Antonia D'orsay

What Is Trans*?

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | December 11, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: androgyne, bigender, bisexual, butch, cisgender people, crossdressing, drag queens, education policy, gender fluid, gender queer, gender variance, inclusion, intergender, intersex, lesbian, nelly, pangender, queer, science, theory, third gender, tolerance, transgender, transsexual, transvestite, understanding

The title here is chosen for a reason.

It is not "What is Transgender?". It is not "what is Transsexual". It is not "who is Trans?", although that will be talked about.

What is Trans*?

The first thing I am going to point out is that I don't mean as a personal identity.

In this case, in this article, it does not matter what you identify as. You may identify as a fireplug for all that it matters to this article, and if something touches home here, then I'd like you to remember that I don't care how you identify. Your personal identity extends no further than your skin - after that, it becomes a matter of description.

Your social affinity group, however, extends well beyond you, and your membership in such an affinity group is entirely your decision. Social affinity groups are what we think of as Political Identity, the sort used in discussions of identity politics. By their nature, social affinity groups are based on the most common elements of a bunch of people, not just a few, who share commonality - a social affinity group is a gestalt structure, that arises out of the shared commonality of the whole.

In a manner that's easier for many to get, you social affinity group, your political identity, is your clan. Clans often work together, as well, against a common enemy. The Queer Movement, or the LGBT, or whatever you want to call it, is a combined group of four clans, one of which is made up of people from all the other clans combined. But the letters - the Gay Men, the Lesbians, the Bisexuals, the Trans - they are all individual social affinity groups. And they are not as separate as we might like.

All of which is important for me to note because I want it made very clear that while you may not identify as Trans, and you may not perceive yourself as such, you may very well be Trans, because I'm going to talk about what is Trans, in the hopes that maybe some folks will understand it.

Trans is not an abbreviation. It is not Latin or Greek. It is a term that has developed over the years, a neologism of sorts that tries rather hard to encompass a wide variety of people and persons who usually have very little in common. It's the commonality that defines it, though, not the differences.

In a recent couple of articles here at The Bilerico Project, people have said things about a gay man who was killed and about how transgender shouldn't be a term of any real value. I'm going to point out that the Trans community is an amalgamation, a collection of very different social affinity groups - it's like a much more complicated version of the LGB all unto itself.

And the one thing they all have in common is that they do not conform to societies expectations of how someone of their physiological sex assigned at birth is supposed to be in the culture they live in.

That's it.

That's what makes someone Trans. That is as simple as it gets.

People might wonder "where is gender in that?". Well, what is Gender? Is it not the social expectations of behavior in the culture, which lead to the ways in which we identify someone else's sex? I tend to think so -- and although I'm not fond of her particular observations, Judith Butler did as well. Same place, different ways of getting there.

What makes someone a particular kind of trans is where it gets complicated, and where people tend to get confused, because we live in a culture that seeks to simplify things that are not simple, and in so doing, it overlooks the richness and wonder and beauty of the complex.

How complex is it? Let's take a look real quick at just some of the different kinds of Trans folk there are out there. Some of these types don't think of themselves as part of the Trans social affinity group, I will point out, but again, we are talking about description here, not their individual and personal identities.

Most folks are aware, of course, that Transsexuals are Trans*. They are, for good or bad, what people think of first and foremost when people talk about trans stuff -- the one's that "change their sex". The ones that are "crazy" or that were "born into the wrong body".

Transsexuals are only one small part of the whole, though. Indeed, by the best estimates of prevalence available today, transsexuals are, at best, about a fifth of the whole Trans group.

And within them we have a huge number of possibilities and philosophies and ideas and thoughts and they don't get along very well. There are straight transsexuals and gay men transsexuals and lesbian transsexuals and bisexual transsexuals. And if you think it's tough getting a date when you are a straight transsexual, try getting when when you are gay. Gay transsexuals, which, according to a metastudy done through the University of Minnesota that sampled over 1500 transsexuals, make up over a third of the total transsexual population, find that dating within the gay male population is about as fun and enjoyable as having a root canal without pain relief.

Because there's a lot of bias there. Some have argued more than there is in the world outside the LGB.

There are transsexuals who are very much a part of the binary -- they are men or women. There are transsexuals who are not part of the binary -- they don't fit into one neat category. There are transsexuals who are never going to get the surgery down below, and there are those for whom it is the only thing that defines them as such.

Be careful when you ask some transsexuals who is and who isn't a transsexual -- as a recent post I made at my blog on the issue shows, there's relatively little agreement there.

But what are the other kinds?

Back in July and August of this year, I had cause and reason to attempt a classification of such. A good classification takes into account more than just the target group, so here's what I came up with based on some of the differences.

Cisfolk: Persons who conform to the social expectations of their culture to the sex they are assigned at birth. They generally do not change or seek to defy conventional social sex roles. This means they are, basically, the 90% of the population that isn't one of the other groups.

Intersex folk: There are over 30,000 different types of IS items, each with only a small percentage themselves, but, in combination, make up about 2% of the total population. I should point out that some IS folk are assigned one sex, and then later change. This does, as a matter of description, make those who do so Trans*. There are three basic attitudes (plus lots of others) among IS folks: those who find their assigned sex is fine, those who want to choose their sex based on their choices, and those who want to stay in the middle somewhere.

Transsexual folk: Comprising at best 1% of the total population, transsexuals are not merely wanting to change their gender, but also their sex. Its not simply a want, either -- its a driving need that comes about long before you notice you are "not like other little boys and girls". They get as far as we can go in the times they are born into -- 100 years ago, it was just lop everything off and do your best. Today, there are a lot of other things we can do -- hormones, SRS, and, of course, just lopping everything off. They generally want to adhere to the conventions of social sex roles.

Agender Folks: non-gendered, gender neutral, agendered, and genderless. They generally do not want to adhere to the social sex role Binary and challenge conventions. There are, as one might garner, lots of differences here. The words come from the way these people identify and describe themselves. Generally speaking, they don't have a fixed gender identity, and are most comfortable expressing themselves without any real concern.

Multigender Folks: between genders, intergendered, ambigender, pangender, genderfuck, gender queer, and third gendered. As can likely be surmised, they are a blending or multiplicity of gender expressions, because their sense of it is multiple. I will be blunt -- I'm a binary based person, so this one and some of the others don't really work for me, personally, and I don't grok them -- there's very little understanding of the totality that they live with, no emotional resonance for me. But I know they get the same crap in this world that I get, and that's enough for me.

Transgender folk: bigendered, gender fluid, androgynes, transvestites, cross-dresser, and transgender. They generally comingle the binary into new forms that combine parts of both, and usually are pretty fixed.

Gender Variants: effeminate men, butch women, Drag Kings, Drag Queens, and anyone who doesn't conform to the archetype of their culture for gender expression and behavior. This group is all the rest -- and it includes pretty much anyone who goes against the grain: not heterosexual, this is you. Carry a man bag -- this is you. Wear eyeliner cause you are totally goth as a guy -- this is you. Wear your hair cropped as a woman -- this is you. This is the fuzzy line, and it makes people uncomfortable.

You can argue that style changes -- and you are right. That's the nature of gender -- its dependent on the culture you live in. YEt note that at least a third of all GLB adults were kids, and as kids, they demonstrated the same issues that define all the above types, and could have been readily classified as Trans as kids.

So now you have a better idea of what it means when people talk about the Trans community -- who it is that is trans, who they are talking about.

You, personally, might not feel a connection to any of the above groups. And that's ok. It's also ok if you do feel a connection.

Can you be described as part of the above? Probably.

But, mostly, I hope you can now see that saying that all transgender people are ths, or all transsexuals are that, is pretty much a lost cause, unless you say that they are all the sort that do not conform to societies expectations of how someone of their physiological sex assigned at birth is supposed to be in the culture they live in.

I'm not perfect, either -- the last four groupings there have people that may pop up and explain things better than I did. I suggest you listen to them, and ask good questions.

Because that's how I got what I have above.


Recent Entries Filed under Media:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


Even after the apology, I'm still puzzled at your editorial process. If I buy the notion that Gold's piece doesn't cross the line between offensive and challenging, I'm incredulous that you didn't see it as at least close enough to that line to circulate the piece to some trusted interested parties before you hit the "publish" button.

If old white gay guys like me thinks Gold's piece crossed the line (and I do), then maybe Dr. Weiss would have too? Or the dozens of other trans folk who enrich the Bilerico community every day. One glance by almost ANY of your readers would have raised eyebrows.

What's more, with some relatively minor editorial guidance, the piece could have taken an honest and confessional slant that might have opened a great educational dialogue. "Look I know this is an unpopular view, but here is where I am at today. I think it's the way most gay men think, by the way. I don't see things the way trans folk do, and here is why". Instead it was full of judgmental declaratory statements of "fact" designed to shut down dialogue rather than to encourage it.

So next time, how about getting some second opinions from affected individuals whenever the "offensive" line is approached even from within a mile?

I am not, to my knowledge, part of the managing staff of Bilerico -- and I believe that Bil's apology for Mr. Gold's article was explanatory of why he did it and what he was thinking.

Bil is not, himself, trans. It would be a good idea, of course, to have a trans person on the staff to vette such things as an editor, but aside from myself, I don't know anyone currently on the team who has that kind of time.

One of the things that may, in fact, come out of this is that Bil may opt to rely on the presence of trans folk who decide to remain in the aftermath of this lapse in propriety for exactly that.

Nice piece but you forgot one. I am a person with Klinefelter's syndrome. This is extremely rare and what it means is that I don't have a chromosome pair. My chromosome is in fact XXY. The Y of course means I was born with male genitalia but I have always identified as female and am, in fact, now female. I hate the term "transsexual" probably due to it's negative social connotations. On the other hand I don't advertise my Klinefelter's because some people, (my father for example), seem to think that makes me somehow "more acceptable" than a transsexual with a normal XX or XY pair and that shouldn't be the case. It also infuriates me when regular gay people seem to feel that same sex marriage should be more important than the rights of transsexual people to work and support themselves. I live in a state in which gender is defined by chromosomes so guess what? I can't marry ANYBODY in the state of ANY gender. So essentially I'm a marginalized person, (XXY), of a marginalized group, (transsexual), of a marginalized community, (LGBTQ), and I really don't need people like Mr. Gold to tell me how delusional and mutilated I am.

Hi Margaretpoa :)

No, I did not forget that one. Klinefelter's Syndrome is one of the Intersex conditions I specifically mention.

Thank you, however, for demonstrating one of the points I raised, which is that Intersex persons are not nomially transsexual, and that it varies according to the individual, whichis why they are classed in the taxonomy I provided separately.

Dreger would likely disagree with me, but that's her problem, lol.

Okay, I can accept that though Klinefelter's is not, strictly speaking, intersexed. Intersexed, though, is enough of a grey area that I can see your including my condition in with the term. In fact, I almost didn't write that post because of the paragraph about intersexed persons. Thanks for your reply.

Hi Margaret!
I think you're included in this clause:

I should point out that some IS folk are assigned one sex, and then later change.
Parenthetically, a very few IS people have their change from natural causes, and not always to their liking.

For example, someone who's 47xxy can have their endocrine system reset due to severe burns or anapheleptic shock, so they go from a mostly male appearance to a mostly female one. And not quite all 47xxy people look male at birth - a handful have even fallen pregnant. That's really rare though. About as rare as the same thing for 46xy's.

You're not alone, BTW. Technically I'm IS too, but that's only important when I see my Endo - and in various legal contexts. Transsexual is close enough.

Or like me, who turned out smaller and much less bald than my brothers. And yeah, my Endocrinologist used to be the only one that being xxy mattered to, until the state got wind of some post op M to F marrying a biological female. Molly Ivins had a field day with the conservative outrage over that wedding but it effectively stripped me of even more civil rights in the end.

The NH marriage law:

Marriage is the legally recognized union of 2 people. Any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender. Each party to a marriage shall be designated "bride," "groom," or "spouse."

I don't know what state you're in, so I don't know the law there. But at least this one doesn't appear to exclude anyone. Aren't we were aiming for gender neutral marriage legislation?

It's not that it's more important. It's all important as far as I'm concerned.

This is great. I love the work you've done to begin creating a taxonomy.

But I wonder where old-fashioned homos fit in this. You have the category "gender variants" ("not heterosexual: this is you"), which would seem to include all homos, but you shy away from explicitly including them under that label. Am I misreading?

I would like to push your argument further and say that we are all trans. Even the homosexuals whose presentation conforms to their biological gender in every way except their erotic orientation.

It's queer orthodoxy to say that gender identity and erotic orientation are two discrete phenomena. I'm always trying to make the argument that that is not true. As I see it, homosexual orientation, in and of itself, is in some meaningful way the same thing as transexuality. They both transgress expectations of gender appropriate behavior. I.e., if you are male and attracted to other males, you are behaving in a way that is only appropriate to women.

I've struggled a lot in the last several years with what to call myself, because "gay" has come to signal a lifestyle I don't want to be a part of. "Queer" is simultaneously too raw and too academic. Even though the way I look is pretty straightforward gender-appropriate male, can I be trans? Is there anything problematic about me calling myself trans?

Hi golikewater :)

Thank you. The taxonomy is useful only beause it has such a broad structure -- something as varied and colorful as the trans community is not easily given ever narrowing structures.

Where do old fashioned homos fit into this? As you noted, descriptively, they would, by being homosexual (or bisexual) fall into the category of Gender Variants at the least, simply because by loving someone of the same sex, they are not conforming to the standard expectations of gender role for someone of their gender expression and identity.

Wich, I have discovered, tends to really upset a lot of gay folks, because its assumed that such is bad.

It is not a bad thing, however, unless you think variance from the normative expectations is bad.

On a personal level (but not so much professioally yet), I actually do think that all of us are Trans.

I believe that you've seen through a lot of the underlying separation -- gender, being a social strucutre that is separate from gender identity, does indeed incorporate one's sexual orientation. Part of being a gay man is being a man (gender) that likes other men (gender).

In my personal and professional estimation, the only risk in calling yourself trans is that by doing so, you may experience a loss of privilege and therefore experience social stigma that is part of the reason I wrote this piece.

Thank you.

Just wanted to say thank you for your warm response to my comment. I am endlessly fascinated by this topic, and it's not always easy to engage my friends in the conversation. This is a conversation that we, as a community, are only at the beginning of the beginning of, and I'm moved by the generous spirit of your post and your responses to comments. Thanks!

(Loss of privilege or not, I'm going to start identifying myself as trans and see how it feels.)

You are most welcome and good luck.

Surprisingly, losing privilege isn't all that bad if you are aware you will ahead of time.

It's only expectations, after all -- and we can all do with a few less of them.

A-a-nd -- Thanks to Mr. Ron Gold's article, here we are, back at "Transgender 101".

When do we ever get to give the upper-division courses?

Antonia, it's a wonderful article. I'm just sad there seems to be a constant need for this sort of article.

I came here to say something like this.

It truly surprises me that there is still any conversation about whether there are rigid 'natural kind'-type taxonomic classes into which we can slot human beings. With the taxonomy above, I can see people fitting into more than one group. This is by no means, in my view, a weakness. It is in fact a strength.

There are psychological, political, conceptual, and biological issues that are going without attention because we have to hearken back to basics.

I often wonder exactly of what this phenomenon is a failure... even if indeed it is a failure.

Hi Diane,

Let me be frank: people will always classify, and they will always seek to classify as narrowly and rigidly as possible. It is that kind of reduction in our "western" influenced culture that resulted in there being just two genders to begin with.

I agree, the fluidity of the taxonomy and the broadness of the methodology are, indeed, the strengths of this model -- but, in my primary field, its literally not enough. Just off the top of my head, there's about four wider classes that I can see needing work, and at least 12 more specific terms awaiting invocation.

And there is the question posed by Father Tony, below, regarding situational gender variance to dealw with, as well (though I'm on my way, lol).

Those more deep and broad issues are on my list -- think of this as part one in a broader cultural competence course.

You always start at the beginning.

Yes indeed, this is where we are and Mr. Gold's piece is the primary cause, but as I noted earlier, there is a secondary and tertiary part to it as well.

As for the upper division stuff -- see my posts next week. I'm going for the jugular on this one and essentially rewriting all my past work and updating it in one fell swoop with new findings and research.

So yes, advanced is coming very soon. Ya'll will be sick of me.

The constant need for this sort of thing in places like this is because, like it or not, there are only a few of us, and we historically have not had this sort of platform from which to speak.

There are over 300 million people in the US alone. There are about 14 million Trans people, and sadly, they are often just as ignorant of this stuff as the rest of the population.

We do not *have* to educate, but if some of us do not, there will not be any, and that means a lot of classes a lot of the time, in an unending cycle, until we manage to reach that 300 million people.

Each time someone like Ronald Gold speaks out the way he has, it shows that we have many more people to reach. So we start with those closest to us as well as ourselves, and work our way out from there.

Thanks.

Trans 101 is going to be needed until society actually gets over the "hump" it is in, as it develops from understanding sex designation as an artificial binary imposed on the variety and diversity of nature, just because the binary works about 99% of the time.

Let's face it, they're still going to be assigning blue and pink blankets and recording which one that got assigned, based on infant genital configuration. Unfortunately, even with a growing outcry, they're still trying to surgically assign visibly intersex infants (often surgically removing the parts that get to feel good later in life) - why not just add pastel yellow and pastel green blankets to the arsenal?

In addition, the correction of birth record assigned sex should be made a lot easier. Once it's known that there is a mistake, at the very least, erase the wrong assignment, even if a new assignment can;t yet be filled in.

If society wasn't so binary-centric, there could be additional classifications that allow for variations - including *types* of male and female that are not exactly alike, as well as all sorts of "O" for other groups. Of course, that's only for a tiny minoritythat would be affected, and undortunately, branding people as other than M or F is probably a non-starter, since anyone who is an "other" os likely to experience more discrimination than they would if the society just changed the designation to the one of the two that fits the individual better.

BRILLIANT post, Dys! I so love that you're a regular contributor now!!! :-)

Oh, Phil -- I'm going to going into the heart and soul of the demon over the next couple weeks.

And thanks. Me too -- although the way things are looking, pretty soon I'll be the only trans gal here :(

Just a suggestion - "effeminate" generally implies that someone is feminine who shouldn't be. If a man is feminine, why not just say "feminine"?

That's a connotation, not a meaning, but your point is well taken, for future reference.

Agree - a very nice 101 post. Well done.

But this shouldn't even be needed here. And two similar posts don't make up for the assault on the community that Gold was enabled in perpetrating by this site. How nice - you hit us - than bought us flowers. You need to change. You need to fix this.

If Bilerico wants to move forward they need to:

1. strongly denounce the Gold post, this includes acknowledging that there was no good intent. It was a hatchet job. Hell - he neither loved the sin or the sinner. It was that bad.

2. require posters - especially of "challenging" pieces to respond to at least a few resonable commenters and major concerns raised.

3. stop using the lame practice of descriping something as "controversial" to excuse the article from normal TOS standards.

4. Agree to require and enforce the stylistic guidelines regarding respectful speech about all lgbt peoples that Bilerico seeks to require of others.

This may not be sufficent - but it is neccesary.

If not - then Bilerico has to post some virulently homophobic articles to maintain any credibility.

Hi Kathy,

My apologies for missing your post earlier.

As I explain elsewhere, its always needed here. As a multiethnic person who does not stick to a single background, I have to explain to people my nature consistnetly, because I am uncommon, and there is always someone new coming along.

So it's always needed, all the time, because we are just as uncommon.

Also, I did not hit us. I was hit. Nor is this flowers for those of us hurt. None of the posts have been flowers -- they are the reactions of the trans people here at Bilerico.

Thank you for the suggestions, as well -- I'm certain that some of them have been addressed.

Great post, with very specific terminology...and to stretch this even further...

as I learned in studying the "waria" in Indonesia (don't know how to italicize here) even these terms and categories are "western" (or even "Toni's) that may not actually describe the culture's own categories (as Western gay men found out in Afghanistan).

So, yeah, it gets complicated...

I tend to think of them as "Toni's" right now, but they don't really belong to me as its constantly being revised (I'm still a good little doobie that way, lol).

Heck, the above is my seventh iteration.

You may note that while I mention travesti, I don't acutally include them in the taxonomy -- this is because stretching our western concepts and trying to define such within just the English language makes doing so all but impossible.

Which is part of the advanced course (for example, in some cultures, there is no distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation, and trying to create one is culturally insensitive and scientifically invalidates the effort).

Thanks :)

Sorry, but I don't agree what you've written, because it does essentially equate the term "trans" (which was originally used as short for transsexual) with transgender--the big umbrella. You say trans isn't short for anything else, then go right ahead with restating it to mean a highly generalized term. Moreover, as you've defined it, it has little to do with transition, which is the core of how I use it. While I appreciate how you've defined "transsexual" as someone with a need to change their body to match their gender identity, I don't appreciate your snarky "just loping everything off". On a day where trans people have been dismissed by two other bloggers on this site, I don't need another instance of smirking humor about those of us who need to attempt physical/identity congruity as best we can. The reason your blog about transsexual got some sour responses is because it was similarly snide and dismissive about a subject which too many have died over.

Moreover, trans bloggers appearing on BIlerico today (as I wrote on another thread) smells of trying to smooth over the foul core of expressed transphobia on this site. If you want to kiss ass with the man, don't pretend you're making anything right.

Hi ginasf,

Thank you for commenting. The disagreement principle you voice is a subject of a later posting, and I'm glad you brought it up here to make people aware of it.

I said Trans isn't short for anything., not anything else -- as I am using it, it is, very much, short for an umbrella that's larger than the transender one, which I am aware is not broad enough.

Hence the description I provided.

Furthermore, since I was not speaking about transition, but about the Trans grouping in all its fullness, and not all of them transition, I could not use it in reference to transition.

I can understand your not liking my snark. A great many people do not; however, I am a snarky sort, and its not likely to change as I like that aspect of my personality.

It was not, however, smirking. I seldom smirk. Makes wrinkles.

The blog series you spoke about was intentionally snarky and somewhat erisive because it was meant to convey an understanding of how people who are not trans see us -- as it went to great pains to explain several times.

This is the first part of a less snarky series that will look at many of the same issues.

As for the large number of trans bloggers on today -- I can personally promise you that it has nothing to do with smoothing over anything, and everyting to do with how peeved all of us are. Every trans article you see today was started at least 8 hours after that post appeared.

Sorry for offending you, and thank you for your response.

Sorry, but I don't agree what you've written, because it does essentially equate the term "trans" (which was originally used as short for transsexual) with transgender--the big umbrella. You say trans isn't short for anything else, then go right ahead with restating it to mean a highly generalized term. Moreover, as you've defined it, it has little to do with transition, which is the core of how I use it. While I appreciate how you've defined "transsexual" as someone with a need to change their body to match their gender identity, I don't appreciate your snarky "just loping everything off". On a day where trans people have been dismissed by two other bloggers on this site, I don't need another instance of smirking humor about those of us who need to attempt physical/identity congruity as best we can. The reason your blog about transsexual got some sour responses is because it was similarly snide and dismissive about a subject which too many have died over.

Moreover, trans bloggers appearing on BIlerico today (as I wrote on another thread) smells of trying to smooth over the foul core of expressed transphobia on this site. If you want to kiss ass with the man, don't pretend you're making anything right.

Dear Dyss, great presentation, but such a general definition! Is this the most accepted approach to defining trans. I mean there have been such arguments...

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.)

Hiya Father Tony :D

Is it the most accepted? Depends on who you ask, lol.

Its derived n a large part from the social sciences (sociology, psychology, and related fields) and the general unspoken understanding of cisfolk filtered through the lenses of your truly stemming from my work for a decade in the IS community and my trans knowledge.

Take a group *that big* and ask any part of them what they are, and you'll have all manner of differences of opinion. Its when you step back and look at it in the widest context possible that you see the connections, and that's very difficult to do when you are within the picture.

The arguments we are both aware of are usually exclusionary. As you know, I'm pretty much anything but that until I lose my temper, lol.

Exclusion in a taxonomy (any of them) is based on lack of commonality, and because the definition I provide is so broad, there is an immediate response based on the othering predispostion towards cutting one's self out of such (individuality manifesting).

Yes, indeed, sir. In that definition, you are not only trans, you are cis, thanks to the joy of situational transness.

It's a lot like situational homosexuality. One can say that while in segregated situations, two men having sex are gay.

That it only exists for that particular time doesn't change the nature of being able to describe their relationship or activities as such, but it does not mean that it is applicable over the whole of their nature or existence on earth.

The same applies here -- just because you happen to wear eyeliner, you can be described as trans, but that might change (and situational transness is the fundamental core part of the classification of Gender Variants in the taxonomy above).

This is why its important to separate the description from the identity, and why arguments of identity fail on the personal level.

Which I'll get to eventually, lol.

So while you can be described as trans, that doesn't mean you are trans in identity.

Unless you want to be :D.

I liked this a lot. I'm so glad you posted this.

As to this being Trans 101 - well, unfortunately, some of us, like me, need it. I wish it weren't so, but it's true.

I've learned and continue to learn a lot about trans issues here at Bilerico even given the controversies.

Thanks!

Thank you, Joe.

It's only trans 101 to trans people, really. And then only to some trans people -- even within our own community there are people who do not know these things.

So every single day some of us are committed to educating, and some of us are committed to making sure bigotry and privilege are exposed.

And boy do we get into some big fights when we try to tell each other to stop it!

This post was at least an aspirin for my headache today. And I do pretty much agree with it and would be fine if this was officially it. Or if there was some consensus for...uhm, a month?

But, this isn't the consensus among gay or trans people. It's not even the consensus among Bilerico trans bloggers is it?

On Wikipedia, I believe "gender variant" is defined as the umbrella term that encompasses everything not cis. Oh, my headache is coming back. Wikipedia certainly isn't the best source for information, but it certainly is the most popular--especially among the least informed who don't know what other site to go to. And from what I've noticed from checking up every now and then, the article on Transgender and Gender Variant have changed several times just over the last year.

And that's why we have to keep revisiting the glossary. Also, I think words are really defined more by how they're used.

I like that you add:

they do not conform to societies expectations of how someone of their physiological sex assigned at birth is supposed to be in the culture they live in.

The interesting thing about that is, some people live in gay culture, or as I like to say a gay bubble. And I think those folks sometimes lose touch with the perceptions of gender held by folks who don't live in a metro area with a gay neighborhood, or community, or even a gay bar. And the people who define these words are usually LGBT activists who are meeting and interacting with a larger community.

For example, I identify as a butch gay female because that's my experience where I've physically lived most of my life. But, I'm really androgynous (in my head) and I wear "unisex" clothes...which really means Mens. (I really hate shopping for clothes.)

Anyway, if I were to got to SF Pride and call myself butch, I'd probably be laughed at. To other LGBT people, I'm not really that butch. But, where I live and definitely where I grew up people see BUTCH DYKE without me ever having to say I'm gay. And that's what I grew up with. People calling me dyke in high school well before I came out even to myself. People assumed I was gay based on my gender expression, because I certainly wasn't dating anyone. There wasn't any conscious sexual expression.

Where I've lived, straight cisfolks have a very polarized perception of gender, sometimes mistaking me for a guy. Gay or transgender people would never mistake me for a guy, because I think our perception of gender is more complex.

This is totally based on my experience. I'm definitely not an expert on sociology or anything.

Hiya GrrrlRomeo,

You might be surprised at how official it is. I am avoiding that in particular, but I follow in the fields, and sty relatively current (I'm likely about 6 months behind).

It's extremely academic, however.

Words, ultimately, are defined by how they are used -- but only when a significant majority of people use them that way in general conversation, or by reinforcement within the specialty groups.

There are certain words that if you use them in certain spaces will be insulting, but that are not so. "Cult" is an excellent example of it -- in sociology, a cult is any group religion. In general parlance, its weird ones -- and there is a negative connotation to it that allows it to be an insult.

Outside of the LGBT sphere, all of these terms have little or no meaning -- and that meaning is constnatly challenged within the T community alone.

Outside of the LGBT, the words are fewer according tot he group, and it really comes down to two.

And one of them is usually ignored.

And while you may not be an expert as sociology, you are an expert in your life and your expereince.

And that counts for a lot more than all the letters after my name, lol

Personally, I'm in favor of the two words being "gay and trans." It's to the point, sexual orientation and gender identity. I know some wouldn't like it, but Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender doesn't even cover all the identities. If we're going to be half-assed about it, we could at least be half-assed in a way that makes sense.

Within the community, that's what they are -- but people don't always realize that one can be both, or even who is part of the two of them.

Outside the community, it's those two as well among those more firendly to us.

The unfriendly one's use two other terms.

And, in nearly all the cases, the Trans is the one ignored.

Archie Semper | December 12, 2009 4:54 AM

I have to say that I'm a bit puzzled by your definition of gender and your statement that transsexuals need to change their gender.

In my neck of the woods, we say that sex is what's between your legs and gender is what's between your ears. By that definition, I, a transsexual, have absolutely no desire to change my gender. In fact, I have a horror of changing my gender. That's why I transitioned.

What I'm calling gender, you might call gender identification, perhaps?

And you say that transsexuals feel a need to change their sex...I'm assuming you mean that all transsexuals want genital surgery? I know a lot of transguys, and a few transwomen, who don't want to have genital surgery.

I know that there are various definitions out there, and I'm always encountering a new take on things. Perhaps one thing that confuses otherwise supportive cispeople is the wide variety of perspectives, the confusing terminology, and the lack of consensus, even among people within the same group.

Hi Archie,

My definition of Gender (which I did't go into detail in above) is predicated on language, priamrily, since that how we describe it, and has much in common with Judith Butler's work on it, as well as our current understanding of it developed in the last decade.

Strictly speaking, you do not need to change your gender identity, but you do need to change your Gender Role (or Social Sex Role) and your gender expression. THis is the sme situation I am in, as a transsexual.

Gender, without any other word to modify it, is a melage of individual pieces and bits. It's purpose its multiple, and that's why we have easy to say soundbites like the legs and ears bit.

They get the rough idea across fast, without a lot of long winded people with letters affter their name getting involved.

But, just as saying that there are boys and there are girls doesn't accurately convey the entirety of what is really out there, that neat and simple phrase doesn't contain the full meaning.

So we are going into that full meaning here, without the protective coating of ease.

So when one speaks about Gender, you need to talk about the particular part of the larger concept -- the Identity, the Expression, or the Social Sex role (Gender Role).

There are some transsexuals who do not change their Expression or Role, and have no need to change their Identity -- but they go out and change their sex.

And the idea of changing one's sex is even more convoluted than I've gotten to here. I will get to it later -- and I 'm fairly sure that there will be a lot of people to come and tell us all how bad I am about that.

Genital surgery is not really changing one's sex, you see -- tha's a much more complex concept. But we tend to focus on the genitals.

Were I going the other way, given the options surgically, I wouldn't want to change that part -- the methods are not there.

But there is more to sex change than that.

You are correct -- the variety of thoughts is one of the reasons for the great deal of confusion.

Hence my attention to the details here -- I'm pointing this out in order to help solve a lot of that confusionl and open people's minds (and, one mind in particular) up to the incredible complexity that is Trans.

Because anything that complex is going to end up with arguments.

So let me get this straight (pun intended). As a non gender conforming lesbian I'm trans because YOU SAY I AM, and how I define myself doesn't matter?

How does this fit with being told we should accept those who DO define themselves as trans right to self definition as paramount? YOU have the right to self define, but I have no right to say I don't want to be co-opted thank you very much?

Hi Florence,

I think there's a definite difference between a generalized definition of a term, and an individual's identity based on a different definition of that term.

You're relating your own identity (which I am assuming has a different definiton of "trans" that is "something I am not" in it somewhere) with Dys's definition. It's okay that you have a different definition, and it is also okay that if you were applying Dys's definition to yourself you would also "qualify" as trans in some way. That does not mean you have to change your own self-identity to match the definition. And it does not make Dys's definition wrong.

By having a characteristic that would include you in that definition, does not mean you have to identify in accordance with that definition. But on the other hand, someone using that definition would essentially be including you in it, unless you did not have the underlying characteristic.

An example that relates to me. I identify as lesbian. Most of my lesbian friends have definitions of lesbian that include me, though some of them have definitions of lesbian which require a lesbian to be a WBF (woman born female) and do not include a WBT (woman born transsexual). I don't fit their definition of lesbian, but that does not affect my identity, only their perception.

An exclusionary definition also affects me in a different way, because it sometimes bars me from "women's space" if the people who have ownership of the space insist on an exclusionary (separatist) definition of lesbian.

In this case, you're being included in a definition of "trans" because of something you might identify as "gender variant" in some way? Perhaps it might be annoying - I have some rather butch lesbian friends who get annoyed when people on first glance call them "sir" - they identify as women, and are touchy about people including them in a different category, even if it's one they seem to visually skirt the edges of.

Hi Joann :)

Thanks for popping in. Looks like we get to go there again, huh?

Hi Florence,

No, you are not trans because I say I am.

But you can be described as trans.

How you identify -- how you define yourself -- does matter. But for all of us, our identity only goes so far as the the limits of our flesh.

After that, we can be described in all manner of ways, and thi article is about description, not identity.

How it fits in is somethng I will cover later, when I talk about identification, but since that can seem like a cop out, let me try and be brief.

It is entirely possible for a person to look at you, describe you as trans, and yet be fully aware that you do not identify as trans, and not fail to recognize you are a woman, and a lesbian.

This article, as I state in the beginning, is no about how you self define -- not about your identity.

It is about how you can be described. ANd if you understand how you can be described, and classified, you begin to understand something just as important as your personal self definition:

Where you dwell in the larger society and culture around you.

Identity is localized and internal, not external.

SO I am not coopting you. I am noting that you can be descrbed as part of the trans.

When I get into affinity groups, I promise to include your concerns directly.

Wow, finally a label (or three!) I can really relate to. I've been bashing my head against binary labeling (and labeling, period) ever since I started to hash out what my identity might be. I'm glad to see that while you say you don't understand the multigender viewpoint, you acknowledge that one exists and that it is valid. That's a rare but refreshing thing.

Wish these categories were commonly accepted. I'm tired of having to explain that:

a) queer doesn't necessarily mean gay/lesbian

b) bisexual is neither a dirty word nor a comprehensive definition of who I am

c) (similar to the previous poster) I may look like a woman, but in my head I've pretty much been gender-neutral since I became self-aware (Which does not mean that I am asexual. Yes, there are asexual people, too... etc.)

d) sexuality, as an all-inclusive term for sex, gender, biology, identity, etc. is so fluid that it simply can not be discussed in the framework of either/or.

I am continually amazed at how many people don't get that last point.

Looking forward to the rest of this series. I fully admit there is a lot I have to learn. I hope you explore the difference between sex and gender. Does sex refer to chromosomes, or morphology (physical/anatomical characteristics)? Does gender refer specifically to gender identity?

Hi Fuzzy,

Or ten!

Thank you. I hope that you like the rest in this series as much!

We all have a lot to learn -- this comes out of all that I have learned onthe subject, and my learning builds on all that others have learned. It's a wonderful chain that when followed can surprise and delight, or make you question your foundations.

I will indeed delve into what Sex means -- and there I'm significantly different than what many people expect, because its never cut and dried, and requires a combination of elements.

In answer to your question, sex refers to all of the above.

And, as I noted in the article, "Gender" used alone, can mean a great many different things, which I see that I will have to cover as well.

Thank you :)

I liked the idea expressed in this article.
I have only 1 observation and that is numbers.
this statement is taken from the piece.
"YEt note that at least a third of all GLB adults were kids,"
My educated belief is that number should be higher, i would say at least 75% if not 97% of all GLB adults were kids. some may argue that is 100%, however, my Mom always accused Dad of never being young at one time, a lower number allows for such persons.

You know, after it was up I read that myself and did the same damn thing, lol

and I meant to sign my comment above as,
totally factitious,
Jessi

Toni, I really appreciate your increasing clarity and the care you are taking in explaining your point of view from the ground up. Also, I greatly admire they way you have responded to the comments left for you, some of them critical. You have reacted without defensiveness and with respect for each person's point of view. That's all I want for both contributors and readers here on Bilerico. That, for me, is what exemplifies a "safe space" on the internet. I don't care whether people agree with me or not (well, actually, I do, some) as long as they at least respect my right to have my own opinion and experience. It was Gold's failure to state his opinions with that respect for differing viewpoints and experiences that sent me into the tailspin I've been in for the last couple days and am only slowly beginning to crawl out of. Being here in Phoenix with my (and your) friends Michael and Lillian is helping a lot.

I look forward to your next post.

Blessings,
Abby

Thanks Abby.

As has been noted, one of the differences twixt Toni and Dyss is that Dyss isn't as nice as Toni, lol.

Conversation requires that you listen to the other side, and come to understand it, and then address it.

Anything else is just shouting at the wind.

Although I do have the benefit, as you know, of giving this sort of class a lot to a lot of people who don't normally get a chance to do such.

But mostly, its because even as Dyss, I listen, and I think, and I learn.

The problem with the Assumptions is that they wants to include those who don't want to be included under their so called umbrella group.

Hi Dijon,

To that idea, I will be discussing the concepts of Affinity Groups and Identity Groups, as well as politics.

This, however, does not include either of those concepts.

In this case, being a member of that group does not reflect on your being described as a member of that group.

And that's the key point.

"they do not conform to societies expectations of how someone of their physiological sex assigned at birth is supposed to be in the culture they live in."

The question this definition raises is, should the concept of "trans" exist? Most of us can probably agree that societal expectations based on sex should not exist. So while yes, trans people exist, maybe they shouldn't have to be trans. Maybe they should really just be seen as and be able to identify as people, plain and simple.

I suppose I fall under agender. (Heck, I didn't even know there was a word for that.) Huh. I guess you really do learn something new every day.

Hi Michelle B,

This might surprise you, but, both personally and professionally, I do think it should exist.

I do not think it should be a limiting factor, but I do feel that it can be a useful and positive thing, linguisitically, to start with.

Which does not conflict with the fact thaty should always be seen as people. Because its inherent in the idea of them existing as a sort of person (just as being blonde or right handed is a sort of person, in terms of description).

Saying that Tom and Linda are people is absolutely true -- but if that's all we had, then we'd not be able to tell Tom from another Tom or Linda from another Linda. Hence the need for various descriptions.

They make the world a better place by emphasizing individuality and variance.

We just need to stop making individuality and variance something bad.

THanks for commenting, and congrats on finding a term that works for you :D

The first time I heard that I went "wtf?" and so I had to ask them about it. That led to cnversations with them and non-gender folks, and some of the other variations on that theme -- the differneces there varied from person to person, and I found that really interesting.

It also really got me to work on my willingness to use gender neutral pronouns. Cause I'm one of those inveterate binarists by nature...

I see your point about it just being a description, and you're right, but then there's still the problem of that pesky reality thing :P Unfortunately, stigmatization isn't going away anytime soon. :(

Anyway, gender-neutral identity or no, I can't say I'll drop the "she" anytime soon, since I really don't much care what pronouns people use for me so it'd just be finicky to go for gender-neutral ones.

That pesky reality thing is only a problem for cynics. Skepticism is healthier, and keeps you aware that things change all the time -- in small ways and large ones, fast and slow.

Stigma can be attached to anything -- and its base is always the greater problem. There is the stigma against the mentally ill, for example, which is, ultimately, based in privilege. It's amazing how quick that one kicks in.

Most of the stigma around LGBT issues is based in sexism, and so long as sexism, in any form, is allowed to be perpetuated on a cultural scale, it will remain.

But stigma comes in felt and enacted forms -- and we can control the felt stigma ourselves.

"She" works for me :D

Archie Semper | December 14, 2009 3:33 AM

Thanks for the clarifications, Antonia. After I posted my response, I realized (sheepishly) that I don't really think things are as cut and dried as I implied in my post. So there it is. It's just that the various aspects and intersections of sex, gender, gender identity, and gender roles are so damned complicated that I, and many others, look for the convenient shorthand versions that will allow us to explain ourselves to others or even explain ourselves to ourselves.

I enjoyed your post and look forward to more.

Toni,

I very much enjoyed reading your article and the comments.

All of it offered very mind-opening concepts to consume and savor, and then apply in practical matters of educating. I look forward to the continuation of this topic by you, and the comments they generate.

Regarding your response to Father Tony:

Yes, indeed, sir. In that definition, you are not only trans, you are cis, thanks to the joy of situational transness.

It's a lot like situational homosexuality. One can say that while in segregated situations, two men having sex are gay.

That it only exists for that particular time doesn't change the nature of being able to describe their relationship or activities as such, but it does not mean that it is applicable over the whole of their nature or existence on earth.

"Situational homosexuality" *could be* more generally considered as part of a concept of "situational sexuality," from the mental perspective of the participating partners.

Examples, specifically relative to Transwomen (but also similarly relative to other people) regarding sexual encounters between partners, with specific genitalia, and how those encounters *may be* perceived by the participants:

pre-op Transwoman/genetic female -> lesbian;
pre-op Transwoman/genetic male -> heterosexual;
pre-op Transwoman/pre-op Transwoman -> lesbian;
pre-op Transwoman/Transman -> heterosexual,
etc.

This could be another aspect to consider for your continuing discussion here.

I certainly feel that your article was the cause of a few personal epiphanies... like "oh wow!" :-D

Thank you, Toni.

Huggs,
jami

Toni,

I very much enjoyed reading your article and the comments.

All of it offered very mind-opening concepts to consume and savor, and then apply in practical matters of educating. I look forward to the continuation of this topic by you, and the comments they generate.

Regarding your response to Father Tony:

Yes, indeed, sir. In that definition, you are not only trans, you are cis, thanks to the joy of situational transness.

It's a lot like situational homosexuality. One can say that while in segregated situations, two men having sex are gay.

That it only exists for that particular time doesn't change the nature of being able to describe their relationship or activities as such, but it does not mean that it is applicable over the whole of their nature or existence on earth.

"Situational homosexuality" *could be* more generally considered as part of a concept of "situational sexuality," from the mental perspective of the participating partners.

Examples, specifically relative to Transwomen (but also similarly relative to other people) regarding sexual encounters between partners, with specific genitalia, and how those encounters *may be* perceived by the participants:

pre-op Transwoman/genetic female -> lesbian;
pre-op Transwoman/genetic male -> heterosexual;
pre-op Transwoman/pre-op Transwoman -> lesbian;
pre-op Transwoman/Transman -> heterosexual,
etc.

This could be another aspect to consider for your continuing discussion here.

I certainly feel that your article was the cause of a few personal epiphanies... like "oh wow!" :-D

Thank you, Toni.

Huggs,
jami