Tobi Hill-Meyer

When You Are Not A Real Transsexual

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | July 12, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: gender roles, identity policing, sexism, transgender, transsexual

Whenever I come upon part of the transgender vs transsexual arguments and fighting, I have an incredibly hard time. I think of myself as a post-transition transsexual woman, but I have no objection to being called transgender. Indeed all my friends when I came out used the term transgender, and practically every lay person I've ever heard use the term was only referring to people with a binary gender identity who have medically transitioned or seeks to (characteristics frequently attributed to transsexuals). I honestly have great trouble simply figuring out what the difference is.


What bothers me the most is when someone spends a great deal of energy insisting that it is incredibly inappropriate to be called transgender, and they turn around and spit the label at others like it is a slur. If it is wrong for a person to be called transgender when they are transsexual, it should not be okay for that same person to throw the term at others who also identify as transsexual. When making the distinction between the two terms, I can see a variety of issues of personal experience, such as social transition, legal transition, medical transition, binary or non-binary identity, and so forth that some people may want to reference. But instead I keep hearing a bunch of litmus tests that don't properly address those distinctions.

The Litmus Test List

(Both personally overheard and collected from friends)

  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you haven't had vaginoplasty (the more generous version allows for women who haven't had vaginoplasty so long as they never give up on pursuing it)
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you don't pass as a cis woman 100% of the time
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you transitioned after 45 (or 35, or 25, or 18 depending on who you ask)
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you ascribe to feminist gender deconstruction theory
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you buy clothes in the men's department
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if mainstream transphobes wouldn't respect your gender if they somehow found out everything about your body and medical history
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you didn't know - with certainty - from birth
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you don't have a GI/GID diagnosis or can't afford the process to get one
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you don't fit your therapist's definition of a "real" woman (no exceptions even if the only therapist in your area is incredibly sexist)
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you are caught without makeup on
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have facial or body hair that you don't shave
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have facial or body hair that you have to shave
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you don't wear dresses and skirts all the time
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you never crossdressed before transitioning
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have ever identified as a crossdresser
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you become sexually aroused while wearing women's clothing (Does this mean those who present as women all the time can never be sexually aroused? Probably not, but it's not clear where that crossover happens)
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have sex with men
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have sex with women
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you are not sexually available to men
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have sex using a strap on
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have sex with your genitals before vaginoplasty or anything that others might consider a penis
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you masturbate involving your genitals before vaginoplasty or anything else others may consider a penis
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have sex
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you allow yourself to be seen naked before vaginoplasty or with anything others might consider a penis
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have ever done sex work
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you haven't considered suicide
  • You're not a real transsexual woman unless your only alternative to transition is suicide
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you're still attending Southern Comfort
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you didn't keep up with your dilation
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you are not stealth
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you are stealth
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you've been to camp trans
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you perform as a drag king
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have ever performed as a drag queen
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you have ever yelled "suck my dick" (even if you are only referring to a metaphysical dick)
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you ever pee standing up
  • You're not a real transsexual woman if you play sports (no exceptions for being on the women's rugby team, but maybe for softball)

Looking at this list all together, it is clear that no one can meet all these requirements and several are contradictory. Even many cis women would fail to meet these standards, which are ultimately based on what a "real" woman would do (One of my moms fails almost a dozen of these, not counting the trans specific ones of course).

Whether you see transsexualism as a birth defect or an extension of natural diversity, it stands to reason that if there is something non-transsexuals regularly do, then there will be some transsexuals who do it as well. There are cis women who get turned on by their lingerie, wear men's clothing because it's more comfortable, fuck with strap ons, sing odes to their cocks, have facial or body hair, and do practically everything on this list. Why wouldn't there be at least an occasional transsexual woman who does some of the same?

Honestly, when I was first coming out and my trans world consisted of less than a dozen people, "transsexual" was the word used by those telling me that I should go back into the closet if I didn't have an identical experience as they did. "Transgender" was the word used by those who offered me support as I was figuring things out regardless of what decisions I were to make. Of course I felt more solidarity with the transgender crowd.

However, as I started researching surgeons, puzzling over the legalities of surgeon letters and birth certificates, and struggling with doctors and insurance claims adjusters who had no clue how my body worked, I began to notice that the folks without those experiences were making very different decisions than I would.

I want gender neutral bathrooms for my friends, but I will use the women's room every time, meanwhile some activists in their zeal for gender neutral bathrooms would fight for policy that would allow employers to require all trans people to use an isolated gender neutral facility. And while I truly am grateful that passport rules have been changed, there is a selfish part of me is grumpy that I went through such incredible effort to update my passport and one year later it doesn't matter anymore (of course I'm not so selfish to complain and fight against such expansion of rights).

Alternatively, I've known other activists who would fight for policies allowing anyone to ask for ID before letting you in a public bathroom. I've heard people advocate requiring medical/legal documentation or even surgery before one can be covered under anti-discrimination law, with apparent lack of awareness for how it would affect those without money or the undocumented population. While I wouldn't personally be hurt by such policies, thoughts for my friends, my family, and even just plain social justice demand that I challenge them.

These are differences in experiences that are very important to identify and name and support those who push back against the erasure that happens when we are all lumped together under an umbrella. But as our umbrella splinters into sub-groups, it's important we recognize that we're not all using the same language to mean the same thing.

I've heard the exact same concept discussed in terms of genderqueer vs trans, transvestite vs transgender vs transsexual, binary vs non-binary, and so on. Ultimately, such words are only placeholders for our intended meaning and don't necessarily match up with the intended meanings of others.

They are also treated as mutually exclusive options when that really isn't the truth. While plenty of cissexual people deconstruct their experience of gender within binary expectations, engaging in such a thought exercise does not inoculate one against having a brain sex that does not match their assigned sex. As a result, there are plenty of people who are both transsexual and genderqueer. For another example, I know a good dozen or so trans men who love to wear panties and a corset in the privacy of their own bedroom (or a good dungeon), thus showing a perfect example of being transsexual and a transvestite at the same time.

I worry that as some of these debates are happening, the words are becoming more important than their meanings. And I worry that in the struggle for group autonomy, other concepts like individual identity and complexity are being trampled. I grew up with the mantra "Girls can do anything boys can do, don't let gender hold you back," and now I'm twisting it into "Trans women can do anything cis women can do." And no one can tell me that being a butch woman, finding creative solutions to my dysphoria during sex, or breaking any other rules makes me any less of a real transsexual.

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Love this. Think you're absolutely right. The amount of identity policing that goes on in the trans* community is absurd and damaging and needs to stop.

Bravissima! Nicely done!

I've been participating in variations on the "umbrella wars" discussions since my usenet days. I have seen variations on the "you're not a real transsexual if" theme for ages.

I am surprised that you raised:
"You're not a real transsexual woman if you have *ever* done sex work"

I've heard the variation "You're not a real transsexual woman if you have *never* done sex work" - and I've heard that one in RL on more than one occasion.

However, you didn't claim your list was exhaustive or comprehensive, even though it is pretty impressive.

Ha, yes, actually I did hear that variation as well. Personally, though, I've heard the former far more frequently. You're right, trying to make this list exhaustive would be, well, exhausting and likely impossible. I even got to a point where I thought it was so long some folks would give up on reading it and then cut some back.

Tobi, I agree with you and I've heard some of the absurd 'reasons' on your list as well (and, to be honest, I've thought some of them about some trans women even if I didn't tell them). But ultimately... all of this boils down to one side saying to the other side "STFU." The people who feel this way about 'transsexual v. transgender' aren't going to be changed by your post because their feelings aren't logic based, rather they're deeply personal. To me it's almost like a non-trans person trying to explain to me, "let me explain the science of why you can't change your biological sex... ). I tune them out.

To some degree I see that as the case. I do have some more to say on the topic (and while I'm in the middle of a move it may be a while before I do), but I needed to say this first. I also feel that there's room for commonality as it becomes clear that no matter how strong the case is for someone being a real or true transsexual, there is always a case against them as well.

I'm not saying that all trans people are transsexual or that we all belong under the same umbrella, but just the opposite. My point here is that diagnosing someone over an internet thread using a litmus test is not enough to be valid -- especially when it contradicts what they say they are. It can help a lot to name our experiences and identify how conflicts based on differing experiences impacts policy work, but we have to understand that what we each understand these terms to mean varies greatly from person to person.

Sometimes, people really do just need to be told to shut up.

How about a your not transgender if list I've heard just as many of those as you listed against the word Transsexual. I see both yours and Cristen's articles as futile last gasps at trying to save the word Transgender. The word was unethical from the day it was conceived however and wherever that was. Plus what does it mean when someone calls you Transgender vs Transsexual? If someone calls me a Transsexual I know exactly what they mean but what about the word Transgender. Remember it is an Umbrella term are they calling you a CD? are they calling you a third gender? are they calling you a Transvestite? etc and finally we get to are they calling you a Transsexual? Sorry but I believe I have a right not to be labeled Transgender and to insist that the LGBT community quit promoting the myth that all Transsexuals are Transgender and by default part of the LGBT. It's time for the Transgender contingent to get some manners.

I'm not trying to save the word transgender - I'm asserting a right for transsexuals to be called transsexual rather than transgender. We are in strong agreement there. I see a difference between transgender and transsexual experience and want my transsexual experience recognized.

The one thing I'm arguing against is the practice of telling other people that their transsexual experience is not valid because it is not expressed in ways that are most commonly expected.

I'll probably catch some flack for this opinion but I think what determines who is Transsexual or not should be decided by an unbiased outside source.That means outside the LGBT a source other than the far right or WPATH who have shown their bias simply by changing their name and Dr. Bockting for pro queer theory opinions that leave me wondering if Dr. Bockting has ever really listened to a Transsexual.Then there are the Blanchards and Anne Lawrences sure some Transsexuals might be like Lawrence but not all are and what if anything can or should be done to prevent someone like her from Transitioning? Or what can or should be done to prevent anyone from Transitioning for purely fetishistic reasons? Or what if anything should be done to separate True Transsexuals from the fetishist transitioner? We need unbiased opinions based on medical science not just on psychobabble and queer opinion.

I feel like there are two questions being addressed here. Most of what you are talking about is medical access. It's an important question, we've talked about it elsewhere and I'm sure we'll talk about it again. However, what I'm talking about here is social interactions and organizing ourselves.

What (if anything) should you have to do to prove to me that you are transsexual before I believe you? I'm not giving you any medication. I'm not your doctor. I'm not encouraging or discouraging your transition. I'm just another voice on an internet forum. Is it enough that you tell me you want to be called transsexual? Or do you have to tell me your doctor's opinion on the matter? Or share a doctor's or surgeon's letter with me? What if I later find out something "incriminating"?

For me, if someone wants to be called transsexual, I will call them that. Even if there is something about them that would lead some people to question their claim to that term, I believe that level of identity policing is counter-productive.

I think just allowing anyone to claim to be Transsexual is just as problematic as setting ridiculous standards for how a Transsexual should act.I had discussed previously with you about attending a group where everyone claimed the title of "Transsexual" even the worst most obvious sexual fetishist crossdresser. I also see it online by those who want to friend me and have no pictures of themselves or only pictures that could be best described as fetish pornography. I think that is also being caused in part by bashing Cd's and TV's. Why would someone choose to identify themselves as someone with a mental illness or sexual fetish when they can lie and say they are they the holy grail transsexual? Personally I don't see any of the terms as being better than the other they are what they are nor do I see chucking us all under the umbrella as a justifiable solution. I see what you are saying as carrying over the problems with the word Transgender into the word Transsexual by making it just another umbrella. Like I said I think it's best to use an outside non biased source to solve these issues. Think of it as using a mediator to resolve the conflict.

I would also like to point out to you Tobi that being TS is a medical condition. Faking medical conditions either can be or is a crime why should faking being Transsexual be any different?

You make a good point about just turning transsexual into the new umbrella. That's not what I want to happen.

But let's talk about what the central characteristic of transsexual experience is. My understanding (and I'd love to hear yours if it differs) is that is based around a strong internal identification with the opposite sexual embodiment that what someone was assigned at birth. Others frame it around a brain sex, a birth disorder, or otherwise locate it physiologically. Being a social constructionist, I tend to use different language but realize these are the same things being discussed.

If that's what it means to be transsexual, then how is that something that any of us can truly know about another person from such cursory contact. The word has meaning and I want to keep it that way. But I do feel we should reserve judgment on each other. This might be getting long, but let my share a short story.

I once was friended by someone who fit your description of having only fetish porn pics on her profile and her email address had a male name. Honestly, I had a negative gut reaction about her. I didn't see her as a part of my community. But I reached out to mutual friends and realized that she was in a difficult place. She was still coming out, figuring things out, and finding community while facing a lot of hardship. I hired her for a gig and got to know her better while she struggled with her mother passing, being assaulted, losing her housing, and a few other very difficult things. Seeing her behavior amongst this struggle for mere survival made me re-evaluate things.

Ultimately, I'm not asking you to call someone transsexual woman because she crossdresses. I'm asking you to call someone transsexual woman because she is voicing a strong and persistent internal identification with female sexual embodiment (irregardless of crossdressing). And because being transsexual and learning out to deal with a transphobic world is a very difficult process. Many transsexuals would not be recognizable as such if you simply turn back the clock far enough. I know I said things when I was first transitioning and in the years before it that I don't agree with anymore. I used coping mechanisms and asserted identities that today I don't see as real because they were just the closest I could figure out with the options I was aware of. I recognize that many others have a similar experience in their personal transition process. As a result, I'm willing to give some leeway and take someone at their word.

Tobi if someone told you they had Cancer your going to take them at their word everyone one would. But what happens to those who claim they have cancer reach out for help but don't have it? What are you going to think about the person who says they have cancer but won't go to the doctor to find out if they really do? What are you going to do as the years roll by and here you have the same person making the same claims but neither going to the Doctor nor showing signs of receiving treatment or actually even having cancer? Regardless of where one falls in the debate about Transsexuals its pretty much a given that it is a medical condition and I think it should be respected as one. Part of that respect as a medical condition is that people can't go running around claiming they have it when they don't. Part of that respect is that you can't take the definition of the word Transsexual and attach it to another word transgender and extend that definition to others that don't fall within it.At some point someone is going to break the LGBT power over the media on all issues Transsexual and Transgender that day can't get here soon enough.

Hi Lisa,

Reading your and Tobi's discussion with interest.
I feel like framing transsexuality as a purely medical issue is perhaps overly simplifying.

What if I, for example, choose to undergo various medical procedures (hormones, surgery) in order to change my gendered embodiment, not because I have a strong and persistent identity as a man, nor because I feel there is something ~wrong~ with my current embodiment, but simply because I suspect that would be a more comfortable way for me to exist?

Or what if I do feel those things, if I do identify very strongly as a man, very strongly feel as though my current embodiment is the wrong one -- but at the same time have a lot of overwhelming anxiety surrounding doctors and decide that social transition is all I am willing to do?

Making the dividing line between "transgender" and "transsexual" the fact that transsexual is a medical condition isn't an uncomplicated or easy thing to do.

I guess I'm just a fan of transgender-as-umbrella term because as clearly as some people fall into categories such as transsexual, cross dresser, drag queen/king, etc., there are also many many people who move between those categories or exist in the gray areas between them, and those categories aren't as clear-cut or mutually exclusive as some would have them be.

Well Simon for whatever reason one would choose to transition other than for the reasons a transsexual would there should be a separate and distinct category. It only makes sense from a medical and societal stand point. Considering how high suicide rates are, by mixing groups it confuses the ability to find out which groups are experiencing the highest suicide rates and for what reason's. In the long run the Transgender Umbrella I feel has caused way to much damage to justify it's existence. The Transgender umbrella also violates peoples rights that have a medical condition by forcing an added unwanted label upon them complete with forced inclusion in the LGBT with no justifiable reason and damaging results.

jami_bantry jami_bantry | July 13, 2011 5:05 PM

Hi Lisa,

What about a person, such as myself, who self-identifies as Transsexual, but cannot have ANY surgery, due to a consistently low platelet count caused by two different forms of Lymphoma? I would bleed to death on the table, according to my Hemotologist/Oncologist, with whom I have been a patient for almost the last 5 years.

So, if I SAY I am Transsexual, is the fact that I cannot have ANY surgeries cause me, "all of sudden," to be NOT Transsexual?

Gender Counseling, Electrolysis, 10 months on HRT, money available, etc., yet the subsequent diagnosis, and the subsequent treatments, stopped that progression.

What are the "rules," in YOUR opinion, for my kind of situation (and others who are in similar situations)?

How do YOU feel I should self-identify? How do YOU feel THEY should self-identify?

Did my Doctor tell me, "all of a sudden" that I am no longer Transsexual? When I was advised no surgeries, no HRT, should I have then changed my self-identity to Transgender?

Just curious.


Jami I don't believe at any point I expressed an opinion that you can't identify as Transsexual because you have medical reasons for not being able to move forward and have the operation. Yours is a totally different argument then what I presented.

jami_bantry jami_bantry | July 13, 2011 5:57 PM

Hi Lisa,

Thank you for your compassionate reply.

Please, I am not trying to be confrontational, just extending the discussion here that Tobi initiated, and which, IMHO, was well illustrated by The Litmus Test List.

My comment was directed toward your opinion that there needs to be an "outside non biased source." In your opinion, WHO should that source be?

What ARE the "rules" then? (My question went unanswered)

Additionally, just WHO defines the "rules." Just WHO determines The Litmus Test?

Yes, my comment may have been addressing a different situation from what you described. IMHO, my comment was another aspect of the same topic.

Again, just what are the "rules" and WHO has the absolute authority to define them... for everyone... across all aspects of Tobi's topic, "When You Are Not a Real Transsexual?"


I was just putting out there what I think. I'm not sure who is an unbiased source. I look at WPATH as proof of what happens when you give the keys to the insane Asylum to the patients the same could be said of NARTH. I'd like to see a group of medical professionals that have neither a religious objection or LGBT affiliation do some serious professional research into it without any outside influence not even from self identified Transsexuals. Then let the chips fall where they may if your still recognized as being TS good for you and if your not you probably never were to begin with.

jami_bantry jami_bantry | July 14, 2011 1:52 AM

Thank you, Lisa, for your reply.

Some serious research is underway, but not enough yet, IMHO. So, until then I suppose we will have to "cope" with what is, and what becomes, available. Forums, such as this one, may contribute to such serious research, IF they are read by unbiased researchers/professionals, with the intent to learn, to help and, maybe to establish even better "rules"(whatever that means).

I am ALWAYS optimistic. I may not see in my Lifetime, but things will change, and many issues will be resolved, over time.

There are things that one can change so, if necessary, one changes them.

There are things that one cannot change so, to remain sane, one may have to change one's attitude.

IMHO, it is up to us to initiate and continually drive that change, as we may individually and collectively want. "Collectively", IMHO, seems to be a constantly redefined barrier.

Being personally confronted with issues that mean Life or Death (as for many who perceive SRS, etc), I have come to see Life from a wider perspective, perhaps. I have adopted the attitude that Life is more important to me and more precious to be cherished in every moment, than some "prescribed" means to "classify" myself as part of some "community."

I cannot be ME if I am not here. I cannot be part of any "community" or "sub-community", if I am not here.

My personal medical "issues" have given me pause to re-evaluate everything about me, about who I essentially am.

Personal introspective review has caused me to realize that being Trans "whatever" is only one small aspect of the total me.

I really don't see how some unbiased, and even certified/licensed, medical or psychological "expert" can alter, or even professionally validate/certify, how I feel about who I am. They *may* help but, as with my health decisions, it is really personally up to me.

Similar to what Liz commented, I feel I know who I am, and that is good enough for me.

I could choose to die trying to "follow the rules". However, then I would not be here; and what would that really accomplish, for me?

I also realize the there may come a time when my challenges may become so overwhelming to cause me to have a very poor quality of Life. At that time I will accept it, and lovingly let go.

Until that time, I choose Life, and all the wonderful colors of it, along with its challenges.

Perhaps, that is the real intent of anyone who chooses to do whatever causes them to live a happy Life, without emotionally or physically harming others.


Lisa, okay, you got me here. I've been thinking about people who we don't know a huge amount about, people you meet online, not folks who you know offline over a period of several years.

But let’s go with your hypothetical. Someone who doesn’t change their name (gender neutral names aside), uses pronouns associated with their assigned sex, has a presentation that matches their assigned sex, and shows no attempt to change any of those things. Lets say I know this person personally, chat with them regularly, they identify as transsexual, they are unable or unwilling to articulate any reason for not changing any of those things. Yes, I would have my doubts. But I also wonder what harm there is in keeping those doubts to myself.

I can actually share one case that fits that description perfectly. When I was younger I met someone who identified as a transsexual woman, yet had a male name, male pronouns, male presentation, and even a beard. Seeing as how I was out only a few months and she had been out to herself and a few others longer than I had, I offered no judgment. The only reason she gave for not transitioning was fear. There were plenty of examples around of people successfully and happily transitioning, but she chose to remain closeted to all except trusted individuals. For years, nothing changed. But after 7-8 years, a divorce, a graduation, and moving to another city, she started using gender neutral pronouns, and a year later she started using female pronouns. Slowly her presentation began to change. I haven’t seen her for a year or two and can’t say where she is at now.

The way I see it, there are plenty of transsexuals who transition in their 40s, 50s, or later. That doesn’t make them any less of a transsexual in my mind. So when someone who doesn’t have everything together (especially if they are in their 20s or 30s), I don’t assume that they never will.

To answer your question, yes I would have plenty of doubts. But what I would like to hear from you is: once she let me into her confidence and told me that she was transsexual but currently unwilling to transition, how do you think it would have benefited myself, her, or anyone else, if I chose to berate her for calling herself a transsexual when she didn’t look like one to me.

I totally get what your saying Tobi but it still doesn't remove my reservations about the person hurting themselves over this. Because of the suicide rates I really think we need to use care in who we encourage or discourage from transitioning and how we go about it. I've never told the person they can't transition only what I see about them that they need to work on not only to get there but to also be able to support themselves financially. On the suicide note that does impact how we are viewed by those on the outside as does if those on the outside see a middle aged man in a cheap wig and mini skirt telling people they're Ts. I encourage people not yet transitioned to identify as a crossdresser that thinks they may be TS. I tell them that it doesn't deny they may be TS but it also allows them wiggle room if they find out they aren't and detransition.

I find it interesting you mention suicide as a reason to discourage people from transitioning. I know there tend to be a lot of suicides among our communities, but whenever I've talked with folks about having attempted suicide or wanting to kill themselves, it's about not being able to access transition or the constant dealing with invalidation, rejection, and bigotry. And while I've known several people who have transitioned and detransitioned for various reasons, none of them expressed to me depression or anything like that for having transitioned - in fact more than one has made a point of telling me that they did not regret their path.

It is true that holding off on transition can reduce the oppression and discrimination one faces. However, considering how common it is for someone to express a desire for suicide as the second best alternative to transitioning, telling someone that they aren't really transsexual when they say they are (or telling someone not to transition when they want to) seems like in most cases it would cause more harm the help.

You pointed out the problem with your request for an unbiased arbiter yourself:

It is a fiction, a pipe dream, an impossibility.

The medical-industrial complex, which you seem to be leaning towards, has its own agendas, some of which are very obvious and unethical.

Amanda587 | July 12, 2011 4:53 PM

A lot of those items in your list seem either classist, or simply the result of genetics. I've gotten personally burned in the past by the True Transsexual Crowd, and I've only gotten over it recently.

This was largely why in the umbrella thinking / decolonizing trans series, it became necessary to examine it as a difference in characteristic (i.e. gender identity as separate from gender expression, just as both are separate issues from sexual orientation) and difference in personal trajectory (transition as separate from challenging gender norms) than a difference in individuals (and repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly reminding that individuals can be both). I probably didn't accomplish that early on, but think it's the way we need to go.

The "real" argument is a distraction that has been hurting us for years. Unfortunately, in the past, the net result has been to drive people into separate corners, and cause people to dig themselves in.

And unfortunately, because we're so busy focusing on this, we either fail to see that how we're framing our issues can potentially do harm, or else we're abandoning the advocacy we need entirely.

Mercedes, yes, that's one of the things I really liked about your series. When I present as a butch woman, that's me being gender non-normative. Being gender normative or not is a separate issue from being trans, just like being gay/straight/bi is separate.

But what about people with bi-gender gender identities? What about people who publicly transition to androgyny?

As a cis-woman I have always been troubled by the pressures put upon transsexual women to prove that they are "real". As you've stated, many of these items don't hold true for most cis-women. The idea of someone outside of you judging whether or not your womanhood (cis or trans) is real is so grounded in sexist suppositions.

All women (and men for that matter) are subjected to gender policing, but it is in the narrow definitions that we allow trans-women to live that we truly see how suffocating these notions of what makes a "real" woman are. While it may be an irritation for me to accused of being "unwomanly" it can be downright dangerous when this happens to a trans-woman. As for "an objective body" being the arbiter of who is and isn't transsexual, there is no such thing as an objective party when you're defining something as culturally loaded as gender.

I'm glad I came across your post because I am trying to gain a better understanding of the transgender vs. transsexual debate(s). Thank you for adding another voice to my understanding.

Speaking of sports (the last item on the list), I can remember my mom recently inviting me to the retirement party for her cross country coach from high school. I was not eager to go but she gently insisted, and so I ended up going.

As it were, I spent a fair amount of time wishing to have a paper bag to put over my head, as she kept introducing me to people as "proof that running more then a mile does not cause a woman's uterus to fall out".

Turns out that was an actual myth that was pushed at the time my mom was in high school to prevent female teenagers from participating in sports. I did find out one interesting thing that helped negate the "proof the uterus..." introduction. My mom was apparently among the first females to participate/compete in varsity cross country at my high school or something like that, I forget the details.

In any case, saying in general that "one is not a real X" simply because one does not fit a narrow definition of "X" is usually terribly insulting, and just as bad to me as spreading a ridiculous myth about falling uteri.

Britney Austin | July 13, 2011 2:20 AM

The problem here is that words do need to have a fairly precise meaning or the words themselves are meaningless. This is the problem I see with the word "transgender." Since it is now being used to describe everything from a post-transsexual person to a drag queen stage performer to a part time crossdresser male to an androgynous/genderqueer-appearing individual there essentially is no meaning to the word.

That is what is starting to happen with the word transsexual. I have personally come across quite a number of people identifying as transsexual but who have made no attempt to change sex. While they allegedly live full time in the gender role opposite their birth sex they haven't legally changed their name, gone to a therapist to get a diagnosis, or seen a doctor to take cross-sex hormones and additionally have no desire to do so. Now you then will have those who identify as transsexual yet who socially, medically, and legally change sex including everything from a name and sex change on an ID to sex reassignment surgery and permanent hormone replacement therapy. If the word transsexual is now accepted to equally describe both examples here the word has now just turned into another umbrella and lost its meaning. Now you are unable to separate someone with a diagnosed medical condition and birth defect who goes about correcting it with someone who simply changes their wardrobe and passes as the gender opposite their birth sex while doing nothing to legally change their identity or medically change their body.

This is a problem because many transsexuals do not want their medical conditions erased or made meaningless. Plus, there is a difference between sex and gender and many people who correct being born in the wrong physical sex do not want their situation compared to a gender issue. This is already happening with the phrase transgender being used to replace transsexual in common usage but if others are now using the term transsexual in the same way, we are back to square one.

While I agree with the article that we should not go around unnecessarily judging others, I disagree in completely withholding judgment in all cases. Just because someone says something doesn't make it true. Actions speak louder than words. I could say I am a billionaire but nobody would believe me. People expect at least some evidence before they believe someone's claims. There needs to be a sensible and concrete definition to the word transsexual and the mere fact that someone uses the term as an identity just because they can should not automatically require others to agree with them on that identity. The definition should not be based on stereotypes such as the things the article referenced as examples. The definition should be based on actual intentions and actions to change sex legally and medically. If someone says "I'm a transsexual" yet five years later has still not gone to court to change their name or even bothered to talk to a therapist and get a diagnosis so that they can get HRT and/or SRS there is no reason I or anyone else should consider their identity to have any credibility. Respect of others is important but not to the point of ignoring facts.

Interesting ---- I can't say I have run into people claiming to be transsexual who have no desire to change their name or have HRT. What do you think their motivation is? Do you think they prefer the transsexual label to the transgender label? Or is it that they really do want to transition but are unable to because they are scared or can't afford to or because it would put their job/relationship/family at risk? If it is the latter, I think we need to give them some slack, transitioning is hard and not everyone who wants to transition is able to do so.

I think their motivation is rather than admit they would fit the definition of a sexual fetishist and face up to the heat for it they'd rather use Transsexuals and promote false perceptions about us.To them they see being transsexual as far better than being labeled a CD or Transvestite.Being Transsexual is a legitimate condition that isn't based on sexual fetishism or so much on mental illness so for them it is less stygmatizing. Plus without any real concrete definition of who is transsexual and who can use the word they remain unchallenged for it and the damage they are doing.

You wrote:

"I can't say I have run into people claiming to be transsexual who have no desire to change their name or have HRT"

Putting aside other folks' attempts to arbitrarily define others for a moment, there are definitely people I've known who absolutely need to transition and yet struggle not to, because of fears that they might lose their children, wife, career but are very much transsexual at the core. Prior medical experiences (i.e. CAMH/Clarke), biological hypermasculinization (I don't know if there's a corollary of hyperfeminization, chemically speaking) and age can also be/come factors. It's not a case of having no desire to transition, so much as a case of seeing too many insurmountable (whether real or perceived) reasons not to.

And this is where it becomes muddy, because a lot of these folks find solace in CD or kink communities just to find safe reprieve from trying to fit their expected role, 24/7. It's certainly not all crossdressers or gender-playing kinksters, but they're there, and these are some of the folks we're abandoning or worse, when we start setting these rigid criteria.

Words are almost always functioning in umbrella-ish ways; just because there are both oak trees and maple trees the word "tree" does not become useless, right? It's useful to refer, at times, to "the trees over there," and others it makes sense to be more specific: "just cut down the maple trees." The problem would be if we started to look for some abstract "treeness" that trees must have in order to justify our calling them trees. Meanings of words hang out in "families of resemblence," rather than by means of hidden essences. The mistake in our case is that we keep looking for the hidden essence of "the trans," and I don't think we're going to find it. When I meet other trans women I am amazed and intrigued by the many different ways we got to the place of transition. Are we, then, really not the same thing as each other? Of course we're different, but we can also be transsexuals together, even our ways of being transsexual are different.

I agree with you, however, that some of the differences are important; I do feel a desire to be recognized as one who "went all the way," or something of that sort, someone who's "serious," I'm not sure how to put it. There's certainly no going back from this place, and I feel like that deserves some sort of recognition. There's a mystery in SRS, too, that needs to be emphasized; it's not a trivial change, is it? Maybe we need to talk about that some more? I mean, we've kind of gotten in the habit of downplaying it: "SRS won't make you into a woman." That's true, yes, but it sure means something along those lines. Some people transition along purely social lines, for social reasons, and I want that to be okay, but that's not me, for me it was very much about the body. I ALSO transitioned socially, and I like it a lot, but somehow the change in the body seems core to me. And when I meet someone who is living as a woman but still has a penis, I feel something different there, especially if they also aren't on hormones; just a projection, perhaps, from my own experience of being swamped in testosterone and having to be a "penetrator." It was certainly different from where I'm at now, so I'm inclined to imagine something like that might be true for others.

It needs to be okay for us all to do what we do, in the different ways we do it, without having to beat on or upbraid each other. We don't actually know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, much of anything, and it behooves us to be gentle.

I'm not so sure I agree with your tree analogy I think its safe to say that where all human beings but that is where are commonality ends outside of our little groups. Not knocking Cd's but I really don't have anything in common with them.I don't see the but your dressing as the opposite sex so your the same as them argument as holding any water because it excludes motive and internal sense of sexual identity. Then I really don't have any sense of shared experience with someone who transitions but doesn't use any medical treatments to do so and in talking to them I'd say they don't understand me or what motivates my need for surgery. Then there are those I've met that were post-op and said for them it was a choice and that they could have remained non-op yep you guessed it I don't identify with them either.The only commonality that I see would be like comparing Tomatoes and oranges where all fruits but like fruit we are all different in size, shape, texture and taste.

Thank you Tobi for a thought-provoking column and discussion stream. As someone who is recently "out" I am having trouble wrapping myself around all the terms anyway. Myself, I see two important considerations. One, how do you view yourself( and/or identify since early childhood)Are you living 24/7 as a gender different than what you were born? And I like Christine Jorgensen's definition going way back. "Gender has to do with lived experience, Sex is the act." The fact that "Transgender" is out of favor compared to "Transsexual" doesn't change the acurracy of the verbiage. And whether or not a person has had surgery is their own personal business. Disputing the validity of the Binary is another discussion, but it enters here because if gender variant individuals can gain acceptance, then "Transgender" or "Transsexual", is 'She or isn't 'She', is only important to the individual. For myself, I choose to live as a Woman, I was born physically male (surgery is my business) so I am Trans____ you fill in the blank. I know what I am!

I've heard exhaustive lists like these about transmen too. I personally think this need to put down others in the same marginalized group comes from the societal expectation of "fitting in" and when someone doesn't there is sudden cause for alarm. I also have discussed these issue with fellow trans*people of all types and we all think as well that these thoughts might stem from the fear of being outed or not "passing", etc and cause the person's fear to overcome their reason.

I've always seen transgender as the proverbial umbrella term and trans(s)sexual as one facet of it but even then I encounter opposition form people who don't want to be lumped in. It's an exhausting and futile "debate."

I despise lists like this. The ONLY one who knows whether you're a transsexual or not is YOURSELF. No one else can answer that question for you. I started transitioning at 49, after a lifetime of heartache, suicide attempts, etc. Transitioning saved my life.

My surgery is scheduled for August 20th, 2012.

Part of the problem with trying to address colonialism from within the colonized minority is that we try to create our own colonial framework to do so. So we try to replace old cultural hegemonies (in this case, the idea that there are two sexes / genders -- conflated as one and the same -- and that no one could or should ever act contrary to their rules) with our own constructed hegemonies. To me, it says something that the transsexual (which you address here) and the gender diverse (which gets into the idea of blurring gender until difference is deconstructed) ideologies have developed very differently in this way (although once again, some folks will see virtue in both).

In the end, really, what needs to happen is to abdicate any perceived authority we have to create new ideological frameworks and impose them on others, and instead get back to the core of the narratives we share, and respect for those who share them.

Sorry, I'm a bit muddled this morning. Maybe I can phrase this better in awhile. But it gets down to the principle that as we seek to change our world, we need to change as well.

Tobi, thank you, you bring joy to an old radical dyke's heart. Great post, interesting discussion.


{"I've heard people advocate requiring medical/legal documentation or even surgery before one can be covered under anti-discrimination law, with apparent lack of awareness for how it would affect those without money or the undocumented population"}

Reeks of "privilege" as does much of the discussion around this controversy. Not just here but in so many of the discussions we have had at TBP. For this reason, or actually the absence of such, I really appreciate you and Mercedes, and Zoe.


There are some very interesting comments here and I want y'all to know I'm not ignoring you. Britney and Lisa in particular I want to respond to you, I just have back to back appointments for almost the whole day and evening. I might get a chance to put together a response this afternoon, but it might be tomorrow.

When I first was introduced to all the trans-language, I was reporting on several activist summits around the NY area, and I thought Pauline Park got it right: "Anyone that falls outside the stereotypical binary is transgender." Therefore, with transgender the umbrella, under it including cross-dressers, ts, drag queens, effeminate straight men, etc. The first confusion I notice started when (especially in Asia) the press began confusing one with the other; referring to transsexuals as transgenders.

But as far as a "true" transsexual goes, its the self internal identification that denotes the condition; surgery is just the remedy for the condition, its not the qualifier of the label.

The TS wars haven't gotten so out hand; many not wanting to belong to the tran-community at all for fear of being group with others that they don't identify with, nor want to be consider of.

I've actually had TS friends make statements how CDs and drag queens make them look bad. I think when we start worrying about what others think of us as people, we've already given them too much power.

Edit to my post, I meant to say that the TS wars HAVE gotten out of hand.

Gaytorguy | July 13, 2011 4:02 PM

This could be used for some of my friends who are drag queens! LOL
For me I use the duck test. It is looks like a dick, walks like a duck and talks like a duck. It's a duck.

So, MTF is a woman. FTM is a man. Pre=op, post op, whatever! If THEY want to call themselves transgendered, transexual, I follow their lead.
I remember when gay came out. To call yourself queer was verboten. Now it's back instyle again as a word to be used as a descriptor.
Politics = when you say, do or make requirements to seperate instead of include.
I am gay, queer and yes I will drop the F bomb, a afag to some of my friends who are gay or queer. But I dislike using it since there is so much animosity attached like the N word. But I am because I like men as sexual partners. Top, bottom, versitile, effeminate, butch, str8-acting, WHATEVER! We like men.
You feel, think, act, want to be a man or woman. The you are trans.. trans gfendered, transexual. What you want, I will agree.
PS I know a few MTFs who love women. They say they are lesbian transsexuals.

jami_bantry jami_bantry | July 13, 2011 4:27 PM

Hi Tobi,

Thank your for your post.

From your post, I infer that you are trying to keep the discussion going, and you are helping, IMHO.

I feel that is a good thing.

Individually and collectively... If we don't know where came from, and we don't know who we are, how will we know where we want to go?

IMHO, each of us, as Humans, are unique and special... but no more unique and special than any other Human.

When I read The Litmus Test List, it reminded me of the skit that Jeff Foxworthy is famous for, "You might be a redneck if..." That skit can be taken by some as funny. For others, it might be taken as disrespectful, even hurtful. It depends upon each person's personal identity, and that person's view of their world... as seen from that person's mind and heart.

I feel that the key word is "respect" for the feelings of others.

I wonder if we can create another list, which is positive in intent and feeling, and which extends the sentence, "You might be a compassionate, empathetic Human Being if . . ."


Some Questions that I would like to ask, based on responses already given.

1. How does "a medical condition" deal with the social issues that arise from having such? What medical treatment is there for others who do not have said treatment?

2. What makes this particular "medical condition" a medical condition?

3. What kind of medical condition is it?

4. How is being trans separate from not being gender normative?

Example required for following questions:

A person has an intense physical dysphoria -- they meet all the physical criteria for transsexuals. They proceed to follow a far more rigid than the WPATH SoC path and confirm their physical body. The entire time, however, they live and work and interact with the world through the social role they started with. Visualization aid: male assigned body, medically corrected (SRS & hormones to female), lives life as man.

5. Is this person transsexual identified or not?

6. Is this person transsexual described or not?

7. Is this person transgender identified or not?

8. Is this person transgender described or not?

(Note: I know some 8 individuals at present for whom this is not theory, this is reality)

9. What is the risk to to the *group* of a particular label (not to an individual, but to a group) that arises from said group?
10. Is the discussion about *us*, within whatever the hell it is the T stands for, or is it about those who are outside of the T and whatever the hell it stands for?

Thanks in advance. And you had a lot more than I had when I did my list on this a couple years back, I think.


It seems most of your questions require answers that are implicitly demanded of the questions. The medical questions are more complicated than the answers allowed. Transsexualism exists. Transsexualism is a vague term that may result from a very complex set of interrelations involving a person's body, how the person is perceived and reacted to in the social environment in relationship to how the person reacts to that and the resulting chain of reactions that lead an holistic sense of self. As far as the medical aspects of transsexualism are concerned, the proof is in the pudding. The evidence that medical procedures are beneficial exist in the overwhelming positive outcomes. There is such a thing called the hypothalamic, pituitary, gonadal feedback loop. It affects and interacts with a lot more than the brain even the the brain is crucially involved.

The eight people you mention? I don't know. What does their existence prove? If they have vaginas, vaginas are female sex characteristics. Vaginas are female not transsexual, aren't they? If their hormone levels are in the female reference ranges, they are typically female not transsexual, aren't they? Are they really living as men if they are on hrt that places their hormonal levels in the female reference ranges? As far as their sense of self is concerned, if they have female sex characteristics, how can they deny they do without that being a delusion? I'm a little confused about your description as to whether you are speaking of regretters or people with female typical primary and secondary sex characteristics living life in a male gender role. Why would they remain on estrogen hrt if they didn't want to be female? Does the way Dirt aka Margaret whatever, the radical lesbian feminist, present herself make her a man?

What does gender normative mean? June and Ward Cleaver? The naked people skinny dipping behind the stage at Woodstock? Vincent Damon Furnier, aka "Alice Cooper", out on the golf course in a pair of bold patterned houndstooth trousers? Does "T" and "cis" represent two circles standing far apart whose twain never shall meet bearing no resemblance, whatsoever, to a venn diagram or is there actually a great deal of overlap to male and female that allows and even necessitates sex reassignment in fairly rare instances. After sex reassignment who should the category of "us" include? Those are my questions.

Hi Edith,

How something seems and how something is are often two different things. The questions I ask are not implicitly demanding answers to any further extent than any queston so demands such.

I am, aware that the medical questions require necessarily complex answers -- we are not dealing with a discussion that can be had simply. THe issues surrounding all of this are very complex, and therefore require complex answers.

I'm quite aware that transsexualism exists. And I'm quite familiar witht he nature of the neuroanatomical systems you describe -- my question is how does the treatment for such deal with persons outside of the individual with it. Until and unless we can discuss that concept, we'll not have the context and understanding fo the medical condition usage and why that's even applicable.

Their existence proves that discussions of this sort must, necessarily, be able to account for them.

Vagina's are, to me, neither female nor transsexual. The same applies to hormne levels.

And yes, they really are living men. Daily. You ask how they can live with the sexual physicality of females but exist socially as men without engaging in delusion -- and the answer is rather well, with little conflict or problem *except* when it comes to the trans community in all its varied forms. Not delusion -- they occupy a space that makes this disucssion important and opens up the overall understanding of what we are talking about in a way that is critical, and if we are going to continue having this discourse, then we must do it with people such as them in mind or we are, on *all* sides, erasing others and colonizing their lies and doing all the bad stuff that the various sides are saying the other side does.

They are not regretters. As I described, they have the *same* intense physical dysphoria that transsexuals have, but they don't have the social part.

They remain on HRT because the body requires hormones to function properly, and they no longer produce enough of it, and it is not a matter of not wanting to be female. THey *need* to be female bodied, but they also need to be men socially.

As I have no idea how Dirt presents Dirt, so I cannot answer that question.

Gender normative means that massive collective of social characteristics that results in what we describe as "men" and "women" and it has more to do with the way people interact than with the genitals, since the genitals are presumed. So yes, June and Ward Cleaver, the naked people skinny dipping behind the stage at woodstock, and Alice Cooper on the golf course are all gender normative. ALice Cooper on stage, surprisingly to many, is going to vary in his gender normativity according tot he nature of that tour (he's a familiar sight here in Phoenix, and not bad a guy, really -- did business with my step father and I got to meet him).

T & C are a multiple circle Venn Diagram -- not merely two circles, but several, and the overlapping area, right now, is what is described in various ways.

I don't think that "us" can be decided based on who has surgery and who belongs, because surgery is somethgn that is still reachable only by those with access to resources, which the majority of the population under discussion does not have.

ANd the reason is because of the wider social pressures involved.

So I've answered your questions. Care to take a crack at answering mine?

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | July 15, 2011 8:55 PM

Your questions invariably lead me to another set of questions. What does it mean to "live as" a man or woman? Which attributes that we commonly associate with men and women truly belong to either of those categories and which are merely social or cultural constructs?

What does it mean to "live as" a man or woman?

While in the case of someone who's gender identity and sex identity are aligned to describe them as "living as" has inherent linguistic flaws, in this case, the usage is meant to convey the manner in which they live their lives to someone who is anticipated to have a great deal of difficulty getting their head around this (which is not uncommon).

That said, the meaning I suspect you are getting at is more what does it mean to live as a "man" or a "woman", which is culturally variable and based on circumstances unique thereby.

Which attributes that we commonly associate with men and women truly belong to either of those categories and which are merely social or cultural constructs?

Well, fundamentally, its important to realize that any aspect which we ascribe to "women" or to "men" is, inherently, a social construct, in and of itself.

This is because the division is itself a social construct.

The question one should likely be asking at that point is "of what value are social constructs, and how do they attain said value"...

Toni -

I have often wondered about your first question when the topic of "realness" comes up. I mean if being transsexed is a condition related to the body and utterly divorced from gender - why don't most TS women who argue against the TG umbrella embrace people who have only physically transitioned without social transition as the truest of true transsexuals?

While I generally feel that gender is a social construct and ultimately only useful to the individual and not as a determination of male or femaleness, I can't deny that as a child I responded to the social messages intended for girls. Because of this, I can't in good faith totally discount a connection between transitioning sexes and genders. At one point or another I am/was/could be considered gender non-conforming by anyone's definition. While I may be a very binary identified woman, I was never ever a very convincingly binary man. I also don't think my experience is particularly rare.

RE: why those seeking separation don't embrace some -- While I can say that I don't know, myself, why they, as a group, do it, I can say that I know why some, as individuals, do it, and the number of reasons is as broad as any other, but most often can be simolified to a lack of understanding what Gender is, what the notion of a social construct is, and then a crapload of insecurity and/or limited expereince with other trans people.

Doesn't make them bad, either. Some of the folks I've had as clients are very much separatists, and there are certain personality traits that are common to all of them.

Gender is a social construct, though -- it does exist, and it is created by the Structure that underlies culture and thusly society as a whole. Being a social construct doesn't make it any less real, any less critical or valuable or vital. Being able to see it for waht it is simply serves as a tool by which to begin discussing it without getting lost in it.

Money is a social construct, for example. And most folks have at best a limited grasp of what it is about -- but they damn sure know how to use it.

There *is* a connection between sex and gender -- to deny it is an error. One has to make the distinctions, however, in order to be able to see the two more clearly and be able to understand them better. A ball of three colors of playdough is a ball of playdogh, but being able to see the chunks of colors separately helps one to understand how those colors came to be in the ball in certain ways, how each chunk is shaped and structured and how it helps to create that ball.

Like you, I was fully responsive to the messages being sent out on the basis of gender as a child. In my case, however, I was a convincingly binary man, but a really lousy person.

Your expereince, I'd say, is closer to the normative model for trans folk overall -- binary and not so much so and all points in around, and related thereby.

That is, you are strongly binary, and your pre transition life was not very convincing.

When we transition, we have to cross all those elments -- gender role, gender expression, and so forth -- to varying degrees.

To think of them in terms of being separate is useful as a matter of theory, of casual discourse. But in a practical, applied setting, a day to day living, there is no clear and clean separation because of the interpendence between them and the fact that they are social constructs, which should always have more mental importance put on the "Social" part than the "construct" part.

Which is usually the opposite of how things are really done.

Tobi's list above is a list of the ways that people have created, for themselves, personal identities. They then, generally, go out and seek like minded people with which to form an affinity group -- this is often called "tribalism" by many and works as an effective shorthand.

In this case, many of the separatist issues place a blame on the "weirdo's" for "forcing" them into a group because the only protrayals of people they seem to see are of those who are different from themselves -- those who don't fit the particualr similarities of the affinity group they have come to understand, for themselves, is the "right" one.

And they are offended -- on classist, ethnocentric, sexist, etc etc ism and ive and ity oh my levels -- and so they feel that they've somehow been coopted.

Trying to argue with them on that, as ya know, isn't generally productive. Fundamentally, they are looking *in*, instead of *out* -- and have a sense of cause that is placed on the minorty population instead of the oppressive population that actively pushes them into a group.

ITs a huge gigantic clusterf-k, then, and not the enjoyable kind, obviously.

Part of the reason for asking the question I asked was to get people to disucss this concept of "medical condition" -- people on multiple sides all seem to agree that it is such, but they don't agree on what makes it such, and they don't agree on what that means, and they certainly don't agree on who has a medical condition and what that means in terms of the larger society.

The larger society not giving a rats ass if its a medical condition or not.

I'll answer your questions Antonia but I'd like you to answer them as well from the position that you don't believe the person is transsexual and post those answers here. Think of it as an exercise in critical thinking and debate. My answers only speak of Transsexuals and exclude others such as those who are intersex and may have undergone similar sex reassignment surgeries.
Transsexual is I believe both a medical and psychological condition. It is medical condition because it involves a known differentiation in Brain structure from a persons chromosomal sex.It is also a psychological condition because of how it may affect the person born with it and how those around them and how society treats them for it. Given that there isn't a readily available medical test to determine if someone actually is transsexual psychological evaluation is the only tool available at the current time to ensure an individual truly is Transsexual and isn't going to become another suicide statistic should they assume a medical transition path or not. Being TS isn't really different then being gender normative other than a medical and societal hurdle has been placed in front of the person born with it.That's not to deny there are some biological and social differences between a natal born person of that sex and a Transsexual but the are also natal born members of the sex that also suffer from sterility and other medical conditions that may require genital surgery. Also many natal born females go through a Tom boy faze yet still grow up to be content in their lives as women.
Answers to next set of questions.
Interesting questions that are similar to a situation that I faced early in my transition. I was offered to participate in an International Scholar Laureate Program just after I transitioned but before my name change became legal it involved going to China. I discussed the situation with my therapist because it was a very important to me. I explained to them that I wanted to go but I didn't want a passport in my old name with a male sex marker but show up in China as a woman because of their past human rights violations. The Therapist informed me it would be okay to detransition and go on the trip and that it wouldn't be held against me in receiving my surgical letter.So I know from personal experience there is some leeway in the real life test. But I know of no instance like the one you stated where someone is allowed entirely as male and then given the authorization to get SRS. That situation wouldn't allow for a stricter application of the SOC that would be one of the loosest interpretations of it. So I would answer possibly on 1 depending on how they self identify and if there wasn't another contributing mental illness clouding their judgement. #2 They are not Transsexual describe because they failed to meet the SOC and most likely obtained surgery from a non SOC following surgeon.#3 The person may be Transgender self identified but could be just as easily considered as self identified gender queer. #4 It would depend on who you ask and I would need more information then you provided to answer that question.
Now if you had stated that the person had a job that didn't allow for them to transition on it but spent their off hours time and showed up to their therapy appointments presenting as female and veritably self identified as female by showing up at those therapy appointments I'd have said they were Transsexual.Which would have led to them being transsexual described.As for seven that whether they identified as Transgender that would be their personal choice. 8 I'm sure that there would be more than a few people more than happy to slap the Transgender label on the person and drag them into the lgbt whether they liked it or not.

Lisa, since I don't function in the realm of belief except insofar as my religious ideas are concerned, I cannot answer the questions from a perspective of belief that I have not held.

I can make guesses as to how someone else might answer questions, and I can formulate some fairly stock answers, but this would necessarily be colored by my experiences with such people.

I can, however, answer the questions factually, which is a different proposal from the one you made. Would that suit you?

Lisa, I'm attempting to understand what you wrote -- likely an issue on my side, but I'm hoping to find greater understanding in asking questions, not engage in debate.

As a result, while the first part of your response talks about what you believe, I'm hard pressed finding actual answers to the following questions in your response:

1. How does "a medical condition" deal with the social issues that arise from having such? What medical treatment is there for others who do not have said treatment? (By this, I mean, what does the medical condition do to handle the perceptions of others under the treatment guidelines for such of the person with said medical condition).

2. What makes this particular "medical condition" a medical condition? (By this, I mean what is it that makes this a medical condition -- being different is not, in and of itself, medically relevant, and so I'm curious what the basis for this being a medical condition, rather than, say, a medical illness, might be -- that is, not what causes it, by why is it called such in the first place.)

3. What kind of medical condition is it? (Here I am looking for the particular categorization of medical condition that this is)

I also note that you didn't answer questions 9 and 10, or make commentary relating to them.

Lastly, for the questions 5 through 8, you appear to be asking for some clarification, so I'll provide it:

1. THe stricter rules required a timetable system of appearance and dress (by week X one needs to be in skirts, by week X one needs to have achieved this name change, etc) and involved having to go through 7 different therapists to get letters from each, followed by surgery under WPATH rules. So, to clear up the questions you expressed through disbelief, I can assure you that the situation is exactly as I described it -- they did in fact follow a more stricter SoC, and they had many more confirmations of being transsexual, specifically (7 in all).

I realize that most people are not familiar with the example I gave. It is one of the reasons I gave it. The situation is *real* one, and I know 8 people for whom this is literally the situation (one of whom I was exceedingly mean to when I first encountered them because of things I said similar to your statements).

Does that clarification change any of your responses?

One other question do they still identify as female? I'll go through everything you provided and post a response tomorrow it's getting late and I have company over.

In all cases, they inform me that depends on the context. Physically, they do indeed identify as female. Socially, they identify as men. Quite binary, as well -- firmly as female bodied and socially men.

Furthermore, in all cases, they've identified that way their entire lives (since early childhood).

Okay on question one in some ways I think your putting to much emphasis on those around the person born transsexual and not enough on the benefits that person gains by knowing they have a medical condition and knowing they didn't have a choice in it. Then as far as for how does it help in dealing with people around the person or outside their circle I think if presented properly it could help a lot more than saying well geez it really doesn't matter if the person is born that way or not. Geez really doesn't really work that way in a court of law. On the other hand establishing and proving the majority of TS people are born TS opens up choices and legal ground to stand on. For one thing it gives the person effected with it the ability to own it as their medical condition they own it not anyone else and it then makes it theirs to choose how they wish to have it treated. Then by making it their medical condition and their's alone to decide how to treat it and at what level it gives them a certain freedom from religion. It becomes much harder to justify religious intolerance of a born with medical condition. It also makes it much harder to justify using conservative religious definitions of what constitutes a man or a woman.Going even further it prevents religion from doing anymore than expressing its objection to the treatment sought since it no longer has a legal argument to prevent based on the argument that it is merely a choice.
As for your next question about medical condition I'm giving you this link
If it wasn't a medical condition or seen as a medical illness none of the huge sums of money would have ever been spent either studying it or treating it. I think the question itself about what type of medical condition it is belongs in the hands of those in the field of medicine with minor if any input from us.
As for questions five through eight I could still use way more information then you've provided so let me say this. I believe such a person could exist. I also see the value in protecting such people whether they are a detransitioner or not or simply more comfortable with a male role female sex for whatever their personal reasons are. I can see someone going through what you mentioned and choosing to live male but still identifying as Transsexual they did after all go through the process and as such should be classified as Transsexual and as a potential outcome. as for them being transgender identified I see that as personal choice do they want an additional label and do they want to be associated with the LGBT. As for if they would be classified as Transgender I think that is an ethics question should any medical provider or place of higher learning be able to put an extra label on someone and push them into the LGBT for something then other than a sexual orientation issue? I personally don't think its their right and I think they should be called on it no matter how many Transsexuals say its okay all it should take is one to put an end to it because of how unethical it is.
There is always risk to a group when a label is put on them. What does that label do and does it also cause an effect where even more labels are pushed on the like being part of the "Gay Community" Then what effect does that label and the additional labels have on justifying their existence as a group? How do those extra labels and affiliations effect both the political and social standings of the group? Even if the majority of the group supports its use does it justify its existence if it is doing more harm to a small amount of the groups members than it is providing positive outcomes for the majority?
As for ten it is about those both inside and outside the group because unfortunately those within the group are clinging to those outside the group. They can't let go because they're afraid they'll be left behind instead of seeing the truth they're only dragging the rest of the Lobsters down into the transgender pot with them.

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for writing back.

THe reason that I ask the question about how the medical point affects others and not the individual, is that I think that all of us here pretty much understand that part already -- most folks here know there is a physiological relationship between all the trans kinds and individuals. Trans people don't do this because they want to, they do it because they need to.

So there isn't a need to discuss that aspect of the medical stuff. You yourself have made that very clear already, and rather than make you repeat yourself over and over again, I'm trying to get at the other things involved here beyond the scope of the medical stuff.

Your suggestion that "if presented properly it could help more" is interesting, and triggers, for example, a potential discussion on the ADA. The ADA's measures specifcally exclude trans folks (transsexual and transvestite, specifically, by name).

I'm curious what you think makes it more difficult to justify religious intolerance by it being a "born this way" thing.

I am also curious why you think that calling it a "medical condition" makes it "born this way". After all, cis LGB people are born that way as well, and they are not a medical condition.

I'll note that right now, religious objecton to trans lives is literally nothing more than expressing its objection to the treatment. THe problem is not inherently the religious exception -- the reason that Most state medicaid rules forbid such is based onthe specific exemption in the ADA.

I never said it wasn't seen as such. I asked why it was such -- there is a difference between those two points of view.

So I'm afraid that while your response (and link) tell me yet more about the etiology of it, which you had already covered previously and which isn't what I asked about it (again, because everyone here already knows how we came to be trans).

I understand your response about the "leaving it up to professionals" in terms of classifying the kind of medical condition. However, these are the same professionals who just said yet again that basically its because we are all mentally ill and are the ones that you say you do not trust as you feel they are biased.

Well, the problem is that those professionals are the ones who get to make that decision. And despite the efforts of many, including some you've said have never talked to a transsexual before, it is still classified as a mental illness, witht he same people doing that classification being the ones who have done all the research you've been citing.

I'll note, as well, that these are the same people who say that it is a fetish, as well.

Not arguing with you on those ponts, mind you, just pointig out something about your response that you may not have considered previously.

I would like to you to know that as a matter of fact, those people do exist. They are living, breathing human beings. Your belief in their existence or not is not relevant.

None of them are detransitioning. (I have to say the above as they would be really angry with me if I didn't, since they've heard all of that all their lives and are very insulted when people say such things).

Thank you for addressing the issue of those individuals. I am assured by this relative handful of them that there are many of them, but that due to extremely high levels of prejudice within the trans community at large (some of which I had to overcome myself), they are unwilling to come out and be recognized since they have been harrassed and ostracized and told things like they were fetishists, perverts, and worse.

In reference to your response regarding the label, note that I specifically said the labelis one that came from within the group itself. THey labeled themselves. THis is important, as it means that the label is NOT "put on them" but rather taken up by them.

As a result, that makes the question more direct and creates cnnection to the issues arising in discussion here. Everyone already knows, again, about the damage of having label put on one (f-gg-t, for example).

But what about those labels that come from within the group? THe one's they picked for themselves as a group?

I'll grant you that especially for fluid scial affinity groups that as membership changes (aging out, circumstance change, separation and internal division, etc), the labels they choose for themselves change -- that's a factual, proven reality.

But, even then, they ae still choosing the label for themselves.

This would be a little easier if you had answered the question I posed previously in a different thread, but I understand that you felt as if I was picking on you and so won't push that point.

However, since i am talkign about labels they choose for themselves -- as an example, you speak a great deal about people who choose to use, specifically, the label transsexual. They chose to use that term for themselves, specifically. THey use it as an effort to create identity (one creates identity by saying what one is not).

That label -- what is the harm to those who choose that label? What risk of harm do they face for choosing to name themselves? That's what i'm asking about there.

Your final response contains an assumption in it that I have to question, I hope you don't mind.

You say that they cling to the others, and are being dragged down into a lobster pot. The assumption here is that it is inherently harmful, when the question asked made no such assertion. THerefore, could it also be that they are already in that lobster pot and being pulled out by this clinging to others?

Again, thank you. I must keep asking questions, as questions are the only way to find the answers -- even though sometimes I have to ask the same question several different ways until everyone understands it.

If we are, indeed, going to get through this, then we must ask questions of each other, and we must take their answers at face value.

Antonia I'll have to get back to you on answering any more of this maybe tomorrow or over the weekend if I feel up to it. I'm having a lot of teeth pulled tomorrow so I might not feel up to it. I do want to ask you a few questions and hope you respond to them. First how would it hurt you by supporting me as a non Transgender or LGB affiliated Transsexual? Are you or those who support labeling all Transsexuals and even crossdressers as Transgender incapable of seeing it's not your right to either claim us or to even really question us on why we don't wish to be included? Can you even see how it is unethical for a University to promote the idea that all transsexuals and crossdressers are transgender and part of the LGBT even though the vast majority have nothing to do with the LGBT and are heterosexual? I say that the vast majority are heterosexual because the "Injustice at every turn" survey is worthless when applied to anyone outside of Transgender space and it was only taken by less than 1 percent of those who would be considered part of the umbrella. Considering that it was promoted to over 800 Transgender groups and only attracted less than one percent of the total population I say its safe to say that the LGBT or Transgender community is out of touch with the majority of people they falsely claim to represent.

How would it hurt you by supporting me as a non Transgender or LGB affiliated Transsexual?

It wouldn't hurt me, personally. It could be argued that it might hurt others, but you didn't ask that.

Are you, who supports labeling all Transsexuals and even crossdressers as Transgender incapable of seeing it's not your right to either claim us or to even really question us on why we don't wish to be included?

I am certainly not incapable of such, however I do, indeed, have a right to question you on the *why* you don't wish to be included. That right is free speech.

You are not obligated to answer it.

Are those who support labeling all Transsexuals and even crossdressers as Transgender incapable of seeing it's not your right to either claim us or to even really question us on why we don't wish to be included?

In some specific, individual cases, there may in fact be some who are incapable of such. In general, however, no, they are not incapable of such. As for right, the question is inapplicable -- they (nor I, for that matter), do not do so since they are, by default, speaking about the movement, not the individuals therein.

Can you even see how it is unethical for a University to promote the idea that all transsexuals and crossdressers are transgender and part of the LGBT even though the vast majority have nothing to do with the LGBT and are heterosexual?

If the science demonstrates such, then it is decidedly not unethical. The science demonstrates such thus far.

Furthermore, it is going to depend on the particular ethics involved -- ethics are always situational and contextual (this is part of what distinguishes them from morals), so to accurately be able to see the unethical aspects you describe, there would need to be a context for the ethical considerations involved. You have not supplied one, so its a question that requires more information n order to make an edequate ethical assessment, and then its going to be colored by my ethical principles.

I say that the vast majority are heterosexual because the "Injustice at every turn" survey is worthless when applied to anyone outside of Transgender space...

I just want to point out a couple things real quick.

First, the flaws in the survey exist whee they address issues of race -- a flaw that the results make clear.

Secondly, the number of persons involved is a statistically valid sample -- that is, it can, in fact, be used, and can be relied on for a degree of accuracy among the population that is involved.

That population does include a significant number of individuals who are heterosexual.

It also matches the data developed during the AGH program, with the single difference being that the AGH data (which includes data from 1600 people across the US) did not use "queer" as a potential response, whereas the NCTE/NGLTF survey did.

The data I have collected in face to face, on the ground interviews for a needs assessment here comes up within 5% for each group of those two. THe data in the DC reports, the SF reports, and the LA reports all show the same rough numbers -- one third are heterosexual.

Statsitically speaking, you are incorrect in your assessments and understandings of the study.

Which I'm not saying to defend the singular study you cited, merely to point out that it's numbers matched, significantly, the numbers shown in other surverys over the last several years that are avaialble when one gets involved in social service work.

I say this, I will note, with no expectation of you're being willing to believe me. You've much invested in the idea that this survey is in error and I would not be intersted in disabusing you of that notion as the investment isn't worth the result.

THe conversation, however, is decidedly worth such. However, in going forward, you will have to present evidence that demonstrates that a majority of the specific population so noted are heterosexual, in order to question the validity of the survey noted more effectively, as your assertions regarding it aren't factually accurate.

Britney Austin | July 13, 2011 11:35 PM

I would like to restate that intentions carry weight just as actions do. Transitioning is not an overnight process and does require a variety of obstacles being removed before one can successfully proceed. Some people can transition completely within a few years while others it can take 10-20 years. I agree with the point of this article that we should not go around needlessly judging others.

As to the terminology, the terms ultimately need to be defined in a way that distinguishes between different people's needs. This is what I see as the key problem with people using words incorrectly or identifying with terms that have a common definition that doesn't actually apply to them. Some people have medical needs including HRT and SRS. There are those who need their identity (name and sex) legally recognized on their documents. There are those who need to be able to express their gender but who do not need all or some of those other things. If one word is used to combine all of these different needs, then it makes it impossible to understand what someone's needs are.

While I object to using stereotypes to de-legitimize someone's needs (i.e. by saying they are not transsexual when they actually are) I also object to people claiming to have the same needs as me or someone else when their actions clearly indicate otherwise. When it comes down specifically to those terms, common sense tells me that the term "transgender" would refer primarily to gender issues while "transsexual" would refer primarily to sex issues. And "trans" means "across, change, through." As long as people understand that sex and gender are not the same they can understand that sex variance and gender variance are also different. I think it is this blend of gender and sex that is resulting in the majority of the confusion.

The point still stands that people should respect other people's needs and identities, not stereotype, and only question such need or identity when evidence does not match up with what the person is saying.

I don't know, Antonia. I have to go back and finish cleaning the gutters and I have to snake out a couple of downspouts. I am wearing a pair of GAP hip hugger jeans and a raspberry shirt with a scooped neck and sleeves cut close to the shoulders. I don't really look that much different than I did when I was eighteen. I have a pair of running shoes on and have my hair tied back in an elastic. My spouse, who works in an out patient surgical center, has told me I should probably have my breasts augmented. She knows all kinds of plastic surgeons. We don't have the money and, anyway, I should probably loose some weight and have some work done on the deep lines and wrinkles in my face before I even consider a B A.

Anyway, I checked my history from yesterday. Lots of entries for a definition of pre-discursive. A few searches on pistals, stamens and anthers and a lot of articles on the work of Judith Butler. As far as complexity is concerned, my thoughts on genitals are a lot more complex than a simple penis/vagina analysis. Genitals do matter, though. Here is something I was reading last night. I have hashed and re-hashed this stuff a few times:

Bodies That Matter is, at least in part, an extended response to concerns raised about Butler’s approach to the ontological in Gender Trouble. Butler seeks, in Bodies That Matter, to provide a sustained interrogation of the domain of “sex,” conceding, in an interview, that the category of “sex” required more attention than afforded in Gender Trouble: “I think that I overrode the category of sex too quickly in Gender Trouble. I try to reconsider it in Bodies That Matter” (Butler “Gender as Performance” 32-33). At the same time, however, Butler disputes any suggestion that she need return to sex or matter as an ontological bedrock to ground her theory.

The Breast Summer Ever thread, to me, is indicative of what happens when people break up into factions. Instead of the transsexual/transgender wars going on there is the trans/cis battle. I don't really see the world existing as simple dichotomies but that seems to be human nature, human nature at its most base.

I don't know if it is me who genitals are important to or the people who insist they don't matter. I'm still stewing over my belated realization that the proposed ENDA legislation, by default, actually defines sex as being determined at birth. If one reads the section on public accommodations, the public shower clause divides people into male and female and not really male and not really female. Call it cis and trans if you like. Obviously, at the root of the problem is the penis in the woman's space issue. In an effort to be "fair" to those who haven't had surgery, post operative post- transsexual women are thrown under the bus and any guy of trans history who truly wants to be accepted as male with all the baggage that comes along with it. I mean how much effort has gone into writing "you're not really a woman or man" into law? It's unprecedented. Forget about who is a "real transsexual" and who isn't. How about the question of who is a "real man" and who is a "real woman"? Really, has anyone really though about how much pressure this puts on people who don't "transition"? Have the unintended consequences of that clause in the ENDA been thoroughly thought out? I cannot believe you don't know who I am referring to when I mention "DIRT". Her first name is Margaret. Her last name escapes me.

Oh, I know who you are referring to when you say Dirt. I simply have no idea how they express themselves. I've never had cause to study it, do not know them personally, and am unlikely to get to know them since they are a radical separatist and I generally have found little to no value in the writings or words of such.

I have exchanged words with them, mind you. But words, themselves, are a horrific way of determining how an individual expresses themselves in relation to either their sex or their gender. Groups of people, well, that's a different thing (and one that I know well), but as an individual, it's pretty useless.

I should note that I generally disagree with Butler in a great many areas, but that it often seems as if she and I have much in common. I come at it from a very different direction and angle than she does, and the one point in common that we have is the nature of language's use. That's it. Beyond that, it gets really hard to deal with since Butler's work was based on hypothesis, and mine is based on work done since the time of her hypothesis that proves certain elements and disproves certain others (I'll also note that her work is part of a continuing set of works overall that are working to go against the ideas popularized in the book "Brain Sex" in the late 1970's or early 1980s).

For example, there is a great deal of discussion about "Gender" being a social construct. This discussion usually hinges on "Sex' being something fixed while a social construct is not. This is in error. Both "Sex" and "Gender" are social constructs. Both are subject to the same issues and relative variations that are contextually limited.

This is why I'm usually very careful about the use of "male and female" (sex terms) and the use of "man and woman" (gender terms).

Another issue in the way is the use of colloquial language to discuss such tings -- if there is not common set of definitions and meanings for such things, then the discussion will be people talking *at* each other with no understanding, instead of talking *with* each other and getting some understanding going.

All of this stuff, without getting to the meat and potatoes, so to speak, of the whole issue is effort without value, since its just talking around each other.


I don't know exactly what I think of Butler. I've been wanting to go back and read what she said about Venus Extravaganza that has certain people upset. I think I missed that. I don't think I would write her off entirely. She is very difficult to understand without a well grounded background in linguistics, philosophy, Foucault, Lacan, etc. I don't have your educational background. I find Lacan troubling and I think she does but I don't have an in depth understanding of what he's all about. You introduced me to Bem's ideas in your three part series. I don't know. I went to see Anne Fausto-Sterling a few years ago. I find her ideas interesting to a degree. She was discussing Ansermet et al, The Biology of Freedom, and Harris’s Gender as Soft Assembly. She is brutal when it comes to transsexualism, though. I take this stuff with a grain of salt. I am not looking for causes, just understanding. The law has me concerned, that and portrayals. I believe allowance should be made for diversity when the discussion turns to sex in spite of statistical probability. I think bodies matter, too. In spite of all my reservations about Fausto-Sterling, I find her analysis of sex and gender very insightful. I think it's a horse and carriage situation. Anyway, I have mentioned the public accommodations paragraph in the proposed ENDA and ever single thinker at this site has avoided the question. I wish someone would approach it head on and tell me where I am all wet. I would like to believe I am but I get the feeling I am not.

Thanks for the great article! As a transgender woman ( I refuse to identify as a transsexual), I am sick of the (pardon the expression) pissing contest that goes on within our group. Several of those litmus test exclusions would make me fail. It disturbs me that we can tolerate diversity within the cisgender community, but some can't tolerate diversity within the T community. What's that all about?

Bravo, Tobi.
I tire of this discussion,in fact it’s burned me out, quite frankly. I resent being marginalized by a group that’s already marginalized. I think this stuff is a sign of a kind of ghetto-fever that’s taken hold among MTF’s , and pretty much ONLY among MTF’s. I use the term “circular firing squad” and that’s exactly what it is.

Are there creepy crossdressers? Met them. Are there gender-queerier-than-thou types who speak nothing but PoMo gibberish and think the main thing we should deal with as a community is Palestinian rights? Know her. Are there women who think that there is such a thing as a “true transsexual” and that some who think they have an intersex condition known as “Harry Benjamin syndrome”? They've posted here, and there’s at least one of them who thinks she’s also really African-American though born European. Are there happily transitioned women of all ages who live quiet, useful stealthy lives? God, I hope so.

So, when suddenly I’m told I’m a “TG umbrella type” because of my path and life experience, my instinct is to get out of the sack of cats that are pointlessly fighting while society continues to victimize, and more often, ignore and marginalize them constantly.

I understand that a woman who is living quietly and seamlessly in society doesn’t want to be included with weekend women who post thirty pictures of themselves online afterward, but the truth is, some of us started out that way. I can even see some kind of TS means test, but then those TS’s will have the job of explaining that society in general, and in my opinion, society doesn’t care.

There’s been a constant, agonized discussion among Gay men about this; “the nellies and drag queens are bringing us down; we have to be seen acting as straight as possible” Joe Sixpack in the USA only cares about one thing; do you have sex with dudes or with chicks? Conversation over.With us it's simple; "Oh, you used to be a dude?"

I gotta give props to Chaz for nothing else if not humanizing our experience to the unwashed masses.How many FTM's feel they need a special category for those who haven't had bottom surgery? I only hear crickets.

I guess if I’m a “TG umbrella type” as well as a “Late transitioner” and was at one point sexually aroused when I wore female clothing, so that’s three strikes anyway; I'm one them "Transgenders" Have at it, my TS sisters, but I suspect you’ll just ultimately divide yourselves so many times as to be irrelevant. We already see this in reactions from successfully transitioned non-op TS women who smell a rat, in spite of constant reassurances that "Your case is different". The argument also about the economics and social class aspects of this are worth mentioning, at least in passing; not everyone has 100 grand to board the Pink Express. The other thing I'd say there is this;do any of you know someone who has had SRS, FFS and breast augmentation who doesn't really "click" as a woman to you? There's that.

So now there's going to be three categories? GLBTIQQ, Straight and True TS?

Stealth sounds good sometimes.

Thank you so much for this article; I agree with you 100%. The infighting has to stop and respect for individual expression must be paramount. As a genderqueer (and possibly intersex person - god it's hard to get hold of pediatric endocrinology records when they insist you were never there!), I've long felt drawn to the transgender community but also excluded and judged. I long for the day when we can all fight for one another's gender/sex rights with respect and understanding.

Josie McCormick | August 11, 2011 1:24 PM


Thank you for writing such a poignant piece regarding the plight of the transgender community within itself. Honestly, the litmus test of trans-sexuality seems to be something from the pre-feminists culture, as womanhood (or manhood) is mostly constructed by the appearance, rather than the person. Of course, most people judge us on our look. Those of us lucky enough to be born with softer facial features (or have the resources to make them) often disregard the struggle of the less fortunate. Often within the manner less rooms of blogs or chat, some ‘transsexuals’ seem to honestly view those who can partly pass or cannot at all, as some sort of hindrance on our community. Nevertheless, I would like to ask: what community are they making reference to? Unfortunately, our community is fragmented, divided by our inability to look past the physical and into the heart and soul of our transgender sisters and brothers (partly, I believe this has been caused by us outsourcing most of our activism to the LGB community, as a way to remain active, but dangerously stealth.) How can we ask the work to accept of for who we are and thus fail to accept our own kind, our kin?

I have heard it explained (through the HRC) that transgender is the umbrella term relating to anyone who is outside of traditional gender roles, where as transsexual refer to men and women who would like a complete sex change, although I prefer genderqueer myself. Why? It’s more about allowing someone else to tell you who or what you are, than finding a label to keep ‘them’ out (or us in.) On a 70’s BBC documentary I recently watched, they discussed how a well known transsexual health doctor would often be more than happy to streamline the process for a super passable. Feminine M-t-F, however, if they were any less, these poor peoples where put through hell (let alone if you were F-t-M.) I cannot imagine that we need an outside source to validate and regulate our feelings, outside of a good therapist to help us sort it all out. Have people made mistakes in regards to SRS? Yes. Does this mean that most are regretful of their SRS? Hell no! I believe that only a few reported suicides have been based on one being misdiagnosed, where a majority of transgender health concerns come from the inability to access essential healthcare. However, SRS isn’t the choice for all people, and this doesn’t make them any less transgendered, expect to those who think they should hold the keys.

Cancer patients don’t often gather trying to decide which cancer is the truer cancer. Most HIV patients don’t discuss that validity of their virus, based on the year of their infection. Most of these people do come together; regardless of race, creed, nationality, gender, SO, or the like; to be the voice that cheers on the wins and the shoulder to cry on when pain comes. I believe love must be essential force for us, as being differently gendered isn’t a disease or disorder, but a natural variation between a million different possibilities. Our community needs to look beyond and not separate, but integrate our hearts and minds into a collective, loving force for all of God’s creatures. Then only then, will we win.

Thanks again,