginia, or Socorro, New Mexico, etc., don't even give the question "What is Trans?" much thought. For them, being "trans" is nothing more than "being wrong in the head."

The country - hell, the world, itself - is not composed of the "enlightened" citizenry of a New York City, or a Los Angeles or a San Francisco. It is a collection of Lickdales, Daculas, Twin Branches and Socorros.

So, if Antonia's definition of gender identity, as opposed to sexual orientation, is the model that should be followed, then I must willingly accept the "situational membership" of being "wrong in the head."

Bullshit.

So, if Antonia's definition of gender identity, as opposed to sexual orientation, is the model that should be followed, then I must willingly accept the "situational membership" of being "wrong in the head. Bullshit."

Does that mean you accept the definition of trans as being "wrong in the head"? Because that's what it sounds like. And if you do, then I am not surprised that you seek to define yourself as not trans despite your gender not fitting society's definition of a man.

What I take away from Antonia's post is that it doesn't matter how you define yourself much of the time. Other people may perceive you as straight, but that does not mean you are. And other people may see you as trans, but that doesn't mean you are. I'm trans and no one perceives me as such, but I'm still trans.

I must repeat what Antonia so eloquently put:

The is a great deal of stigma attached to the various ways by which we end up with situational membership. To avoid that stigma, we often speak out against the ideas being placed on regarding that situational membership, denying it instead of accepting it.

You are avoiding the stigma attached to being trans by speaking out against it, which you have every right to do. But one question: when people think you are straight, do you speak out against heterosexuality?

What problem Michele?

First the standard most "trans" people revert to is transgender. They are quite militant in fact about that. Calling a woman (corrected or natal) trans anything places her gender in a third category and as Eric pointed out, adds a further stigma of mental illness (in opposition to ALL the legitmate scientific research, also denied by TG id'ed people) In other words, when you insist you have some right by definition (which the TGs change at the drop of a hat) to define a woman as transgender, you are essentially denying her womanhood or at least making it conditional. If you cannot see why this would piss someone off, you are hopeless.

Those born with transsexuality never trans their gender.....it is that gender identity that is the problem that only can be "fixed" by fixing the body. That's what transsexuality was always considered prior to the TG revolutionary guard.

Further, in my own case, you invoking a male state at birth is absolutely incorrect. In fact, I was born intersexed, a specific type that resulted in half my genetics being XX, half XY so the "transgressing" gender argument TGs revert to in the face of the trans-ing gender one still fails. The gender transgression in my case (and I'd argue in the cases of classic transsexuals as well) was imposed from the outside and simply corrected by the individual.

But the final point is simply this. It is arrogant and entitled and offensive in the extreme to feel you have the right to define others against their expressed wishes.

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for commenting -- although I suppose you may not have counted on some stuff when you did.

Toni, I understand the concept of "situational membership" and the stigma it creates oh so well, although primarily from a racial POV (being the proper talkin', somewhat educated black boy that I am).

And that stigma occurs across racial lines...

Michelle B., I think that part of the offense is the tension between self-identity and ascribed identity. Ascribed identities bring along so much of the stereotypes and baggage of society as a whole that sometimes the resistance to ascribed identity is just visceral and instinctual.

I'd add this.....
I am a natural redhead. Calling me a blonde when I've never coloured my hair is just plain wrong, my objecting to someone labeling me a blonde is not an attack on blondes, blonde-phobic or me being "self-loathing" about my internal blondeness (which simply doesn't exist) If you persist on insisting I'm a blonde in denial, eventually you will piss me off to the point I might even take action against you. What will certainly happen is I will see you as an offensive idiot and ignore pretty much anything else you have to say based on that observation.

If you decide you can change the meaning of blonde to include redheads, you will be seen by me and others as an arrogant idiot as well. Your being a blonde does not give you license to call non-blondes blondes.

Radical Bitch,

Damn, how I lust after your writing skills.

Unfortunately, my fall-back position in writing is still that of a newspaper reporter - attempt to instill a small nugget of information to the maximum number of people. That lends itself to a certain verbosity.

But "redhead/blonde" just cuts through all the crap.

Antonia, are you content/comfortable being "trans"? If so, I'm happy for you, and wish you nothing but happiness after happiness in your life.

But, Antonia, you created the term "situational membership" to bolster the argument of "we are all trans."

The continuing redefinition of your own "situational membership" label based on the comments of the persons who reveal how illogical that label actually is, and to attempt to incorporate those comments under the umbrella of that label... well, I'll just use another old homily, one I think we've all heard:

Methinks thou does protest too much.

Instead of looking outward for some sort of forced inclusion, do you feel the possibility might exist that an inward examination of the need to redefine... well.. everyone as conforming to your own self-identity might not be apropos?

As a note, I did not create the term situational membership.

This is exactly what informs the point, Chitown Kev. Thank you :D

Wow.

Really great comments, all of you.

I am, myself, dealing with a bit of sleep deprivation myself right now, but will be solving that problem in a few moments, lol.

Once I'm up again, I will answer the questions and concerns individually.

In the interim, I would like to suggest that Eric read the What is Trans post (and Radical, as well, if she didn't).

I am not dealing in Identity here. Situationally, one's identity doesn't change (unless, of course, one wants it to do so), so the question how one identifies is irrelevant.

Situational membership is not based on what you think about yourself. Indeed, to a great extent, you generally don't get a say in the matter.

Also, as regards the meme "we are all Trans", as I pointed out in the article that I started this series with, it applies descriptively as well (indeed, its expressly so).

Careful thought regarding this point, when combine, once again, with the above article will reveal a second concept similar to that which all the people Eric mentioned will be equally well aware of.

Anyone care to guess what it is?

:D

Will respond in detail to all posts later today -- please forgive me for my need of sleep.

Dyss, I read it, I disagree with it. I did not appoint you in a position to discuss my life and certainly deny you any right to define me in any fashion other than that which I define (and live my life as and others see me as in 3-d as opposed to the internut) myself.

I am a feminist woman, a Pagan woman, a bi-sexual woman. I am not trans anything.

To all of which I say "good for you".

So, if Antonia's definition of gender identity, as opposed to sexual orientation, is the model that should be followed, then I must willingly accept the "situational membership" of being "wrong in the head. Bullshit."

Does that mean you accept the definition of trans as being "wrong in the head"? Because that's what it sounds like. And if you do, then I am not surprised that you seek to define yourself as not trans despite your gender not fitting society's definition of a man.

What I take away from Antonia's post is that it doesn't matter how you define yourself much of the time. Other people may perceive you as straight, but that does not mean you are. And other people may see you as trans, but that doesn't mean you are. I'm trans and no one perceives me as such, but I'm still trans.

I must repeat what Antonia so eloquently put:

The is a great deal of stigma attached to the various ways by which we end up with situational membership. To avoid that stigma, we often speak out against the ideas being placed on regarding that situational membership, denying it instead of accepting it.

You are avoiding the stigma attached to being trans by speaking out against it, which you have every right to do. But one question: when people think you are straight, do you speak out against heterosexuality?

Kian writes:

"You are avoiding the stigma attached to being trans by speaking out against it, which you have every right to do. But one question: when people think you are straight, do you speak out against heterosexuality?"

I just got done posting a response to RadicalBitch in which I admit to lusting after her... writing skills and why some of my postings tend toward verbosity in an attempt to instill an understanding of a concept to the maximum number of people.

Apparently, Kian, I failed.

I am not "avoiding the stigma attached to being trans by speaking out against it."

I am speaking out against my being unwillingly labeled as "trans" simply because of my homosexual orientation.

Why am I so vociferous in denying someone, supposedly from within my own "community", the right to impose that label upon me?

I am a male who is romantically/emotionally attracted to other males, a fact of which I've been aware, easily, since I was 7 or 8 years old. I have never had the desire to create a public image of myself that was anything but that of a how the public perceives a male. One year, on October 31, when my mother discovered my Halloween costume's seams hadn't been sealed properly - remember the old, plastic Halloween costumes that were, essentially, a plastic garbage bag with some design printed on them? - and the sides were completely open, she decided an easy costume was to plop her wig on my head and dress me in one of my older sister's sundresses. I objected (I guess I was about 9), strongly. So adamant was I, even then, about not being perceived "as a girl," I stayed home that night and did not go trick-or-treating.

Most of the homosexually oriented men and women I know want one thing about their sexual orientation to be understood by the general public: our sexual orientation is innate. We have not made a conscious choice to be homosexual; there is as much need of a "cure" for homosexuality as there is for heterosexuality.

The Great White They out there, however, find it difficult-to-impossible to reconcile that reality with their perception of reality. They simply do not grasp how anyone can, naturally, be romantically/emotionally attracted to anyone not of the opposite gender. Lots of "gay friendly" advocates play lip service but, even there, the continuous questioning of "when did you know you were gay?" belies the fact they believe, at some early age, we made some conscious choice (in many cases, even before we had any awareness of the physicalities of any sexual acts... the "what goes where" of sex) to live our lives outside societal norms... but that, even so, it's our right to do that.

We've gotten so used to simply shutting out the majority of society we've neglected to rise to challenges society has placed in our path with those challenges all based on the act of homosexual sex and a general distaste toward people who can't quite "get" the whole dick/pussy norm. As a consequence, we've let the electorate of two states potentially strip us of some basic human rights. It's their shame they believe any group of citizenry can have their societal rights defined by ballot; it's our shame we allowed it to happen.

And, yes, I have spoken against heterosexuality when in situations where I was perceived to be heterosexual.

Bill's a shy, retiring type of person who has simply never seen fit to go outside his home and do something simple as "meet the neighbors."

I'm kind of outgoing, in case no one's noticed.

When we moved to Glendale, AZ, I made it a point of going around the neighborhood and meeting the people. In the subset of "our block" in the neighborhood, an essential component of social interaction was, on Friday night, a contingent of 10 or 12 persons would gather at one of those persons' homes around sunset, bring our lawnchairs and our coolers, and just sit around talking/socializing for a few hours. No one ever asked about my sexual orientation; I didn't volunteer it. When, initially, asked about my marital status, I said I was married, but my "spouse" had chosen to remain home.

Over the course of a few months, someone finally asked if I was gay - picking up on my use of the non-gender specific pronoun "spouse." Instead of suddenly being ostracized, I was, essentially, scolded by everyone there for not being forthright from the get-go. They all wanted to meet Bill, and the next Friday night, Bill joined me. Everyone generally liked Bill, in the weeks to come (Bill joining, sporadically), everyone confessed to having changed/softened their perception of "what gay is." We were just another couple on the block.

It was wonderful and, like anything wonderful, it couldn't be sustained.

Five years ago, now, the conservatives of Arizona put forth a DOMA ballot initiative. On one Friday night, the host passed among the guests the "signature collection" forms to support the proposed initiative. That clipboard was even passed to me. The simple expectation being, apparently, that I would also "sign on to the cause."

In just a few moments my sense of Bill's and my inclusion in our own neighborhood was simply... gone. From the group, when I protested, the overall response was: "We really like you and Bill, but marriage is different because" of the ability to procreate.

Even though two of the couples there were married past child-bearing years.

One of the biggest slams came from the host of that Friday's gathering, simply because of the actuality, and legality, of his marriage. He was an African-American male married to a Caucasian female. Though he was also in his 40s, he simply called me a liar when I referenced the illegality of his marriage, in most states, prior to 1967.

That was my last Friday night gathering.

The ballot initiative was defeated, thankfully, because the opposing forces mounted an effective campaign based on one aspect of the initiative - that no "union" but marriage would be considered an actual union. From that, the ad campaign dealt with the thousands of Sun City retirees who would lose any status in the law unless they married and, if they married, the subsequent loss of income in their Social Security would create a financial hardship for these couples.

The day after the initiative lost, I stated, in a letter-to-the-editor of the local paper, that I was elated the initiative had failed, but that I was also certain the initiative would be reworded to make clear: "Hey, we just meant the fags!"

A year later, I was proved to be correct, and Arizona redefined their state Constitution.

And all that is just another reason I would, and do, rebel against a "situational membership" in any group.

I am gay male. I am not a cross-dresser. Nor am I a transvestite. I do not view the physical appendages of my gender as some sort of birth defect. I do not believe myself to be a straight woman.

I am gay. I am not a child molester; given the opportunity, I would use a melon-baller that's been soaking in the urine of a mad-cow-disease infected heifer to remove the testicles of child molesters, sans anesthetic. I am not some horned-up sex addict who jumps from bedroom to bedroom, person to person, in a never-ending quest for my next orgasm.

I am gay. Sixteen years ago, thanks to a fledgling company called Match.com, I was introduced, electronically, to a man with whom I exchanged daily e-mails for months before we met. Finally meeting for a luncheon date - lunch because it was "safe" if we didn't click - "hey, look at the time, I've got things I've got to get back to! Call me! - we were still sitting at our table, simply talking, until after 5:00 PM. Our lunch turned in to dinner. It did not, by mutual agreement, turn into a "lets jump each other's bones" evening. We both recognized, at some primal level, the introduction of the physical aspects of sex could, at that time, destroy those emotional connections we were making.

Three weeks later, I left my apartment in Redwood City, CA, to go to Bill's house in Livermore, CA, for a dinner date.

Three months after that, Bill asked me to move in with him. Outside of one three-month period, two years into our relationship, we've been together ever since - and we both view that three-month blip as nothing more serious than those heterosexual couples who go through a "trial separation" and reconcile.

I am gay. It's a party of my self-identity, but it is not the entirety of my self-identity. I do not live within the constraints of the societal perception/definition of "gay man." I simply live as me.

And a big part of me is to speak out against the attempt of anyone else to label me in a manner more comfortable to them.

I don't think Antonia is trying to paint all LGBs as trans, atleast that's not the way I'm reading it. I'm sorry that you are offended by her words, because honestly I think her words get people to think and that is a good thing.

I respect your identity as a gay man. I would never call you trans unless you identified yourself as such. But people not well-versed in LGBT issues (i.e. the majority of people) may mistake you for being trans, unbeknownst to you. They may even kill you because of it. When or if this happens, you are temporarily a member of the trans community because you would be experiencing the stigma of being trans. Its not right, correct, or fair, but it happens.

The stigma of being trans is so great that people are killed because of it. Hence, most people, including me, a gay transman, spend much of their time convincing others of their non-transness, by going stealth. We all do it.

I asked you whether you'd speak out against heterosexuality to make a point. No one speaks out against it because there is not stigma for it. In fact, most gay and trans people would like to be seen as straight. Because of this, we argue over who's what and who belongs where, and we find ourselves still having this conversation over who's trans or not, when it doesn't really matter.

My trans-utopia:

Being trans without the stigma would make it so that people would not be afraid to grouped with trans people. You wouldn't bristle at the idea of being called trans. You may say, nope, I'm not trans and maybe chuckle later on that someone thought you were trans, that silly rabbit. You would shrug it off because it doesn't matter. And you wouldn't call trans people deluded or "messed up in the head" at the mere suggestion that you might be trans.

Such a strange thing, the stigma of being trans.

I would have thought that

But people not well-versed in LGBT issues (i.e. the majority of people) may mistake you for being trans, unbeknownst to you. They may even kill you because of it. When or if this happens, you are temporarily a member of the trans community because you would be experiencing the stigma of being trans. Its not right, correct, or fair, but it happens

has things quite reversed, actually.

This seems to ascribe to the general public being well-versed in the very things--LGBT issues--you say they're not: understanding of the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, say.

The usual gloss on the sort of situation you describe, Kian, is that transgender and transsexual people, are assumed to be gay, but appearances can be deceiving.

How strange to be the dominant, well, for a transgender person, it would be a dominant identity, for a transsexual person, it would be a dominant medical condition--stranger still!

Well, the ability to ascribe any sort of "membership" (whether situationally or permanent) is, by definition, privileged.

You know, Antonia, in its own way, your continual pushing of the "situational membership" and "we are all trans" concepts is just as demeaning and hurtful as the published opinion of Ron Gold.

Perhaps even more so, as you've been allowed to continue this vein, despite repeated comments concerning the illogical base of your argument.

Is it because those posters - among whom I include myself - have not been so vociferously angry about your words that change the way the two opinion postings have been treated? After all, Mr. Gold was not presented with opportunity after opportunity to refine his position - he was flooded with angry comments and stopped, cold.

Please discontinue your thesis, Antonia, as that's how all your published opinion pieces in this vein read - the breaking down of a thesis into separate components.

We are not the body that can grant a doctorate based upon the merits/publication of a thesis; there are more appropriate channels in which to test your "situational membership" hypothesis.

Ok, Hello Eric :D

I'm going to address certain statements you've made first, and then I'm going to comment on a few other elements, since much of what you are talking about will be something I will discuss in the future parts of this series.

First, thank you for commenting :). Yo've raised good questions, and I appreciate your effort and interest.

First off, this is not a hypothesis.

It is not a thesis, and I already have a doctorate, thank you :). Going through that once was enough to dissuade me of doing it again.

I disagree that there is a more appropriate channel. Indeed, it is exactly the right channel. So I shall not discontinue it. My apologies for the discomfort that may cause you.

I have not changed the words. The entirety of the examples I provided were all based on perception of others -- nor did I conflate the concept of identity witht he concept of description.

Identity does not extend to others, Eric -- yuo can assert your identity, but you cannot force others to accept it. All you can do is ask and hope.

Description can be extended to others -- sometimes painfully if they find the description insulting or emotionally difficult.

I did not say that: "...all GBLT are seen as experiencing a disorder concerning gender identity, so we're all trans!" I said that we all appear to be variations on a theme because of the wider concepts of gender, which go far beyond gender identity. That does not imply a disorder.

You speak of the illogic of my statements, and yet you haven't disassembled the logic itself, Eric, so you haven't demonstrated that they are illogical.

I should point out that your comparing my poiting out that to others we are all seem to have some kind of commonality to Ron Gold's post is somewhat privileged -- but I must also acknowledge my own privilege in doing so.

You asked why I give so much weight to it. THe answer is that it is part of the social structure of the culture in which we live, and if we seek top achieve equality nd liberty, we must first change the parts of that society that are dependent on it, and we must first start with our own internal issues.

This has been a fairly strong theme in most of my writing all over the place for the last year and some months, Eric.

Would I consider it healthy fro someone to take others as more important, the answer is no. However, awareness of it is extremely useful in changing it, so I would counsel learning about it -- the boogeyman is far less scary with the lights on.

As a sociologist, I don't advocate either way for a society. Nor do I need to -- all societies are built on a sameness, a strong sense and awareness of commonality. That is what heteronormativity is.

Nor do these thngs make a sublimation of self necessary -- that posits an either or situation, which is neither held forth by facts available nor logically probable.

This post and the previous two are not about what is trans. THe only one that is about that is the first one. THe rest have been about all of us -- all people -- with a focus and illustrated by situatons that occur in our community in order to enlighten.

And outside of the first one, they are not in response to Ron Gold's opinion -- they are, in fact, in response to the opinion of people *other* than him.

Nor am I suggesting we march down the street singing "Its a small world" -- that you might think so is somewhat humorous to me, as I'm generally the sort who would be on the sidelines with water balloons.

Which doesn't change that I would still be aware of all of this.

That's not a statement to affirm, it is a statement to illustrate (regarding gay trans intersection).

THe way you look at it, you are wearing a costume. THe way others look at it, you are trans. Hence the point you even quoted wherein I described it as descriptive, not identity based. How you percieve it is lensed through your identity, Eric, which is, as I noted, internalized.

I'm talking about externalized aspects, and awareness of them is important.

I do find it interesting that you quote a literal point where I remind its descriptive, and then later you accuse me of changing the focus.

In no way have I said that you are not a homosexual. Being homosexual and being trans are not mutually exclusive -- if you think they are, then, again, I would suggest you re-read the What is Trans piece, which I suggested earlier because your later comments about what are tans folk were lacking in substantial validity.

Situational membership is not a philosophy, Eric. So there is no need to embrace any of those things -- and that's a strawman argument, like many of your overall arguments -- misrepresenting what I've said. Logically, it has othing to do with the post, and more to do with somethng not found in it (a philosophy, in this case).

Nor is the concept that I'm slowly getting to (which, for your information, is that we can all be trans as easily as we can all be gay/lesbian, which I sort get into above) merely that we are all trans. That's a simple fact -- observationally, we all are. Observationally, we are all gay.

Observationally -- descriptively -- there is no difference between us to others in the greater society, only to ourselves.

Being gay, to many, means, de facto, that you are a child molester. Being trans, to many, means, de facto, that I am a child molester. Neither case is true, but it does, indeed, force on us a situational membership.

That does not mean that we are, merely that the appearance -- the descriptive lens with which we are seen -- is there. By being aware of it in a broader context, we have the ability to address it more effectively across multiple areas, not merely one, as they are all interconnected.

Why are both of us seen that way, Eric?

Those trans people you have seen are part of the group I'm trying to address in this, Eric. It is not as narrow a focus as you appear to assume.

As to their particular views, I suggest they look at the What is Trans post -- it's there for a reason, and you've touched on it.

No problems on the fatigue -- I understand the necessity of life, havng cared for my mother as she lay dying. It can be extremely destructive to one's sleep schedule.

In response to the question "hat's so wrong with being trans?" you responded "comfort".

Then, in what may have been justification for that, you said you were male, you know it, and you like other males. Which doesn't in and of itself make you not trans, as there ae trans people who are exactly like that.

So I will ask you this:

What makes you uncomfortable about potentially being called trans?

It was after that that you described your knowledge of trans. It was this description that prompted the suggestion I made earlier tody that you read the What is Trans column.

Also, my definition of gender identity has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with being wrong in the head -- such a concept is simply not there, and that's an ad hominem argument based on a further strawman as a result.

I suggest to you that if you think being trans is, indeed, representative of "having something wrong in the head", as your written statments provide ample evidence for, that you check your privilege at the door, sir, and get over that particular combination of ableism, cissexism, and related intersectional issues.

As for labeling...

Eric, if you haven't figured that part out yet, Then perhaps I need to do an article on it, as well.

You do not get to choose for other people what they describe you as. All you get to choose is what you consider to be polite and courteous, and you do not always get that.

Incidentally, labelling you as trans does not, inherently, make me more confortable. Strawman or not. In part because *I* would not normally do so, expcept insofar as it goes to discuss some of the things we are talking about.

Thaks for your comments :D

Antonia,

Without pulling in paragraphs to directly rebut (can you imagine the length of such a posting?), I'd make the same suggestion to you that you made to me.

I did not state I believed trans were "wrong in the head." I stated that to The Great White Way out there, the overriding belief was to be "trans" was to have some sort of mental disorder/affliction and that, given your definition of situational membership, I would then have to willingly accept the same label... of having something "wrong in the head."

Perhaps it's just me, or the way I was raised.

I have never been afraid, even as a child, to confront anyone at anytime (as my Mom used to put it) "over their words." I have never, ever accepted other people's labels, or attempted forced inclusion into those easily labeled preconceptions.

I knew, early on, because of the birth defects that if someone just hauled off on me, they'd be roundly criticized for doing that. I knew, early on, when it came to intelligence, there were very few persons who could "speak around" me. And, from an early age, because of the birth defects, I was comfortable being completely alone in social constructs.

I realize that complete independence from peer-to-peer social constructs is not the norm, and that others need interaction with those social constructs, even if it's the negative interaction of assuming "membership" of some ostracized group simply due to the inherent limitations of the social construct.

To me, that's bullshit. To expand upon another poster's analogy:

I'm a redheaded leftie, and no amount of labeling me as a member ("situational" or otherwise) as a right-handed blonde is going to change that... but especially if they desire me to be a right-handed blondie simply because it makes them easier to simply dismiss me.

(Oh, and by the way... in reality, I am right handed, and I am blondish - but both of those can change with either handwriting practice or henna.)

Hi Eric :D

First, call me Toni. Antonia seems really formal to me, and I don't want to come across as too aloof (which is a sort of problem I have, as I'm sure you've noticed, lol).

LOL yes, I can indeed imagine such a posting, lol. I was >

You are correctabout my error, and I apologize for that error. The line that I pulled it from was:

So, if Antonia's definition of gender identity, as opposed to sexual orientation, is the model that should be followed, then I must willingly accept the "situational membership" of being "wrong in the head."

I was so offput by the wide ranging nature of your responses I committed an error of assuming you failed to get any of what I wrote -- so I apologize for that as well. It was a disservice to you.

I think that perhaps part of the issue in line may be that you assume by membership that its a willng thing -- that somene chooses to be part of these things. This is not the case -- in much the same way that you are always willing to confront other people's labels for you, you do not always have that option. You only have such when they share them with you.

That does not stop them from doing so, nor do you have a right to tell them how they can or cannot describe you (although you do have a right to forbid them from ascribing to you things). It still happens.

I would like to note that I haven't yet gotten to the part where I talk about sexual orientation, which I suspect will be of interest to you. It is,however, scheduled for sometime after the new year at this point, and will be towards the end (oin part so I can get good responses like yours before hand :D).

I'm going to point out that I skipped RB's analogy in part because its a false analogy. I am not talking about something like hair color or even handedness. Handedness does not change in other people's POV's. nor does hair color. A better one in the same vein would be style -- clothing, dress, hairstyle.

Furthermore, as you noted, hair coloring can indeed change a blonde into a red head, but that's following the fallacy and I'll refrain from doing so any further than to note the when hair is dyed (or wigs worn) one does indeed gain situational membership in that grouping.

The falsehood comes in that the things we are talking about -- which consist of gender expression, gender role, and sexual orientation, but not really so much gender identity -- are not so readily changeable. Wouldn't you agree?

Lastly, as a point I should brig up -- your being gay, in and of itself, does indeed carry with it the idea of being wrong in the head in the same way that being trans does -- many folks are not aware that being transsexual (one part of the whole of being trans) is actually in the "book", and they consider all trans people (most of whom are NOT in the book) nuts, and think that being gay is just as nuts and isn't in the book and that the book doesn't matter.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

You'll note as well that I didn't describe this situational membership as either negative or positve -- I siply described it without casting a primary value judgement on it.

Awareness of it, however, can give us a power if we choose to use it.

Thank you for allowing me to address you in the more informal, Toni. I simply do not presume such informality unless I am given express permission to do so. Had I been younger, I would have addressed you as Dr. D'orsay.

I would like to address what I see is the basic failure of your application of "situational membership" in this instance.

A "situational membership" is just that - membership of a group that is defined by the situation that creates said membership.

Persons on the RMS Titanic, for instance, were thrust into two groups: those who survived and those who did not. Both are quantifiable and verifiable.

But draping a "situational membership" across the entire spectrum of homosexuals, bisexuals, cross-dressers, transvestites and transsexual is inaccurate as there is no common external "situation" that blankets them all. The perceptions of those who are not h/b/cd/t/or t does not qualify as a "situation."

"Situations" are a reality; situational memberships are restricted to those persons who are undergoing that reality, simultaneously.

For instance, everyone who is staying the night in a hotel tonight can be defined by that "situational membership." That membership can be expanded upon, or restricted, based on other real criteria of the situation - the parameters of the situation can be expanded by the inclusion of motels, bed and breakfasts, and roadside inns or, conversely, can be restricted to include only those persons who are spending the night at Holiday Inns, staying in Room 517, in Roanoke, Virginia.

You, however, are positing a non-verifiable, non-quantifiable "situation," that - by definition - simply does not, and cannot, exist.

Hi Eric :D

You are quite welcome. Dr. is a title I personally dislike -- unless someone's really ticked me off and I feel like using it as a distancing tactic, lol. I generally avoid the Dr. and just stick with Ph. D.

Your grasp of what *is* situational is excellent.

The issue at hand is verifiability and quantifiability. Research into the subject is quite old, and generally covered in second level courses these days, but I'm going to stick with the context herein.

The examples I gave in the column all have happened. Each and everyone. Just like the questions I asked you in a different column, which are questions that are often asked (to a point that might surprise you). They are verifiable; they happen, every day. THey are reported in news reports, discussed in blogs and forums and bars every day.

Butch lesbians ejected not because they are lesbians, but because they are too butch -- situational membership in the trans community. That does not *make* them trans per their identity, nor does it erase the discrimination against them.

You may be presuming that it is a general situation -- one all encompassing singularity of circumstance. Yet I never postulate such at any point, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt and presume you do not do such. If so, however, then again, you are adding something to all of this which is not there, and speaking about something I did not address, and, thereby, misrepresenting my position, which is, again, a strawman.

So it does indeed exist, it has been verified, and it can be quantified.

Situational membership is indeed real -- there are posts here by others to that very effect, which in and of themselves demonstrate it's existence.

Um, Eric, you are missing one crucial point here. Situational membership, used in the way it is here, is not an objective, easily quantifiable thing like 'membership' in the group that survived the Titanic disaster. It is instead a subjective thing: how one is seen by others in the situation.

Humans have a tendency to make wide generalisations on minimal data. This is how we learn just about anything, from language to engineering: first a very general rule, then a series of exceptions and refinements to that rule. Situational membership is one instance of this happening -- an obvious male dressed in obviously feminine manner is unusual enough to need a category other than 'regular guy', and the next thing to come to mind is something like 'gay' or 'trans' (or one of the less polite synonyms). How the person really sees emself, or what e does the rest of the time, is not affected by (or relevant to) this labelling.

Yes, Toni is positing a 'situation' that is to some extent non-verifiable and non-quantifiable, but that's because the situation she's talking about is the participants' view of the physical reality. When talking about human interaction, that is often more important than those aspects that can be easily quantified.

Ana W, you state:

"Um, Eric, you are missing one crucial point here. Situational membership, used in the way it is here, is not an objective, easily quantifiable thing like 'membership' in the group that survived the Titanic disaster. It is instead a subjective thing: how one is seen by others in the situation."

Ana, by its very definition "situational" is not subjective; it is an actual singularity that exists. The persons within that singularity are then "situational members" of that singularity.

There is nothing more subjective than a person's perceptions; no two people are going to have the exact perceptions of any one thing at any one time. There may be similarities in their perceptions, but they are not exact and, therefore, when taken, en toto, cannot be a singularity. Obviously, if there is no singularity, there is no situation... and if there is no situation... well, you get the point.

I understand what Toni is trying to say. I understand the desire to compartmentalize aspects of the human psyche and of human behavior, then further compartmentalizing within those constructs.

But her reasoning - or her presentation of other people's reasoning, as she's hinted there are either printed or vocalized references on which she's drawn her conclusion(s) - is flawed in that she is qualifying an observer's perceptions as the parameter of "situational membership."

And in that, she's got it backwards. First the situation/singularity is defined, THEN observers' perceptions come into play to identify other factors of commonality within that group, outside of the original parameters of the singularity that defines the group.

This is starting to sound very much like a classic humanities/sciences miscommunication. :)

You say that 'first the situation/singularity is defined'. But by whom? The situation we are talking here is centered around human interaction, and thus it does not exist in any meaningful way except as seen by someone. This leads very fast to messy things like subjectivity and human cognition.

By its very definition, 'definition' is subjective. :) At the very least, the definition of a term depends on the discipline in which it is used; it's possible to go further than that, but I don't think we need to hijack this comment thread for in-depth discussion of semantic theory.

I'm not a sociologist, so I have no idea how their various schools of thought define 'situational membership'. I also admit that I don't have too much formal knowledge on how the above-mentioned messy things show in social interaction. It is, however, apparent that this is a term that is already used, and that it applies here.

Ana, you state:

"You say that 'first the situation/singularity is defined'. But by whom? The situation we are talking here is centered around human interaction, and thus it does not exist in any meaningful way except as seen by someone. This leads very fast to messy things like subjectivity and human cognition."

The singularity is defined by the parameters of the situation itself.

Earlier, I used the analogy of the Titanic.

Let's just say the situational membership being defined/observed is that of "persons on-board the Titanic."

In that instance, the situational membership(s) would change dependent upon when the actual counting is taking place, so lets place a further definition on the situation as: passengers onboard Titanic after she departed Queenstown, Ireland (her last of two ports-of-call prior to hitting the open sea).

That situation has a quantifiable membership of 2,205.

Once that is established, the membership can be further defined into sub-groups, ie, "Persons saved from the sinking," "Persons lost in the sinking," and "Persons saved who later perished because of the sinking." In this instance, the three sub-groups could total more than the overall original group, simply because "persons who later perished, etc." would also be included in the sub-group of "persons saved..."

But, the overall group - 2,205 - is a number that can never change. It was a constant from the moment she hit the open sea.

Now, let's take a look at Toni's "situational membership" criteria for trans.

The very first problem I have for her creation of a "situational membership" is the basis for her concept.

The Titanic membership is one of inclusion - as are all "situational memberships of a singularity; everyone involved within the physical/temporal boundaries of the situation are included in the membership.

Toni's example is built off the presumption of exclusion - everyone who is excluded from being heterosexual, and what all those heterosexuals presume concerning those that have been excluded.

There are no measurable parameters within that membership; it is based on nothing but on the presumptions of the observer(s). Whether those presumptions are based on a polling of those heterosexuals who presume a commonality of those being excluded or not, there is nothing quantifiable or verifiable that can be used to establish the boundaries of the situation that would merit the creation of a "situational membership."

Toni has directed our attention to a "situational membership" she claims exists, and labels the parameter of that membership as including all those who are perceived as having some sort of gender identification issues, then leaps to label that membership as a commonality under the umbrella of all LGBT having "trans" issues.

I dispute that. As another observer, I could just as easily say the commonality is all are seen as, simply, gay.

But it's still a membership based on perception, which is not quantifiable. Perceptions change, constantly.

Let's just presume though, that Toni's postulated theorem is correct, and that all LGBT people are believed by heterosexuals to be "trans" at some level. The easiest way to refute that would be to find a gay close friend or relative of any member included in the self-defined "heterosexual situational membership" and ask that included member if they believed that one person were also a transsexual.

Like it or not, by heterosexuals, transsexuals are overwhelming seen as suffering from a mental defect or disorder. My father is a Southern Cracker; he's 80 years old and unlikely to change his ways before he dies. But if he were to be presented with data that states his gay son were equivalent to a transsexual, he would refute that membership as he doesn't believe I suffer from a mental defect or disorder. That would change Toni's parameters for inclusion in this "situational membership," and void the concept as a whole - because, in street terms, there's no hard and fast data that can be accumulated from a grouping that is defined by perception.

Paul Cameron had his credentials revoked for playing fast and loose with data he culled from his own creation of such "situational memberships." At one point, Cameron was the man conservatives and the Religious Right turned to in court cases, literally across the country, as his data "proved" the worst presumptions heterosexuals had of gay men.

Ultimately, it was determined his methodology in creating the memberships from which he drew his conclusions was fundamentally flawed. After he continued using this data model, he was ostracized by both the judiciary and all the professional organizations to which he belonged; the credentialing body of his profession stripped him of his credentials. In order for Cameron to continue using the label of "Doctor," a university associated with the Religious Right awarded him an honorary doctorate.

I hope this helps you to better understand my argument against Toni's statements.

Sometimes, you know, a professional person does "get it wrong" in real-time/life applications of their theory. It can happen; they become so entranced by the nature of their theory, they fail to see where that theory fails... much like, on the television show "Survivor," when one aligned group in a tribe openly proclaims they are in complete control of the tribe, failing to note that alignment is composed of four members, and there are nine members in the tribe, itself.

All right: as said I'm not a sociologist, and it's clear I'm pretty much out of my depth here. Still, it looks to me as if this was a case where the three of us, because of differing backgrounds, understand the words differently enough that we can't get the point through.

I think I understood what Toni wrote, and by and large agree with her; I think I also understood what you wrote, and agree with that too, except for some of your interpretation of what she said.

Foundational Errors:

I did not create the idea of situational membership.

The foundation is not built on exclusion -- heterosexuals have situational membership as well.

It is not merely trans, as I explicitly note in my article above (this is another example of a strawman on your part. Do not do so again, as it gets really annoying after a while.). It does indeed include gay. And hetero. And bi. You are needlessly reducing it without basis in the column.

It is not my theorem. It is a well known principle of human interaction.


Hello Radical Bitch,

I'm going to be blunt with you, because I know you will understand it, even though you and I are typically at loggerheads on many things.

If this reads to you as a justification, then re read it please. It describes something that does occur, and does not justify it in any terms.

That you disagree with the what is trans piece is perfectly fine -- but such doesn't change the points and facts raised.

have you noticed that you've acquired the same arguments as our opponents in disucsing this? Unrelated, I realize, and I'm not trying to raise a strawman, merely to point out that when I saw this line:

the transgender movement, it appears to think it has the right to redefine others against their own identities via some mental sleight of hand and redefintions.

I saw:

the movment. it appears to think it has the right to redefine the definition of marriage against our own identities via some mental slight of hand and redefinitions.

Ignoring its a circular argument, of course.

Violence is willful, Radical Bitch. People don't typically do this wilfully.

Calling someone trans does not place them in a third gender. That's a statement without logical support. Please provide such.

Keep in mind that in order to place someone in a thrd gender, one probably has to exist socially, and I haven't seen any evidence of such in US culture.

As to this point:

But the final point is simply this. It is arrogant and entitled and offensive in the extreme to feel you have the right to define others against their expressed wishes.

The better terms would be privileged and offensive -- arrogance is not required to do it, neither is entitlement.

If you incorporate that ito the statement, I agree with you -- which is something I did not address in this piece, purposefully.

Otherwise, a lot of what you talk about willbe addressed in future columns in this series.

Thanks for commenting, and I hope life is going well for you.

I'd have replied above, but some of the people who replied to my comment completely misinterpreted what I was saying, so there isn't really much point in repeating what I said in the first place. And also, someone used trans as a verb, and I don't understand that at 2 AM.

I think a better metaphor than the redhead/blonde one would be to take someone who is blonde, and has never heard the word used to describe hair colour, but only ever as a derogatory/dismissive term in relation to stupidity. When told he is blonde, he reacts negatively due to this obviously false stereotype that he is familiar with and a misunderstanding of what blonde is. Just because he doesn't identify as blonde (which in his mind, is equivalent to stupid) doesn't mean he can't be defined as blonde. Were this blonde person to protest being defined as blonde, you, I, or pretty much anyone would say "No, no I'm pretty sure you're blonde." and, as I'm wondering with people's protestations to falling under Toni's definition of trans*, be utterly confused as to why he's denying it or taking offense to it, because there's just no logical reason to. (If someone can offer me a logical reason, though, please do. Don't try to tell me that hypothetical blonde person is really a redhead having blonde-ness imposed on him, though. Or say "but I'm not blonde, so your argument is invalid". Pretty please.)

PS Toni, eagerly awaiting the rest of the series.

Michelle, you fail to understand because you fail to grasp that the transgender umbrella was a false construct imposed by force in the past 15 or so years.

Transgender had a specific meaning. It was those gender variant people who were not transsexuals. It was defined originally in that fashion as an act of transsexual phobia by a transsexual phobic full time crossdresser, Charlie Prince.

Transsexual also had a specific meaning. It meant someone driven to put their mind and body into congruence to the maximum amount possible. That means there are no non-op transsexuals by choice, only by circumstances. And once someone born with the neurological intersexed condition called transsexuality corrected their bodies, they have zero interest in deconstruction of their "gender", being labeled less than by transgenders. Their sexual orientation, politics, religious beliefs are not a factor, just correct what was wrong and then proceed with life on a somewhat even playing field with everyone else. Think I'm making it up? 12 years ago if you entered "transsexual" into an internet search engine, that defintion of transsexual was in the top five.......on my own webpage. Now all you get is chick with a dick porn.

You asked about harm. 15 years of "education" that relied on mental slight of hand regarding the womanhood of pre-operative transsexuals gave us the non op, the, to put it in the crudest terms because it gets used and is actually totally accurate, chick with a dick that now is the public's default upon learning someone is transsexual. Just 12 years ago it was different, teh default was you had corrective surgery or were going to do so. I experienced that change in public perception first hand so do not presume to deny it. To someone who gave up almost everything they held dear in the world to be real, that change is harm. Real, nasty, evil, harm. When it has been combined with terrorist tactics to keep those who objected to this redefinition by force, that is evil personified.

This post is significantly incorrect in several ways and has a lot of series issues in terms of its cultural competence that will, thankfully, be addressed in the future.

I had thought we were done with this, but apparently you want to dive right back into it, so please feel free.

This time, however, I will not be as pleasant about it.

This might come as a shock to you, but you are hardly the authority you are holding yourself up as and absolutely cannot speak from the experience that comes from living years and years as a woman with female body rather than a trans something.

As a matter of fact, just last night two stealth women celebrated Yule at our house. They were instrumental beginning the umbrella usage in NYC back in the days before Riki Wilkins, Kate Bornstein and Les Feinburg discovered they could package and sell "I'm neither a man or a woman" to the women's studies departments. We talked about exactly how fast it all went bad back then.

You read about those who came before, I socialize with them.

Just curious:

1 - What authority is it that I'm holding myself up to be? Asking because I wasn't aware I was holding myself up to be an an authority in anyway other than in my fields, where I am an authority, in fact.

2 - Your years and years are meaningless, RB. You know full well that's a strawman that has no logical merit with regards to the statments, and is in fact, an ad hominem meant to discredit the arguments I've put forth without addressing them, but rather addressing me personally. Hence, it is a fallacy, and, therefore, incorrect. So why even bother trying it?

3 - Why do you make such unfounded an unbased leaps of conclusions, RB? You do not know, if in fact, I associate with people who've been around for a while, or if I do not. Furthermore, wether I do or not, again, has absolutely no bearing on the points actually raised, and, therefore, is once more a logical fallacy of the same sort as noted in 2 above.

4 - Are you actually incapable of logical discourse? Please tell me you are not. And then demonstrate it.

Lastly, that you chose to defend those particular points is all indicative of an overall pattern that you consistently enage in. Well, RB, I've put up with it long enough. I am tired of your lies, your prejudice, your outright hypocrisy, and most especially the consistent failure on your part to use decent logic and reason.

The message is not the messenger, RB.

I have to commend you for putting up with her BS for as long as you did. But, even a saint would have their limits with her.

I'm fairly certain people say the same about me, Monica, lol

and now we descent into the personal attacks...

My position has been unique. I was a major part in founding most of the trans rights organizations. The first five years of running a facility aimed at helping housing needs of newly transitioned women and a religion that was trans affirming brought every brand of trans there is here, hundreds and hundreds of them. That would include those who claimed they were transsexual who moved here and turned out to be the most extreme examples of fetishists spending their waking hours downloading porn and wacking off and only owning the sluttiest of women's clothes and every one of them "diagnosised" as actual transsexuals!

During the past 15 years I have maintained active friendships with long time stealth women, met hundreds of them and some of the best minds in both psychology and psychiatry. I've entertained and hostessed radical lesbian separatists and even board members of HRC at our home and had extended conversations with them without their knowing my own personal history. I've even had quite of number of street girls here from the city trying to help them bootstrap themselves out of drugs and prostitution.

But of course that gives me no legitimacy, no background, no authority to challenge the ill conceived theories and out and out crap being passed off as authority (and writing a series of pseudo-scientific sounding nonsense is pretending to authority here, make no mistake.).

Nope, despite having written material used in course work of several European universities, having written the to date definitive series on transsexual priestesses in the ancient world. Despite sharpening my own positions in direct debates with psych professionals for years and often winning them over..... despite around 15 years of socializing with other women, living a feminist woman's life and having been an accepted part of lesbian social circles I don't know logic, am a liar, a hypocrite and whatever other personal smears you care to throw.

Whatever. And I don't lie and isn't that the real problem?

I don't "answer your questions" precisely because you always begin with "you're lying" and "you're a bigot" and all such. In the end there isn't a nickel's worth of difference between you and Helms and that is about the greatest insult I can give you.

RB,

I, for one, have recognized your expertise and on-going comments as you'd revealed in the directness of your comments more of your, obvious, knowledge then you ever could have done by posting your curriculum vitae.

One of the problems I have with the continue comments by Toni is she has been presenting theory, with no citation, then balking when I refer to those theories as being her theory.

(An amusing sidebar: When searching for citations for the theory of "situational memberhip" human sexuality or "situational membership" sexual orientation in Google, the only reference that appears is Toni's. True, Google is not an authoritative search for citation, but one would expect, based on her continuing protestations concerning the existence of "situational membership" and human sexuality/sexual orientation, there'd be at least one other search result.)

I was also thrown by the vehemence with with Toni replied to you.

The only explanation for her behavior, I feel, is she is too close to the subject of her writing and so enamored of what she is saying - whether the underlying premise is truly her own or based on the research of other persons - she is, simply, incapable of recognizing the validity of any comments which might contradict her paradigm.

With you, she turned personal and ugly. With me, she's simply reverted to touting: "Straw man! Straw man! Ad hominem!". An obvious indication she has no rebuttal, and was completely unprepared to answer anything but surface-skimming questions.

Yes, Toni may have passed along theory (or created theory) that pertains to a great number of people. That I do not deny. However, when that theory is presented as a blanket for all; I have problems with it. When that theory is based on a presumption, and the original presumption is invalid based on the flawed methodology used in gathering data, I have big problems with it.

I would like to thank you for your input, RB. Your commentary, as a person who has actual living experience which refutes Toni's opinion, coupled with my questioning the basic premise on which her statements have been built, I think have more than invalidated the conclusions the statements and "facts" she has presented.

I've been hesitant to bring this up but Antonia is quite aware of my history. She has acknowledged having extensively researched me in the past going as far as to interview people who have met me personally.

She even took a break in the "Who Are the Real Women" entry here from calling my liar liar liar in almost every response to acknowledging that history to another who questioned it. Naturally I promptly was then accused by that other of being a third party who appropriated my own life history!

No, the real problem is I resist her attempts to exercise dominance over me to dismiss what I have learned. You cannot debate her because if you do guestion what she says you are "illogical" which is remarkably close to the traditional "illogic by virtue of hormones" of the mysogynistic. I will give her this much, at least I've never seen her in the past go to the next step of open attack on the legitimacy of corrected bodies and appearance as most of her ilk do to openly deny the womanhood of the post corrected woman.

One of the things I excel at is empathy with the positions of others but I admit when I try to delve into the mind of the trensgender it is quite similar to the fundamentalist religionists and leaves one feeling they have fallen through the looking glass. There is no science, only faith and a challenge to that faith is met with the same response from both the fundamentalist and the transgender. I conclude that both are dogmatic religious positions.

Ah! The obligatory "now we descent into the personal attacks" comment. A little late, but here nevertheless. That's not something you would EVER do, right? You never say anything to warrant this horrible treatment. You are as pure as the driven snow. If anyone doesn't believe this, they can just ask you. You'll set them "straight."

Since many of the Christmas traditions are based on Pagan traditions and you are a Pagan, then I wish you a Merry Christmas. THAT was NOT meant to be sarcastic or disrespectful. Please take it at face value.

Since many of the Christmas traditions are based on Pagan traditions and you are a Pagan, then I wish you a Merry Christmas. THAT was NOT meant to be sarcastic or disrespectful. Please take it at face value.

Monica, I would say that since you profess to a personal knowledge of RB's spiritual beliefs, and you choose to ignore her spiritual beliefs in order to extend a sarcastic wish in celebration of a holiday she does not celebrate, then your intent was solely meant to be disrespectful. Would you wish a "Merry Christmas" to those persons you know to be Jewish?

Merry Mithramas Monica (delivered in precisely the same spirit as you demonstrated)

Since Christian theologians agree that if Jesus was an actual person, the accounts clearly indicate he was born in the late spring, the time of lambing in the Mid-East....and since the historical religious person who's birthday was attributed to Dec 25'th was Mithra, that means you are celebrating Mithra's birthday today.

Did you know you were a Mithrian?

As a rural dyke, I'd like to take this opportunity to speak for myself. I am by no means a universal example. But I am wicked tired of seeing universal examples that don't appear to represent anyone I've ever met.

Masculine rural straight women do not like to be confused for lesbians. They have cues to let people know they're not gay. Trust me. I confuse people, they don't--not even the ones that actually look butcher than me. I typically come off as somewhere between a gay girl and a gay boy...and occasionally as an adolescent boy (at age 33, I'm serious, I get carded when people think I'm a boy who's too young to shave. It's hilarious.)

I pretty much act the same and look the same 24/7. I am hopelessly boring in my fashion. I shop in the Men's department in Wal-Mart. I'm a dorky looking gay with nerd glasses. One thing I have changed is I have traded flannel for hoodies. Hoodies are now in.

Am I cissexual? I conclude that I am because as a kid when I wondered if I wanted to physically be a boy, the answer was no. But in grade school I wanted to play with toys that were designated as boys toys, and I wanted to play with boys as an equal.

Playing with boys, it wasn't so much playing as fighting. It's never really occurred to me to frame this as violence or bullying because I fought back. Boys were rough and this didn't bother me. The few times I tried rough housing with girls, even tomboy ones, they didn't really like it. They were confused and I was perplexed by their reaction. But the boys just didn't want me around. In fact, if I was playing alone doing something boyish, that was enough to start a fight. If it wasn't that then they were trying to kiss me...because what else are girls for right? This too resulted in a fight. I don't really have an aversion to fighting...maybe I should...maybe I'm a jerk or maybe I'm a victim. But I only seriously fought when I felt like I was being pushed around.

What I'm trying to say here, is that being masculine is a helluva lot more than wearing a flannel shirt. And maybe a feminist will say I'm a victim of the patriarchy and girls should be allowed to do all the things boys do (except for thinking about sex with girls, staring at cleavage, being aggressive, dominant, clumsy, a slob, or a crappy dresser).

I mean, yeah great, that doesn't change the fact that most girls didn't want to play the way I did. And this is why this gender/sex stuff confuses me. Constantly with the freaking contradictory arguments and theories about all gender behavior is socialized except for what isn't 'cause there was a study.

It's not like I was trying to be a feminist and rebel against gender roles when I was 5. Maybe every girl feels compelled to stick a toy gun down the side of her diaper after watching the Lone Ranger. I don't know why I did that stuff or whether it was hardwired or learned, but more importantly I kinda don't care why when it comes to me personally. I care about what was, what is and what will be. My childhood isn't situational because it made me who I am. It's always with me. Society may change, for better or worse, but does anyone think they can escape their childhood?

I've read a whole bunch of stuff about transgender and intersex and transsexuality and after I was just like...holy crap, I don't know what I am anymore. It feels like the same disoriented feeling right before I realized I was gay, and that time I took Psych 101. And then my head stops spinning and lands back on gay female.

I look gay because I look AND act genderqueer. I'm a "stereotype." How else could people know who I have sex with just by looking at me? Although I do believe my sexuality is always present. At least once every 15 minutes when I'm thinking about sex with girls. I kid, it's only like once or twice an hour.

I don't mind being thought of as a third gender, because I'm not particularly attached to it. But I don't like butch gay females included under the trans umbrella only when it's convenient to do so. And there are both gay and trans people who do this. It's frustrating for me to see one transgender person say "look some gay people are trans, like your butch lesbians and effeminate gay males" and the next comment is "but they still have cisgender privilege." "They still pass for cisgender because they're like rural women." And then to some gay people "they're an old school stereotype from the days of yore and they don't need to dress that way."

Good lord, someone tell me the privilege in passing for neither and confusing people and being lobbed around like a damn volley ball. Oh we're on the trans side now, now the gay side, now the trans. If it's situational I would think only the person in the situation would be able to tell.

And this may come as a shock to some people but plain old misogyny and sexism still exists in this country.

This has been a generalized reply to this thread in general. I probably should've broken it up, but I just took everything in and wrote everything out.

Ooh, you know what I did? I totally combined my thoughts from reading: Solidarity: "Transmisogyny" & "Faggots" with this one 'cause I had them both open along with other things.

I'm reading too much at once.

it's ok -- what's cool is that the two talk about the same things in different ways.

Toni,
I know you don't like using "Dr." but I have a suggestion. Since your name is "Toni" and you are talking a lot about "trans" issues, then maybe you should embrace the nickname "Dr. T." Instead of basketball that Dr. J is famous for, you can be the one slam-dunking the articles on trans stuff.

While there's some appeal there, lol, there's a great deal of old stuff that gets in the way. Besides, it tends to lead me into arguments to authority, and I'd rather avoid those, lol.

But I do like the suggestion.

Thanks, Monica

Dear Dr. T. :)

I have to admit to only reading through this after checking out your personal blog post. I get so very done with all the incessant and identity political arguments I read when tbh a few things seem rather more important to me: molding a society that does the greatest good for the greatest number, for instance.

From a girl who loves ya, likes ya as well: I have to say that the least pretentious and most informative set of words I've read in this argument is that put together by GrrlRomeo.

Hell, that makes more sense than do the words of any number of cited degreed professionals. Myself included. Kudos, Grrl.

I just hope that the personal attacks, inuendos, backbiting, and lack of addressing the arguments presented can stop. In future articles I hope we can all comment as the adults we are, trying to understand multiple view points that often bring about misunderstanding that they were trying to remedy!!!!! EVERYONE have a happy holiday!!