Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Should We Scrap the Word "Transgender"?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | January 03, 2010 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Harry Benjamin Syndrome, primary transsexual, transgender, transsexual

The definition of "transgender" is not universally agreed upon. Some define it very broadly, to include anyone with a history or a hint of gender variance. Women who like sports. Men who like to cook.

Some people take issue with this broad definition. In fact, some transsexual people don't like being included in the definition of transgender. They feel, not without some historical justification, that transsexual people who have sex reassignment surgery were beginning to gain traction in terms of legal rights -- to change gender markers on birth certificates and other government identification, and to enforce those changes in other areas of law, such as marriage. However, there was a move in the late 1980s and 1990s by academics to expand the concept of gender to cover a wider area. That move was largely successful, and many people now see gender and its cousin, gender identity, as covering a very broad swath of territory. The concept of "transgender" now covers every sort of gender variance, including transsexuals, crossdressers, genderqueers and others.

Some people feel that being placed in this catch-all category is obnoxious to them, and detrimental to obtaining their legal rights. You, dear reader, are probably gender-variant in some way, however small. Are you a man who appreciates fashion? Are you a woman who likes fixing her car? Would you have a problem with being called "transgender?"

Fair warning: This is a very contentious topic. If you're thin-skinned or can't restrain yourself from personal attacks, this is not the post for you. In fact, this post originated from a thread on another post, and I was hoping to attach the comments from that post here. But it turns out I can't. I'll put a link to them in the first comment. It was somewhat off topic from the subject of the other post, but it is a discussion that comes up over and over again on Bilerico and other sites. I thought it was time there was a post devoted to discussing this issue. I know that some people are tired of these discussions, and feel that they have been aired enough. But no one is constrained to read this post or its comments if they prefer not to. However, I note that sometimes this discussion becomes rancorous and mean, and I will moderate this post closely. Comments that use personal attacks will be edited or deleted.

Some transsexuals argue that biological studies indicate some differences between the brains of transsexuals and the sex attributed to them at birth. "Classic" or "true" transsexuals is sometimes a term used to refer to people who feel gender variant from a very young age, exhibit behavior and characteristics stereotypically attributed to the opposite sex from a young age (3-6 yrs), and who see to live as the opposite sex as soon as possible. When sex reassignment surgery was in its infancy, these were the only people allowed to access it.

At this point in time, however, many people have come to the realization that one does not necessarily need to exhibit these very specific circumstances in order to be a good candidate for sex reassignment surgery. Others have also expressed the feeling that, even though they do have these characteristics, they do not want or need sex reassignment surgery. They are happy to live part-time or full-time in a different gender role without such surgical intervention. They may or may not take cross-gender hormones. They are perfectly happy the way they are.

This reminds me of the problems that occur with other types of categorization. Is it right to call someone "Hispanic" who does not identify that way, and who has problems being associated with some of the other groups lumped in that category? After all, the term "Hispanic" was a term invented by the government, and it lumps together colonizers and the colonized. Is it right to insist that someone who identifies as multi-racial, but whose complexion is dark, must be okay with being considered "African-American?" If my mother was Jewish, and the traditional Jewish law considers me Jewish, is it right to insist that I am Jewish even if I consider myself a Christian?

The category "transgender" is now used by some to describe all of these identities. Some of the identities put under this umbrella are not happy about that. Is it unfair to lump them into a category of which they do not feel a part?

I myself am somewhat ambivalent about the term "transgender." I identify as a woman of transsexual experience. However, that doesn't compute for many people, and particularly in my work, I deal with a lot of people who need a quick and clear explanation of how to refer to people. Since there are dozens of identities used to describe various kinds of gender variance, I find it much easier simply to give a definition of transgender and then warn people that it's not exactly clear who's included and to use whatever identifier people prefer them to use. But it still causes me problems, because a lot of times when I tell people I'm transgender, the first thing out of their mouths is "what does that mean, exactly?" They have questions about birth sex and surgeries and hormones and birth names, and such.

I also like the term "transgender" because I do feel a kinship with other gender variant people on a political level. I feel that our fight for dignity and rights is the same, even though our identities may be a little different.

At the same time, however, Insisting on using the term "transgender" is a little like telling someone to call everyone who fits into a minority status "people of color." Yes, it's handy sometimes. But it erases people's identities and historical circumstances that are quite different. Insisting that Aleuts and African-Americans and Nigerians and Malays are all the same is not only incorrect, it's insulting.

Should we scrap the term "transgender"?

(Note: I spent a lot of time in my 2004 dissertation discussing these ambiguities. If you want to see it, it's here on page 17. If you have more interest in the subject, you should also read the book "Imagining Transgender" by Dr. David Valentine. )

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I don't care what terms people use. Maybe we should just focus on practicalities, and let the terms sort themselves out.

As long as anatomical males who "feel female inside" are allowed to appropriate women's spaces, privileges and legal status simply because they "present" (dress) as women, there will always be a pushback from the public. The public will always see the penis as a sexual threat, regardless of how one "identifies."

This is why that "T" of GLB will always hold you back.

I only see two solutions to change the public perception:

1) Convince the public that anatomical males who "feel female inside" are ordinary women who should have access to women's spaces and legal status


2) Allow only anatomical females access to female spaces and legal status, and make sure the public is aware of this restriction when passing bills, etc.

I have little hope for #1.

um... no?

I'm trans, I'm non-op, and will likely remain this way. I will not be excluded since some people are uncomfortable. I've clearly managed to 'restrain' myself from 'raping' everyone in sight thus far in my life, I think I can manage >.>...

If you pushed the anatomy law, they'd simply say even trans woman with srs arn't legit since they are missing some of the plumbing still *rolls eyes*

This sort of attitude is exactly why I, as a "true" or "classic" transsexual, don't mind allying with the transgender umbrella. We're all getting this kind of crap all the time, we might as well stand together against it.

I too am Transsexual and certainly at best I am some time away from SRS. As a practical aspect to this I can only ask what is the solution the public is willing to accept? Pay for Unisex bathrooms in all public areas, or allow those who have been diagnosed as Transsexual access to the area which they present as. We have a right under the law I believe to access to some public restroom it would seem. If the majority of people are uncomfortable with those who are Transsexual from using the existing male or female restroom according to how they present, then I suggest that it be required all public places also have a Unisex bathroom available. It however is funny it is always the thought of a genetic male who is Transsexual living as a female they show offense to and never a female to male Transsexual. Of course another possible solution would be to make a crime committed in a public restroom more severe in punishment. Then again there is some merit in the unisex bathroom idea as it might employ many construction workers adding all those unisex bathrooms and the related building supply companies.

Jill, personally I feel we need the word transgender, and what's more we not only need it desperately but we should do everything within our power to protect its use and its modern definition.

After years, decades, of explaining ourselves to everyone we meet, of having politicians credibly avoid dealing with our issues by claiming ignorance, we now have a word that is rapidly becoming as much as a concise, one-word, easy-to-remember definition of who and what we are to others as "gay" or "lesbian" have become in defining homosexual men and women.

In my opinion, we must do everything in our power to promote and cultivate that use and definition because it will lead to increased understanding, and therefore (hopefully) increased acceptance.

In a way, it is very similar to the way when those once popularly known as "blacks" and "negros" became commonly referred to with the inherently more respectful term "African-Americans" at the same as American culture as a whole was rapidly becoming more respectful toward racial and ethnic minorities.

The term "transgender", once popularly understood accurately, gives those outside our community a way to understand the basics of who and what we are (i. e. people who defy cultural gender norms in certain ways) without a long explanation each time. While we may debate and parse the intricacies of what it is to be transgender amongst ourselves, if we can see "transgender" become a social and cultural definer in the same way "African-American", "Hispanic", "gay", or "lesbian" have become I believe it will serve us well politically over the long term.

Very good point, Rebecca. Let me post here an anonymous quote, and a big huzzah to anyone who guesses the author: "For the most part, feminist theory has assumed that there is some existing identity who constitutes the subject for whom political representation is pursued. But representation is a controversial term. On the one hand, representation serves as the operative term within a political process that seeks to extend visibility and legitimacy as political subjects; on the other hand, representation is the normative function of a language which is said to distort what is assumed to be true about the category." Two huzzahs if you can tell me what it means and how it relates to our subject here today. Class is in sess-shun.


Political representation of an identity requires both the construction and reification of the identity's terms, even at the expense of excluding individuals or bodies. Representation presents a paradox: it excludes as it includes.

Huzzah, huzzah, Leo! Yes, Butler it is. So if representation always both includes and excludes, how can minorities obtain political power without internecine battles?

That is the question, no?

In the same piece from which the quote comes, Butler proposes 'provisional unities' through coalitional work, which I read as your/our work here, on the streets, contacting Congressional representatives, etc. 'Transgender', then, is a workable.

Reform, reform, I guess? Radicalism is so glam and gritty--destroy the language! J/K. What else might there be?

You suggest coalition-building, Leo, but Butler herself says that despite the democratizing impulse that motivates it, the coalitional theorist can inadvertently reinsert herself as sovereign of the process, by trying to assert an ideal form for coalitional structures. That is the exact problem we are hashing out here. How can transgender advocates create a coalition by pre-determining the placement of transsexuals within the coalition? How can transsexual advocates create a coalition by rejecting the placement of transgender people? You can create an argument by this means, but not a real coalition.

Thanks for the clarification. I didn't realize we were talking about transsexuals feeling disenfranchised.

And, as if on cue, Leo, Suzan comes in with a great comment that makes my point about the problem with coalition building where there is no agreement as to the subject. She calls the insistence that all transsexuals yield to the category "transgender" hegemonic and colonizing. She cites the following great example: "as though gay men continued to fight with lesbians by insisting "Gay" covers both gay men and lesbians so there is no need
to recognize the needs of lesbians as differing from gay men." But I would hesitate to assume that the difference is only in the naming. Even if we were to create the LGBT&T coaltion, naming both transsexual and transgender, we would still be faced with the problem of "umbrella" terms that shield the plants underneath from the life-giving water they need.

This is a brilliant post. I really don't have anything to contribute, because I'm only 17 and have met only 1 transgender person in my life so far. But you should be commended, this is SUCH a good post.

Thanks for your comment, Marie. I understand your concerns, and I think they do indeed pose a conundrum. But there are also problems with your #2 proposal. First, in order for a transsexual to obtain sex reassignment surgery, he or she must first live for a year in the new gender. How do you propose that we should handle that?

Second, the state of the art for FTM surgery is not as good as the state of the art for MTF surgery. Partly for this reason, many FTMs do not opt for phalloplasty. How should we handle that situation? Your proposal would forever bar them from men's spaces.

The year or so of transition is awkward. But I survived it, as have many others. I used women's rooms once I was being perceived as a female consistently, but I accepted the risk of being "caught" when I did so. It wasn't my "right" to be in there, but it was a necessary evil for me.

I understand the F2M problem, but even they often take some sort of permanent step to being male aside from SRS, such as breast reduction. Something beyond a whim or "feeling," some sense of commitment and permanency to our target sex.

I don't think we'll ever be ever have the public understand the difference in terminology. What they might pay attention to however, such as when trying to pass ENDA with the T part, are provisions which segregate people according to physical sex, rather than their "presentation."

When "we" push for legal status of sex being nothing more than a feeling + the clothes we're wearing that day, the public will never take us seriously.

The reverse of this, though, is that defining trans nondiscrimination solely on the basis of anatomical femaleness opens up ALL trans women - pre-op, post-op and non-op - to humiliation and worse, as the only way to prove one's anatomical femaleness without question is to drop trou.

What's under my pants is NOBODY'S business but mine and my partner's.

You're not kidding, Katie B., about dropping trou. In 2001, I wanted to go to France with my boyfriend, but I couldn't get a passport with an F on it because my surgery wasn't yet scheduled. I looked female and my name was changed with an "AKA" on the passport, and I was extremely worried about getting stopped and humiliated at the airport. (This was pre-9/11.) I contacted then-Senator Clinton's office and asked for their advice. They referred me to the French Consulate. The French consulate made me go to a doctor to examine my genitals. I was outraged, and protested to Senator Clinton's office. But neither of us were sure what to do, and I really wanted to go to Paris. Ultimately, I went for the exam and the doc wrote something inscrutable in French on a letter that I was to carry with me while I was in France.

I'd forgotten about that. What do you think of that?

You are incorrect.

Long before it was you and your partner's business, it was at one point the business of a doctor somewhere.

And medical records follow you. Gender markers being one.

It's not clear what your point is, Anonymous T-Girl. Can you explain?

This is the second thread you've done this with me.

My response was not directed toward you. Read the comments.

It's not just trans women who would be victimized. Many intersex people would get caught too.

Get someone to pay for my GRS and I'll go along with anything.

Just kidding. But seriously, we can't even consider making anatomical femaleness the standard until the process by which it is possible is commonly available to anyone who needs it. Until then, Marie's #1 is our only option. Period.

Do I understand correctly that you suggest, on the one hand, that people in transition should act as if they were of their target gender, but on the other hand also consider it reasonable for the society at large to accept only post-op transsexuals? This sounds pretty scary.

In essence, it accepts and even agrees with the commonly presented claim that transsexuals are deceivers: under this interpretation, this would be exactly the case during transition. Such a position would have all manner of nasty implications, like making it harder to fight 'trans panic' arguments or get support for pre-op rape victims.

I think that the term is a keeper but it is always going be a source of contention.

I agree that it's obnoxious to try shoehorning everyone under a "transgender" label even when they don't want to be there. I identify as transgender, I do not intentionally refer to other people as such if they don't. I also agree that any overarching umbrella label has the potential to erase experiences. Transgender can, people of color can, queer can, etc.

Still, I have a difficult relationship with people who appear to predominate the non-transgender-transsexual/HBS movement (I don't know if they actually predominate, I am only speaking from my own experience). When one says, for example, that a changing opinion about what sex and gender are un-doing the headway made by transsexuals legally it gives off an impression that transsexuals are worth more headway than transgender people. An attitude that I should just be quiet so transsexuals can get married is strongly offensive, and I see too much of that. Certainly some of that is a product of too-zealous slapping of the transgender label on everyone, but how much of that is garden-variety "my rights come first" thinking we're all susceptible to?

Did I actually read a justification for deliberately taking away progress from a specific group to drag them down from what they had achieved?

Are you familar with the story of the fox and the sour grapes? Do you think for one minute that pulling a group down elevates you?

This is one of the main problems with the term "transgender" and the dogmatic nature used to promote it. Can you actually understand the position you just took?

This is an interesting point, Radical B, and Judith Butler agrees with you. She says that we can't provide "representation" for our group (whoever "we" may be) because representation seeks to extend visibility and legitimacy but, by that very act of extension, we must shape the category, which is going to thereby distort it from what it was originally.

There is no representation without distortion. The question is how much distortion is okay and whose ox it gores.

Arggh! I was going to guess Judith Butler as I hadn't heard that quote but it was just as impenetrable to me as anything I've tried to read by her.

When it comes to gender theory I'm more of a Kate Bornstein kinda gal.

Let me make this clearer...what was said was essentially the same as if I said women should have the vote taken away, the civil rights act should be repealled and I should be able to own a slave until same sex marriage is legalized...same reasoning exactly.

Jillian, if you parsed meaning out of Butler you should give up law and take up cryptography. All most of us take away is "gender bad", flower pretty.

Oh, I laughed hard at that..gender bad flower pretty. Thanks, I needed that. As far as cryptography, you're almost right. I have, as you know, devoted some attention to this, and written a little monograph on the ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar, and cigarette tobacco. No wait, now I'm quoting someone else. But actually I did devote some time to the study of Butler in grad school, and she is actually using a different language - the language of comparative rhetoric championed by such inscrutables as J.L. Austin. She didn't intend to write for a general audience, and was totally shocked when her work was hailed as the beginnings of queer theory. In interviews, she has said she never thought of such a thing.

In any event, however, what Jackson said was that there was an implications that transsexual identity is more important than transgender identity, and that was offensive. I don't think the statement bears the weight of your heavy interpretation, suggesting that Jackson was calling for the repeal of all transsexual rights. No one is suggesting that transsexuals be denied any rights that currently exist. But in contending for new rights, we should go together.

"Insisting that Aleuts and African-Americans and Nigerians and Malays are all the same is not only incorrect, it's insulting."

Is it still incorrect or insulting if you look at the term as not implying that they're the same, but that they have something in common? A common link - whether that link exists in racial discrimination, gender variance, or eye colour - isn't necessarily evidence that all people who share that link are the same, it's merely a commonality between them. There are massive differences between people with blue eyes, and I'm sure you could find quite a few people throughout the world with nothing in common but their eye colour. Do all German people feel insulted when called German because the term "lumps them in" with Hitler? Having something in common with someone doesn't necessarily associate you with them. So what's the problem with using a less specific definition for gender variance that creates a common link between more people? The use of the word transgender doesn't render the term transsexual obsolete, it's just a more specific term.

Good point Michelle. You're right that it's not insulting if it's used to indicate commonality. But what about if it's used to insist on commonality? I use the term "people of color" with some caution, particularly as I'm not a person of color. I don't shy away from using it when it is appropriate, but it's not a word like "marble" or "sitting." It can be insulting if used without being aware of its potential to insult. If I told an African-American that he or she should not be opposed to affirmative action programs being open to all people of color because we live in a post-racial society, I better know how to duck. (I do not mean to imply that all African-Americans would be opposed to the idea. But I am sensitive to the fact that some might be, and understandably so, whatever my own opinion on the matter may be.)

It's context sensitive.

Here's the problem as I see it, aside from your theoretical speculations about nomenclature:

Right now, today, in 2010, we're asking the U.S. Congress to pass a law to ban discrimination against a group we can't clearly define.

(No wonder the religious right can so easily scare legislators away from ENDA by warning about offices being forced to hire drag queens as receptionists and small businesses having to incur expenses of additional restrooms for all the "he-shes" they'll be forced to hire!)

Yes, I know that a more-or-less consensus has been reached within our "community" (whatever the hell that is) about including the T's (however they're defined) in ENDA because ENDA should be for everyone who's not in the hetero majority of Americans. Okay, fine: But why should we demand that Congress grant rights to an indefinite group of people?

Honestly, folks, wouldn't it have made sense to hold off on protections for T's (as opposed to L's and G's and maybe even B's) until we could clearly and unequivocally define who we're talking about?

It's pretty well defined, K. Here's what the ENDA legislation says:

The term `gender identity' means the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth.

I think it's pretty clear. You just don't like it. :)

In fact, there is little problem with the bathrooms in reality, as I discussed in detail in a previous post on this issue: click here to see http://www.bilerico.com/2009/10/arguments_against_enda_-_are_we_ready_part_iv.php

As the language of the prohibition demonstrates, ENDA is similar to most civil rights statutes in that it does not define protected groups. Rather it defines prohibited conduct.

It does not matter how groups or individuals label themselves or are labeled. If they are victims of the prohibited conduct, they are protected. Period.

Title VII prohibits, inter alia, race discrimination against any individual -- whether white, black asian, native american, or anything else. Similarly, ENDA will prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, whether the victim is transgender, transsexual, a person with corrected genitalia, a gay man, a lesbian, or a person as straight as an arrow.

I think this is a key point as I have seen many comments on other blogs opposing ENDA on the ground that it would force unwanted identification of certain individuals with certain other groups. It does nothing like that. It simply protects all from a certain kind of discrimination.

OTOH, on the original topic, I think there are serious ethical problems trying to force unwanted identification of persons for political reasons.

"Honestly, folks, wouldn't it have made sense to hold off on protections for T's (as opposed to L's and G's and maybe even B's) until we could clearly and unequivocally define who we're talking about?"

Nope, civil rights for EVERYONE. Do we need a definition? OK... Civil rights for HUMANS.

I would love to read some more about those biological/brain studies of transsexuals. I found the case citation in your dissertation, but not the study or studies.

Sometimes as scientific studies attempt to locate biological differences around identities, questions of authenticity within identity emerge. Am I 'transexual' or 'transgender' enough?

Thanks, nice post!

Re your question about the brain studies, Leo, you can see one of the MRI studies here: http://bit.ly/50g94c

I'm aware of some small-sample studies, some post-mortem and some MRI with living subjects. The post-mortems have had different results from the MRIs, though both claim that there are cerebral differences in MTFs. Then there is the study showing there is a genetic difference in some FTMs. My area of research is the workplace, and I don't pretend to be up on all the biological research. But when I read these studies, they only show that there is a difference in cerebral pattern in transsexuals, not that these cerebral differences account for the gender identity. I'm not saying it doesn't, but I don't think it's been prove that it does.

The conclusions reached in those post-mortem studies, from what I recall, is that the basal ganglion of the stria terminalis in MTF brains was closer in size to those of females than males, and this could not be caused by taking estrogen after birth because the size of the area is not affected by post-natal hormones. But the major problem is that no one knows what the function of the stria terminalis is. I'm not sure that this information is any more telling than noting that my feet and hands are closer to the relative size of female hands and feet than to the size of most male's hands and feet. That doesn't make me a woman.

The MRI studies, to the contrary, did not show any difference in the BSTc, thus contradicting the post-mortem studies. Instead, they showed a difference in the amount of gray matter in the right putamen. Well, what is the right putamen? It seems to control movement and certain types of learning. But there is nothing at this point to connect it to gender identity.

I know that Zoe Brain has a list with lots of studies on it. I'll have to go look it up. And there's a whole blog and website devoted to the subject, called TS-Si

Let me see if I can find them and post them here.

Wonderful resources! Thanks


Here's the website I mentioned before: ts-si.org

And here's Zoe Brain's blog on brain studies: click here

Oh, and this list too.

I personally don't have a problem with the word transgender. It isn't the most accurate self description for me; as an androgyne or non binary gendered person with trans history; however, for the same reason that Dr. Weiss stated of needing one word to quickly communicate to those outside the greater LGBTTQI community, it often suffices. If we as a community adopt a different word, I'll use it.

During the last couple of years I have made attempts; some successful, some not; to engage in respectful dialog with people who wish to separate transsexual from transgender, and have come to an understanding of their reasoning for this. I fully support their wishes to not be misidentified by others, and to separate from transgender if they so choose.

I feel that what we're seeing now is somewhat similar to when lesbians wanted to separate from gay men, as opposed to being identified under the gay umbrella.

Where I see use for an umbrella, or a community of diverse people joining together, is creating strength in numbers in our struggle for full equality. Many issues are shared. Adding gender identity and expression to anti discrimination laws isn't just for trans people, these protect everyone; gay, lesbian, bi and straight.

I've made similiar comparasions concerning the TG/TS and the Lesbian and Gay issues.

Yes, umbrellas provide strength, but as was the case in the early days of LG rights, you have to be partners, not coopted populations.

The Lesbians, back in the day, were co-opted and frquently had no voice. By developing a separate Lesbian identity, an identity that in many places, such as Paris, the Lesbians possessed long before the Gay Rights Movement submerged it, we stood on our own and were able to offer a partnership with the Gay male community, equals, not subordinates. We had and have a voice, spokespeople, leaders. That is why we have an NCLR, that organisation speaks for us as LESBIANS.

In the Gay community, we still have some significant disacccomodation, even to the music in the clubs. By and large, Lesbians like jazz, like dancing holding a partner. The gay men prefer a wholly different kind of music.

Other than the babydyke bar in NYC known as Henrietta's, the Lesbian clubs, were until recently jazz piano bars(Julies uptown) and places that you had to know about to even find. But most areas cannot support separate Lesbian establishments, at least outside of larger cities and we find our own cultural preferences submerged. A petty complaint compared to the issues of trans-identity, I know, but some similiarities exist.

For the TS community to get out of under the umbrella, in the end, will require a Transsexual organisation in alliance with other LGBT structures that simultaneously stands primarily for TS rights and concerns. This needs to be done, for this TG/TS battle, honestly, weakens the whole LGBT community with the discordant goals, objectives and philosophies.

It is time, in fact long overdue, for a separation based upon respect of mutual legitimacy and keeping close alliances to cure this chronic and at times debilitating ailment in the LGBT body politic.

What you've described in your last two paragraphs is definitely the kind of separation I can get behind without reservation. If it were presented this way (with the emphasis on continued alliance without appropriation), I think it would clear up a lot of people's concerns. :)

Well, the obvious beginning would be for the Transsexuals to form an organisation

My experience has been that such organizations haven't worked, and I have seen several in operation. What I've seen is that most people with transsexual history want to fade into the woodwork, and the few that remain bite each others' heads off with continual bickering and backbiting, and trying to keep the center spotlight on themselves. The few transsexuals with money want no part of it. If we could get some serious people who understand organizing, and some funding, it might be worthwhile. But I wouldn't count on it any time soon.

And don't count on me here either. Some of the HBS crowd are almost as bad as the TGs with homophobia, heteronormacy and even religious bigotry. I washed my hands of this as far as blogging, just limiting myself now to comments occasionally to float random bottles with some rational thought on the ocean of insanity.

Several have pushed me to finish the book on trans everything from a feminist viewpoint and I might do so but you will have to wait until I'm safely dead to read it as I would not publish it while I'm alive. I might be a slow learner in some things but I have no desire to resume sleeping with a loaded 357 under my pillow again.

This is a very interesting topic. I would like all transgender folks to be under the same umbrella so that we all benefit from anti-discrimination laws and are able to live our lives the way we want or need to. I am a pre-op transexual woman (presenting androgynous at this time) and often think about all of this. I do feel weird using the men's bathroom but for now I am in that limbo state and just deal with it. But as I travel further down my path I will one day be presenting as a female and it wouldn't be safe for me to use the men's room (even though I would still have male parts in my panties). Even though my male parts are pretty much useless except for peeing.

Would it make it easier if laws were more targetted at the transexual? It probably would because the bathroom issue would not be as much of an issue. But then we would be leaving everyone else out. I am willing to fight a harder battle to make sure we all get the rights we deserve.

hugs to everyone!

Actually, I have.

I use transgender with a specific meaning. While still an umbrella, it is not *the* umbrella.

In general, I use Trans or gender variant.

I identify as Dyssonance or Antonia.

I can be described as all manner of things, which people tend to do willy nilly.

Incidentally, I am a woman of color, and damn proud of it. It is not an aspect of identity for me, however.

It is one of description.

Some good points, there, Antonia. But I wonder whether using "trans" avoids the problem that "transgender" raises. After all, "trans" is another way of creating an umbrella, and some people are allergic to umbrellas.

Well, aside from the obvious "those who are allergic to umbrellas get wet when it rains" point, lol, I should point out that I did actually address that.

Trans can be adopted as an identity -- *anything* can be adopted as an identity. Left handed shoe tiers is an identity.

It is not, however, what I use it as. It is a descriptive, nothing more and nothing less, and underlying all the various parts of the arguments going on here is the clash between how one is percieved by the world outside one's self, and how one perceives one's self.

I'm generally staying out of this for a wide number of reasons, but chief among them is the conflation of Personal Identity with Social Description.

The two things are not the same, and so long as people conflate the two, they will not come to any sort of peace.

I must admit, Antonia, that I don't understand how separating personal identity from social description is going to help the fact that some post-operative transsexuals don't want inclusive legislation to pass and don't like inclusive language. I don't think it matters whether you call your inclusive nomenclature "trans" instead of "Transgender". They don't want no part of inclusion. Some go beyond that, and appear not to recognize that I have a right to support inclusive language and legislation.

"...the fact that some post-operative transsexuals don't want inclusive legislation to pass and don't like inclusive language."

It's not just post-operatives. Or operatives period.

Just to be clear.

Yes you have that "right". Just as we have the right to fight it. That's politics.

Social description is not an inclusive structure. Inclusiveness, as a whole, belongs to identity.

Marja Erwin | January 3, 2010 6:20 PM

I think grouping transsexualism within transgenderism misrepresents part of the range of transsexual experiences. We ought to recognize at least two overlapping categories, and stop shoehorning one into the other.

Sex, of course, refers to the various elements of biological sex from the cellular level, to the brain, to the rest of the body. It's bimodal but not binary.

Gender, of course, refers to certain social roles. Gender is between your neighbors. Describing transsexualism as part of transgenderism says that if trans* people could live in our preferred roles, then transsexual people wouldn't transition. It invites, nay demands, opposition to medical transition.

I associated trans*ness with reifying gender and reinforcing patriarchal gender roles. And I held up my own transition for years because of this nonsense.

I agree with you, Marja, that there is a tension between the ideas of "transsexuality" and "transgenderism." I have often confronted the notion that if I were really open to gender fluidity, that I would not have had SRS. Therefore, according to this notion, I must be a reductionist, essentialist, anti-feminist because I chose to have SRS and would do so again.

But, in fact, I am open to gender fluidity. Just not as an identity for myself. It is those who insist on defining my identity that are not open.

So that is why I have a problem with your statement that we cannot describe transsexualism as any part of transgenderism. But I agree with your point about the circles overlapping. The circles overlap. They're not on top of one another, not inside one another, nor totally separate. They overlap.

I think we can say that transsexuality and transgenderism are related, even though they are different.

Marja Erwin | January 3, 2010 7:25 PM

If gender did not exist, if people did not have one set of roles and expectations for men and another set of roles and expectations for womyn, I don't think transgenderism could exist. I think transsexualism in its various forms would exist, including non-binary as well as binary transsexualism.

Marja Erwin | January 3, 2010 7:31 PM

Of course there are problems with hypotheticals like "if gender did not exist." However, whatever remains would be part of transsexualism.

Respectfully, one can be existentialist and feminist(Irigaray Ciouxous, Kristevea).

Further, an existentialist feminist philisophy probably comes closest, outside of histological neuroanatomy, to explain the transsexual phenomena.

My best;
(pupil of existentialist feminism)

Bingo Marja,

First everyone is "transgender" Next the public is "educated" that not everyone needs surgical correction to change their sex (ignoring that sex has a specific meaning to most people that does involve expectations of what is or isn't in one's panties) Next any mention of transsexuality is pretty much erased, any attempts to separate met with fierce opposition. The results are what should be expected and in fact we are starting to see, denial that corrective surgery is a lifesaving requirement for someone born transsexual.

As for those who are transsexual who claim no need for surgical intervention.....wait a few years until the steadily increasing crisis arrive...then it's opps. One benefit of having observed trans people for a longer period of time is these things start to become apparent.

A female neurology will always eventually reject a male anatomy....the eventually part is important because oft overlooked is the element of time.

So by all means lets "educate" that surgery is optional.....doesn't matter much to me but it will be someone else's life down the road.

Finally let's consider that "transgender" was based on terminology that was extremely transsexual-phobic (the transsexual hating Charlie Prince) in the first place and "gender" being malleable is based on the single John Money John-Joan case exposed as a total fraud but still seems to inform those who promote this mistaken idea.

So, a term that began as an insulting separation to those who now reject it that has no scientific reality (gender identity is fixed at almost the same moment of pre-natal development as sexual orientation) is the preferred term?

As Agent K said in Men in Black II "This is a clear case of go home and do it over again".

Excellent points. My first comment on this is that it is pretty well established historically Prince did not use the term "transgender" as an umbrella term. Prince wanted to establish an identity separate from that of transsexual that involved living in a different gender role without surgical intervention. And in that sense, I think the two of you would have agreed that the separation between the two identities makes sense.

The use of the term "transgender" was later co-opted by academia, using it as a catchall for all types of gender variance, including transsexuals. I don't think Prince was down with that idea at all.

Also, re the John Money John-Joan case, which everyone agrees was an unmitigated disaster, was based on his wrong-headed idea that gender identity can be changed by raising the child in the desired gender. If that were true, then there would be no transsexuals, because everyone would follow the gender identity of rearing. We know that's not true. But that doesn't automatically mean that gender identity is totally fixed, does it?

I have done a lot of learning, and changing my mind, about the term "transgender" since the point when I realized my gender issues were serious and not something I could safely leave in my fantasy life.

Ever since I realized I needed to transition, I have called myself "transsexual," not "transgendered." I was born with an anatomically male body, and my brain (and thus me, my personality) doesn't go for that. I am on the verge of having that rectified so that my body will be anatomically female. That means I will change my biological sex (since we can't yet take brain sex into account when determining biological sex). Thus, transsexual.

I'm not changing my gender. I've transgressed gender norms in the past, but these days, like you, I'm pretty conservative and kind of stuck in the gender binary. That's just me. It's how I feel happiest.

I tend to use the term "gender variant" rather than "transgender," because for me it's more specific. I don't consider myself to be either gender variant or transgender. However, I can understand the need for a label to include all those who currently suffer from prejudice in a similar way. Despite being someone who blends well, I could still be fired if my history were known, same as a gender-variant person could be fired. Prejudice does not make the fine distinctions we do.

I admit to some prejudice of my own when it comes to gender expression, as opposed to gender identity. Protection for gender expression always seems to be a can of worms to me, and certainly a sticking point for any equal protection legislation.

One of the biggest problems for transgender as an identity is that it is behaviorally based identity, such as The Teamsters Local 1052, not based on a condition of being. People think of core identity as a state of being, not as a behavior. Transgender as a sex or gender is a syntax error, a grammar foible. But that is exactly how people in the outside world percieve transgender, regardless of the wishes of those who bear the label willingly.

So we get "identities" that are part time, identities that are based around sexual behavior to the exclusion of everything else that makes us who we really are. This is why "identifying" as a crossdresser, or a transwoman, or whatever, strikes people as false. People don't "identify as", people simply are. When you use this phrase what the general public hears is that you are playing a game with them, and most people would rather not.

Perhaps the most pernicious element of transgender, and this is something that has to be addressed, is that it requires fetish behavior be treated on par with the way people are born as men or women. (the syntax error in action)

As long as Transgender includes "transvestite" as a co-equal state of being with man or woman, it will fail.

I understand what you're saying, Aria, and I would agree regarding pure behavior not being the same. However, identities do engender behavior. A religious Jewish man wears a yarmulke (skull cap) and a religious Muslim woman wears a headscarf, but those behaviors don't cancel out the identity.

I identified as a crossdresser for a long time, hoping against hope that I would not have to transition. In the end, I was unsuccessful in that. But in my case there was an identity underneath the behavior.

I'm not saying that all crossdressing behavior has a gender identity beneath it. But I think the language of "fetish" is a word without any other meaning except to identify the behavior as sexual and undeserving of serious consideration.

I'll take Quotable Quotes Dr. Weiss for the Win!

"Who is Judith Butler" the quote above was from "Gender Trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity." It was also quoted in the "Continental Feminism Reader" by Ann Cahill And Jen Hansen.

Oddly enough, in context while the subjects being discussed, and the terms being used are different, the concept is functionally identical. In short they were debating, as the creatures of the RACE "Homo Sapiens" tend to do terms and their place in a discussion of rights. Wow, Deja vu no?

Curiously this battle as evinced by the ongoing debate between first and second wave feminists is on going. One might even say it the the difference between Primary Feminism and Secondary Feminism. (She says with tongue firmly in cheek.

So now, I'm going to take a step to the side after a fashion. In a comment on the other thread in question Zoe, whom I adore, for her material is often spot and and well thought out speaks of her personal distaste of entrails, but will defend with her last breath, someone else's right to enjoy them for a fight for their rights, is a fight for anyone's rights, and by extension her own.

I think Glenn Beck, and Ron Gold have an essential right to say whatever they please within the limitations of common decency and not suborning violence toward others. Cross that line as in the case of that pastor in AZ, and folks will have to stand in line as I gently place that pastor in protective custod, cut off from the ears and minds of anyone who might fall victim to his hate speech.

So of the ongoing conversation of Transgender I will say only this. I tend to agree that it has set back in an overall sense the push for equality. For example, one school of thought says GLB people did nothing wrong, and have been fighting the good fight longer, and thus should not be saddled with the T and have their rights wait.

Let's look at that a moment. In the 70s & 80s I was described as a Militant Radical Lesbian Feminist by a woman I was engaged to as reasons for breaking up with me. She knew somehow if her mother even saw me in the same room as her, she'd be outed as a lesbian. She wasn't ready for that. During that same period of time I was firmly of the opinion that ALL MEN were evil, should be beaten regularly and kept in cages. If taken out of the cage the should be kept on a short leash. I was, if not in terms of person identification, in terms of presentation just exactly what I was accused of being. A Militant Radical Lesbian Feminist.

Presentation in those days? That's the funny part, folks all thought I was male. I'd worked really, really, really, hard to get there. Why? Because that's what my mentally ill father quite literally beat into my head from a dozen years from the time I was five until he threw me out of the house at seventeen. What was between my legs, or in my head and heart never came up because I'd had damn near killed myself trying to play the part.

Along came the 90s and the growing pressure to stop the madness, and my increasing desire to be accepted for who I really am, and not the morass of expectations thrust upon me. By the late 90s I married a wonderful man who promised to love and cherish me, who swore that he'd watch my six and defend it with his life against all comers as I would his as well raised a family and grew old together fed & protected by our intense and abiding love for each other. For a while it was everything I'd ever imagined love to be, and it had the novelty of being the only man I'd ever dated, let alone loved enough to legally marry.

Then he raped me. I said no, I'm not in the mood, he said F***U bitch and did what HE wanted.

Things did not improve from there. He got increasingly more violent and abusive as I begged and pleaded for counseling. But I didn't leave him when I should have, and the harder he cracked that whip, the higher I jumped. But I could do nothing right. I wasn't making enough money to satisfy his, or his parents demands, but I was making more than double what HE was and he hated me for that. I was making a very nice six figure income as an IT consultant, but that wasn't good enough because I wasn't employed as a full time direct employee, because there was no future as a consultant of course. Didn't matter that I was in demand all over the country and making money hand over fist. Didn't matter in the end WHAT I did, even when his own life of stress and excess cost him his kidneys. I them began waiting on him hand and foot, my past life in medicine coming in handy as I regularly performed live saving medical procedures on him at home. Dialysis, IV meds and care instead of having a VNA come in, even restarted his heart after he had a heart attack in front of me. All the while asking where the love had gone. What else could I do so that he'd love me again. Oh God I was asking for so much from him. Just a little bit of emotional support, a hug now and then, and a cessation of the violence against me. I'd long since stopped gently pushing to get him to get up off the couch, eat less crap, turn the TV off and get personally involved in his own health care. Nope, I just wanted a hug, I would have kept on dealing with the abuse. I just wanted to know that somewhere in that withered and damaged heart, the flicker of love for me still burned, that I was still a person worthy of love.

I didn't care what he called me. I was that starved for love, compassion and someone on my side, even if only an illusion to keep me going. When I finally had to ASK him, really BEG him for a hug, crying like a frightened five year old, something snapped. When next he was at a crisis point I tried to make changes. His evil parents canceled the psyc consult I'd ordered after we had to hospitalize him again for failure to thrive. Anyone who knows anything about medicine knows that diagnosis code is only used on the very young (infants) and the very old. On a 41 year old person in the United States? It was a first, but it stuck, because that WAS his condition.

His parents insisted he come home with them, he and they cleaned out the bank accounts and took anything of value from our home of many years and fled across state lines. I tried to make it work even after that. Their conditions for his return were ridiculous, but I kept trying. I'd started therapy as a battered wife, and finally after some months of this, and a deteriorating financial condition because HE insisted on control of everything, I was forced to file for divorce on the ground of abuse.

Oh that didn't go over well at all.

More after the break...

I'm glad you brought this up.

Transsexual has no natural affinity with transgender and while one insists that the sexual label is shoehorned into the gender label, there is going to be tension at least.

If folks want support from transsexuals then they should change their attitude.

For a transsexual the presence of any male sex markers on their anatomy is a source of extreme mental pain and anguish. SRS and occasionally FSRS is not an optional accessory but vital to survival.

The association of the two transsexual and transgender, is like trying to equate chalk with cheese. Forcing transsexual into transgender for the sake of economy of vocabulary is and always has been not just wrong but obscene.

I am transsexual and I feel oppressed and violated by the arrogant assumption on the part of those pushing the political identity of transgender as umbrella. I feel included the same way Palestine is included by Israel.

It is a hegemonic colonization on the part of those who identify as transgender that erases the differences between those of us who have sex reassignment surgery and those who do not for what ever reason.

The anger this violation has caused makes it difficult if not impossible for us to work together as equals something that could be remedied by using transsexual and transgender.

As it stands it is as though gay men continued to fight with lesbians by insisting "Gay" covers both gay men and lesbians so there is no need to recognize the needs of lesbians as differing from gay men.

Not all of us who are adamant regarding our rejection of the transgender label call name and refuse to work for common goal although the violation of our being on the part of transgender activist makes that working together difficult.

Good point, Suzan. As a long-time activist, Suzan, I'm wondering what you would suggest at this point to recognize the difference between transsexual and transgender. I'm not sure how to go about retracting the expansion of "transgender" into an "umbrella" term.

I have to say that one problem I have long felt that contributes to this is the radical disjunction between "sex" and "gender," as if one is unrelated and totally distinct from the other, freefloatingin the air, as it were. In fact, I just wrote a law review article arguing that the radical separation between the two causes some major legal problems for trans people. It's here But I'm not real hopeful about putting the toothpaste back in the tube.

It is less about the differences and more about the recognition that there is no such thing as the "Transgender community" and instead like the rest of the LGBQ alphabet there are many communities.

None of which particularly enjoy being erased any more than lesbians enjoyed being erased by the use of "Gay" as the inclusive umbrella term.

I am both a historian and a participant in that particular history having pickets what was then "The LA Gay community Services Center" in support of the lesbians who were on strike.

They were no more separatist than are many WBTs. The struggle wasn't to destroy the center but rather one of having their varied interests recognized.

On my blog these days I sort of get it from both sides. Those who want me to accept the label transgender and from those who wish me to side with those pushing HBS.

I stopped letting people sucker me into the no win fights that just sap energy when the win-win is to go with TS/TG or transgender and transsexual.

This is particularly true since it seems like most people, even those supporting transgender as umbrella claim to be one sort of transsexual or other from non-op to classical.

I was influenced a lot in my thinking when I went to the Forward Motion Conference in Burbank some ten years back and saw all the differently identified F to M folks. But I realized there were different M to F categories some 40 years back when I was involved with the National Transsexual Counseling Unit and we couldn't get those queens who would be described as transgender in the original sense of the word to even drop into the center when the same services being offered to transsexuals would have equally benefited them.

This I know from involvement in various movements. Getting bogged down in arguing identities is a way of avoiding working on issues.

If various groups are unwilling to give recognition of different identities the chances of getting them to pull together on any one issue becomes slim.

I'm not clear on what you mean either. Does this refer to being assigned a sex at birth? Because that's not really the doctor's business, either, though they make that choice anyway, mostly for historical reasons.

Here's the punchline. Right up until I filed for divorce, I'd been presenting as Male.

Right up until Earl I'd been exclusively lesbian. In those early days, while I didn't identify as a Militant Radical lesbian Feminist, that is what I was. In retrospect, nearly a Rabid, Militant Radical Lesbian Feminist. I didn't even consider men, regardless of what they were wearing to be even of the same race as we were. We, as in Women of course. But I played the game, and the part, in the hopes I could work from inside the Patriarchy to effect positive change, after all there had to be some positive aspect of the part I was playing right?

Neither then, or now, do I embrace terms. I cannot honestly consider myself Lesbian because the horror of it, having had a taste of man, just once, I find that I am no longer exclusively female focused. So I'm in that horrible nether region of being "B" oh dear, the horror. Why? Because for years Bi was a filthy word denoting a mixed up sick individual who either could not, or worse, would not, pick one and stay with it. Both Gays and Lesbians considered Bi men and women to be less than human. Regrettably some still do. Plus I'm of the firm belief that who I sleep with or why is no ones business but those I sleep with. Otherwise it's nonsense that EXCLUDES people.

Should Transgender be done away with? YES!!! But not perhaps for the reasons some might argue. Yes, I personally have my own issues with men in dresses. But that doesn't mean I would see them discriminated against. In my bathroom? Well as someone who HAS been raped, No, thank you, I'd personally like to avoid that. But I know in my heart of hearts and soul of souls that's my fear and loathing as a rape survivor speaking. Frankly mankind as a whole needs to get over his and her bathrooms? Why?

Potty parity of course! The long lines of women at bathrooms everywhere is because we get fewer stalls to the same amount of space stalls and urinals fit. Why? Because men can stand and deal with things. So maybe, just maybe, we need to balance the bathroom issue based on factors like how often we need to answer the call, and population density. Fact 53.1 percent (based on last stats I saw somewhere) of the population is female. We get more stalls based on that alone no? Or better, make one giant unisex, upgrade the doors and stall to afford folks more protection and privacy and let ANYONE use a bathroom.

Me? Medically I'm IS. Yup, Intersexed, I couldn't even get the whole "Trans" thing right. Truth to tell it was finally my horrific and painful divorce that got me to stop playing a part I was ill suited to play. And after 30 some years of thinking I'd fooled everyone around me, I'd fooled only myself.

When all was said and done, I came out to exactly NO ONE being surprised. As to body parts, surgery, hormones and such as that, I will allow that I am under the care of a doctor, have regular medical care, have had some kind of surgery or another, and all my paperwork has long since stopped reflecting the part I was playing and now reflects the life I am living.

From long before I knew the exact terms for gender, I knew which one I was. At five I had an honest conversation with my folks and expressed concerns and wanted to see a doctor then. My Mom was fine and loved me my father beat the crap out of me and swore that he'd make a man out of me if it killed him. Well he's STILL got a daughter now even though he's seven years dead and buried. Good job that. Epic fail!

When I finally started taking steps to deal with long but minor medical issues, and stop playing a roll I was ill suited to play I did not undertake this course of care to be anyone other than who I am. At three I was a confused girl, at five a terrified and abused girl, who was forced by threat of even more abuse to begin playing a part, I was still a girl nonetheless. Over the years my Mom allowed me to be me when my Dad wasn't around, in school I kept away from most everyone except for the handful of girl friends I hung out with. I didn't have my first real girlfriend, let alone any thoughts of sex, or a sexual experience with her until I was in my twenties. Didn't do recreational dating, had so few sexual partners before Earl that I still have fingers left over when counting, but with the exception of Earl, they were all girls. As it was, Earl was a classical DES baby. More or less female on the outside, but forced into playing a part as well. When we married, it was after coming out to each other and swearing to be ourselves at home.

Transgender? Transexual? Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual? Eater of intestines or livers? Come on people stop with the terms and see the people inside. The hearts and souls worthy of love, respect, consideration and protection. And for God's sake, stop IDENTIFYING AS something other than a real, live, feeling human being and treat others the same way.

No one CAN tell me I'm trans anything and I will fight to my last breath not to be forced to accept a door prize for third place in some sort of idiotic game of pin the tail on the freak. Lets stop the third grade antics shall we? Why should anyone have less rights than anyone else?!?!?!

Why should I be forced, branded as a bettered wife, a survivor of domestic violence, a rape victim because I married a sociopath who happened to be male. They come in all shapes, sizes, flavors, orientations and genders.

Why should I suffer the rest of my life and have people see me as less than, or different, because I was raped? And trust me, people do! Their tone changes, body language, everything. They move a bit further away from me so they don't catch whatever disease I have that caused me to be raped in the first place.

God knows I have a complex and sickening past that is all about not being like everyone else.

But really who or what is everyone else. Fact, is you have completed enough steps to be seen and taken as a woman or man in everyday day to day life, and yourself identify as a woman or man in day to day life, then wow, that's it, end of conversation you are either woman or man in day to day life.

FACT, one well meaning, but UTTERLY CLUELESS doctor over 40 years ago came up with the term Transsexual and ushered in an age of madness, marginalization and suffering. Wait? What? Good job that. Moron! Harry "Transsexual" Benjamin did no one except himself any favors with that bit of stupidity. Why embrace the madness and mayhem?

I'm a woman with a past, oh dear! But that's it, a woman with a past. If you're a girl on the inside, and not trying to get away with anything, you are a girl. Period. Not Transsexual, Transgender or Trans "whatever" If you are living as yourself and your inside and outside match, REGARDLESS of your path you are cis.

Fact, Trans and Cis come from the latin and have been used in sciences for years to describe state, NOT identity. Trans for moving from one state to another. Cis for being in a state of equilibrium in terms of the state of the whole situation.

Women of all flavors, shapes, sizes and orientations should stand with their sisters to say in one voice NO! We will NOT be second class citizens, we will not allow medicine, money, status and privilege to be controlled of men, by men, for men and be done with it. We are in fact the only minority whose membership is a majority of members. There are more of us than them.

That's why all the madness over Transsexual and Transgender. Because Oh my God, we are losing even more members to the opposite side. Transgender AND Transsexual alike need to go out with the trash. Feminists need to stop the internal divison and exclusion (them the ways of MEN folk ladies!) and instead embrace INCLUSIVITY.

The whole GLBTQQI alphabet soup of doom needs to get over the petty fighting internally and stand up and be seen as normal human beings.

As to those who FORCIBLY blur the lines in an IN YOUR FACE "dick waving contest of stupidity" need to learn from the mistakes of the past. That NEVER worked for Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals, why does anyone think it would work for folks with gender issues.

Oh, and not to get off on a rant here, (to late me thinks) but get over the whole Trans issue. I've personally known very butch women who have been fired because they are not pretty enough. Nice, normal hard working (dare I say it here) "STRAIGHT PEOPLE!!!" Yup fired for not being pretty of fem enough. I even met a guy who got fired for being to pretty and soft. He had a wife and kids he adored, but he needs ENDA TOO!!!

We ALL do, regardless of the details.

As for Amanda Simpson? Hot damn, girl has a government job!!! Sweet!!!

In this economy ENDA is pointless because there are too many people, not enough jobs, and the government should focus on the economy right here at home.

So yes, get rid of Transgender. AND ALL the sexuals. Homosexual, Bisexual, Transsexual. Chuck em all out.

As the punch line for an old joke goes from the past:

Enough!!! From now on you are ALL GREEN! Light greens in the front of the bus and dark greens in the back of the bus!!!

Ring any bells?

I know what you mean :)

Specifically, supporters of the TG construct have to drop the notion that everything can be described as "gender variant" to one degree or another. Implicit in that model is the notion that the "real" men and women as dictated by (?) are the controls in the great experiment, and all the "queers" have to apologize for their differences and speak of their lives in terms of victimhood.

This is a very patriarchal attitude, and it is this fundament that underlies all of TG dogma. This is why so many find the TG model to be distasteful even if they can't put their finger on the exact reason.

Gender fails as a diagnostic concept. In the end gender becomes abusive as this failure becomes apparent, and those who support the old order desperately try to force everything back to the way it used to be. Who really benefits from the continued existence of GLBT in its current form of sycophantic prostration to the larger body politic in this country?

It didn't matter much when it was only the transsexual-born who were the victims of gender ideology. Now that lesbian women and gay men are starting to understand the true cost of transgender to their rights, to their everyday lives, we are starting to hear some serious questioning of the old GLBT paradigm.

That's why I am a separatist; I don't feel served by my forced association with the GLBT and neither do an increasing number of others. Those who are gay are tainted by the political and public association with me, and likewise am I tainted by the conflation of these unrelated issues. Yet separately we seem to be fine. It's the mixing of sexual orientation, physical sex, and "gender" that is poisonous.

There has to be a better way.

Now, here's where the rubber meets the road, Aria, and I thank you for bringing it up. Until now, what I've been hearing in this comment thread has mostly been that transgender people are colonizing the experience of transsexual people, and insisting that transsexuals be represented through the medium of "transgender rights."

But now you have put your finger on another issue, related but quite different. You say that everyone in the GLBT paradigm is being forced to accept that their gender is variant, when they do not feel it to be so. You imply that this is the result of transgender people being supporters, but perhaps even more to the point, even proselytizers, of the "TG concept."

Here I agree, and I disagree. I agree that there are some proselytizers, and I agree that is problematic. But you also seem to suggest that even those who support the notion of gender variance for themselves are contributing to this problem.

Surely there is a difference between a supporter and a proselytizer?

Sue Lefkowitz | January 3, 2010 8:38 PM

Who cares.

I've heard a few people on the site make the point that all LGBT people are transgender because of their experiences with gender nonconformity.... Is it possible that that is getting to be a little too inclusive for that term?

I identify as both gay and queer, and I would have no problem with being labeled as transgender, but I just don't see what use there would be. I'm not particularly feminine, more just androgynous and lazy. If I'm "transgender," then I really don't see who can't be. At some point everyone's going to transgress a gender stereotype, especially if they live in another culture than the one they were raised in, so is everyone transgender in the same way that 90's queer theorists were telling us that everyone is queer? I mean, maybe, but is that useful?

I'm glad you touched on the word "Hispanic," which I have a reflexive negative reaction towards mainly because it is a creation of Anglo Americans, has no equivalent in Spanish (unlike "latino" or "Latin"), and gets used so inaccurately and lazily that it creates more confusion than it mitigates. But if someone uses that term, I'm not going to jump all over them, even if they use it to describe me.

On the other hand, I'm 6 on the Kinsey scale, but I don't think being rolled in with bisexuals and pansexuals under the (sometimes) umbrella term "queer" is at all insulting. The political struggles line up in a lot of key places, as do the cultural struggles, and there is something similar going on there. And I'm not particularly worried about homophobes saying "If you allow gay marriage, then a bisexual could marry a man on Monday, get divorced on Tuesday, and marry a woman on Wednesday! That's distracting and disruptive and disrespectful to the institution of marriage!"

I think my identity as queer/gay would lines up more with the terms you posted about, Jill, but one of the key differences is the obvious fact that queer hasn't nearly replaced gay (in all the years we tried to make that happen) while transgender is supplanting transsexual because some people don't know the difference.

My current system for blogging is to use whatever term someone is comfortable with or uses on themselves, but go with transgender when I don't know. In the post you're referring to, I think that transgender woman in question, Amanda Simpson, used the term "transgender" herself even though she probably could also be described as a "true transsexual." Well, more power to her.

Because the alternative seems to be asking people to prove their desire/need for SRS, the intentions to complete it, or their medical history before deciding which term to use in reference to them. I saw how, on the linked right-wing websites, Simpson's body was being splayed, dissected, and discussed in the comments as if the people there had any clue what they were talking about and as if that was important to the work she was expected to do or the symbol of inclusion that she is.

It seems like going at her from within the community, asking her to present a medical history before she gets referred to as a "true transsexual" or merely "transgender," is the same thing: people wanting to gossip about someone else's body. Maybe that's why an umbrella term is useful here: to keep a safe, respectful distance.

Interestingly, Alex, I think you raise a good point, and one that may support the point made by Aria above. You raise the point that it would not be useful for you if you were to be labeled transgender. Clearly, however, it benefits someone, and that is the someone who is trying to expand the category of gender so that they can have their gender variant identity accepted. It's of no use to you, really, though not much sweat off your nose. But in terms of getting rights, such as the right to employment non-discrimination, or change of birth certificates, or marriage, some people object to having to shoulder this 50-pound backpack while they're trying to run the marathon of rights.

It's all well and good to beat our chests and say, well, WE are willing to sacrifice for our brothers and sisters and we will carry us all along to victory together. But do we have the right to say that for other people, and demand that other people shoulder that burden?

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous said the following. Tell me what you make of it.


The analogy of the backpack is all wrong.

You are correct that we do not have a right to constrain the actions of others. However, they also do not have the right to contrain our actions. Let them ask for their rights as they see fit, and let us ask for ours as we see fit. Ultimately, one will win the battle of hearts and minds, either through superior logic or superior numbers.

Feminists have a right to ask for the rights of women as they conceive them, even if some women disagree. However, it may not be demanded that all women be feminists, and non-feminist women may ask for their rights as they believe them to be. Ultimately, if feminists win their rights, the non-feminists may be disgruntled, or vice versa. But that is the price of freedom of speech.

Transgender people may not demand that transsexual separatists give up their demand for statutes that privilege sexually reassigned persons. But at the same time, transsexual separatists may not demand that transgender advocates give up their demand that statutes treat all gender identities and expressions equally.

Ultimately, one will win the battle of hearts and minds, either through superior logic or superior numbers. The name for this is Democracy, and there are many who rue it deeply.

Angela Brightfeather | January 3, 2010 9:21 PM


Did you ask this question as a shot across the bow of everyone, to warn people that the tweaking in the ENDA language now in committee, may be occurring in such a way as to separate transexual from transgender and give them more rights in the process?

I doubt that, but that is exactly what would happen if we continue to make an argument of this until people wake up and start to use it against the vast majority of the transgender or gender diverse community for the purposes of creating divisions that will insure that legislation like ENDA will never pass with us in it.

I see little or no diffrerence between what happened a few years ago when HRC and Frank wrote uENDA legislation without the gender language and tried to push it, and transexuals trying to define themselves outside the scope of the term transgender for political purposes and leaving behind 95% of gender diverse people.

The argument has been and will forever be that, if you believe in the binary concept of gender as being male or female, then of course it becomes handy to reinforce that position by separating those who have altered their physical person to agree with their mental person, if you can afford it, and to give them a special designation. It is a demand that one makes on themselves and is a sign of commitment to one's need that proves they are serious. Therefore it passes the litmus test of political feasibility and can be written into acceptable law. Gee, it might even be allowed by most people as acceptable enough to go to the women's room if you discard your penis. I always find it hilarious that cis-women and transsexual women cannot abide or accept a non-op transgender person in the women's rest room , but the men never seem to care nearly as much to have a non-op man in the men's room.
I find it equally ridiculous to think that all gay men, all lesbian women and anyone who has had sex with both men and women and can claim to be bisexual, along with post-op transsexuals, should have job protections and leave 95% of the transgender or gender diverse people under the bus. But by separating transgender further, that is the risk that is being taken.
This has and always will be the danger of playing into the old game of political division. Looking to split hairs between non, pre and post op transsexual identified people from those who don’t want to be pre or post op (the non-ops obviously have no choice in the matter) is a medical and psychiatric minefield that we all negotiate by supporting each other in one way or another because unlike the vast majority of people, WE UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER! But we can’t expect politicians to be that understanding let alone compassionate about our little differences about gender. At this point in our history, it is not advisable at all that we muddy the water for the people who don’t care to understand and will use it against all of us.
Therefore, for now and into the foreseeable future, we all need to be Transgender rather than transsexual and something else we can’t define. Sometime when we are all equal , we might be able to enjoy the luxury of subdividing. But for now all we can do is trust each other to understand the differences between each of us and hope that the politicians don’t notice and use it.

Angela, the use of sex reassignment surgery as a factor in employment bathroom usage in ENDA would be an unmitigated disaster. It would raise all of the problems seen in this comments thread multiplied by 100. Nobody would know what is allowed, what is required and what is optional. It's best left to the employer on a case by case basis.

There are a lot of reasons that SRS is an inappropriate factor in employment bathroom determinations.

The use of SRS as a factor is inappropriate because there are numerous types of SRS, which vary in their effectiveness and appearance. Such a requirement would require employers to assess proof regarding specific details of the employee’s medical history and treatment. This is problematic because such questions may impact medical privacy laws, which differ by jurisdiction.

The use of SRS as a factor is also inappropriate because it may create the perception that the employer endorses, condones or regulates its employees’ decision to undergo gender transition. This is undesirable for reasons including employee relations, public relations, insurance coverage and potential litigation. It is best for the employer to stay out of the employee’s medical decision-making.

The use of SRS as a factor is inappropriate because SRS does not address all objections to facilities usage. A set of flexible facilities usage criteria better achieves the employer’s goals of maximizing workplace harmony and minimizing distractions.

The use of SRS as a factor is inappropriate because the WPATH standards of care require successfully living as the opposite sex for a year or more prior to medical approval for surgery. Therefore, it is likely that an employee in transition will not complete his/her medical treatment for a substantial period of time. Requiring an employee who appears female to the general public to use a men’s facility, or vice versa, will likely cause more workplace distraction than necessary.

The use of SRS as a factor is inappropriate because bathroom usage does not generally involve public viewing of nudity. Therefore genital surgery is irrelevant to the facilities usage determination.

Marja Erwin | January 3, 2010 10:03 PM

The use of SRS as a factor is inappropriate because many transsexual folks can't afford SRS and can't get SRS-contingent protections.

Angela Brightfeather | January 3, 2010 11:17 PM


I guess you didn't get my tongue in cheek comment. Of course it is innappropriate, but from the sound of many of the comments made answering your post, it seems to have some resonance among a few if not many TS's.

I agree with you right down the line. Now how do you convince all those wonderful people in the Harry Benjamin Society web site and others like them that you are right?

My basic point was that we can't leave anyone behind and the only way that we can do that is to fight together as the GLBT Community and that means transgender.

Angela! tongue in cheek?! on a thread like this?? oh no, you di'int.

And this is not about convincing anyone that anyone is right. I don't want to be right. I don't want to force anyone to fight for anything or believe in anything. I simply want us to understand each other and have some compassion for a viewpoint different from ours.

Leave the fighting to the ones who want to fight.

I can only come to the conclusion that, in America, things are significantly repressive. In Ontario, where I live--and have commented before--the human rights practice, though not yet statutory, is that all are entitled to use the sex/gender segregated facility appropriate to their full time presentation.

All pre-op persons inevitably use the washrooms of their target sex. While there has been some controversy, there is little of the hysteria that appears routine in your country.

Things become a bit more concerning in public changing rooms, in YMCA's, etc. and gyms, but the stories of transsexual people being hauled out of the women's washroom seem few and very far between.

In fact, the human rights tribunal cases that have been pivotal have been the very ones concerning the use of washrooms. Sheridan v Sanctuary Investments in Vancouver is probably the most important in defining the rights of transsexual people.

It must be very difficult to live with the general hysteria most Americans seem to accept as normal, but to virtually all others is nothing short of unbelievable.

Bathroom hysteria, among others, can only be on the uprise as various political trends, including the increase in poverty--accelerated by health insurance reform--gains speed.

More relaxed countries don't seem to have these sorts of problems, at least not to the degree Americans do. The forum to reduce tensions may well not be in the areas under discussion here, but in political areas that, well, most Americans simply refuse to discuss, including poverty, wealth, etc.

Has it occurred to anyone yet that Jill's post is in a lot of ways bringing up the very same issues Ron Gold attempted to raise, but in a far more respectful (not to mention well-informed and well-presented) way than Gold did?

In a lot of ways, this is the conversation that should have been started by Ron Gold's post and probably would have been if he'd chosen to present his arguments differently.

Just thought I'd throw that out there...

Maybe you could point out where Dr. Weiss refers to "deluded" and "mutilated"?

That's where the more respectful, better informed, and better presented part comes in.

To expand:

My point is that Jill's post brings up similar issues to those Gold tried to raise in his post, but hers does it in a way that is conducive to quality discussion, and we're seeing that here. It underscores the point that the discussion Ron Gold was attempting to open wasn't a bad one in and of itself, it was the way in which it was presented that made it offensive.

Also, it's probably fair to say that the question probably has far more perceived credibility and acceptance here and now because it's coming from Jill, who is not only extremely well-informed on these issues but also is a transperson herself, as opposed to coming from someone like Ron Gold, who is essentially an outsider to this community and clearly working with outdated information and rhetoric.

Except that Gold was arguing *against* surgery and *against* transition and *against* transgender or transsexual identity. I'm in favor of at least some of those. Other than that, we're exactly the same.

You have no comparable arrogance to the departed contributor Mr Gold

Since others have already covered the more in-depth, theoretical level, and I'm still sort of on vacation from making serious commentary on the matter, I'll answer from my day-to-day experience.

When I'm out and about, I am trans. I just don't like the way "transgender" sounds -- to me, it's pathological, like "visual impairment" or "hearing impaired." I feel that the word trans rolls off the tongue and helps to make the conversation more personal, friendly, and accessible; much the same way that I'm the "blind girl" when anyone references my RS. Is it correct? Not grammatically speaking, no. However, it is _me_ and it gets the job done in my daily life.

I only use the words transgender and transsexual when either A) someone else brings them into the conversation, or B) it's necessary to explain a concept to people. The two words seem to turn my status into a protracted conversation on the ethics of transition, which is a conversation I do not want to have while I'm playing games with friends. Trans does not have the same impact on people, least from what I've seen.

So, tl:dr, I prefer trans. It takes out the politics, gender, and sexuality from the term and lets me be part of the crowd.

Butler may well have been the theoretician who began the conflation of sex and gender--the problem being not that they are too far apart, but that they are simply no longer separate: 'sex is always already gender.'

Butler, in her essay on David Reimer in Undoing Gender is unable to understand his--and he was always male--rage at what was done to him and to his twin brother.

If there is no difference between gender--what is built upon sex--and sex--what our body is, then why not accept John Money's theory that gender identity is simply what society imposes; that it is socially constructed.

The rage Reimer felt--and which ultimately drove him to suicide--was at this imposition upon what he knew was not his sex.

This is the difference between transgender people and transsexual people; this is the cause of the irresistible urge not only to transition, but to surgery.

Why would we expect those who do not have this medical condition--transsexuality--to understand this any more than we would expect those who do not experience same-sex attraction to understand it?

The former is cissexual privilege; the latter is heterosexual privilege.

As was indicated above, why would we call lesbians gay? But we would/do call transsexual people, transgender. Clearly, there are many, even on this thread, who would never conceive of calling lesbians gay, but would not hesitate to call transsexual people transgender.

This is wrong.

Here is the crux of the problem with forced transsexual inclusion; it is done in a crass attempt to piggyback rights, not to gain more for us.

The only thing post-transsexual people need is to have their paperwork recognized by our government. The rest of our needs are personal life issues, the same as anyone else. We don't need public education on "gender issues", special laws passed to benefit a protected class, or inclusion in laws made for other people such as gays and lesbians.

As long as our legal status is secured, none of that matters. We have the same rights as everyone else, and if someone takes issue with our background, that is just life. To ask for more than equal treatment under the law is wrong, and I believe special rights applying *only to transsexual people* are wrong.

Others may dispute the need for special protection for gays or whatever the current minority in identity politics may be at the moment. I have no interest in that argument whatsoever. I am not a believer in group identity politics, though.

I believe it destroys individual rights and replaces them with the crumb system of distributing favors for a selected few as long as they keep everyone down in that targeted group. It is the masters who create these groups, it is not the people that end up defining them. This is the imperialistic system that the United States has devolved to at this point. It is creating castes and we are marching right into it.

Moreover, we were well on the way to legal equality before this GLBT fiasco. I'm not going to listen to arguments of how great the TG occupation has been for us. That's just the way our overseers, the militant TG, want it portrayed. It's simply ludicrous to claim that the bullying and denial of our existence has been good. And it is shameful that the GLBT leadership has wholeheartedly endorsed this policy.

Our rights as individuals under a forced group model are completely destroyed, and no amount of rationalization about ineffective legislation which may or may not pass is going to change that fact. Instead of any of our interests being pursued, we are treated to worries about bathroom laws and tokenistic attempts to sell GLBT inclusion in affirmative action programs. That's where I see ENDA leading, though no one wants to talk about the end game of that plan.

This is a complete subversion of our interests, and things will end up exactly the opposite of where we all want them to be.

Gwen Walcott | January 3, 2010 11:08 PM

Ariablue, this is the nail you hit square on the head. Thank you

I'm not sure about this idea, Aria, that "the only thing post-transsexual people need is to have their paperwork recognized by our government," making unnecessary any need for special law passed to benefit a protected class. Remember that most, if not all, of the US legal precedents raising discrimination issues were brought by transsexuals after surgery. They, and many others, were fired *after* SRS, not before. Your libertarian bent against "special rights" is understandable, but misplaced, because employment discrimination based on transsexual status is an invidious form of discrimination that is wrong and should not be permitted. You may not want protection, but I do. As far as laws against discrimination "creating castes" as you put it, you have mixed up causes and consequences. Laws against discrimination combat pre-existing social castes; laws do not create castes, they outlaw them where they previously existed.

I'm not arguing for a particular brand of politics. What I wrote was specific to the transsexual question, which is why I focused the comment on the transsexual issue, and left out the gay/minority argument.

I did add the point about the change of the US to an imperialistic culture because there is this notion that if the powers that be pay lip service to something, it is truly meaningful. That of course is not true.

It bears repeating that this is a well-developed tactic of the ruling class. Targeting a lower class of people for legal consideration, pay off the tokens to recruit them into your plan, and then show off your tokens as proof of your good intent while never actually doing anything for those who live under your yoke. It's a dog and pony show, bread and circuses. The real point of tactics like this is to keep everyone in their place.

This is of particular concern for those who change sex, when our rights are tied at the hip to people dealing with sexual orientation issues in a civil rights struggle. Not every situation has the same solution, even if you accept the premise that it is generally a good idea to have "special laws" for "special people".

What might be right for race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation may be exactly the wrong thing for changing sex. I think over-reliance inflexible, uncompromising hardcore ideology is a bad idea. The bottom line is always, "Does this work?". This is about the needs of real people, not fealty to a particular name brand of politics or methodology.

Things related to changing sex should be kept as simple as possible. Use common sense. If you have full rights as a woman, sue under sex discrimination statutes. If you don't have standing under the law as a fully equal woman, then work on getting that first.

Getting rights as a non-woman only cements your legal status as a non-woman.

You have a point in that fighting for one's rights as a non-woman strengthens the labelling as a non-woman. On the other hand, it's very easy to interpret this as a claim that rights belong to only men and women. And that's very dangerous, especially as the 'rights' we are talking about are not all strictly legal ones but in many cases more a matter of social privilege. So, in a lot of ways these rights belong to only those seen as men and women.

Even if one concentrates on the rights of transsexuals whose ultimate goal is to be a woman (for those transitioning the other direction, please change the gendered terms as appropriate), it is important to remember that transition is not instantaneous. Even if it were, there are women (either post-op or born that way) who get clocked as cross-dressers. Any TS rights solution that leaves it all right to harass cross-dressers also leaves the way open for harassing those in transition and any others who don't have passing privilege.

Before a transsexual becomes a woman she becomes a non-man. If you ignore the rights of non-women you are also telling current and future transitioners to trust their luck, because they don't get these rights until they are through with it all.

This really hasn't ever been an issue before now, has it? There was a system in place for transition, and all the gender maker changes and such are available before surgery. This has been enough for transsexual people to deal with their situation for a long time now.

It is not enough, however, for the non-transsexual "transgender" crowd who seems to think it can use the disastrous birth circumstances of others for their own benefit.

The argument that men and women in transition "need" all these new laws is a red herring. It is only supporters of transgender politics who see it that way.

Speaking as a current transitioner, i am angry that people of uncertain and questionable motive are attempting to claim they have transsexuality, in an attempt to gain even deeper access into women's spaces.

The bathroom arguement really was just the foot in the door. We now have non-operative transgenders attempting to legally force themselves into shower and locker rooms.

And i have seen sexually motivated transvestites admit they were such, and state that they are hoping the transgender movement will enable them to use women's restrooms as well.

Despite being a separatist, i am friendly with several transgender activists. And one of them has admitted they have encountered the same type of person as well, and admitted they were at a loss over it.

i mention all of this only so that others understand how and why i feel the way i do. i couldn't care less if i am believed. It is what it is.

Having women legally forced to accept these penis-retaining individuals just so that those pre-operative few like myself are not 'left out' is unacceptable to my conscience.

By their nature, transsexuals (those with an actual mind-body disconnect) are the ones that make up the vast bulk of suicides. Yet instead of pushing for surgery coverage, the 'T' instead pushes for acceptance of 'women with penises'.

Frankly, that staggers me.

How exactly are pre-ops supposed to be protected without also protecting non-ops and transvestites and transgender? The general public already considers all of us, both pre- and post-, to be deviant men (and women, when they consider the existence of FtM at all), so how can we protect pre-op transsexuals when they already just consider us men?

Frankly, leaving pre-op women vulnerable to discrimination just to prevent non-transsexuals from getting a piece of the pie is unacceptable to MY conscience.

We already have a legal system in place. It's been working for 40 years. Thousands of transsexual women before me made it without special protection.

i suppose i'm doing it the way it's been done before. The third option the LGBT doesn't want you to know about. The road less traveled.

And those formerly transsexual women did it *without* enabling penis-retaining transgenders to legally invade women's spaces.

The outrage lies in the lack of surgery coverage. Funny how that *always* gets side-stepped.

Just because people have managed to survive this broken system for 40 years doesn't mean it doesn't need improvement. I want things to be BETTER for present and future transsexual women, not the same. If those penis-having transgenders (who the general public considers exactly the same as pre-op transsexual women) benefit from it, well, why should I care?

The system works fine- for people who are in the process of treating transsexualism. It even allows for transgender people to live however they wish, with their chosen gender marker and all, using regulations put in place for transsexualism. What the TG are actually demanding is something far beyond anything that a transsexual person needs.

As Anon says the main issue with the process is that the surgery isn't covered. And along with my earlier point about having a solid legal foundation for our legal sex, these two aspects are the core of what transsexual people should be concentrating on. This is our fight, not penises in women's space. Having fetishistic men lumped in with us does nothing but harm.

Why is it so hard for the TG preachers to exclude transvestites from their model?

As someone who has gone through that treatment for transsexualism, I do NOT think that the system works fine. It works BARELY. It works "fine" if you are quite rich.

As you said, coverage for surgery and legal recognition is my primary concern. I also want to make it as difficult as possible for people to discriminate against transsexuals, including pre-ops. I don't want women who still have penises attached to be thrown to the wolves. Lumping us in with the "fetishistic men" may not help us, but I see no way that it actually makes a difference, because the worst among the general public will never accept our true sex anyway.

As an aside, I also don't want people with fetishes to be discriminated against either.

I don't care what the worst among the general public thinks, and that is irrelevant to the issue. If you want to be considered the same as a fetish transvestite, that is your business. To say that it makes no difference in your struggle, however, is plain silly.

Nobody is going to be able to "fix" what you want about the way other people see you; that is strictly up to you. Laws won't help you successfully transition, and laws are no substitute for transition. It's a cop out.

What more do you want besides legal equality and access to surgery?

Well, I very much care about what the general public thinks, insofar as they're the ones that are willing to do us violence and deny us rights.

I never said laws could change what people think (and I did not posit them as a replacement for transition so I don't know where that comes from), but they can help restrain people from hurting me. Laws can stop people from using the "trans panic" defense, or denying me housing or work if the background check reveals my history. But I consider that to fall under legal equality, so there that is.

So, in other words, I don't think there's an actual disagreement, really, except over how the transgender movement affects us.

Is it the general public, or the worst among the general public? You can't spend your whole life worrying about what the worst people on the planet think. And if you feel the whole world hates you, well that simply isn't true. They may not understand what you have gone through, but that isn't hate. Most people are actually quite nice.

Don't let fear rule your life. And don't stress so much about it. :)

I'm blessed to have had a handful of great friends that prove that the whole world doesn't hate me, but I'm not so sure about most people being good (for reasons that have nothing to do with being transsexual. ;) ).

I don't live my life in fear, really, but I do have a healthy concern for what the worst of the public thinks because those people have often been the ones with the capacity to do me a great deal of harm (and have used it, though thankfully I've survived so far).

I understand that. All I wanted people to realize on this point is that the worst of these things pass, and you are not trapped in that state of mind, that bunker mentality, forever. It's too easy to forget that transition means real change, because nowhere else in society do people go between such extremes in this fashion- changing what we all think to be unchangeable. Sorry if I came across too angry, I'm carrying that over from the other part of this discussion. :)

No offense taken or intended. I tend to have a pretty blunt style online so I often come across as spoiling for a fight (even when I'm not! ;) ).

Thousands before you made it through the gauntlet, and thousands more failed to. I always thought we should improve things for those who came after, not make them jump through the same ridiculous hoops.

What hoops? Look, this is not hard. You can do everything without ever speaking to any therapist if that's what you want. You get a name change, you talk to a doctor and get a letter from the DMV. If you don't live in a state that works that easy, move. If you want it bad enough, you do it. If thousands of people didn't make it, truly, it's because they didn't *need* it bad enough. It's not a matter of money. My legal change of name and gender on my ID cost me about $100. That was all before surgery. Estrogen is $4 a bottle.

How much easier does it need to be?

Well, you still have to talk to therapists to get surgery. And I've never had an insurance plan that was willing to cover therapy if the diagnosis was GID (though once I had a nice therapist that was willing to fudge it as something else to keep me covered). And I just got through a stretch of eight years with no health insurance so obviously that was a nightmare for transition-related medical care .

And moving out of a bad state isn't exactly easy. If the move goes badly, or you have trouble getting a good job after the move, there goes your savings for the surgery.

Saying that people who couldn't successfully transition 'didn't want it enough' is like saying that people who get divorced 'didn't love each other enough'. One shouldn't try to divine will from outcome.

The prerequisites that *I* needed to transition were a safe place to explore between genders to prove to myself that nothing short of transition would work, and a strong state ENDA so that I felt secure that my children wouldn't starve.

Therapists and meds were the easy parts.

i agree.

Which is why we should work on affordable access for surgery.

I very much agree with you on that.

No argument there.

All women are defined in this culture as 'non-men'
It is just that those with vaginas and supporting documentation are usually(not always) Legally protected from discrimination and those without are not.

Prior to the advent of the transgender motivated campaigns for "special
privilages" Transsexuals had the ability to almost routinely correct
documents and form legal marriages. Following the elevation of the
profile of transgender politics one by one state state this facility
has been denied genuine transsexuals and primary transsexuals. This
association was not sought by us neither was it welcomed, yet it was
forced upon us by the purveyors of gender theory. Worse the gender
theory that supports trangendrist activity has allowed mutilation of
intersexed babies and children and continues to do so. All this happens
despite the fact that "gender theory" was discredited long ago. Yet the
camapigns of certain transgender activisists seek yet more influence
over more and more unwilling subjects. All in the name of expedience
and some misguided notion of equality and what that means to them. For
equality read privilage!
I am a liberal at heart and I despise prejudicial behaviour and laws
with a passion. However the kind of privilages demanded by certain high
profile activists are simply outrageous, even to someone like me.
Freedom has caveats and these demand that while someone may be free to
do and say whatever they like it must not impede or disadvantage
another. Transgender activisits appear to elevate themselves above
This is just one of a multitude of reasons why I and a large number of
other women speak out the way we have. We want nothing to do with the
kind of lunatic politics of the majority of transgender. We never did
but were co-opted against our will and to our great disadvantage. You
wonder why we seek to argue ourselves out.

"Prior to the advent of the transgender motivated campaigns for "special
privilages" Transsexuals had the ability to almost routinely correct
documents and form legal marriages. Following the elevation of the
profile of transgender politics one by one state state this facility
has been denied genuine transsexuals and primary transsexuals."

Is there anything to show that correlation equals causation in this, though? The timing may be similar, but that doesn't mean the transgender activists are to blame for the loss of transsexual rights.

Most cissexual people I've known either have never heard the word "transgender", or think that it refers to classic transsexuals only. And that didn't keep most of them from denying the legitimacy of my womanhood and advocating against my rights. People who claim that SRS doesn't matter and you're always "really a man/woman" are not reacting against transgender identities (even if they use the word "transgender", because they're still thinking of the concept of transsexual when they say it).

Does transgender help?

So far, the only effect I've seen the concept of "transgender" have among the wider public is to function as another word for transsexual.

Evangelina's point, though, was that transgenders got our rights taken away, and I just don't see it. People who have no idea the transgender concept even exists have no problem considering transsexuals freakish, stealth gays, mutilated, or going against God's will. Even people who are aware of the medical diagnosis will just simply deny it's a real condition and claim doctors just made it up (people love doctor-based conspiracy theories).

If it doesn't help, why do I need it? That's a large part of this discussion that gets overlooked.

I have no idea why you or anyone else might need it. But until I see some sort of evidence that transgenders are responsible for the problems transsexuals face, I'm not going to waste my time blaming them, either.

All things being equal then, you'll support separation is what you are saying?

What I'm saying is I can take it or leave it. If transgender advocates are fighting for something that will benefit transsexuals in some way, well, awesome! If they're fighting for something that does NOT benefit transsexuals in any way, well, I'll support that or not based on its own merits.

Same goes for separation. I'll support it on its own merits, but so far I've only heard vague accusations of transgenders dragging us down. But I just don't see that in practice, so I don't see a practical benefit.

You don't see it because you don't want to. It's as simple as that. If you want to fight for transgender to own everyone, you are going to face increasing opposition.

I respect the right of folks in this discussion to define their own transsexual social identity as separate from the transgender community. However, this regressive definition of Transgender and the promotion of Balkanized TS vs. TG communities do not speak for me or a great many transsexual individuals.

I use Transgender in the context of an inclusive social identity and not in that of Virginia Prince's exclusionary 'transgenderist' label of the past century. Speaking for myself, I proudly identify as both a transsexual woman and a transgender woman, and I consider all who transcend the bounds of assigned birth-sex my sisters and brothers in the transcommunity.

In my experience, solidarity in the cause of dignity is politically effective as well as simply just. I advocate policy and legal reform that benefits all gender transcendent people, not some at the expense of scapegoating and stereotyping others.

You see Kelly, I identify as woman, no modifiers on the word.

I had my appendix out but that isn't an idenity either.....appendixless woman sound stupid doesn't it? Transsexuality is a medical conditon one is born with, not an identity. "Transgender" is a scientifically meaningless word because it's an idenity, one that is clearly rejected by a very large number of women with history. Gender identity, according to the studies done, is fixed in pre-natal development, you cannot "trans" it.

As for Angela's call for "trust", wow, that ship sailed a long long time ago and certainly will not be regained by imposing labels on others who strongly object to that label.

This "right" to impose transgender on others is based on the "right" to deconstruct gender of others and since that is a rogue concept to 99.9% of the world using politics as an excuse is buying into a losing or at least extremely hard sell, position.

In the end it demeans the journey and sex of women who successfully got there by correcting their bodies to match their minds/souls/whathaveyou. Most women with history did not go through all the crap they did to become a third sex/gender, they did it to fix a problem and then go on with life on a fairly even playing field. That much was almost won until this transgender umbrella came along.

In a world that understands itself by the binary of men/women forcing someone into a third group essentially dehumanizes them. You are free to choose that yourself, doing it to others is an act of out and out aggression.

I'd like to underscore the point about not going through all this to become a third sex. I remember being at a legal symposium where the dominant subtheme came to be about how gender should be abolished, and how gender was a form of imperialism of the neo-liberal state and other such theoretical tosh. When my turn came to speak, I made the point that I had worked long and hard to get from point A to point B, and I wasn't much interested in the argument that A and B didn't exist. They looked at me like I had three heads and kind of turned to the left and coughed. Inside, I went "oh, brudder" a la Bugs Bunny.

My question to you, Radical, is about this group of surgical transsexuals who do not want rights for non-surgical transgenders.

You argue, as I understand it, that political advocacy efforts for transgender rights should leave that group out. But how? How can the argument coherently be made that we want rights for transgender people, but we don't want them for some surgical transsexuals who opt-out of the group, though we do want them for those surgical transsexuals, like Kelley and myself, who opt-in?

That's the thing I don't understand at the bottom of your fundamental argument.

I'd gladly leave you out since you want out, but it's like trying to flip only one side of a coin...can't be done.

Can I go to DC and ask them to rewrite ENDA to include transgenders but not transsexuals (except for the transsexuals who want in)?

How would this work exactly?

You and I have discussed ENDA...I consider it a worthless feel good legislation that only would benefit HRC in finally providing something they could say they accomplished when they collected millions and millions and millions and produced nothing in return.

It doesn't address public accommodations, recognition of legal sex of post corrected women, housing equality, medical discrimination, uniform regulations regarding recognized ID changes, damages done to marriage rights and it has, on the specific focus of jobs, more legal loopholes and flaws than you can shake a stick at.

Sponsor something that re-affirms the Richards decision legislatively and I might be interested because am a woman, not a trans something and my fight is for women's rights, not tranny rights. Women like myself are not looking for "special" protection, just a level playing field with other women so we can join in the fight to elevate that playing field with men.

Here and elsewhere I've addressed that those who are "representing" us as part of some third gender identity have already done considerable harm to us, continue to do so while trying to keep our objections out of the public eye. When a country goes to war, the first thing the government does is dehumanize the enemy with labels......transgender is exactly that type of label to me.

My eccentricities are mine to define and defend, I do not wish associated by forced "inclusion" with certain types of sexual deviance, mentally ill people and those who are neither men or women unless it's my decision to do so. I sure as hell do not want them speaking for me telling everyone I am just like them, I'm not. I do not want biological men in women only space, I've been raped by a transgender id'ed person and know several other women of history who have as well. Call me an elitist or whatever for feeling this way, the reality is I am a woman with the exact same concerns about men as other women. In all manners that matter, I am cis gendered and cis sexed and not a victim of trans oppression. My personal civil rights issues have always been religious freedom and women's rights

When an organization allegedly dedicated to fighting defamation defames entire groups towards that end and enforces language usage that essential does the same.....this is a problem, a political one and a social one at the same time.

GLAAD enforces transgender and erasure of transsexuality AND intersexed people by doing so, a group of gay men and lesbian women. I have a petition online to them addressing this, I have contacted them repeatedly about this. It is ignored.

I favour same sex marriage, support it, see it as a moral issue of socialital fairness but I understand completely the position of heterosexual women of history that have been essentially defamed and had their lives erased by a gay and lesbian anti-defamation group then opposing all gay and lesbian issues as a result.

Respect of personal identity is the issue and always was. I would not support legislation that allowed employees to dress up like a rabbit at work because they were having a rabbit day, why would I do so for someone who claimed the same as a woman day? I was an employer for over a decade and can tell you in almost all jurisdictions in the US an employer can fire anyone for any reason as long as they are careful in doing so. ENDA is worthless.

I completely respect your right, Radical, not to support ENDA, and in fact, to oppose it. Do you respect my right to support it? Start with a yes or no answer, if you can.

Oh course I support your right to support ENDA...while I maintain the right of free speech to express my opinion about it.

On this sisterhood of trannys thing however, let me clarify my position.

No one will ever convince me that a white middle class hetero male is part of an oppressed class because he plays dressup as a woman on the weekends.

He still makes 25 cents more on the dollar to a woman, will still be ordering the Vassar graduate to make his coffee, still expect his wife to hold down a job and have his dinner on the table and the house clean while not contributing to either. He is not a member of an oppressed class, he is part of the oppressors. He is absolutely not my "sister".

Thank you for acknowledging our right to disagree on ENDA. I agree with your point that crossdressing on weekends does not necessarily make one oppressed. One can still have and exercise male privilege that comes from male socialization and institutional bias. But one can also do so after receiving surgery. I myself know a number of post-operative transsexuals who comport themselves like chauvinist bullies of the worst sort.

As a feminist I stand amazed that someone living a woman's life, subject to the restrictions, generally lower pay and glass ceilings of that life, subject to all the patriarchal nonsense and oppression can be then somehow magically be cast as "chauvinist bullies" for disagreeing with the transgender religion.

The only way to do so is to narrowly focus down to the point you ignore the realities of living as a woman in the western world.

Do I know post op crossdressers? yes, perhaps this is the group you were talking about? They rarely finish the transition to woman.

Sorry, Radical, for not being clear. I asked how to advocate for trans rights without including transsexuals who want to opt-out. In response, you said you thought ENDA was worthless, and that there's no "sisterhood of trannys" because "white hetero crossdressers" aren't oppressed, but agreed I have a right to advocate for their rights in ENDA. I noted that some post-op MTFs have and exercise male privilege, implying that even so, I experience sisterhood with both privileged MTFs and privileged crossdressers.

I was not referring to any particular politics. I would not consider someone who simply dissents to be exercising male privilege.

Of course, there is a duty to point out exercises of privilege that diminish others. But that doesn't break the sisterhood for me. I respect your right to dissent to that, and I respect your right to opt-out of the "transgender movement" because of it.

But you still haven't answered my question about how I can advocate for transgender rights in ENDA and somehow cut you out. I understand that you're upset that my rights advocacy includes you, but I don't see any way of dis-including just the transsexuals who don't want those rights.

The entire point of this entry was the debate on an umbrella usage of transgender......I believe your answer lies there. At minimum use transgender and transsexual as suggested by Suzan Cooke. I find this still problematic myself because as I've pointed out many times, transsexuality is a birth condition and not an identity.

Stop denial of the 300+ studies that confirm the biologic pre-natal nature of the transexual medical condition. The BSTc study is far from the only one, just the first yet over and over it goes back to this one and ignoring the others which had larger numbers and in many ways were more definitive....not to mention the fact there are at least 299 more!...the rights, full rights, of women of history are thus accessible under the ADA. Not just my opinion, but one on record as a legal opinion by the US AG's office.

Do as you will regarding ENDA as long as you do not label me "transgender" in the process or stand in the way of the ADA access which I am coming to understand (and I am not pointing a finger at you in this) is something that trans activists oppose because it's classic transsexual specific and I suspect the continued denial of scientific established fact by the trans communities has this selfish and hateful motivation at least subconsciously at it's root.
Opposing someone's access to civil rights is not "not leaving anyone behind"...it is a prejudicial act of civil rights denial, political blackmail and the actual act of a bigoted bully.

I was essentially driven out of trans activism more than ten years ago. My work on behalf of transsexual women after that was repeatedly attacked by trans activists. No one trans anything identified has any claim on me as a result. In the past 13-14 years literally the only people who ever attacked my womanhood have been transgender identified My experiences in this are not unique.

Rad, where we differ is that I define the TS and TG words in the context of social identity and not in the context of phenomena of human diversity (such as the very real, in my view, phenomenon of gender identity) and not in the context of medical diagnosis. (Please see my more recent posting below.) Social identities should be self-defined, opt-in, and never imposed on one by another.

And yes, "appendixless" does sound stupid in the context of social identity. In conversations about cisgender and cissexual privilege, I often self-identify with an equally silly sounding term, Cisless, rather than trans... It gets the point across.

I remain, cisless in Colorado.

'Scapegoating' and 'stereotyping'?


For a moment there you almost convinced me you were reasonable, just differing in opinion.

My preference is to define "transsexual" as "a person whose physical anatomy and gender identity do not match" and "transgender" as "a person whose gender role does not conform to social norms". They are separate and distinct conditions just as gender identity is seperate and distinct from sexual orientation, but often overlap in practice because many individuals (myself included) fall into both categories.

I don't feel that distinguishing between "transsexual" and "transgender" necessarily implies that only one is a legitimate civil rights issue, and I do very strongly feel that conflating the two is both ideologically and practically problematic.


It would be handy if the two terms were used as they sound: transsexual to mean someone who has issues with their physical sex and transgender someone who has similar issues with their social gender. Used this way, transsexual would not be a subset of transgender, the two just overlap.

In a way, the 'TG as umbrella' idea comes close, as most transsexuals do wish to transition socially as well as physically. It's not really that simple, though: while those who seek social changes without physical ones are more visible, there are also people whose primary interest is on the physical side.

I'm not sure the usage can be steered in this direction, but it would be useful to keep the distinction(s) clear.

Another posting about "labels?" Geeees People get so angry over something they don't have to wear. "Don't call me 'this'," "Don't call me 'that'." Are we so vane and fragile that we let words hurt? Apparently so.

You get to choose what labels you want associated with you. How many hundreds of labels have you had in your life? How many of them did you earn proudly? You don't get to proudly use the label "Dr." in front of your name unless you earn it. You choose the labels you want, and just because you think someone else has put you in a box, doesn't mean you have to live there, unless you are too afraid to get out.

Labels to me are just another part of my activist toolbox, to be used based on who I'm talking to. If I need to wear "lesbian," then I will. If I need "transsexual," I'll use it. And, if I need to use "transgender," I'll use it, too. I'll even use "trannie" if I need to. When I go hom to my sweetheart, the only label I need to hear is "lover." "Monica," too.

I don't really care what other people call me because it won't affect my job, my family, my friends or my girlfriend. I'll still buy my groceries at Kroger, still go to movies at AMC and still go to church on Sunday.

No one here on Bilerico, or their comments, can change how I live my life. It took me a long time learning all of this, and I can still slip occasionally. It is apparent by some of the comments here (some longer than the post) that many are struggling on how to shed the box they "think" others put them in. Have fun with that. There's a whole world out here waiting for you once you climb out.

I agree! Sometimes I find that labels, when applied in real life, invite theoretical discussions into personal spaces. This is not always a comfortable conversation, as people are happy to say things in theory that they would never consider even hinting to in reality. Better to use a neutral word, or to avoid the label altogether, and keep the personal and theoretical separate.

Or, as I tell people: "I'm a 25-year-old girl: nothing more, nothing less." Those who aren't willing to play by this rule in the real world quickly find themselves no longer invited into my personal life.

Just as it should be. You define yourself and others have the option of respecting that or going away.

Sue Lefkowitz | January 4, 2010 10:43 AM

Post-op transsexuals who with to exclude pre or no=ops on the grounds that they don't share the "experience" is like the hard core radical lesbians (like at the Michigan Womyn's Festival) who claim we are not real women and shouldn't be treated as such because we didn't get socialized as female or have periods and other stuff like that.

As a matter of fact, I totally agree with Lisa Vogel's right to exclude even me if she wishes and do so in sisterly solidarity.

I happen to know, from first hand experience from our women's spirituality housing cooperative and our corrected women inclusive priestesshood, that trying to set any set point on womanhood fails because no matter were it is set, someone will challenge it to the point of trying to utterly destroy.

I supported Lu's Pharmacy for the same reason and got confirmation that the very first customer when they opened the doors was a transwoman spoiling for a confrontation..... she was completely incapable of civil discussion with me so there wasn't a snowball's chance she wasn't going to press their buttons.

Way to win hearts and minds people!

Want to know the ultimate joke in all this? I've been invited to Mich Fest by rad fems who know my history. I've entertained rad fems at my home. What boils down to is something you will never accept, women tend to recognize other women and they know men (male entitlement and "vibes") when they encounter them too. My experience is that all but the most extreme rad fems will accept a woman of history on a case by case basis and I see the wisdom in this, again from experience.

"Post-op transsexuals who with to exclude pre or no=ops (sic) on the grounds that they don't share the "experience" is like the hard core radical lesbians..."

Oh, look.

It's this tired old insult, masquerading as a legitimate arguement again.

Always fun to see the classics.

Exactly. It isn't "post op transsexuals" who exclude "non ops" as women. We exclude them as "transsexuals". It is society who excludes them as women.

I've learned that a lot of misunderstanding and acrimony can be avoided by (a) being respectful of the broad human diversity that exists among gender transcendent people, (b) taking ownership for how each of us defines the terms that we use and (c) understanding that the same terms can be used in different contexts with very different meanings. For example, transsexual may be commonly used as a term of human phenomenon, a term of social identity or a term of psychiatric diagnosis with completely disparate definitions. If one person is speaking of phenomenon and another of social identity, the two can argue about the meaning of the TS word until the next ice-age without either ever hearing the other.

In my writings, I choose to use both transsexual and transgender in the context of social identity, meaning that these terms are inclusive of people who choose to identify as such. I use other words to describe various phenomena of gender diversity. In the context of social identity, TS and TG are certainly not mutually exclusive but overlap to a great extent. Once again, I proudly identify as both a transsexual woman and a member of the transgender community and see no conflict between them. Indeed, a majority of my TS friends identify as transgender as well, in solidarity with a larger community of people who face similar social oppression. However, I respect differing social identities of others and ask that they respect mine.

When discussing human phenomena of gender diversity, I prefer Gender Transcendent, rather than Transgender, to describe people who differ from, or do not comport to, expectations of assigned birth-sex. I think it's important to respect the fact that not all gender transcendent or gender-diverse people choose to identify as TG and/or TS and/or other queer tribes.

When discussing terms of medical or psychiatric diagnosis, I try to use specific terms that are relevant to proposed diagnostic criteria. I think it's important to never confuse social identity with sickness. It's also very important to never implicate diversity in itself as illness. Difference is not disease. Therefore, I never use the TG or TS words in a medical or diagnostic context.

"Gender Transcendent"????? What you talkin' 'bout Willis?

I had a medical problem, I fixed it, I'm a woman....no gender this or that here. Gender identity is fixed before birth and cannot be changed, sex can be changed. Spare me the trans anythings please. Good Grief! Did we learn nothing at all from "Dr" Money's stupidity and child molestation in the name of science?

The medical condition, transsexuality, has a cure that is 99.9% effective, SRS. On those not actually born with the condition, the "cure" falls to 30% per the International Psychiatrist of the Year the past two years. Perhaps we need to tighten up the criteria again? Oh yes, Zucker and Blanchard are doing just that.

SRS is not a cure, it's a treatment. Your male body has not been cured, it's just been medically altered to look like a female body. The only difference between you and the transgenders you hate so much is surgery.


Do you also walk around calling transplant patients 'pretenders'. Or diabetics 'fakers'?

The fact that this comment is allowed to stand reveals the true nature of this board.

I never said the brain condition was fake. The bodily alteration however, is an artificial construct. Your altered paperwork is a social construct. What were you saying about constructs being wrong?

If you accept that the brain condition is real, then you are saying that indeed there IS a difference between transsexuals and transgenders.

Ah, but so far there's no real data to back a claim that transsexual and transgender brains are different. As I recall there was a recent study, with a sample size of about one non-op non-HRT trans woman, that suggests that the difference is quantitative rather than qualitative. That is, there is no sharp line between TS and TG, but instead it's a matter of more or less severe feminisation of an otherwise male brain or vice versa.

Anyway, the bottom line is that there is no hard evidence either way, yet. It may turn out that we are not that different after all, or it may turn out that we are.

Ana, this is the great TG lie.

There are more than 300 studies confirming exactly this, one or two that possibly indicate the possibility of a middle ground, but personally I suspect if one's factors in time and the observation that the "crises" seem to occur in regular, increasing in intensity, intervals in classic transsexual suffering folks that is the explanation.

At any rate, I will not cut you or MJ any slack given your out and out attack on the womanhood of post corrected women....that places you firmly in the enemy camp as far as I'm concerned and provides one of the best reasons yet to divorce classic transsexuality from transgender....that you are the enemy, not allies in your willingness to engage in the same bull pushed by the worst bigots out there.

And again, this is hardly the first time. Some of the most vocal (at least in the past) TG spokespersons right here on Bilerico have done the same using even more offensive language.

You do not respect the realities of our lives, you cannot claim us as part of your construct or any right at all to speak for us...seems pretty clear and straightforward to me. Since other TG "spokespersons" do not renounce this by you or others, they ceded any claims to us.

All right, please educate me about this great lie and show me some pointers to the studies that say that a non-op TG is fundamentally different from a TS who seeks surgery. I sincerely want to understand this.

As for me being in the enemy camp, you are of course free to feel so. However, I'm rather upset by your claim that what I've written is 'out and out attack on the womanhood of post corrected women'. This is not what I've ever intended to do. I admit, though, that I don't draw the line at surgery but instead chose pre-op and non-op trans women as women too. Not those who cross-dress occasionally or those who intend to remain somewhere in the middle, mind you, just those who identify as women and act on that identity. These other groups should not be discriminated against any more than women of any variety should, but that is a separate issue, perhaps related but irrelevant to the question of womanhood.

I still feel that granting womanhood to only cis and post-op trans women is overly restrictive and dangerous. I'm sorry if that offends you, but so far I have not seen sufficient arguments for reconsidering this position.

i still feel that granting womanhood to anybody who declares it is completely unrealistic and dangerous.

i'm sorry if that offends you, but so far i have not seen sufficient arguements for reconsidering this position.

No, it doesn't offend me at all. Quite the contrary, I agree, I just don't think SRS is a good place to draw the line. But then this is likely to be my cultural background -- over where I live, it is entirely possible for a trans woman to get her legal gender fixed before, or without any requirement of, surgery. But that does not mean that a part-time cross-dresser could do the same, it's just that official 'womanhood' is established at an earlier stage during the transition process.

But the issue of who is a woman is separate from the issue of who can be discriminated against. Ultimately, I don't believe it is right to discriminate against anyone based on their gender presentation or perceived identity; and since this is largely a matter of social mores rather than laws, one cannot really make a distinction between a very masculine-looking cis woman, a post-op who does not pass very well, and a part-time cross-dresser who does not pass very well. Regardless of what laws say, the youth gang in a back alley will be equally eager to attack all three.

And here we have a perfect example of the transgender non acceptance of the womanhood of a post corrected woman.

Lump me in with this crowd? What exactly is the difference between a Ron Gold, a Julie Bindle and this?

Excuse me but if you think surgery means nothing then you are the problem here...and pushing this attitude is precisely the cover needed to eventually bar essential, life saving surgery and getting on with one's life corrected.

Do we? Or is this instead an example of your non-acceptance of the womanhood of a non-op transgender woman? From what MJ wrote it's not clear whether e considers a post-op trans woman a woman; e points out that surgery will only work up to a point.

Also, surgery will not change the gender of the brain -- which of course is the reason for having SRS instead -- so in that sense one will not be any more female post-op. Claiming as a fact that there is a clear difference between a non-op and a post-op gender identity is rather arrogant, when there really is not enough data.

None of this, of course, should be used as an argument against the necessity of SRS; for a lot of people it is a matter of life and death. But drawing the line of womanhood there is both arbitrary and elitist.

You picked the wrong person to pull this on.

I was born a tetragametic chimera or true hermaphrodite so in my case, my genetics are as much XX as they are XY and I was born with a full compliment of female fixtures.

And no, I do not consider someone who claims to be a woman but does not wish a female body a woman...you can call that being an elitist, you certainly wouldn't be the first to do so and no doubt will not be the last.

The proper terms for someone who has and wishes to keep a male anatomy and present as a woman is transvestite or crossdresser.

TGs, in my experience and after talking to dozens and dozens of their wives, are some of the most mysogynist and gynophobic people on the planet outside of gay men. The "safe" outlet for expression of this is post corrected women and that is exactly what you find over and over. Just like Jackson had no problem with erasure of the gains of post corrected women in the past because those gains were "elitist", those who have zero desire to actually have a female body must attack the womenhood of those who get there by surgical correction in order to maintain the fiction the are also women and we find this eventually expressed in the out and out nonsense that in this great "transgender" community, actual claims that those with penises are more womanly than those with vaginas.

I cut a lot of slack for those who do not attack the womanhood of post corrected women, none at all for those who do.

I'm not sure, Ana, whether it is "elitist" to consider that there is an important difference between a non-op transsexual and a post-op one. I'm not advocating a "more female than thou" stance, which could be elitist. But I could see having a support group for post-op transpersons only, without it being an elitist move. Or a group of non-ops only. While many of the issues affecting both are the same, there are some that are not. What do you think?

That depends on how one defines non-op. Setting a strict line at SRS is elitist in the sense that it tends to favour those who can afford SRS -- for example because of their finances or the country they live in -- over those who cannot. These things being equal, I agree it would be reasonable to treat the two groups differently; also, for purposes like support groups it is of course useful to make the distinction.

As a Lesbian representing a group of women that includes Lesbians with an operative history, I have to take issue with that statement. Whatever drives the women that I know to the radical solution of surgery seems to arise from an essential feminine/female/ identity whereby the incongruity between psyche/neurology and the body becomes so very extreme as to laeve that the only viable soultion.

Afterwards, these women live lives just as the rest of us of less dramatic history, they are simply women.

You may say that they are not cured, I disagree. Body and mind are in agreement, from what I can observe. That was the goal, it has been reached in these women.

They are as much feminist, as much Lesbian and as genuinely woman as any of us.

Rad, you raised another issue that is important in the context of the current DSM-V development--

>The medical condition, transsexuality,

As I mentioned earlier, using Transsexual as a diagnostic term for the purpose of enabling access to transition medical care is problematic, because it would be confused with its common usage as a term of social identity. For example, many people who suffer profound anatomic dysphoria quit identifying as transsexual when they give up on gaining financial access to hormones and/or surgeries. They would be excluded from your nosology. Many post-treatment/post-op people continue to identify as TS in solidarity with pre-op folks (as I proudly do). However we no longer have a condition and should not be diagnosed as such.

Moreover, the TS word already has a history as a flawed, defamatory psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM-III and III-R and the current ICDs. It would be difficult to recycle the TS word as a diagnostic title without inadvertently stereotyping all TS people as mentally ill and sexually deviant. This is why I prefer other terms when talking about diagnostic language.

Kelly, transsexuality is a medical condition, it's just not a mental one except in the broadest interpretation.

There are so many mentally ill and open about that, TG "spokespersons" you will never convince the psych communities they aren't mentally ill, especially when you factor in the reactions, death threats, character assassinations and attacks on professional status that say a Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard have received. I've commented in the past that the over the top reactions to these guys simply results in their peers circling the wagons around them even if they disagree....

And the result? Paul McHugh has once again crawled out from under his rock to use these guys for his revenge..the DSM V revision which, from inside knowledge, is going to be so draconian that everyone except the most clear cut classic transsexual is about to be branded a fetishist, mentally ill and a possible candidate for institutionalization.

And the TGs did it to themselves. And the post corrected women who were in a position to oppose this professionally all washed their hands due to the excesses of TG politics.

Making enemies of post corrected women has been one of the most boneheaded things the TGs ever did other than proving out and out to the very psych professions determining their diagnostic fate exactly how crazy they are!

I used to be a psychiatric aide and work in the institutions, we often discussed how difficult it would be for a sane person to prove that once inside.

Okay, so this comment caught my attention. I figure there's somebody here that can answer a practical, hope-for-the-best-prepare-for-the-worst question.

Let's assume that the DSM-V goes to extraordinary measures to alienate transgender people as transvestitic fetishists, incomplete members of their birth gender, or otherwise unworthy of being seen as candidates for transition. (Hint: I'd love to see what the grapevine says about proposed diagnostic criteria, other than "draconian"; not trying to be mean/snippy so much as it's caught my curiosity!) Let us also assume that these measures take effect when the DSM-V is released in 2013. If that's the case, and the new manual suddenly exempts people from a gender variance diagnosis, would those exempted people be grandfathered into treatment under the DSM-IV rules, or by virtue of the updated rulebook made exempt from treatment and therefore male again?

I'm not sure I want "detransition by technicality" in our futures, after all.

I'm not saying that I want to let negative DSM portrayals go unchallenged; rather, as the dorky, rules-lawyery, played-too-much-MtG-as-a-kid girl I am, the mechanics of potential rules changes intrigue me.

No "grandfathering" in other than those who are post corrected and therefore out of their reach.

No more WPATH (HBIGDA) SOC...it will be taken away from them for a newer, Jurassic Clarke style, version that is medical in nature and enforceable rather than voluntary. An end to the gender therapist business as a result.

Doctors who ignore the new SOC will be subject to professional sanctions, at least in the US so no more US SRS surgeons, almost no approved prior to RLT hormones. RLT two years minimum. Formal adoption of the Blanchard autogynophilia model, with a nod to the current science of a slight exemption for the most classical neurological intersexed (with that drawn so tightly very few will fit)

The conservatives have seized control of this part of the DSM revision, hence the re-appearance of Paul McHugh, McHugh is known as an agent of the Pope, the guy who phonied up a study to kill the Johns Hopkins gender clinic that was the first in the US. He hates trans everything and would go further if he could.

As of now, this is pretty much a done deal, the trial balloons already flown professionally and the James/Conway attacks plus the out and out gender theory weirdness now floated by WPATH pretty much cinched the deal.

A future out was provided by the APA (APsychiatricA) in this is their baby and the team doing the revisions are mostly psychologists rather than psychiatrists. But put small comfort in that because none of this will be corrected again for years after adoption.

Now will come the cries I'm lying....so be it, my sources are excellent and assuming I'm still alive when it comes to pass, I might say "I told you so" as I could have so many times in the past.

Well hell, what the heck.

Oddly enough, I've done work, recently, with some of the people on those panels.

And its not coming out as draconian at all. Indeed, its coming out, well, pretty much in the favor of trans folk overall. Despite some efforts to stop it.

So while I won't say you are liar *this time*, I will say that you are incorrect.

Into the valley of death rode the one.

I think I can understand why a post-op woman just wants to get on with her life and forget the memories of a time of dissonance. It is understandable that any reference to her past could be extremely painful, as well as opening herself up for harrassment if she does not leave her past behind. She is a woman, wants to be treated like a woman, and has every reason to become upset if anyone tells her she is not a woman. All the more reason to applaude the women that decide to not hide their past, who work to make it easier for more women to develop into their true self.

Giving titles both helps and hurts us. With a title, an opposing group can lump us all together under a single moniker and use it to denegrate us. Without the title, they can only say "those people" and then they have to define which people they are referring. It makes it very hard for the opponents when they have to go down a list of all the traits they object to.

But a title also gives us a rallying point, for a combined voice is more powerful than the individual voice, the old "united we stand, devided we fall". Hiding one's past does a disservice to the many, in that the best way to educate and convert someone is to be a part of their life so they get to know you. How can we let the world know our true numbers and that we are your neighbor next door if we hide ourselves and our past.

For the women that want no part of the TS/TG identification, you must also recognize that we of the TS/TG identification respect what you have been through, because, you are women that have always been women, i.e. genetic women as that is how you now identify, and we don't identify with genetic women, we have a history that you being genetic women cannot understand.

As for the grouping of TS with TG, we may not be the same, but we are allies. I do not know the history of non-TS TG supporters of TS rights. perhaps the non-TS TGs have been negligent in supporting the TS. Probably, the TG are better able to suppress their alternate gender side. I know I get offended by TS that opine that TGs cannot be real supporters of the TS. That is no different than saying a cis-gendered people cannot be true supporters or that straights or gays cannot support TS rights. TS that put down or reject the efforts of TGs are really shooting themselves in the foot. The TS activists that do accept other peoples help, besides accepting our help, also educate us so that we can become better supporters.

And we really do need an umbrella term. Otherwise, many of us would still feel like outsiders. My own opinion is that sex is more than just your sex organs, why else would a man suffer from multiple medical conditions that are predominately female conditions. And gender is more than just how your mind self identifies, as how can a man with a male self identity live a life with predominately feminine traits?

I will leave it at that. People need a rallying point when trying to drive change. A rallying point needs a label. Nobody fits the exact definition, but, words can only hurt you if you let them hurt you. Accept the title, the words, use what you can, ingore what doesn't fit, and you are a stronger person as you are in control, not letting others define or control you.


Hello Deanna

I think it is the way some transgender activists are going about it. there is a weird graphic on the GLAAD website which is a picture of an umbrella and "intersex" sits right next to "Drag queen". (Which is essentially a stage performer?) There are many inferences you can draw from that simple placement of words on a graphic alone.

What has my situation got to do with the entertainment industry? It is not so much what is said on the surface but what appears in between the lines.

I can say, with a high degree of confidence that if you went and asked people diagnosed with an intersex condition if they are happy being called "A subset of transgender", the answer "no" would at least be 75%. It has nothing to do with perceptions like "What have I got to do with stinking cross dressers" (An unfortunate sort of comment often that results from sheer frustration) and more to do with being discussed by the transgender lobby in terms that are borne of urban myth. Some examples:

"All with 5 alpha end up wanting to be men" (Wrong)
"All intersex people are surgically forced to be little girls as children"
"Well it is OK for intersex people because they are all halfway there"
(Halfway where? to where someone else wants to be?)
"Intersex people get the best of both worlds"
(No we get the worst)
"It is confusing to be intersexed"
(No it is confusing when as a 5 year old you are stuck in an ambulance suffering kidney reflux and everyone is more worried about what toys you play with or what clothes you wear.)
"All Intersex people have abnormal XX or XY chromosomes"
(Some have additional chromosomes etc, not all, and that has more to do with dogma about chromosomes)
"Intersex people have a lower level of intelligence or learning difficulties so they need our help"
(That is not true and it is insulting)
"All intersx people have gender issues"
(Not true)
"All intersex people are queer by virture of having unconventional anatomies"
(By who's standards, the standard of surgeons and other "experts" who seek to interfere with our bodies without consent?)

The list goes on, and such statements are peddled as fact when the truth is we seldom if ever get to speak for ourselves. I have found as an intersex activist that when I go to some conferences there are people, who are not intersexed, who obviously feel the right to speak on our behalf, often talking urban myth and often speaking over us. I have had this happen live on air in front of millions of people where an "expert" simply spoke over me and I was unable to say a thing..

And when I do speak up I am called an "HBS sepratist" Well no I am not, but the Transsexual folk I do know are way more respecful of me and what I represent than the gender political folks who I have had to deal with. So yes I am totally honest I sypathise with the transsexualfolks, reasoning they get the same sort of misleading statements made about them as are made out someone like me.

Just listen and learn, and then let us educate people about our issues that is all some of us ask.

Dr. Reiss

Is it me or are you focusing this debate on the fact that many transsexual folks don't agree with this "transgender assimilation"? They are not the only people who object.

I am not transsexual myself, nor transgender in the classical sense, I am branded by the medical profession as "intersex" because I cannot metabolise certain hormones and thus "Transgender". What's is going to happen next? Will diabeitcs be called "transgender".

What I am saying is I believe the objections to all this labeling and lumping are very widespread. and it is because people feel like they are being shoved in a ghetto.

Hello Dr. Weiss

Sorry for misspelling you name, I need a new keyboard.

Not a problem. I appreciate your participating in this discussion.

Thanks :)

For me it is a problem of history, personal history because there are things that the word "Transgender" implies that I have never experienced. It was never about gender but sometimes actively avoiding medical intervention.
i have never "transitioned" because I would say "from what" and "to what".

There is also the term itself, having being coined by Virginia Prince with a specific meaning and intent. she did intend it to refer to heterosexual cross dressing men. (Her own definition) this bears no similarity to my circumstances or history. It feels wrong to have that term applied to me and I would also feel wrong about appropriating the term for myself, it is not a term that belongs to me.

Then there is the social history. One well known method employed by dictatorships when controlling a population is to place them in one place so they can be controlled, the ghetto. this is slightly different with the transgender ghetto being more in terms of legal and social containment rather than geographical containment. but it works just the same.

For these reasons (Among others) I consider umbrella terms to be unworkable, they do cause people to ignore individual differences.

Well Sophia - we all better get used to this becoming a whole lot worse before it gets better!

One of the most fascinating aspects of this conversation is the reductio ad absurdum that reduces the holistic human biological /anatomical/ sociological and internalized individual experience of being human, down to an issue about identities.

It seems a waste of time pointing out (yet again) that there exists no mote of evidence, scientific or substantive, that either classical transsexuals or the roughly 30% of IS individuals who reject the so called gender assignment imposed on them at birth are caused by identity issues in the first place.

The DSM-V seems set to continue promulgating both as such - even while the APA working group members
happily admit that they don't really know what they're talking about. These days the identity paradigm survives by intellectual inertia, smelling, tasting and looking more and more like an offshoot of the Hippocratic Corpus, than the product of empirical science.

Wait and see what happens when the DSM-V removes the requirement to exclude an intersex condition before a diagnosis of gender identity variance (GIV) is made. Its a neat little trick that instantly turns any miss-assigned IS individual into an identity problem, parks the issue of miss-assignment alongside transsexualism and absolves the surgeons and psychologists of any responsibility for the situation.

Finally, As science philosopher,? ?Thomas Kuhn,? wrote?,? “?Once an organized system of looking at things becomes established,? ?a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternative candidate is available to take its place."

I suspect that Khun's dictum is in operation right now, will remain so until we stop trying to comprehend all these different experiences as identity issues, and recognize that, whilst some are, others can only be explained by organization-activation theory.

If Khun was correct that time is some way off!

Well, I didn't go through many expensive (and painful) surgeries, to correct my physical sex so that it matched my internal gender perception. Just so I could be called 'transgender.'
I don't want to be lumped in a group with some guy who masturbates in his wife's knickers for sexual pleasure.

Not to pick on you personally -- variants of this argument have been presented by several others, and often -- but just how is this different from 'I don't want someone who was born with a penis ogling me in the bathroom'?

Gee Anna,
I don't want someone with a penis peeping on me in the ladies either...I've been raped by such a person.

As for the fear of the ghost of penis past? How did anyone know if you didn't tell them? Oh yes, I forgot, we are supposed to be "out and proud" and paint a target on our asses. Great idea that.....not!

And for what it's worth, in 14 or so years I've never encountered this particular brand of woman. Even when a TG outed me on the job it literally never occurred to anyone I would use anything other than the ladies. Things that make you go hmmmmmmm.

Like the hoards of haters lurking about in the bushes to kill me violently, this whole bathroom horror thang is encountered by women of history about as much as bigfoot. Tsk Tsk, selling your point with fear mongering is so Dick Chaney.

You are seriously saying that sexual fetish behavior is just as valid an "identity" as man or woman?

No, I'm saying that this argument is a strawman rather much like the toilet rape one. In both cases, one takes a stereotype that has little to do with reality and uses it to disassociate oneself from people who, in the end, are not too different.

I'm not saying that sexual fetishists do not exist. However, the vast majority of cross-dressers do not do it to masturbate in their wives' knickers (as Lisa put it) -- there's no real evidence that their reasons are different from those that lead to transition. In fact, they often do.

It's not a strawman as long as it's true. "Transgender" includes sexual fetishists (Crossdressers/Tranvestites), therefore everyone included in "transgender" is related to them. There is no getting around that.

And yet this transgender person is willing to put his job on the line to help you live in anonymity. Some people are willing to be out, working to make it easier for future generations of transexuals to be accepted for themselves by most of the population. So many transexuals are thrown out of their homes, lose their jobs, either before, during or after transition, as you must be aware, and those crossdressers and transgenders are working their butts off to get rid of the stigma of being transexual and transgender.


I generally identify as male, but damn do I find that constricting! So, I guess its mostly Gender Queer for me, at least with people who get that.

Really the only problem I have with using transgender to describe myself as well as a wide variety of other individuals is that TRANS doesn't really mean what we use it for.

I'm a science person, and trans is a root used in biology and chemistry to indicate a site at which two things are opposite (chemical bonds, for instance). Transgender as a descriptor rose from scientific roots (from psychology, medicine, biology), and should be treated as such, in my opinion.

I'm not opposite. Opposite implies there are two choices, and in my experience, gender identity is rarely about choosing from two possibilities. I grow facial hair and feel at home with my male genitalia, but am incredibly annoyed when someone finds it odd that I don't like football, have a crush on Joss Whedon, and enjoy writing about my feelings. I'm not a "modern man," and I don't think I consider myself a transgendered individual. Just queer. (that may also be applied to me in the antiquated usage, as in "odd.")

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How lovely that the "trans" community debates in great detail what terms should be used to describe themselves. These same people, without debate or consultation, created a term for 99.99% of the population that is not "trans" and insist that it be used. I believe that a few weeks ago one who regularly contributes to TPB even listed the use of the term as a "rule" that the peons must follow when addressing trans issues. Thus the real rule is: we trans activists define ourselves and we define you and if you don't like it, we will hector you and call you names.

There is a mentality of dominance and intimidation among trans activists and assuming the power to label others against their will is one manifestation of it.

This isn't really a fair comparison. In talking about transsexuality -- or any other trans* matter -- there is often a need to compare it to the condition of not being transsexual. The way this is done has implications.

The traditional view has been that transsexuality is a medical or mental disorder, so the opposite of 'transsexual' is either 'healthy' or 'normal'. It's easy to see how such a use could have implications that are pretty damning for transsexuals. Of course, some deal with this by stating that they are women whose transsexuality was cured by surgery. That is one way to do it but again it has implications, as seen in this discussion.

Now, if one takes the stance that transsexuality is a normal part of human gender variation, there is a need to treat it on an equal basis with other gender identities. The most natural way to do this is to take the existing term 'transsexual' and join it with the existing 'cis' vs. 'trans' opposition that is already used in other contexts. Just like what was done back when the term 'homosexual' needed a more respect-allowing opposite than 'normal'.

I guess anyone who dares to challenge their labelling as a deviant is by that very act dominant and intimidating. But if so, sometimes a little intimidation is necessary.

Apparently, my previous comment was too graphic. Let me try a different approach.

I live in Georgia. I don't have to explain what that entails. We are the buckle of the Bible Belt, one used to beat LGBT people over the head all the time. I don't make it a habit to go to a Southern Baptist church every Sunday, constantly, standing up and hollering that I don't want to be included in their religion, when clearly I'm not. I don't go to a KKK rally and scream and holler that I don't want to be included in their beliefs. I don't go to a Republican meeting and holler that I don't want to be included in their party. I'm not because I'm registered Democrat.

I'm going to make an educated guess that my point will be lost on some people here.

Gwen Walcott | January 4, 2010 5:53 PM

Many of these comments are issuing another sticky point -- at least for the TS among us. Our grouping includes both those born with male and female anatomical parts. There are too many comments being issued that imply that all those of the TG persuasion are those only born with male genitalia -- which is another thing that the rest of society tries to use against us. Forget rhetorical -- include and specify both

That's because it's always the women under attack. Nobody publicly shames the men like they do to us routinely in spaces like this.

Marja Erwin | January 5, 2010 8:14 PM

I think trans womyn draw most of the attention, and most of the hatred, because patriarchal society sees everything male as healthy and everything female as sick or disordered. So trans men, in this view, are trying to correct an unfortunate birth defect, while trans womyn are trying to create one.

There are exceptions; for example, some butch womyn are hostile towards trans men, but that has to do with the pressures on butches to feminize or transition.

Since there are few transmen piping in, I feel I should give my opinion (not an argument, just how I feel). Day to day, I am a man. Online and in bed, I become a transman. At the doctors, I am a female-to-male transsexual. At the pyschiatrist, I suffer from gender identity disorder. My license says F, but I look like a man. I'm gay. I'm feminine. I'm all of these things.

And when I want to talk politically about these things, I say trans. Just trans. No -gender or -sexual. It usually says enough. The details are for me, not the nitwits I meet that find out and then procede to ask me questions. In short, the vaguer the better, in my opinion. It includes all the weirdness about me and doesn't make me feel like less than a transsexual because I haven't had bottom surgery.


One reason for having the umbrella term 'transgender' (or 'trans' which is what I generally use) which I haven't heard anyone mention yet is that the self-identity so many of us have change over time.

I have identified as a hetero crossdresser. I've identified as non-op transgender. I've identified as a pre-op transsexual, and god willing one day soon I'll identify as a post-op transsexual, and maybe even someday a woman of transsexual history.

The reason why an umbrella term 'transgender' makes sense to me is because that describes the part of the experience that was constant throughout. It just seems like making these all separate rooms with their own standards and gatekeepers is overly complicated when it's the *whole building* that's burning down. You know?

I mean, I understand that for some of you this was clear as a bell from the day you were born -- that's how it was for my wife -- and I'm always quite impressed at that. Cause some of us just aren't that smart, or that self-aware. (I eventually discovered that the reason it took me so long to realize that my body was wrong was because it never really felt like it was *mine*.) And we need the help and protection too.

Gwen Walcott | January 5, 2010 1:26 PM

And it isn't necessarily a matter of self-aware as it is self-denial and hope that the condition or feeling goes away until one succumbs to reality.

The point is that for the transsexual condition to exist, the self-identity never changes. And that is the exact opposite of what transgender is all about. It may be a "transgender" view to "identify" as various things, but it has nothing to do with transsexual as a matter of routine. This is the common misconception that allows the conflation of thse two distinctly separate things. One is a birth condition, the other is a world view.

There is no (required) overlap between a birth condition and this trans-philosphy. That is one of the central fallacies that must be put to rest. It is a pernicious untruth that is, unfortunately, all too commonly believed.

Transgender is best described as a belief system. It is unfair and counterproductive to push it onto transsexual people simply because some people think it makes their lives easier. That kind of inner peace is a personal issue, not one to be worked out in law. And it is certainly not something that should be enforced upon us, upon anyone, against our will.

I'm not sure we mean the same thing by 'identity'. While the *essential* part of me that was transsexual did not change over time, my *understanding* of it did. When I say that my 'identity' changed, I mean that my internal explanation of my transness changed over time. My 'self-identity' changed, as I tried on different stories to describe what I felt. But what I actually *felt* didn't change -- and I think that's what you mean by 'self-identity'.

The reason I belabor this point is that one of the main obstacles I had to overcome was this idea that "transsexuals are always certain the problem is gender." Since it took me so long to figure that out, I therefore "knew" that I couldn't be transsexual. Turns out that wasn't true.

So when you talk about fallacies that need to be put to rest, that's the one I'm sensitive to -- unwavering certainty is not a requirement for a transsexuality.

I think transgender *can* be a worldview. But it can also be a stage -- a stage of ignorance, of discovery, of exploration -- while the person figures out what a better descriptor for themself is. We don't all pass through that stage, but a lot of us do, and it is such a vulnerable, adolescent stage that it just seems cruel to me to exclude it. They're too fragile to advocate for themselves.

(Gee, can you tell I'm raising teen-agers? :) )

I agree completely -- this 'certainty' of 'being a girl' right from a very young age is one of the things that confused me for a long time.

I was certain I was a boy right at the start: the physical evidence was indisputable. I did want to be a girl already about the time I started school, but on the other hand I also wanted to fit in as a boy. I even wanted to grow up, and that led to things like a desire to grow a beard around age ten, which is kid of funny considering it'll soon be time to book another laser session.

Of course, even now I don't conform to some people's idea of transsexual. I still don't 'need to be a woman' in a social sense (although generally it feels so much better to be one of the girls than one of the boys); my route is to just make the minimal number of changes to be able to live with myself, and not worry about how others see me. So, yes, I still have male privilege, although it's getting more and more precarious as my ability to pass as a man slowly but steadily erodes. Once it gets thin enough, well, that's the time for a legal transition.

For me, one of the most important discoveries was that this approach is possible. For a few decades I despaired over having to be a 'normal' man, just because I was born looking that way; for the next couple of years I despaired over the idea of having to be a 'normal' woman overnight, just because that's what a transsexual is supposed to do. The start of my transition, if that's the right word, was not a decision to change sides but rather a matter of 'sod it, I'll just see what I am'. I'm lucky to be in an environment where this approach works.

What I'm saying is that identity, gender or otherwise, is irrelevant to the transsexual condition. You are born with this problem, and it is purely physiological in origin. Any mental component is merely a symptom. Those who wish to glom onto transsexual for unrelated issues, such as transvestitism, under the TG rubric are doing real transsexual-born people a grave disservice.

People who do not have the transsexual condition do not understand it. We do not pass through stages with varying degrees of "womanhood". I'm not going to explain it in more detail than that, because having to justify this sort of thing to outsiders is actually quite insulting. It is also not productive.

There is no reason to change the current way of transition. It is already very loose and anyone can do it. If you try to change it, you run the risk of simply making things more stringent and difficult, because that is the only direction things can go. It can never be any easier than it already is.

And changing the definition of transsexual to include "non ops" because of some nonexistant need of pre-ops (which pre-ops themselves never seem to voice, so who is really making the demand?) is plainly silly.

How much easier does it need to be before transgender supporters are satisfied? What could possibly be easier than it already is? Nobody is going to handle your family and co-workers for you.

So, like, I'm new here and I have the feeling that you are arguing against points that I'm not making and assuming I have a point of view that I don't have.

I happen to competely agree with you that transsexuality is a distinct physiological condition. And you also don't have to explain it to me, because I *am* a transsexual, and I am married to a transsexual, so I'm like, rather steeped in these issues.

What I am saying is that just because you *are* a transsexual does not mean that you *know* you are a transsexual. I am not positing that people pass through stages of womanhood -- I am saying that they pass through stages of self-knowledge.

For instance, yesterday I had a condition which is completely physiological in origin called a "cold." But if you had asked me yesterday if I was sick, I would have denied it. I thought I was tired from the holidays, or perhaps depressed. It wasn't until I got a cough today that I realized that I had a cold, and that I had also had it yesterday. My underlying physiological condition didn't change, but the way I identified that condition did change. *That* is what I am talking about.

(By the way, I don't intend for that to be a flippant example, so I hope it doesn't come across that way.)

In my opinion, the usefulness of the term transgender, and the usefulness of extending protections broadly to transgender people -- rather than narrowly to transsexuals -- is precisely this area of uncertainty. If there was an objective test, if we definitively *knew* who was transsexual, who was a crossdresser, and who was non-op transgender, then maybe we wouldn't need it. But because the boundaries between groups are fuzzy, and because individual people's self-definitions move between these groups over time, we need a blanket term which describes our commonality, or we leave people unprotected.

And personally, it would have been *impossible* for me to figure out that I was transsexual if I had not had the protection to explore being simply transgender. Therefore I feel very strongly that protection should be broad enough to cover the clueless, as well as the self-aware.

So I'm not a 'pre-op voicing the need for changing the definition of transsexual to include "non ops" because of a need of pre-ops' but I *am* a pre-op voicing the need for ensuring discrimination protections *include* non-ops' because I know that without those I would not have survived.

Does that make sense? It's fine with me if you disagree -- I just want to make sure that you understand my point.

I've already had one post deleted and for the life of me I cannot fathom why perhaps because truth hurts? No Matter let's try again.
The point of all this that seems to get missed is that the doctrine we keep hearing is that "everyone has a right to identify as they choose" Fine and dandy. I identify as woman, unfortunately I confess I had a birth defect corrected 25 years ago but will the transgender umbrella and the activists who created it and now enforce it's doctrines with censorship and harassment allow me that identity? No they force me to identify as something I am not. Isn't that a definition of just plain forced coercion? Isn’t that double standards.

Every month someone will appear in a newspaper or magazine or news/documentary show with yet another person claiming my narrative when plainly they have nothing whatsoever in common with it. There comes a time and recently this is about that time when the line has to be drawn. It should be obvious from the number of times this subject comes up here and the number of posts it attracts, that a great many transsexuals do not wish to identify with you and do not wish you to speak for us as if we do; we don't and never will.
We wish you all well, we wish you happiness and health in whatever you do. We just ask you do not do it in our name or use our narratives, our diagnosis or life experiences to justify your desires. They are not ours.

You an keep transgender I don't care just "Let these people go" Is it too much to ask?

I would like to extend my compliments to everyone who has contributed to this post.

It has been a very civil, if contentious, discussion. I think airing of different viewpoints can be very helpful in beginning to understand other positions and other points of view. Personally, as someone who feels a community of interest with everyone who has posted here (even if you don't feel the same), I have learned more about why some transsexual people feel that transgender issues should be kept separate from transsexual issues. I have often used the term "transgender and transsexual" when referring to our community, and I feel more confirmed in doing so, and in explaining why when I do so. We can acknowledge and value our different identities and needs, even while we benefit from political alliances.

By the way, I do not generally favor expanding the LGBT acronym now to LGBTTQ, or switching over to the sole use of the term "queer." But when I make reference to the trans community, I will generally say "transgender and transsexual."

While people who benefit from the status quo with regard to LBGT may be satisfied with it, a growing number of others are not. Extending the acronym to include transgender and transsexual only increases the hold that it has on people. It does not empower anyone.

If there must be an acronym, why not LGBQ? This eliminates the instant relationship between transgender and transsexual that is caused by the purposeful mimicking of "transsexual" by the coiners of the transgender term. Even in its birth, the point of transgender was to steal legitimacy and replace the experience of those born with transsexualism with that of people who are patently not dealing with that condition.

I find the continued demands of transgender supporters that my medical condition be perforce included in their politics to be inappropriate and damaging to me and others like me. I hold little hope that they will do the right thing and willingly relinquish these illegitimate claims on the transsexual condition. For what is transgender without transsexual?

Without transsexual, transgender is a flat, lifeless construct that exists only to ghettoize the lives of people who don't live in the mainstream. Only those few tokens at the top of this artificial political construct benefit in any way from it. I find it shameful that those who are granted benefits and cushy jobs due to this caste system can, with a straight face, tell us that we are never going to escape their clutches. We are all better off living the truth, not this political lie.

Transgender needs to die so that we all may live.

Hello Jilian

You could just try this little 'test'.

Imagine that:

1. Instead of reporting the so-called John/Joan (David Reimer)case as a magnificent success in Man and Woman, Boy and Girl (1972, John Money had waited until the child was old enough for the outcome to be certain.

2. Upon discovering that his experiment was a failure, Money had acted immediately to inform the rest of the world of that fact.

3. So that a further 17 years had not elapsed between the time David was 14 and the year 1997, when Diamond and Sigmundson published the actual result.

In other words - If John Money had acted ethically and with clinical and academic integrity ...

Q. Would you, and almost everybody else in this discussion, be having a conversation totally predicated on identities right now?

I ask these questions so you can truly come to understand the influence one act of duplicity, by one individual, has had on this entire discourse.

It is respectfully submitted that the identity paradigm is the problem, not the solution, in this debate. Until the time comes that all of you realize that attempting to convert complex biological variations into identity issues, and you come to focus on the effects of the biologies sans the medium of identity, all further discussions are as doomed to a non-result as this.



Because the terms for those complex biological variations include the concepts of identity. Diamond had been publishing counter evidence for years prior to the revelations, as it was, and the science behind it all still used (and uses) the concepts of Sex Identity and Gender Identity.

So, *technically*, yes, they would. However, it would not be as entirely based in the social parameters of discussion (which, oddly enough, in terms of the social science, had already moved there long before the physiological science was established almost solely on the basis of logical and scientific examination).

Since its a whatif posited, as well, I can say that generally speaking we would be 17 years further along in the science behind the physiology that was buried as a result of the money investigations, therefore this same discussions would have been held probably in the late 1980's, in local groups, and the changes overall would have resulted in a much more uniform awareness by the time of the late 90's due to the advances in communications.

But hey, that's what I do.

Hello A.D. You point out ...

...the science behind it all still used (and uses) the concepts of Sex Identity and Gender Identity.

Prior to Money's ideas the discussion was about psychosexual development. Money introduced and popularized the notion of gender, both as a psychological tool, and 'identity' as a product of gender.

I asked:
"Would you, and almost everybody else in this discussion, be having a conversation totally predicated on identities right now?"

You do not make it clear, but I presume you are addressing this question when you write:

So, *technically*, yes, they would. However, it would not be as entirely based in the social parameters of discussion...

Which is the point that I was making A.D. I would describe the current discourse as utterly one dimensional. I can lay the blame for bringing that about, solely at the feet of John Money. I would suggest that its continuation relies on the speculative input of the so-called 'social (soft) sciences'.

You finish by stating:

I can say that generally speaking we would be 17 years further along in the science behind the physiology that was buried as a result of the money investigations, therefore this same discussions would have been held probably in the late 1980's, in local groups, and the changes overall would have resulted in a much more uniform awareness by the time of the late 90's due to the advances in communications.

No - Much of the technology (ie PET) wasn't available in the 1950's and the identity paradigm was constructed as a bundle of speculative conclusions drawn from observations made about various intersex conditions. 60 years on, even those conclusions are shown to be incorrect.

That said we continue to attempt the interpretation of new scientific findings by falling back on, and trying to establish biological links to Money's theories. It is impossible to overstate the influence this duplicitous and utterly dishonest individual still weilds: Why?

The identity paradigm should be in disarray. I would suggest that its on life support, sustained solely due to the efforts of the soft sciences. Perhaps were psychologists and sociologists more willing to present their conclusions as hypotheses, rather than selling them as 'facts' we might not be in the mess we are.

But, of course, it was selling hypotheses as 'facts' that got us into the mess we're currently faced with.

Let me conclude by going back to Khun's dictum:

“Once an organized system of looking at things becomes established, a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternative candidate is available to take its place."

Consider what that means: that no matter how mistaken or how broken a paradigm is, it will be repeated and repeated and repeated...

That scenario is exactly why the Hippocratic Corpus survived for 2500 years...until it was challenged by a new paradigm, constructed by individuals thinking beyond the limitations imposed by the old.

I'm suggesting that just such a situation is playing itself out again: I invite you to put your personal and gender politics aside and consider the implications of that.

Hear Hear! P.J. Schridinger, totally on the button.

*Sounds of rapturous applause.*

I wholeheartedly agree.


Well, the real problem is that the damage has already been done. I mean, transgender and transsexual are already conflated in the mind of the public and together they equal gay.

No matter that the transgender term is scrapped, the transsexuals are left to clean up the mess and the stains will never come out.

Sounds like men have been playing in the underwear draw doesn't it? ... and yes they have.

didn't read the other comments yet

accurate language for me is not a function of whether I think it'll gain me more rights or not.

accurate language for me is a function of how I actually understand my own life and my own body. I have a right to define my own experience as a medical condition. and it was treated medically.

I don't have a "variant" or "disordered" gender identity. to believe otherwise is to tell me I'm essentially wrong about my own sex and gender! that I am male is quite unexciting. I was born with some wrong parts, and that was corrected. end of story.

so to call me "transgender" is actually to loop me into social, identity, and political categories inaccurately and without my consent.

I fully support cross-dressing and gender bending and I'll fight for their rights, gladly. it's ok that our experiences are unlike. I'm not a woman; I don't have to be a woman to support women's rights. I'm not transgender- same deal applies.

That's because you clicked "Reply to this comment" on the wrong post; note that your comment is nested as a reply to Dr. Weiss' comment rather than the previous comment which you intended to reply to.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | January 6, 2010 10:11 PM

Personally, I don't care what I'm called. Transgender and transsexual are both linguistically inaccurate, but those are the terms currently in use, and neither has a carved-in-stone definition. I don't consider either to be an identity (for me). They're merely descriptions, and really, I'm not sure I understand anymore what all the fuss is about.

I actually use each term differently depending on the context, because the common community understands transgender to mean what those who know better actually refer to as transsexual. For instance, it is much easier for me to come out to someone I trust as transgender (meaning transsexual), because the concept of people being able to have a different gender identity is farther recognized than I have ever known.

It is my experience that there seems to be a great deal of variance and overlap on the gender identity spectrum, as well as the intensity of the disassociation one has with their birth-assigned gender and what the currently feel, as well as how fast the intensity progresses over time.

I think gender identity issues are complex, owing in no part to the complexity of the human brain, and our social institutions.

As a transsexual woman, I was very disheartened to be treated by someone who considered me not a "primary" transsexual, because I had actually had an environment where I could develop coping mechanisms to deal with my feelings (primarily through rejection and an attempt to expand my "man box") and at the same time I rejected societal gender normative expectations.

Many people who do have emotions that align very well with a gender they were not assigned attempt to make the best of it, especially, as in my case, they were sheltered from any reference that it was okay. Or the emotions in a liberal family were deemed permissable because society was "changing."

My struggle with my emotions and the fact that I just didn't feel male, physically or emotionally, and the internet finally led me to gender counseling at a stage where I no longer could refrain my desires to adopt female normative behavior, just to see what it was like. I had even ordered hormones before that just to see what it was like.

Up until that point, I had rejected all gender-normative behavior, but was willing to try. Under my counselor's watchful eye, I entered a period of time where I tried out being a cross-dresser. But after a while, it got to be too much tea-party and not enough reality. The difference between me and the crossdressers that I knew was that I abhored faking it. I wanted reality. No breast forms, but my own. I wore a wig until I grew my hair out, etc., etc.

I left that group to further my own transition.

What I learned is that many of them had been on very similar paths to my own. While officially stating that they explore both sides of the gender spectrum, privately many have told me that had they been younger or their social situation different, they would have transitioned as well. They just had to use a different coping mechanism. They could only imagine.

When it doesn't seem socially plausible, some people with gender identity try re-rationalize or deny their persistent feelings at an early age, go on to build a male life, and then have it seem completely meaningless, that their whole life was a lie. For those people, and I was one of them, married with two children, acceptance comes gradually. Personally, I did not want the stigma associated wit TS. But as I have been proceeding through my personal gender reassignment, I find the process more fulfilling every day, and as much as I initially tried to be stealth, I am drawn toward being a visible transwoman, enabling me to better to educate people.

In essence, there are differing cases where it is easier to accept the umbrella term transgender than it is the term transsexual, at least as an intermediary.

i know someone who is "bi or dual" gendered.

a person (professional classical dancer)
and asian, who is NOT Transexual!
this person (part of the gay male community) is actually being LIMITED by
the perception that he/she MUST be a "transexual" and is going to go get srs!

this is very othering, in actuality,
as that is absolutly NOT this person's identity, rather a genderqueer
androgenous male/female type identity. so calling ALL people "transgender"
actually leaves this individual OUT, and makes it HARDER for this person to live and be accepted,
as the world EXPECTS one to have to conform to the binary
and be "transexual".

in anciant asian cultures (like native american also) "two-spirited" type people were
revered.now we would be expecting them all to show up at a therapist to get srs.
i am T and comfortable with the binary.
alot of people are NOT.

so, beyond othering women and men who (were) transexual,
this unique individual, and others, are also being "lost" to public "perception"
of what they are "SUPPOSED" to be!("women"),

instead of ACTUALLY BEING TWO-spirit!
of some people's identities?
SHOULD the public think that all two spirits are "needing" to get surgery that they don't want?

how are we helping them?
i am a leftist activist, and this is NOT good politics.
how awfel,and how sad.

we need to rethink this whole thing,
before we all LOSE identity rights, not gain them.
calling women transgender, and transgender "transexual"
(thus forcing binary perception upon "dual" people is another tragedy,
for lives already marginalized beyond the pale.

sass rogando sasot | January 9, 2010 1:06 AM

This is an interesting post and an engaging discussion. Let me contribute my voice in this discussion. Pardon the style of how I presented my views here...my brain seems to be fond of working more in a non-linear fashion. I have more questions than answers:

1. Transgender is just like any other word but not like those words which doesn't have that much emotional,social,political weight. Consider the word "chair". I reckon that we wouldn't be having that much emotionally-charged discussions and mind-twisting academic debates if the word under discussion is chair. However, just like the word transgender, the word chair can also suffer the same problem of defining the "things" that are included in the universe of chair: What makes a thing a chair?

2. What makes a human being transgender?
Is it: a) just the simple act of saying they are; b) feelings; c) demonstrated behavior; d) getting a group of people to validate they are transgender - perhaps puting it into a vote?; d) having checked at least one characteristic in a checklist entitled "you are a transgender if..."; e) none of the above; f)at least one of the above; g) whatever?

The list can go on and on - of course. That is because, I assume, "to expand" is in the nature of the universe.

3. Now the question it seems is whether we should allow the "transgender universe" to be the universe that will include within it all the identities, bodies, behaviors, and experiences that doesn't conform to the heteronormative interpretations/expressions of gender? Who determines which identities, bodies, behaviors, and experiences are included/excluded in this universe - shall we put this into a vote? Do we really need a transgender universe?

4. I agree: Imposing any identity on someone is ethically questionable. I feel that that is one of the driving points of transgender activism. After all, isn't it that this activism challenges the validity of the sex assignment at birth, which of course, to some people, an imposed identity.

5. Now, I feel that scrapping the word "transgender" doesn't solve the problem that engendered the question posed by this article: imposition of an identity.

Would scrapping the words "male" and "female" solve the problem of these terms being imposed on us?

6. For me, my primary identity, and on to which all my other identities hinges on, is "human." Now, do I need to get others permission if I'm going to use it to call them? Also, this identity lumps us together with people whose behaviors, identities, experiences, etc don't fit our tastes. Now, compared to "transgender", as far as I know, why is it that no one is complaining in using "human" as our collective identity?

Your comment is very thought-provoking, Sass. Should I object to being called "human" if Attila the Hun, Ivan the Terrible, and Josef Mengele are also called "humans"? Should I object to being lumped into an LGBT community if some lesbians don't like transgenders and some gays are into S&M? Should I object to being called transgender because some transgenders don't have SRS and don't have as stable and intelligible a gender identity as I do? Perhaps I do not have the authority to define their identity as unstable and unintelligible.

This reminds me of the fictional ancient Chinese encyclopedia referred to by Michel Foucault in his preface to "The Order of Things", in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. He mentions the encyclopedia because it made him think about why things are ordered as they are, and whether they were always so. He concludes, to the best of my ability to decipher Foucault, that they are ordered as they are by historical accident and the ordering changes over the decades and centuries. The issue here isn't really what word to use, or not to use. The issue here is that transsexuals and transgenders and bisexuals and lesbians and gays and queers and the intersexed have become related, and what is the underlying reality and historical circumstances and politics that have mandated this fashioning us all into a "family"? The truth is that even if you hate your sister, you can't redefine her as a "stranger" no matter how you try because the belief of your sisterhood in billions of human minds means that there will always be a connection, no matter how tenuous.

While I disagree with Foucault on a good many things, one thing I always admire about him is his ability to say things that make me think very deeply about the world in a way I once did when young but of which I am no longer generally capable because of the weight of my worldly years. "It is comforting, however," he says, "and a source of profound relief to think that man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form." Indeed.

sass rogando sasot | January 11, 2010 4:48 AM

"It is comforting, however," he says, "and a source of profound relief to think that man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form."

Jillian, perhaps we can replace the word "man" in this quote with any "identity", such as "transgender" and "transsexual" - and yes change the duration as well. I don't know much about Foucault, and I have only superficial understanding of his work. Nonetheless, I feel that what he means here is that "man" as an identity, and perhaps any identity is bound to disappear because the "thing" identities try to bound are resistant to boundaries....

And it's indeed comforting for after all identities just like any word are at best ribbons, they are not the gift themselves.

Hello Sass, Hello Dr Weiss.

It depends on how the word is used. Like you can say "It defines those who's body does not fit a hetero normative standard" Let's take that for a moment. Transsexual people who undergo SRS, they seek it, they consent to it and benefit from it. Intersex people, when surgery is carried out on them as children is without consent, often not sought and has less benefit.

Write the word "Transgender" into any blog, newspaper article or magazine and some commentator will inevitably come out with something like.

"Surgery does not make a man or a woman, you are born with it, do as you are told!"

But what does that translate as when looking at the two cases mentioned? Well the commentator will be looking at the word "Transgender" and making assumptions based on the way the word has become loaded. To begin with they (Wrongly) regard transsexual people as people who undergo surgery for superficial reasons (They are not superficial reasons from what I know) and they will just not be able to understand or grasp what intersex is all about.

But lets put these things under the heading "Transgender" (With all the baggage associated with it) and what does the commentator really say?

It is suddenly "wrong" in the commentator's eyes for adults to have surgery (Be they either transsexual people being the sex opposite to the one they were "born" into or intersex people rejecting what was done to them)

Clearly this is a punitive interpretation, the commentator basically says that reasons for adults undergoing surgery is superficial. They compound it by claiming that intersex children should have surgery to "Correct a disordered body" (Remember they said, surgery does not make a man or a woman). Now the commentator is going under the general impression that as both intersex and transsexual are words that are part of the umbrella, there must be some universal rule, and when trying to determine that they add their opinion, that surgery should be administered or not administered purely to maximise distress. (A typical human reaction?)

What is the commentator preaching? Make people either suffer being the wrong sex as adults and make sure children are forced into a sex surgically to maximise pain. Very Dr John Money isn't it? Well yes, the commentator thinks everything is "social" and the victims will "Get used to it".

Ideally transsexual people should get the surgery they want, and intersex people be spared having to endure surgery until they can decide what is best for themselves. But the commentator (Reading the word "Transgender") would seek to impose banning it on people who consent and imposing it on those who don't.

What "Transgender" does is it trivializes the issues and simply makes the commentator act like a complete sociopath. Umbrella terms fail because they create a common misunderstanding of those under that umbrella (Usually based on bad common stereotypes), transgender doubly fails because it turns everything into a "Social construct" and fails to address the very real, physical consequences faced by people in situations such as when and where surgery is undertaken in the case of those where surgery is involved.

Transgender people often peddle the notion that someone like me with 5 alpha "Wants to turn male" or "Change sex" I have no intention of doing that, but they say 5 alpha proves "Gender identity" but no it doesn't, other studies in the proper context about other conditions (Such as transsexualism) did that, 5 alpha was tagged onto it because "Gender identity" was seen as a "common factor". And they call it "Gender identity" and apply it to all rather than "Brain sex" and apply it where it is relevant to do so.

Sorry i should have worded this better:

I said:

"Transgender people often peddle the notion that someone like me with 5 alpha "Wants to turn male" or "Change sex"

i should have said

"Transgender politicians often peddle the notion that someone like me with 5 alpha "Wants to turn male" or "Change sex"

Apologies to anyone who may have thought I was making such a generalization. I was referring to the political side of it all rather than entire groups of people.

battybattybats battybattybats | January 10, 2010 9:21 AM

There's too many comments to read them all before posting so here's some quick initial thoughts.

Trans according to my oxford dictionary doesn't just mean accross or on the other side of but also means beyond as in to transcend. Something worth considering in the context of some objections to the word or understandings of it's meaning(s).

For an umbrella I find the term S&GD or Sex and Gender Diverse (or Diversity) more useful in Human Rights discussions precisely because it is more clearly a broad umbrella term and one more easilly accepted as covering some who object to Transgender, though of course some will still have objections.

Also before we can draw neat distinctions between different groups we'll need to do all the tests that have found biological aspects to transsexual phenomena to see if say crossdressers or any other transgender subgroup may in fact have a lesser, minor, partial or varient form of the same causation, like for example the difference between extremely mild Autism, severe Autism and Aspergers Syndrome. The same with the Genetic discoveries too.

Till then we cannot accurately and scientifically delineate the groups.

With cross-sex neurological discoveries in Gays and Lesbians the nomenclature notion becomes even more complicated as all of TBLG may in fact have to scientifically be considered a subset of Intersex anyway.

And there's an Umbrella term that no matter how distasteful some may find being labelled or linked to some groups of people nevertheless it still applies to everyone in this discussion and makes them linked to every group they might rather not be linked to.


Hello Battybattybats

I see what you are saying

I think the real life commonality lies someplace else. I mean people can split hairs about neurology and anatomy forever. When people are murdered for being "Different" and marked out as "different" then you have to look at it differently. The common factor is that people are being attacked over a difference. Umbrella terms simple rename the difference rather than dealing with the problem of people attacking others for no good reason.

I think when it comes to common expereince it won't be found in gender/sex related different, but it will be found when it comes to oppression. As you point out, we are all above all human.

battybattybats battybattybats | January 10, 2010 9:21 PM

The term doesn't solve the problem, but it makes it easier to talk about the common difference. It makes it easier to express that difference in a positive way developing positive associations to. Because those who hate difference will label that difference and will try their darndest to associate negative things with it.

How can that be oppossed without terms and labels?

Sure we can and should argue against conformity and against oppression of diversity. Thats the real face of the real enemy. But too often people's compartmentalised thinking allows for exceptions like people saying everyone should be equal.. but in the next breathe saying Gays shouldn't exist or Muslims shouldn't have a Mosque in the neighbourhood etc.

Pointing out that Gender Expression is part of everyone's Freedom Of Expression is a very good argument. But can we say that if we couln't use the term Gender Expression?

Building links and cooperation between oppressed and discriminated and marginalised groups is a good idea. Strength in numbers. It requires confronting biases of some in each of those groups towards the other groups but thats a good thing to do anyway isn't it? Isn't it our obligation anyway umbrella term or no umbrella term?

Isn't that the big problem? Shouldn't we confront the biases in our own comunities if we want the rest of society to end it's biases against us?

And is it really that bad to be misslabeled as a member of a group if you don't have a personal bias against that group?

That last one i think is a key point here.

sass rogando sasot | January 11, 2010 3:04 AM

Hi battybattbats!

1. I agree about using S&G Diversity in Human Rights discourse. But I prefer that S should stand for "Sexual" rather "sex" for I think "sex" is a function of "gender". I feel that this highlights the diverse expressions of human sexuality and gender.

2.And is it really that bad to be misslabeled as a member of a group if you don't have a personal bias against that group?

Hmmm...perhaps it's not "personal bias against a particular group" that motivates one to resist being mislabeled as a member of that group - although I agree that, to some people, it can be one of the reasons but not necessearily the only reason. Another reason might be the label doesn't capture the reality/experience of the person involve.

battybattybats battybattybats | January 11, 2010 8:56 PM

The term has come up specifically related to the issues effecting Intersex, transsexual, gender-binary-non-conforming and other related groups.

The sex refering to physical anatomy human rights issues and so avoiding the problems some Intersex and Transsexual activists had with the word Gender in Transgender. And rationally we could consider that one could have cissexual transgender people, transsexual cisgender, transsexual transgender and cissexual cisgender all as logical consequences of splitting the labels. Alas for some wanting a great wall of transsexual the existance of transgender transsexuals remains valid, even if a smaller group using that alternate terminology.

But to add sexuality issues, which indeed are often overlapping like same-sex marriage, that would make it SS&GD Sexuality, Sex and Gender Diversity.

Hello Battybattybats.

I think misslabeling can be a problem if you apply specific approaches to two groups where they only help one. If you create an umbrella you by default create the situation where people are soon highlighting their difference, before long you get pecking orders and internalized conflict, that is human nature. (Look at how people are shouting at each other here sometimes, that says a lot really)

I have been discussing this with a friend on a blog and I am thinking perhaps it would be better to look at where the commonality really lies. Most groups suffer violence over their specific issues, perhaps it is best to combat the violence. If on that you say "well violence against all these people is wrong, no exceptions" instead of "They are all the same" (And therefore at each other's throats) a stronger coalition may emerge.

My point is that it is almost impossible to engineer a community into existence, they invariably evolve. I will give an example, people spend vast sums trying to develop architecture for social housing, and try to create a community, it often fails. Get a huge snowstorm where there often isn't one, and the community are out cleaning the paths trying to open the schools etc. I am not describing one group as more or less than another (That is a product of forcing people into one place and is wrong). If you look at what people have really got to deal with, (And there is plenty) perhaps that can be a better common cause than ever more complex gender taxonomies sitting under generic terms.

People understand when they feel the need to do something to help each other. People don't understand the use of big words to define their lives.

This is why I picked up on your notion of people being human, they are, and it is human nature for people to form communities based on what they see as a common issue, not what someone tells them to see as a common issue.

I genuinely believe that finding commonality in places other than social taxonomies will make for stronger coalitions.

battybattybats battybattybats | January 11, 2010 11:41 AM

But which human rights issue only relates to one group?

The right to have permanant non-life-threatening medical decisions related to the body of children made to maximise the childs choices when they are of age to make their own choices means no unneccessary surgery on Intersex kids and no denying hormone blockers to TG kids. It also means no to a lot of cultural genital modification of boys and girls without their consent too.

Freedom from surgery-based legal requirements in order to obtain basic fundamental rights effects both Intersex children and adults and non-binary folk like genderqueer and crossdressers and Transsexuals in transition and those not able or willing to undergo the surgery demanded.

The violence issue and transphobia effect a huge swathe of people. Identification issues. Marriage issues. Antidiscrimination legislation issues.. see as far as I can tell every single human-rights issue is shared by several other groups under the umbrella.

Don't those multiple crossovers and the strength of numbers suggest close cooperation is the only sane response?

And the attempts to draw distinctions between groups are dubious at best as science is thus far suggesting they are or might be related in causality anyway. From Intersex to Transsexual and even to Gay.

Hello Battybattybats.

"And the attempts to draw distinctions between groups are dubious at best as science is thus far suggesting they are or might be related in causality anyway. From Intersex to Transsexual and even to Gay."

So what would you be saying? There are heterosexeual males and then heterosexual females and then some lump? And all the lump consists of people who science has deemed to be the same, and then commonly "disordered?" This is what I am hearing from what purports to be science from certain sexologists.

I have merely pointed out that people are different.

"The right to have permanant non-life-threatening medical decisions related to the body of children made to maximise the childs choices when they are of age to make their own choices means no unneccessary surgery on Intersex kids and no denying hormone blockers to TG kids."

I agree, and it would help if you didn't imply I am opposed to that when for 15 years I have been campaigning to get surgery on unneccessary surgery on intersex kids stopped etc.

Lets discuss this business about choice and freedom, the gender political lobbies have never respected my choices as someone who was born intersex and surgically violated as a child. What do I actually read? all the time? "Everyone with 5 alpha is expected to turn male and then the "Experts" can say this proves brain sex in other situations like transsexualism".

Why can people not be truthful? "BSTc sizes and steroid regulated apoptosis = genesis of transsexualsm. Lack of an ezyme = genesis of 5 alpha, these are different situations."

I am not some spare parts medical history to service someone else and they are not spare parts medical cases to serve people in my situation, that is unethical.

Imposing the issues of one on another does not work, ones meat is another's poison. Would it not be simpler to say "Spare intersex children the pain of unwanted surgery, and give transsexual kids the hormones etc they need" and just leave it at that?

Please feel free to quote the science to me, and I can bet it demands I (someone with 5 alpha) turn into a man, which is something I will never do socially or physically I am happy as I am.

I agree with your aims, I have been fighting for them over the past 15 years. I just don't agree with how you propose to do it.

simple metaphor:

I just want to grow crops not live on a collective farm being told they are growing regardless of whether they are or not.

And yes i do need a new keyboard.

battybattybats battybattybats | January 11, 2010 8:45 PM

I don't say there are (Cis)Hets and then a lump of identical grey clay science has deemed to be the same. Nothing like it!

Science has shown cross-sexed neurology and neural activity in Transsexuals (including a non-op) and in Gays and in Lesbians.. but in different brain regions in each! Two genes have been found linked to transsexuals, but one was found with FtMs and another with MtFs! But all those things appear to be variations of a, or are similar, neurological Intersex phenomena.

That means science suggests we are varients and/or degrees of Intersex. Just as one may have degrees of Autism or have the Austism varient Aspergers syndrome. Trouble is the science is not remotely finished on the subject. So trying to divide us up into catagories will be like all things in science..

built on best current knowledge that can change at a moments notice. Requiring an acceptance of uncertainty and acceptance of change. And currently science is finding links between ITBLG. Links does not mean all are identical. There may even be a myriad of different biological causations for each subset.

I'm a Goth. Am I the same as all other Goths? No there are many different types of Goths with different styles, but we are all still Goths.

I didn't imply you were against the childrens rights issues.. were did you get that idea from? I used it merely as an excellent example of how two groups have related claims on the same human right. And I do try to write not just to you but to all possible readers too.

Oh and lets look at that Human Right issue in more depth shall we?

Fought seperately that issue may result in:

Intersex activists fighting to ban all non-life-threatening medical intervention on children. If they win they ban the surgery on them, they ban circumcision of children, they unintentionally ban the use of hormone blockers on transgender children!

Or depending on who wins..

Transexual activists fighting to ensure early transition is allowed for children based on doctors reccomendations. they gain hormone blockers but prevent the attempts of Intersex activists to ban infant genital surgery not to mention many other medical issues.

Either way a disaster. Involving each group fighting the other and each with smaller numbers.

Or done cooperatively:

The legal recognising of the basic universal human right of decisions made for those currently unable to give informed consent to be made with the 'best interests' of the dependant to be considered always their maximum amount of choice when, even if it is not known when or if it will be possible, they will be able to make informed choices for themselves.

And that way we have the combined strength and numbers of those groups and have helped:

Intersex babies to not be catastrophically miss-sexed surgically, Transgender kids to delay a possibly quite harmful puberty, male and female circumcision no longer forced on unwilling victims (and can be freely chosen later), other cultural body modification practices being forced on children (again can be freely chosen when older), we have protected those in comas, the mentally ill, the inebriated even... the list is vast.

Thats why the 'everyone should go it alone' argument divides neccessary and logical allies. It vastly diminishes our strength to actually succeed our goals. It can pit us directly into disasterous and unneccessary conflict with one another because we may be fighting from one side of the same coin where a simple single solution could solve both problems.

Just like their is a world of difference between a cyber-goth and a romantic/victorian-goth from their look to their music no group involves everyone being the same but has myriad subsets with myriad subsets of those subsets. Ad infinitum.

But i am not really harmed if someone mistakes me for a cybergoth. And if they mistake me for Emo which is less accepted, just like when i was mistaken at primary school for being asian, i merely share an unjust persecution of others.. something i should never object to, only to object to the persecution existing in the first place. If I'm mistaken as transsexual, or a gay man, or a lesbian, or a cis woman, or a cis man.. in any case how am i harmed by this?

I may share the unjust persecutions or biases these groups face. So what? What reason have i to avoid my fellow humans sufferings? Why none that are just.

It's of no more justification than were i to get upset if someone mistook me as left handed because i still retain some of my childhood ambidexterity and slightly favour my right.

Sure at times one part of a group can be ignored.. and contrary to some of those complaining it's the crossdressers and genderqueers, the non-binary and non-genital-surgery folks including those Intersex people who have non-binary identities or not wanting genital surgery to get thier rights that are usually left out of legislative reforms etc. Despite many of these often being painted as the villains.

But this can be fixed without internecine conflict and inflamed bigotry between S&GD groups. Instead challenging the irrationality of that bigotry and the harm it does to our progress and our integrity is needed.

Hello Battybattybats

"Intersex activists fighting to ban all non-life-threatening medical intervention on children. If they win they ban the surgery on them, they ban circumcision of children, they unintentionally ban the use of hormone blockers on transgender children!"

My own argument has always been about consent, not blanket bans. I would never seek to ban transgender kids having hormones which they would need. I have 5 alpha I do know what living in dread of the wrong puberty feels like and I have always said this.

I am not saying we should not work together I am saying we need to focus on the commonalities that are relevant, the fear of wrong puberty being a good example as it happens.

I am not going to sit here and look down on anyone, I will be honest with you I don't like the politics as they stand, but that does not mean I am preaching sepratism. I want cooperation where people fully understand each other.

Hello Battybattybats

"Science has shown cross-sexed neurology and neural activity in Transsexuals (including a non-op) and in Gays and in Lesbians.. but in different brain regions in each! Two genes have been found linked to transsexuals, but one was found with FtMs and another with MtFs! But all those things appear to be variations of a, or are similar, neurological Intersex phenomena."

There have been a number of papers, the earliest I remember involved H-Y Chromosomal protein (Or something like that). Then there was Swaab's work on the BsTC, more work by Dean Hamer with his "Guy Gene" (Xq28 region on the X chromosome, based on Turner's work). Eric Vilain's 53 genes which despite claims on his part to the contrary did tie into Swaab's work.then the recent stuff about Fox L2. So yes there is an increasing body of work suggesting that the CNS is as dimorphic as everything else and can vary.

It would be wrong to say that these things are not biological. But there has been some bad research as well, Imperatio Mc ginley's "Studies" of people with 5 alpha in the 1970's were biased and when she maintained all with 5 alpha "Want to be men 100% of the time" that got placed into the pool of work mentioned by the gender political movements. That has stripped me as an individual with 5 alpha who has no intention of becoming male of my choice. In the UK a transsexual or transgender person can get "Gender recognition certificates" someone with 5 alpha who was raised as male and didn't agree with it (Even if they have a more female anatomy) cannot. why? because that is the "Accepted transgender science" according to UK Civil Servants. And now there is an idea that medically forcing 5 alpha kids towards male is a "good idea". But then there are only 30 or so known cases of children with this at any given time, so they are insignificant keep pushing them as prescribed and everyone will be happy (the actual ratio sex identification is aroubnd 50:50 not 100:0 as Mc Ginley claimed)

Why are they being so inhuman about it? "Well the gender science says they all want to be boys and they prove that brain sex makes people either girls or boys so make them into boys!"

Why should people be used and abused as spare part medical models for other groups of people?

Would it not be better if these things were understood in their own context? and individuals treated as individuals?

It is the same as the thing you are concerend about a blanket ban on surgery means a blanket ban of trans kids getting hormones. A blanket policy of brain sex means the force feeding of the wrong hormones in 50% of the cases of those with 5 alpha.

As I say if people are going to work together they have to understand each other and mutually agree on each other's aims.

battybattybats battybattybats | January 12, 2010 11:08 AM

Hi again Sophia.
The crux is that human rights are built on freedom and choice bordered by equal freedom and choice of others. Creating a natural logical border between one persons rights and anothers.

Trouble is a lot of people are scared of that idea, blanket bottom of their boots terrified of it. Which is why in centuries we still don't have it remotely working.

5 alpha children should have the same righrs as every other child should have but are usually denied.. total self determination and expression of their gender identity. With proper recognition of same and the freedom to change their minds totally or partially at any time for any reason as often as they wish.

When I was involved with the HREOC (now AHRC) consultation on S&GD issues some argued that Intersex children should have an ability to be recognised legally in identity documentation as a third catagory until old enough to make a single permanant choice between male or female. But why should it be permanant? Some people seemed quite disturbed by the idea they might be allowed to change their minds again.

But what value has sex markers on documentation beyond visual policing of gender expression and ones ability to pass? None that I can find. Basing recognition of identity in security matters on whether at visual inspection a person appears male or female is just asking for trouble. Yet it's considered important policy.

But things would be simpler and fairer if that marker was scrapped alltogether from those documents.

These kinds of issues need to be dealt with wholisticly. Definately we need to learn about one another. We are both in total agreement there.

This injustice you are faced with for being 5 alpha and not fitting that sloppy model is one I'd not heard of till now (and it clearly sucks) but it fits again with the same pattern.. people forcing children (or adults) into molds, into stereotypes rather than allowing encouraging and supporting self determination and free expression.

One of the things i like most about the S&GD umbrella term is the D. Diversity. Right up there in the name.

Hello Battybattybats

I just cringed at all my previous typoes :) "Guy gene" (I meant "Gay gene")...

I think we are in agreement, because the only thing I have problems with is the domination of one group over the others. And this is what leads to situations such as Trans kids being denied hormones and intersex kids being forced on them sometimes.

it does all rotate around issues of consent. The thing about documentation is interesting, none of the sex markers are really needed, and again people who insist they are often claim it is about "An individual's history" and they like to deny transsexual people the right to amend theirs claiming "Surgery does not change history" and then deny intersex people the same, claiming "Surgery fixed it as a child" (A blatant contradiction if ever there was one). Not only that people are way more complicated than the neat boxes offered on application forms etc.

S&GD seems OK, if people are able to find their own place within and outside it. People are as I have found, more complex than the terms :)

battybattybats battybattybats | January 13, 2010 12:48 AM

The issue of one group dominating the others is of course quite reasonable.

But interestingly despite all the claims the results do not appear to me to be that non-binary transgender people are doing that dominating in practice especially looking at the results.

During the HREOC consultation there was a number of complaints from some Intersex and Transsexual people at the inclusion of transgender (and transsexuals from some of the Intersex people). Complaining that Transgender people would dominate, would demand their issues over the others etc. One even mentioned this on radio "there's even crossdressers on there" i think it was.

But I was the (bi-gender) self identified crossdresser there at the time (several genderqueer people joined in as the consultation continued) and I'd been arguing that the highest priorities should be on preventing IS infant surgeries. I certainly thoroughly supported better SRS access too. Totally the opposite of the claims about transgender domination. Especially after a focus on documentation reform was announced (based apparently on the main issues voiced at face-to-face hearings in capital cities), where i was one of the most strident calling for the other issues to still be addressed.

And the result.. well even after the strident folk left the forum, some demanding their posts be deleted in the process, the report ended up focussed on documentation for full-time transsexuals anyway (with surgery requirements being dropped which was important especially to the FtMs involved). Little mention of Intersex issues beyond a suggested 3rd classification on some documents and a promise of a later investigation into infant surgery (which ended up a brief overview paper that actually quoted Zucker!)

Now the issue that most faced crossdressers and genderqueers was gaps in antidiscrimination legislation especially in some states where transsexuals already have employment protection, anti-villification protection, anti-discrimination in services etc but the rest of us have zip and can be ridiculed in media and thrown out of a shop for how we look etc etc.

The issues of Indiginous Sistagirls, the issues of Trans kids getting hormone blockers etc all also got set aside.

So who really was dominating things? Who really has been dominating things in general?

I have read a number of comments suggesting that one subgroup within the trans community is dominating. It's pretty clear that it's different groups in different countries.

For those who believe that the non-ops are dominating the conversation about trans politics, have you considered the possibility that this was caused in large part by the medical model itself? For years, transsexuals who desired to go the surgical route were counseled by therapists and doctors to blend into the woodwork after surgery. To tell no one of their history and hide the evidence. When the major goal of a group is to erase itself, it's no wonder that their voices aren't heard.

sass rogando sasot | January 15, 2010 2:17 AM

Perhaps this is also because of the seduction of living as stealth for post-op transsexual people.

I just had an interesting experience - some crossdressers don't want to be included by the term "transgender."

I'm at the First Event conference, with a couple hundred people, which is largely heterosexual male crossdressers, though not all. In one workshop that I heard about later, the term transgender was being discussed as an umbrella term that covers all gender variance. One crossdresser's wife, new to the whole idea after her husband recently came out to her, was upset with the insistence on giving her husband a "transgender" identity, rather than just being a guy who likes to put on a dress once in a while. According to what I understand, the workshop leader insisted that her husband was transgender, and she insisted that he wasn't, to the point where she was nearly in tears.

When discussing the situation in a later workshop, another workshop leader also insisted that the husband is "transgender," but I and another woman, a crossdresser's wife, insisted that the label should not be applied unwillingly. Though I have utmost respect for this workshop leader, it was a bit of a tussle.

I think it is really interesting that the term "transgender" receives some resistance from both ends of the spectrum, both some post-operative transsexuals and some occasional cross-dressers (or at least some of their wives).

I think that one should be able to resist the application of a label and not have it unwillingly forced down one's throat. This reminds me a great deal of the problems encountered by people from former European colonies who were the subject of "post-colonialist" studies by elite academics. The academics were criticized for making lots of assumptions about the groups they were studying and for not letting people in the groups have their own voice in the matter. You can see a description of the article that kicked off all the criticism, Can The Subaltern Speak?, by clicking here.

I think it makes a good point - if you're trying to help an oppressed group by speaking for them, and denying their experience when it differs from your account of it, instead of allowing the members themselves to speak, aren't you doing the same thing the original oppressors were doing?

battybattybats battybattybats | January 16, 2010 5:03 AM

Trouble is the very Crossdresser label is ripe with problems.

Many Gay crossdressers and Bi crossdrssers get excluded from many crossdresser groups and are told they are 'Drag' instead.

There's plenty of homophobia and transphobia amongst sections of the Crossdressing community. For example some organisations directly exclude or marginalise removing any voting power anyone who is Bi Gay or Transitioning under the argument that it is to protect the married het CDs wives from having any weight added to their fears their partner might end up transitioning or might be Gay.

Of course a number of them are or do which is something that many desperatly try and cover up.

The desire to be considered more 'normal' and not to be judged by association exists in all groups, and I have seen Identical arguments from Crossdressers against Transsexuals Genderqueer Drag or Gays that I've seen from the others about other groups.

Even blaming others increased visibility (usually the Drag Queens Genderqueer and 'fetishists' ie non-conservative dressers) for the lack of acceptance of crossdressers in society.

There's also the arguments about what is a real crossdresser, who is a transvestite blah blah blah.

It's all the same barely-concealed bigotry. Sometimes not even pretense is made to conceal it.

Of course people can self-identify however they wish, it's a human right. But whats really objected to in the vast majority of these cases time and time again seems to be being associated with false negative stereotypes of other sub-groups.

Which is all about bigotry.

First of all, excellent post. I believe polite dialogue on this issue within the community is always important. That said, here’s my take.
I myself identify as a transsexual woman. I have been on HRT for several years and am still pre-operative. There are a number of reasons for this. Financial of course. Also, being careful to take my time and let things progress as naturally as possible. But lately, my reasons have also been political. The more concerned individuals strangers and the general public seems to be with the state of my genitalia, the more inclined I am to leave it as is. I am a woman. I live breathe and think as a woman. Unless we are sharing intimate relations, or I’m naked onstage (which has happened and probably will again…), the state of my genitalia should be of no concern.
I am medically altering my body and mind with the use of hormones so I identify very technically as transsexual. I also however identify as transgender, again for very political reasons. We are fighting an uphill battle to win equal rights for our community and I believe we need every body onboard that we can get. It is only through solidarity within the community that falls under the transgender umbrella and with our allies in the larger GLBT community that we can hope to win these rights. When we are splintered we are weak. The only people this benefits are those who would oppress us.
That doesn’t mean we have to agree on every single nuance, but it does mean we MUST stand together and include every single person that faces discrimination based upon their gender identity or presentation.
It is not conformance to outdated ideas of what constitutes a “properly gendered” individual, but education of the general public as to the perception of gender and the evolution of what that represents. In plain English, we need to make them understand that what truly defines gender in a public setting is not anatomy but presentation and perception. Okay, so maybe that’s not such plain English either, but it’s a complex idea and by ignoring the complexity of it we do a disservice to the movement.
The label “transgender” indeed represents a great deal of variation on a theme. The theme of gender variance. Perhaps it would help to think of it in terms of Jazz music. The tune, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” can be played in any number of different styles with all kinds of different interpretations and still remain recognizable. Whether by Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, The Mamas and Papas, Ella Fitzgerald or Erasure, it is still the same song although with widely varying musical and perceptual impact.
While “transgender” may include some folks with whom we may be personally uncomfortable, if we can’t find a way to accept them, how can we ask others to accept us?
I have faith also in the general public. On a non-political, everyday interaction level, I have found most people, if you give them the chance, are quite capable of open-mindedness and acceptance of transgender people on an individual level. And they are certainly capable of also sorting out on a practical level when someone is, for instance, entering a restroom to use it in the manner it is meant for and when there is a person whose intent and actions in entering a restroom are socially and legally inappropriate.
Of course there are those who will panic and judge all of us without thinking, but that is why we need legally protected rights and general education.
Finally, as performer who works in a popular medium, sketch comedy and improv, it is my experience that people often need a certain generality or shorthand in order to easily and quickly grasp larger concepts. I can refer to someone who is “African-American” in a scene and give an audience a general enough idea of what I’m talking about. But if I say, “You know Joe in the office, the medium-dark-skinned, Indiana born and raised, Hravard Educated, Gay Man of Haitian and American slave descended, African origin ethnicity, guy in accounting?” instead of, “You know Joe in the office, the African-American guy in accounting?” The whole thing will come to a crashing halt. Too much information.
We need generalities to understand the world. And if you want to know how an individual SELF-Defines, well then, just ask.