Antonia D'orsay

Ten Simple Rules for Talking Trans

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | December 13, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: cisgender people, cisgender privilege, education policy, gender, ignorance, intersection, mental illness, privilege, Rules, sex, sexism, sexuality, surgery, transgender, transsexual

Recently, once again, Bilerico had a post that incited the trans community.

That's actually pretty easy to do. Well, the incite the trans community part.

As one of the "official angry trannies" of the interwebs, I'm going to give a brief primer on ways to talk about trans issues without setting off alarm bells and triggering the likes of me showing up in your comments and demonstrating the angry part really well.

1. Don't ever call us a bunch of angry trannies. Don't even call me that. The fact I'm angry is directly related to the fact that you said something really annoying. Now, I happen to believe that we, as individuals, are responsible for our own emotions. People do not make me angry, I make myself angry. However, the fact that I am angry does not, in and of itself, mean my arguments have no value. Indeed, usually when I'm a bit peeved, my arguments are better because I'm aware that I'm angry and I need to be more careful.

2. Never call us crazy for being trans. In any way. We aren't. We are not delusional, misguided, suffering from illusions, nuts, or anything of the like. At least, not on account of being trans. Being trans may have caused other issues due to people saying things like we're angry or we're crazy all the time, in everything, but in and of itself it is not that way. If you want to call someone crazy, please confine it to people with severe mental breaks that make them lose touch with the world around them. Trans folk generally aren't that way -- and related to this I should point out that calling anyone crazy who isn't is actually a form of prejudice against people with mental illness like bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's, depression, and a host of other ailments. Don't be a jerk, in other words. Mental illness is not catching, and yet we have a greater fear of it than we do the swine flu.

In fairness, I call people crazy all the time -- including myself. Indeed, for several years, my online name was a variation on "insane". And I do so in a very ableist way, and I am indeed working on it. Hard to do when I'm peeved.

3. Never confuse the words surgery (a medical procedure done to save a life) with mutilation (intentional disfigurement). Transsexual genital surgery is not a mutilation. It is a tool used today that is merely a variation of something done for thousands of years. It does not disfigure. It transfigures, technically. When you think about using the word mutilation, you are placing the value of that person's genitals over the value of that person's ability to express themselves and be themselves in a manner that is best for them. For you it might be a mutilation -- if you are not trans.

4. Never speak about trans issues without talking to a lot of trans folks. And by a lot, I mean not only in number but in kinds. There are a whole bunch of different kinds of trans people. I covered this in my last column. So don't talk about trans stuff after only talking to transsexuals. Add some cross dressers, bigendered, agendered, travesti, and more in there. Get a feel for the whole thing. Otherwise, you will make a mistake that hurts you as well as us. This one is important since transfolk also include straight people -- and as a straight person, I can say that a lot of us straight people are getting really upset by that.

5. Never, ever, think you know more than trans people do about their situation.
Seriously. Even if you are trans. That letter T is so big a group that you cannot know all of it -- even in my last column, I admit I don't know all of it. We are a vast group that is unified primarily by our difference from other people. And the ways in which we are different are so diverse that one would likely spend one's entirely life studying them.

6. Never forget the trans world when you speak about LGBT. This one is a special pet peeve of mine, as I'm *seriously* pissy about it when people start off saying how they are going to talk about some LGBT thing and then totally forget to talk about the T part.

Conversely, I get equally pissy when people talk just about the T part and use LGBT. If you don't know about the trans part (or the gay/bisexual part), then learn it, before you talk about it. OR don't use LGBT. Use just LGB, or just B, or LG or TL, or BLT. Mmm, sandwich...

7. Never call the women men and the men women. I realize that one's pretty basic, but its amazing how often that happens. And no, you can't go just by name or by picture. If you can't make your argument without telling a woman she's a man, then you can't make your argument. And if your argument is that a woman is a man, you need your head examined, per (2), above.

8. Never talk about all trans people as transsexuals. There are, as I pointed out in my last column, more types of trans people than you can count, and transsexuals are actually only a small part of the whole. Doing that gives the homophobic transsexuals out there (yes, they exist, just like transphobic homosexuals do) an excuse to talk about how you are stealing their identity. And then there's the fights among us, and you know, I'd rather fight with cis people. Trans folk are really mean. Including me.

9. Do not conflate sex with gender. Related, don't conflate sexual orientation with gender identity. They are not the same things. Male does not equal man, female does not equal woman. Sex is physiology and biology -- naked people lying on a table. Gender is everything else. (personally, I hate the legs and head phrase, but its safer than nothing). If you can't see a person naked, then you aren't talking about their sex, you are talking about their gender role, their gender expression, or their gender identity. And those are three different things as well -- so don't conflate them.

10. Don't tell us you aren't Cis. It is not an insult. It is not something to drag you down to our level. It is not an identity (although you can use it that way if you want -- who am I to tell you ya can't?). All it means is that you aren't trans. And we use it because it says you are our equal -- something like the way a lot of people use straight as way to say just a different sexual orientation.

Ten simple rules -- and I'm fairly sure the comments will add more. Follow them, logically, and you find that you will not run into the sort of stuff that usually gets people into trouble here.

As a note, I follow a similar set of rules regarding LGB folks. And I'm a straight gal.

Well, mostly. But that's for a different post...


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Excellent Post Antonia!

All we have as humans in this universe are our shared experiences. Shared experience exponentially grows the value of our individual experiences. Love and acceptance, never mere tolerance are the exponential factors that advance comprehension and ultimately understanding!

We have so much important work to do… We can only achieve our goals and objectives as a united LGBT community!

What annoys me are the people who think I made a choice somehow. Yes, even some gays and lesbians who will vehemently and correctly deny they made a choice in their orientation will still insist that I did. So to clear the record. Yes. I woke up one morning and decided that my life was too boring and so I decided further to make my life as miserable as I can possibly imagine it being. Setting myself on fire seemed to me to be too quick and I wouldn't be able to savor my misery. Having an affair with the neighbor seemed very boring in itself and hardly any better than my normal, content state. I even thought of turning into a sociopath but then I wouldn't be able to appreciate the reactions of others to my new new rebellion. I finally settled on being transsexual, (even going back in time to change the structure of my chromosomes into xxy), because it seemed to fit so well into what I was looking for. Think about it. Years of being socially outcast, derided and disowned by those you love, discriminated against, unable to work, unable to rent, getting beaten to within an inch of your life, wallowing in exquisite despair, treated like vermin, having to spend thousands and thousands of dollars in order to go through a parade of clueless therapists, topped of with the excruciating and extended agony of genital surgery. What else could spice up a boring and lackluster life better?

In the last month I have had 2 Gay men give me an incredibly horrible time about my trans status. Most seem to be accepting and understanding but there are some who refuse to open their minds.

One of the guys kept saying over and over "you will NEVER be a woman". I made it clear to him that he should stop speaking to me and back away. His very kind boyfriend took him somewhere else.

I have went through a lot of changes in the last 6 months to a point people don't recognize me anymore. I present androgynous and love to show a 'before pic' when I go out to bars (mostly gay bars). I can't count the times I was told I would have been a VERY good looking gay man and they seem a bit disappointed. But most are very kind to me.

thank you for an excellent post.

what has been disturbing to me lately is the number of gay men who seem to feel that the trans community* is indicting them as a whole for ron's post.

we arent. we're indicting ron and those who think like him.

when i first began transition, my "support group" were fellow students in my law school class: two gay men, two gay women, and a straight girl. none of them had ever known a trans person before.

well guess what? i had never had a gay male friend before. there were lots of questions and sometimes uncomfy-ness on both sides. we learned from each other because we were willing to. we wanted to.

i can honestly say that if it were not for this small group of friends, i wouldnt have made it. they were the ones who stayed up with me when my depression became overwhelming; they were the ones who defended me when nasty comments were made and i felt that i was all alone; they were the ones that made sure that i knew i was loved and accepted; and they were damn sure the ones who would have been hurt beyond measure had my suicide attempt been successful.

so please. just because we* are angry at ron gold and those who think like him doesnt mean we are angry at the GLB or GL community.


*i use the term "we" very loosely, and it only includes those whom i have personally spoken to about this topic -- i dont presume to speak for anyone else.

Since you've taken the numbering system, Antonia, I will revert to using letters to indicate areas I believe you may have missed:

A) I will respect you enough to refer to you by what you present to me when we are introduced; if I am made aware, say, you are Antonia, then that is how I will address you.

B) Unless I'm sexually attracted to someone, their gender - or their perceived gender identity - makes absolutely no difference to me at all.

C) If I am sexually attracted to someone, their gender - or their perceived gender identity - makes no difference to me at all; there is, obviously, something about that person to which I am responding on a subconscious level. If we were to engage in a sexual liaison, then my only response to their gender (or their gender identity), is to strive to make that encounter a completely mutual pleasurable experience.

There's another point, that's purely personal in nature, and deals with my experience, as a gay person who has lived with a disfiguring birth defect which is completely inoperable - yet not a day goes by in which someone doesn't feel they have the right to comment on it, usually derisively, and that point is:

D) Other person's opinions and comments are completely the purview of that other person; I can choose, if I wish, to react in a visceral manner to them (and sometimes, I do), but I do not have to take their comments to heart; I'm free to simply ignore and reject them.

Now, simply to satisfy some poster's curiosity, that, I'll tell you that "disfugring birth defect."

I was born without a neck. My chin juts out of my chest; my shoulders are at ear level. My spine is severely compressed - each vertebrae is, roughly, 1/4 the size of an average person's. There were other, internal, birth defects that are now, quite literally, killing me.

If I were to react to every neck joke I heard in the same manner readers have responded to Mr. Gold's opinion piece, I would spend my entire life in one long, protracted bitch session.

That, seemingly, so many transgendered persons would rather perpetuate the bitching (what is this now, the 3rd or 4th or 5th long "response" to Mr. Gold's original, very short, opinion?) is quite telling, and reveals more about the screaming people than they'd, possibly, like known.

If someone were to simply toss in front of me a print out of Mr. Gold's opinion piece, and the very shrill responses that followed (with the further proviso the print outs were stripped of any and all writers' identifications), and asked me to "pick the haters!," it would not be Mr. Gold's opinion I pointed to first.

Hi again, Eric.

As a note, for clarity, this particular piece is not a response to Mr. Gold's work.

It is a response to the ideas and concepts that were represented by him and many others (in other posts, as well).

Indeed, the only piece I've done here as a direct response is the What Is Trans*? article from yesterday. And, there, in a manner which you may not have noticed, I took the first paragraph of his piece and provided a calm, polite, and accurate refutation for it.

Something you have, already, accused me of not doing, although I didn't really feel it was all that necessary to point out until you mischaracterized this piece.

To your final point, however, the fact that you would not have pointed to Gold's piece first (as the causation of the rest) is somewhat questionable to me, as I point to him first, and then others after, since without him they wouldn't have said such things.

On the other hand, you may want to read the next article I have coming out, as it deals, specifically, with the subject of the sort of anger you are calling out with what are, essentially, tone arguments.

Thank you for commenting.

Antonia,

I should not have stated this column was a direct response to the opinion of Mr. Gold; obviously, it is not. I should have, more correctly, stated this is the 3rd (or 4th or 5th) Bilerico "column" that has been inspired by Mr. Gold's e-published opinion.

I, apparently, also failed in making my other statements clear; the analogy to my birth defect I felt would assist in clarification apparently missed the mark, completely.

The general public is always going to publicly deride/publicly identify anything (especially anything physical) that is perceived as "different." It's simply the nature of the beast; we, as humans, identify "sameness" only be identifying something that does not fit within the boundaries of "sameness."

That is the transgendered; it is the transsexual; it is the homosexual (at least those homosexuals who set off the low-power "gaydar" of heterosexuals... the spectrum ends of overtly masculine women and extremely effeminate men). It is also the blind, the obese, those of different races and those with physical differences, either of a permanent or temporary nature, from the "norm."

My point was: In my life, everyone is as they initially present themselves to me to be. That is something I can control. I would be just as comfortable with you presenting yourself to me as "Antonia," the woman as I would be if you were, for some reason, to introduce yourself to me as "Anthony," the man. Your gender identity has as much bearing on my reaction to you as it would if you were brunette, brown-eyed and left handed.

Do you understand? None of those things make any difference to me at all - and it's a mind set I have because of the physical defect I've had since birth.

Yes, as a kid, the running commentary the public felt they had the right to continue and which I knew(despite what my parents told me on many a night when my day simply ended with deep, wrenching sobs) would continue for my entire life hurt me, to the core. It was never just "other kids," but children and adults.

In my late teens if I were in public, say at a mall, I could recognize, simply by how I was being looked at by people, those people who were going to make some sort of neck joke the moment they were "safely" in back of me. As they passed me, I'd turn... catch the joke... and confront them on it, child or adult. The majority of those people were surprised I'd taken notice; my physical appearance almost makes it appear I have Down's Syndrome, so they simply assumed I would be a "safe target."

I especially enjoyed confronting the overweight when they'd make a joke: It was far too easy pointing out they could change their appearance simply by going on a diet or getting some exercise.

But those confrontations themselves became hurtful and tiring to me; I simply chose to completely ignore them, as they had no bearing on my life, at all.

That's one of the reasons I've reacted as I have to the vindictive, spiteful comments being made concerning Mr. Gold's opinion, I guess. The posters who, stripping away the hyperbole, say: "You will respect me, you stupid son-of-a-bitch!" can't seem to realize the disrespect they show for themselves when responding in such a manner.

Yes, the transgendered are a minority within a minority.

You want tough?

Try being a minority of one, in which every other group from the minorities-within-minorities to the majority believe there's absolutely nothing "wrong" in berating.

I think there is a difference between some random stranger on the street, and someone with influence posting on a community blog. The first is a harmless, idiotic remark, while the second is someone coming from a position of relative power and trying to convince the rest of the community he is right. There is more ability and intent to cause harm.

There's where we differ, Jaime.

I don't think there's a difference except, maybe, the "general public" is often too cowardly to identify themselves.

It is simply their opinion, good or bad. Everyone has one.

Everyone has an opinion. The difference between the two examples is the forum in which it is expressed, which changes everything.

No need to try.

I am a woman who is black, white, and native, with hispanic (mexican) children, is a veteran, has three advanced degrees, and transsexual.

While I am certain there is at least one other based in probability and chaos, I haven't met her.

Grow up Eric, this column applies perfectly to you.

Antonia... a good post with some very helpful advice. Unfortunately, I suspect some of the people who need to heed it the most will try to argue it away like, um, Eric.

I would add one other bit of advice... wanna be an ally to anyone, then LISTEN to them and their feelings and perspectives instead of trying to hit them over the head with all the wonderful things you've supposedly done for them (In other words, negating their concerns). Genuine allies are equals, not a good samaritan helping little homeless mutts.

Interestingly enough, ginasf, there's something similar in what you are saying here and what Eric has been trying to do.

It's also the subject of an article I need to add to my list if one of my fellow contributors doesn't get to it first:

To succeed in any sort of social movement, one must be as inclusive as possible.

Since nothing is impossible, the concept of being inclusive means you must include everyone.

To include everyone, you have to include those with whom one has strong and deep philosophical or emotional disagreements.

It's sometimes said one cannot tolerate intolerance.

Yet, ultimately, if on does not tolerate intolerance, one is not being tolerant.

Such joyous conundrums create a narrow path, but by following a few simple, basic rules usually called common courtesy (and often derided as Political correctness as an excuse to be rude), one can get there.

Now if only I can remember those things when I get angry, I'll be doing better, lol

If someone were to simply toss in front of me a print out of Mr. Gold's opinion piece, and the very shrill responses that followed (with the further proviso the print outs were stripped of any and all writers' identifications), and asked me to "pick the haters!," it would not be Mr. Gold's opinion I pointed to first.


if someone were to tell you that your birth defect was merely imaginary, and that you must be crazy -- and if it were operable (and i am sincerely saddened that it is not), that to have it corrected was mutiliation ... i suspect you might feel a bit defensive as well.

im am fairly certain that the comments you receive hurt *every single time* ... i know they hurt when they are directed at me.

i dont always react well to them. sometimes, i get damned tired of them, and i respond in kind. if you are able to rise above that, good. im not quite there yet.

<BS type="complete" purpose="satire">You're just attention-seeking, or possibly delusional. There's no such medical condition, you sick freak.

And I won't apologise for calling you a sick freak, because that's my honest opinion</BS>

See the problem now, Eric?

Oh yes, anything that we can do to help? Saying "Kee Rist, what a totally sh1tty trick for Ma Nature to play on you" somehow doesn't cut it.

Part of me is saying "Hmm, sounds like KFS (Klippel-Feil syndrome), how interesting."

Part of me is saying "Hey, I wonder if he looks like my friend Jenny?" (who has Sprengel's syndrome too, as well as KFS).

Part of me is raging against a Universe that is sometimes so farnarckling unfair I could scream.

Most of me just wants to help.

Do you know about the KFS Circle of Friends site?

In an attempt at "satire," Zoe writes:

"You're just attention-seeking, or possibly delusional. There's no such medical condition, you sick freak.

And I won't apologise for calling you a sick freak, because that's my honest opinion

See the problem now, Eric? "

No, Zoe, I don't see a problem. Your opinion of me means diddly to me; I'm more than comfortable with myself, thank you.

If someone else's outlook on your life and physical persona, however, means more to you than your own outlook on your life and persona, too bad for you.

FurryCatHerder | December 14, 2009 10:01 AM

Ah, I know your type! We have a lot of you in the transsexual corner of the trans community. Your type is called "I have a real medical condition and you're still a fuck1ng freak." There is another corner called "I just wear women's clothes -- you had your penis cut off, so that makes you a freak", but the general type of person is still there.

Maybe you aren't of the "still a fuck1ng freak" branch of that particular mind-set, but it's definitely one of the supporting branches. And it's a rather weird indicator of privilege in your case.

Your particular disorder is closely related to a disorder a lot of white people have. It's called "Why are Black people always so angry?", that is often expressed by straight people as "Why are gay people always so angry?" In your case, it's "Why are trans people always so angry?"

Yes, the current venting might appear very over-the-top, but I see it as a reaction to what many here see as a major act of betrayal by a group (the Bilerico editorial board) of a another group they are claiming to support. Betrayal, of all human actions, is one of the most damaging. It destroys trust, and destroying the trust one group has for another is always extremely destructive.

I don't know this blog from Adam. I showed up because the original blog post made it onto a trans mailing list that I'm on. What I've seen since -- the reactions and lack of reactions -- tells me that "The Bilerico Project" is not a trans-supportive blog. And not just because of Ronald Gold. It's because of responses like yours. It's because when a group of people really are allies, they know the answer to "Why are XYZ always so angry?", and they -- the allies -- are the ones who do the educating.

It's not my job, and it's not Antonia's job, and it's not any other trans person's job, to explain to you why we seem so angry. It's the allies job. If they don't know, and if they can't explain it to you or Ronald Gold, they don't have the mindset to BE our allies.

Love the last line. Here's my go at it:

Eric, transphobia happens all the time and all over the place. Plenty of trans people have learned, like you, to devalue the opinions of the haters.

This is not the mall. This place is supposed to be different, and purports to be different - the kind of community/family trans people are too often denied. And they're often denied it by LGB people no less, who generally know what it's like to be judged, marginalized, alone and endangered for failing to play by society's gender rules. Of all people, we LGBs should be better than that.

Similarly, Ron Gold knows what it's like for someone to think he's simply confused and deluded about his sexuality. He fought it hard as hell through his career as an activist. He really should know better than to turn around and treat trans people that way.

So to my mind, the outcry and anger should be especially great here of all places. If there's one place to really get angry, it's here - because we all want and expect something better from Bilerico, and from LGB people in general.

It reminds me of MLK's particular disappointment with the White church, which too often stood aside rather than standing with the civil rights movement, but from which he needed and rightfully expected much, much more.

Anyone's invited to let me know what I magically, perfectly captured in this post, and what I completely, totally missed. ;-)

Confuzzled Gay Who Wants To Know More/Understand Better | December 13, 2009 2:18 PM

Is there a gender spectruum for people who are Cis? IE: where does the line between "effeminate" gay (stupid description, but I can't figure out a better way to get it across) and trans person come across [if, I guess, we are defining male as being butch--dunno?]

In other words, in a sense, couldn't you claim that almost all LGBs are in some way trans because they don't conform to expected gender norms?

On the other hand, there are clearly and absolutely degrees and I don't mean to minimize that in any way.

Hi Confuzzled (luv the name).

Speaking strictly for myself, a transsexual woman only attracted to other women...

Since age 5 or 6 I realized I was very, often extremely uncomfortable with being forced to live and act male (generally male stereotypes, I'm 54 so that's my experience). I still enjoy stereotypically male activities though I'm absolutely comfortable in those activities as a woman! I also enjoy, have always enjoyed many stereotypically female activities. I've always felt and seen myself as totally female. This is extremely internal and known only to the person experiencing it!

I've known plenty of hetero women born as genetic females that are like me with respect to enjoying stereotypically male activities… Some of these genetic women (for lack of a better term) present publicly very feminine, others very male and still many others a mix of both gender identities… I’ve always found it interesting how totally accepting society seems to be of these variations for genetic women! I’m starting to get to know many genetic women who are lesbian or bi and the same variations seem to apply to them!

I feel most complete as a person presenting in public as well dressed (even casually) woman. I know I’m not pretty but I feel best about myself when I look my best as a woman and conversely I’m extremely uncomfortable when I’m forced to try and “fit in” as a male.

It’s not about my presentation to others but rather it’s about how I feel about myself inside. Even when I can’t look my best I’m still way more comfortable with myself when others just accept me as a girl.

You’re question is extremely important because it’s so damn hard for people who don’t experience what I have experienced to “wrap their heads around it!” I know as sure as I’m writing this to you I was born this way… The latest research indicates gender identity variant people like me are born the way we are because of hormones in our mother’s bodies late in pregnancy. My mom has told me all my life then when she was carrying me she was sure I was a girl.

I’ve struggled all my life with the arbitrary binary stereotypes of hetero verses homosexual, male verses female… It took nearly 50 years of my life to realize that I really am female and only attracted to other females.

Our culture forces us to fit into very narrow stereotypes rather than letting each individual figure this out for themselves.

I hope this helps… This is extremely hard on those of us born this way. I came out to my family and some friends this past year. They are all struggling with this too but fortunately many of the people closest to me have sought help in understanding and I’m so grateful for them making that attempt!

Hi Confuzzled (luv the name).

Speaking strictly for myself, a transsexual woman only attracted to other women...

Since age 5 or 6 I realized I was very, often extremely uncomfortable with being forced to live and act male (generally male stereotypes, I'm 54 so that's my experience). I still enjoy stereotypically male activities though I'm absolutely comfortable in those activities as a woman! I also enjoy, have always enjoyed many stereotypically female activities. I've always felt and seen myself as totally female. This is extremely internal and known only to the person experiencing it!

I've known plenty of hetero women born as genetic females that are like me with respect to enjoying stereotypically male activities… Some of these genetic women (for lack of a better term) present publicly very feminine, others very male and still many others a mix of both gender identities… I’ve always found it interesting how totally accepting society seems to be of these variations for genetic women! I’m starting to get to know many genetic women who are lesbian or bi and the same variations seem to apply to them!

I feel most complete as a person presenting in public as well dressed (even casually) woman. I know I’m not pretty but I feel best about myself when I look my best as a woman and conversely I’m extremely uncomfortable when I’m forced to try and “fit in” as a male.

It’s not about my presentation to others but rather it’s about how I feel about myself inside. Even when I can’t look my best I’m still way more comfortable with myself when others just accept me as a girl.

You’re question is extremely important because it’s so damn hard for people who don’t experience what I have experienced to “wrap their heads around it!” I know as sure as I’m writing this to you I was born this way… The latest research indicates gender identity variant people like me are born the way we are because of hormones in our mother’s bodies late in pregnancy. My mom has told me all my life then when she was carrying me she was sure I was a girl.

I’ve struggled all my life with the arbitrary binary stereotypes of hetero verses homosexual, male verses female… It took nearly 50 years of my life to realize that I really am female and only attracted to other females.

Our culture forces us to fit into very narrow stereotypes rather than letting each individual figure this out for themselves.

I hope this helps… This is extremely hard on those of us born this way. I came out to my family and some friends this past year. They are all struggling with this too but fortunately many of the people closest to me have sought help in understanding and I’m so grateful for them making that attempt!

Dapper Ninja | December 13, 2009 4:17 PM

Effeminate men and masculine women are "gender variant," which is just one of the many ways of being transgendered. So I'd say that the line is when someone starts calling themselves trans or cis.

People have pointed out that breaking with gender norms about who you have sex with is a form of gender variance, and that the division between lesbian/gay/(and sometimes bi) and trans is a product of Northamerican anglophone history of struggles against how the medical system treated "homosexuality" as a specific mental disorder.

"In other words, in a sense, couldn't you claim that almost all LGBs are in some way trans because they don't conform to expected gender norms?"

This is actually part of the argument as to why it's harmful to the *entire* community to remove trans protections from legislation.

I think all our current language regarding sex and gender is a compromise, a series of small adjustments made to a completely broken, one-dimensional binary system. Few of the words we have now are accurate. They are messy and overlapping, and this is a perfect example of it.

Absolutely Jamie...

I’ve begun recently to think that most humans are transgendered to some degree! Those who are trans but “fit in” easily never have to think about it! I look forward to the day when transsexual people like me can tell parents at a young age who we really are then have them help us accordingly.

Bottom line we are all born the way we are regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity variations so we’re all entitled as a birthright to all the rights, protections and privileges that gender congruent heterosexuals enjoy!

In my mind that’s the simplest and best way to describe what all of us in the LGBT movement are fighting for!

"I look forward to the day when transsexual people like me can tell parents at a young age who we really are then have them help us accordingly."

This is happening now, and it is so beautiful. I have known parents with trans children who started living as themselves as early as age four. For the ones who grow up to be transsexual, they will never have to experience the agony of going through puberty the wrong way. They are truly blessed.

I think most people are "gender-variant" to some degree. But those who are closest to the norm are able to fit themselves into the mold without sacrificing too much. They conform because they have little to gain and much to lose. It is only those on the fringes—who have everything to gain and very little to lose—who speak up.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | December 13, 2009 6:23 PM

There's an elephant in the room! It's the fact that transsexuals (in particular) insist that their bodies (as born) were deformed.

Gay people have been fighting for at least two generations for it to be recognized that being gay is NOT a disability -- nor is it in any way a semblance of deformity or dysfunction!

I happen to believe it would be far wiser to recognize that being gay is a choice -- as was my experience during a (far better and saner) time when experimentation with sexuality and drugs was accepted and gender boundaries were in the process of being discarded. My experience was that being gay is a choice -- made as a result of experimentation -- one for which a person can and should be proud! Enough of "I can't help it, I was born this way." I believe that's a major factor in how we've reached this impasse.

From issues of "disclosure" (vs. the closet) to those of deformity, gay and trans identities are implicitly somewhat opposing viewpoints. One can be a gay person who's supportive of rights for trans people on human rights or disability grounds, but we're only a single community in the eyes of our enemies.

As for terms like "mutilation" or "delusion," that's obviously someone's perception, and they (as much as those who take issue -- both, incidentally for experiential reasons) have a right to express themselves accordingly. There's an old statement attributed to Voltaire and beloved by civil libertarians: "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

The attempt to stifle certain forms of expression is hurtful, too. Who decided that one should be silenced because expressing a particular view is "hurtful"? Life (from birth trauma onward) can be hurtful, and it's not necessarily because of malice; sometimes it's the result of a genuine difference in lived realities. One such genuine difference involves whether one accepts the reality of a mind/body duality itself -- which is pivotal in accepting the very notion of transsexuality or transitioning.

Deal with it. There is no real "LGBT community." That's life.

Why hello, Mitch :D

Mitch, you should know that I, as an individual, do not have a deformed body.

Nor, for that matter, do I have the wrong body.

This is my body, wholly and utterly mine, and I like most of it, and am attending to an issue that I am aware of that you are not.

Which, in and of itself, sorta wipes out the point you make initially.

Secondly, you are quite correct, and, to date, no one that I am aware of has stated that gay people are deformed within the community.

Oddly enough, though, in order to make that statement, you have had to see that in some form or other.

One could note the point you are making here, though, is that they suffer guilt by association -- which is a logical fallacy that holds no merit.

Note as well that these rules do not, in any way, hinder someone's personal opinion from being expressed. They simply allow for discourse to occur without offense.

In short, they are rules of common decency and courtesy.

Voltaire also pointedly avoided being rude until someone was rude to him first.

Being able to make your argument without being rude is a more effective form of discourse than being rude -- rudeness is, after all, a loss of courtesy, and an action that demonstrates a lack of goodwill.

So, I urge you, rather than stating a belief that is contrary to fact, please, provide evidence that the entirety of social science is wrong, and that there is no such thing as an LGBT community.

I need the break from all the seriousness of the day.


I'll defend Ron Gold's right to say whatever he wants. But if a person expressed certain things in my home, they would no longer be welcome there. Huge shocker, right? We have the right to establish spaces with particular purposes and standards, and in fact we do it all the time with our schools, churches, businesses, and community spaces like this one. Ron Gold's speech wasn't compatible with the standards for TBP contributors, or even for us visitors. If you want to create your own space, with its own standards, where you featured all Ron Gold all the time, I'd defend your right to do it.

In your comment you've broken more than one of the ten simple rules, including the basic no-brainers about acknowledging diversity and not presuming to know it all.

Transsexuals does not equal trans people. It's not that simple.

There are more diverse perspectives among trans people, and even among transsexuals, than "I insist my body (as born) was deformed!" I mean, are you kidding me? They're not the Borg.

Your line, we're only a single community in the eyes of our enemies, denies the diversity of our community... in which there are plenty of people like me, who see more common cause among LGB and T than you apparently do. And the commonalities aren't even hard to see, whether you personally care about them or not. If you need such a narrow definition for why LGB people would stand for trans rights, that's all about you.

Antonia, maybe you need to make your rules even simpler for some people?

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/12/whats_the_plan_answers_to_your_questions.php#comment-203283

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/12/upon_further_reflection_and_deliberation.php#comment-203301

That's some pretty incredible copypasta you've got going there. Plan on dropping it into every trans thread that shows up on Bilerico?

Antonia:

Thank you so much for posting these rules. I am very concerned to learn all of the rules to discussing trans issues so that I may be sure to break them as often as possible. I therefore consider your list is a public service.

I don't know what you do to enforce these rules that govern the speech of other adults. Perhaps you could share with us whether you have engaged in violence or threats of violence to achieve compliance.

Yours in love,

Sara

Eleven: If you are interviewing a transsexual, you DO NOT ask them if they had surgery. If in other interviews, you don't ask what their genitals look like, then you follow that same rule with transsexuals.

Twelve: If for television or film, you follow the life of a Male-to-Female transsexual, DO NOT even ask to film a scene of them putting on a bra, putting on pantyhose or putting on makeup. Our lives don't revolve around emulating June Cleaver.

Thirteen: Never ask a transsexual their previous name. Never. Never. If they volunteer that without you asking, that's a different subject.

Fourteen: When doing a story on a transsexual, use the proper pronouns when referring to that person's past life, then change the pronouns when talking about the person's current life.

Fifteen: Not all transsexuals went through a crossdressing phase. Never make the assumption they did.

Sixteen: A transsexual is not changing their sex so they can have a heterosexual relationship. The need to change one's sex is because the mind is screaming the need to change. Who they find attractive is an independent and separate issue they have to face. I have had lesbians ask me that if I am now a woman, then why aren't I dating men? I then ask them why aren't they dating men?

In response to 14, some would disagree with that method. If someone chronicled my life, for example, the "proper pronoun" for my life before transition would be the same as the one after. My gender never changed, so the pronouns shouldn't, either.

Regarding 15, I had a funny experience with my first endocrinologist. He was very old-school, having started treating trans people in the 80's. During my first appointment he asked me when I started "cross-dressing". My response? "I started cross-dressing at a very early age, but then I put on women's clothes and felt a lot better!" :D

It really surprises me, how often gay people ask "why did you transition, then?" when they find out a trans person is gay. You'd think they, of all people, would realize that gay people exist! I guess it's kind of inevitable though, being surrounded by a straight-laced dominant culture.

As a note, Monica, you sorta blew rule number 8. This piece is about addressing the entirety of trans, not one small part of it, which your rules addressed.

Your rules are good, but not as a continuation of the above list.

Thanks :D

"Rules?" You're calling these "rules?" What give you the authority to think you are the one and only person who can set "rules" when it comes to trans issues? Rules usually have ways to have them enforced. How do you plan on enforcing your "rules," short of verbally bitch-slapping the offender?

I don't call what I wrote "rules." They are strong suggestions, that people need to pay heed to, sort-of like what is written in the AP Stylebook. You don't get fined for not following them, and they can't be enforced. I would think it a bit arrogant to say what you wrote here are "rules."

wow.

Ok.

Rules are not laws, are not terms of service, Monica.

Yours are great for transsexuals. Not so great for other forms of trans people.

As for arrogance, well, you already know I'm an arrogant sorta gal.

As for enforcing them, I'm not expecting to need to.

But talk to Sara. She seems to have strong ideas about that question regarding me.

All right--a naive question from a gay man. Monica's rule #14 (Fourteen: When doing a story on a transsexual, use the proper pronouns when referring to that person's past life, then change the pronouns when talking about the person's current life.) seems to be in conflict with Antonia's rule #7 (Never call the women men and the men women)--unless the notion here is to not refer to (for example) ALL transgender men as women and vice versa. But, when talking about a specific individual, shouldn't one use the appropriate nouns and pronouns? I know there have been instances when I've met transgender men who I assumed were women...

Tasha Elizabeth | December 14, 2009 10:02 AM

adam, for me personally i would prefer to have people use the correct pronoun, even when referring to my past.

when meeting people and i am uncertain, i just use gender neutral or avoid gendering at all until i hear one of their friends or acquaintances use a pronoun.


Hi Adam,

Monica's rule number 14 is much more narrowly focused on a small part of the whole Trans grouping than my rule 7.

Furthermore, in my case, Monica's rule 14 is not generally as widely accepted among trans folk. For example, I would prefer people not talk about me using he and him. Ever.

That said, it's fairly consistent with general style guides that are available widely. Style guides written by non trans folk, usually.

The confusion you noted is why I said it doesn't matter what they look like -- if you don't know, ask.

Thank you for asking :D

Antonia,

All right... but this seems to raise other questions/issues. Asking someone up front whether they are trans seems to be overly personal--just as asking what his or her sexual orientation is. As a gay man, I know that I am a minority of the male population, and so I'm not offended if someone makes a reference to my wife or girlfriend, and have no problem making the correction if necessary (and it's a great educational opportunity, too).

By asking how to address someone, you are not askig them if they are trans, Adam.

You are just asking them how they prefer to be addressed.

I swear, this community can fucking nit-pick shit to death sometimes.

Again, a bit of arrogance is showing through. What I wrote was suppose to be narrowly focused and isn't required to follow you guidelines. Transsexuals get the most crap from the non-trans world, and the media is the worst. There are non-trans media people who read this blog and need to know these things. It's too bad they didn't meet your stringent requirements, but they needed said.

And your comment, "Monica's rule #14 is not generally as widely accepted amongst trans folks?" How the hell do you know this? You don't, because you don't know every trans person on the planet and what they ALL generally accept. It is your opinion and nothing more. You have met some trans people and I have met others.

I've been actively involved in the trans community in one way or another since 1983. If I didn't think it was widely accepted amongst the people I've known, then I wouldn't have written it.

And, the fact that mine are not rules, they can be followed by trans people or not. I won't be verbally bitch-slapping them if they don't follow them.

And I have a Number Seventeen: Don't assume that if a person currently considers themselves a crossdresser that they will be getting SRS in the future.

Hi again, Monica :)

Yes, the community can.

As noted before, there is no bit. It's a fairly straightforward constant level of arrogance.

I'd like you to provide evidence that transsexuals get the most crap, please. Seriously. I'm more likely to support the idea that transvestites get the most crap, myself, so I'd like to see some evidence. If you don't mind my nitpicking.

You are the one who opted to continue with the numbering I provided, which makes people see them as a continuance of the methodology I started above. I said what I said to make it clear that they are not, in fact, a continuance of my rules, because there was a conflict seen by someone between the rules I offered (which go well beyond transsexuals) and the one you did (which is only concerned with transsexuals).

I'm sorry if that hurt your feelings.

As for how I know, it is because I know likely a smilar number of transsexuals to you, and the majority of them have a problem with it, since I asked.

Did you?

If they are not rules, then why follow the ordering that I provided, directly linking them to the rules I wrote as if they were a continuance?

Lastly, I do not make that assumption.

A case in point about "nit-picking."

First of all, if a person creates a list, is there any requirement on what number they start with? New ckecks don't start with 0001.

Seond of all, I spelled out the numbers to distinguish them from your list.

Third, what part of the entire trans community gets the most interviews and has the most stories/articlrs/TV news magizine stories about? I haven't seen closeted crossdressers on 20/20. So, I stand by what I said.

Until the late 1980's, new checks did start with 001. They changed it only because customers requested that they do so since merchants weren't taking checks with numbers less than 100 in an effort to cut down on check fraud. I can put you in contact with someone in San Antonio regarding that if you'd like.

That was a heck of a reach you did there, Monica, and you know it. :D

Again, the crossdressers. To a point so great that its not nearly as noticeable and stand out-ish as the stories on us. They get mentioned i passing and always negatively on stories that have nothing to do with anything. They are the butt of jokes, visual and verbal, and entire films have been built up around them as a mockery. Plus they get confused with us.

Stand by yours. I'll do likewise.

To my experience most transpeople would want you to consistently use the pronouns of their true gender.

There are contexts when I myself (I'm trans) have found it better to use the "old" pronouns and the "new" pronouns, depending on the biographical context, just to avoid confusion of the type "so you were born a girl and transitioned to boy- no- the other way around???".
I think if trans people had more human rights and would be better accepted then the pronoun use thing would loose its drama. But as things are today- using the assigned-at-birth pronouns and name holds so many dangers for a trans person:

1. Danger of being outed in unsafe environment
2. Danger of being perceived as "not real"
3. Danger that people stop seeing the true gender of the person and constantly switch to the assigned gender/name/imagined "true form", at least in their heads.

Many "trans rules" of behaviour have been created not so much to accomodate trans people but to handle the gender confusion and panic of our cis environment.

Personally, I'd tend to think that using the old pronoun for talking about the past of a person is really something you shouldn't do without being sure that the person is ok with that, because many wouldn't be (I wouldn't).

Plus, except in some specific circonstances, I don't see the interest of doing that, and it's quite confusing.

Confusing is absolutely correct. If one interviewer does it one way and another one does it a different way, then think how confused the general public gets.

The fact that the trans community is so misunderstood is that as soon as a transsexual begins their transition, they are now the absolute expert in everything trans. They then spout out bullshit like it's the God's truth.

At least in Toni's case, she has done more research then ten trans people, so she knows a lot of stuff and spout out accurate facts . . . and knows how to hide the BS rather well. (Joking, Toni.) But, even she is no expert. I sure am not either.

The fact that the trans community will never be consistent will make people confused about us forever.

Ah, Monica :D

I don't hide my BS. You know that. I put it right out in front and let people find it if they are able.

More fun that way :D

Give me, oh, three more years, and I suspect I'll be an expert. Learning never ceases with me, and I go places that are uncomfortable for most (often including myself) in search of such.

I do have a slight headstart -- most of this stuff is already something I'd dealt with in getting to be the expert I am on other things.

My one hope is that this time I'm not nearly as boring as I am when I talk bout that stuff...

additional rule

speak with respect and discretion about all persons' genitals and surgical status, whether cis, trans, intersex.

remember how inaccurate and damaging terms like "non-functional", unrealistic, and "mutilation" can be.

support others with compassion!

Antonia, I love this. Thank you so much - it's going right into the syllabus of my social justice class for next semester. I especially love the broad points you made that transfer to other kinds of oppression - that angry does not mean wrong or dismissable, that identities are too complicated for anyone to know it all, and all the ways you listed that people deserve basic respect. The best readings I know that transfer well across oppressions tend to be about race, and I absolutely love them, but I also want to mix it up a bit.

I also dig the other stuff I've seen from you in the last few days. (I just really started paying attention to this site in the last few days.)

So you've got a gay White male etc fan in Austin, TX.

Hi Matt,

You are most welcome.

Intersection is really my current focus, and I don't really follow the lines out as far as I should because I'm looking for the next crossing point.

A lot of my particular outlooks are based in race and ethnicity related issues, since I experience them in the same way I experience my other qualities -- highly intersecting.

And ain't nothing wrong with gay white men. I live with someone who identifies that way. From Iowa, to boot!

While 1-9 seem pretty much common sense to me. I'm afraid I can't follow 10, but not for the reason you cite.

I don't think Cis is meant to "drag" anyone down to another level. I think it glosses over the nuances of privilege, and I think it has the ironic affect of making some gays believe they are better than others.

There are certainly some LGBs that have more privilege than others, but I call it passing privilege. They pass for cisgender. They're the LGBs that, for a time, cis straight people forget are gay even if they're openly gay, because they don't look like the "stereotypical" gay. But they fail the one drop rule, and I think they need to be reminded of that.

I'm not defending them. There's a real problem with the tactics of some of gaining acceptance by assimilation because it leaves those of us who can't out. And many of them have not been kind to me personally, and have said some pretty insulting things about the queerer gays. In fact, it feels like we've gone backwards since the 1990s. They're pulling away from the pack and are happy to do so. I'd rather remind them that there are a large number of gays who may not identify as transgender, but still face gender identity based discrimination.

When I say I'm not cis, it's because my life experience is not that of a cisgender person.

Is it cissexual, though?

Cis* is like Trans* -- it covers an awful lot of ground that isn't clearcut.

You can be Trans and not be transgender. You can cis and not be cisgendered.

Its one of those tricky spaces that's nice and flowy :D

But what you describe is in part why I noted in my taxonomy of Trans* folks such as yourself.

And its also part of the reason that I so deeply and strongly dislike anything built on assimilationism.

Its just an excuse to not like someone else.

Is it cissexual? To be honest, I don't know. I can tell you I had moments when I was a kid where I thought, "God put me in the wrong body." But that just as well could've been because my Mom's Catholic, I'm an only child and she really wanted a girly daughter-friend to share girly Mother/Daughter things. I failed at all things feminine...which is gender, I know. I was waiting for puberty to make me feminine. My Mom had some really absurd rules though. I don't know how much of the wrong body stuff was just me feeling like it'd be easier if I was a boy if only to escape her insane rules about being a girl. Every toy, every piece of clothing, every activity, the way I walked, drank, ate, spoke, and even my handwriting was an argument.

I realize, in an objective way, sex, gender and sexual orientation are supposed to be separate. I can do that when it comes to understanding other people. But I don't know how to map that to me. It's all mixed up. If you ask me how I expect people to see me, I think "gay." And a chorus of people would tell me that's not one of multiple choice answers.