Jan 26

Our Social Construction of a Sex and Gender Binary: The XX & XY Lie

 

Petite Bohème social world

Image credit: Petite Bohème at www.petiteboheme.com/Cosmic-Love

I’m a transgender woman living in a social world. Like many trans people I know, I’ve spent a lot of time in my life hearing from friends, family, and strangers on the internet about how my gender is “made up”.

These detractors always circle back to the same argument regarding biology, genitals, and the existence of only two “real” genders. They will tell me that it doesn’t matter what name I use, how long my hair grows, what surgeries I get, or how long I take hormone replacement therapy, I will always be a man, in their eyes, because one doctor 27 years ago looked at my penis and decided I was a man.

This simplistic explanation of sex and gender as a permanent division between someone being either a man or woman, having a penis or a vagina, and having XX or XY chromosomes may seem like solid ground upon which we’ve built our entire modern society, but the real story of where these categories come from, and how unscientific they truly are, is newer, and much more cloudy, than you may think. Before we go down the rabbit hole, we need to cover some basics first.

Social Constructionism and You

Social constructionism is the study of how identity categories, social groups, and even things that seem like solid biological truths, are actually systems of meaning that are built, maintained, and obscured from criticism by our social systems.

Social constructionism is created and maintained by many facets of society, including our education system, class hierarchy structure, political systems, and medical complex. (More about social constructionism here)

It’s important to note that just because something is socially constructed, or in a more blunt way, that it is “made up”, doesn’t make that thing meaningless or powerless. Money only exists and has value because we all collectively decide to continue believing that it has value, however once that social construction has taken hold, it becomes “real” in some sense of the word. The fact that money is an imaginary abstraction of labor and personal wealth onto colored pieces of fabric, paper, or metal doesn’t make its impact on our lives, or our struggle to live without having enough of it, any less “real” than something tangible like a rock or a tree.

As another example, racial divisions between human beings with different skin tones and body features are socially constructed and yet, also deeply important to understanding our world. These divisions were artificially created and continue to be maintained by white-dominant societies across the world in a way that produces real, daily harm for people of color.

Even though race is “made up”, so to speak, we can’t just completely dismiss it as a concept, or live in a “colorblind” society because the enduring legacy and impact of race as a social construction impacts the lives of every person of color. It is deeply important for us all to learn about the challenges of growing up in a society informed by slavery, scientific justifications for racism, eugenics, and many other real systems of oppression that were built on the very non-real and arbitrary divisions between humans of different physical appearances. In order to truly confront the issue of racism, we must first admit that race is both a social construction by scientific racists and also a real pattern of classification that has caused tangible harm despite it being “made up”.

In a similar way, our current system of assigning babies male or female at birth is a social construction based on assumptions about biology and body development that are now outdated. However, we must still grapple with the centuries of meaning we have attributed to the penis and the vagina.

Sex and gender as a binary structure are outdated social constructs that we must reform. When a so-called “scientific” system of categorization systematically leaves out millions of transgender and intersex people, we must ask ourselves: is the problem with the people who don’t fit, or the system itself?

Boys and Girls

In most current societies, when we’re born, a doctor or midwife looks at our genitals and declares we are either “a boy” or “a girl”.

This designation gets put on a birth certificate, which then transfers to a social security card, a driver’s license, a passport, and every other possible documentation of you as a human being. Even though most people never get their chromosomes tested, we also assume this sex assignment to mean that people with penises always have XY chromosomes and people with vulvas always have XX chromosomes.

We live in a world that is deeply invested financially, socially, politically, and scientifically, in reinforcing two categories defined by penises and vaginas. The sex and gender binary informs our medical research, divides our restrooms from each other, and prescribes everything from the hobbies you can access to the style of draping cloth on your body that is appropriate.

Our binary division of genitals, loosely based on being able to give birth or not give birth, signifies a fundamental difference between what we call “men” and “women”. From the assignment of your physical sex follows the assumption of your gender identity and gender expression to match.

If your gender happens to line up with the sex you were assigned at birth, this is an experience I will refer to as being “cisgender”. Conversely, this means that anyone whose gender is not the same as their sex assigned at birth would be “transgender”.

Cisgender people may have never really thought much about the medical process of sex assignment at birth and the subsequent social process of molding the expectations of a gender identity based on that assignment.

Even though sex assignment at birth, gender identity, and gender expression are all distinct categories that can be independent from each other, when they all “line up” with the expectation, we collapse those three things into one identity. We call someone a “man” for example, by which we actually mean a male-assigned-at-birth person whose gender identity (internal sense of gender) is a man, and whose gender expression (external choices about appearance to communicate gender) is also male/masculine.

Even though no one truly lines up with every expectation of being male or female, odds are that if you fit into a cisgender experience of your body and the world, our cultural process of assigning sex at birth and then assuming a gender identity and gender expression based on that assignment has been an invisible process for you. It may even feel like a “natural” process, or the only process by which we could ever structure our society in your mind.

For cisgender people, this medical process of assigning sex at birth and assuming gender identity and expression from that assignment is like tubing down a river. Depending on where you start, you may experience calm waters carrying you forward, you may have turbulent water that’s difficult to navigate, or you might have a mixture of both, but no matter what, the momentum of the water carries you forward and helps guide your journey.

For transgender people, whose gender is different from the sex we were assigned at birth, and intersex people, whose bodies do not fit cleanly into being assigned male or female, this experience is much more like being a salmon swimming upstream against the current. Even though it’s possible to do, it’s exhausting. We’re always pushing back against the expectations of our culture, our parents, our doctors, our religious leaders (if we’re religious), and practically everyone we interact with in person and on the internet.

Some of us don’t survive the journey. Some of us run out of energy and fall behind. Some of us, if we’re non-white, poor, queer, non-binary, living with a disability, living in countries outside of the US and Europe, living without access to healthcare, or navigating life through multiple marginalized identities at once, are forced to endure push back from the unstoppable flow of dominant culture that is more intense, more relentless, and much more exhausting.

This social process of “tubing down the river”, happens because of our social construction of the gender binary. While not everything in our modern society has a binary gendered aspect to it, many more things than you might think about actually do.

The gender binary is more than social expectations that women work in the home and men work in an office, or other broad cultural assumptions about men and women. Our gendered divisions assign different smells to different genders, make sure that our underwear is shaped differently, and use social norms about grooming activities like shaving body hair, doing makeup, and enforcing drastically different dress codes all serve to support divisions between what we call men and women.

We take small variations in body structure and amplify the natural variation of those bodies to maintain the idea that men and woman are not only fundamentally different from each other, based on their biology, but also based on their social expectations as well.

More and more people are beginning to see how our current gender binary is socially constructed. Parents are beginning to push back on the idea that only certain toys are for boys or girls, clothing stores are removing their distinction between men’s and women’s clothes, and California just became the first state in the US to recognize a non-binary gender on their state records.

Even though it’s becoming more common to hear people discuss the impact of our gender binary, we still seem to struggle when we apply the same ideas to the social construction of biological sex itself.

“I Wasn’t Born In The Wrong Body, I Was Born In The Wrong World” — Alok Vaid-Menon

Even the most progressive transgender allies, the ones who understand the nuances of gender identity, can struggle with the concept of trans bodies when it comes to the social construction of physical sex characteristics.

Many cisgender allies say things to me like: “I support your transition, but you’ll never be a ‘real’ woman because you were born a boy.” Statements like this illustrate how some people can understand our society’s need to expand beyond the gender binary, while still clinging to the idea that “biological sex” is something solid, real, and based on a purely biological difference between two types of genitals and having either XX or XY chromosomes.

Not only is the gender binary a social construction, but so is the very idea of a physical sex binary at all. We know this because millions of transgender people exist as women in bodies with penises, as do men in bodies with vulvas and nonbinary people in bodies with any genitals.

Those bodies cannot be cleanly sorted into a binary sex because our brain is just as physical a part of us as any other. We experience our whole body through electric energy that runs through every nerve and up into our brain seamlessly.

There is no such thing as being trapped in the “wrong” body, it’s the only body I have, and to say it isn’t a woman’s body when there is a woman living in the body takes some serious mental gymnastics and biological psuedo-science for people to justify their transphobia and declare otherwise.

Bigots and allies alike search high and low for every possible explanation to elucidate why millions of trans people exist, other than what we keep saying over and over again.

This world seemingly refuses to listen to trans people when we say that we are simply living as our truest possible selves. We are women, men, and non-binary people in bodies that you refuse to see as ours, but rather, you can only see through your projections onto us.

Transgender women are not “trying to be women”, “living as women”, “becoming women”, “choosing to be women”, or any other euphemistic phrase that essentially says we are impersonators trying to be something we are not.

As Sophie Labelle so elegantly put it: “I’m a girl, this is my body. Girls have all kinds of bodies.”

Assigned Male in a social world

Artist credit: Sophie Labelle, Assigned Male Comics

Additionally, some bodies cannot be cleanly sorted into “male” or “female” on sex assignment, and we categorize those bodies as “intersex”.

Intersex folks may or may not also identify themselves as “transgender”, but the existence of bodies that are on a spectrum between what we clearly define as male or female speaks to a more complicated truth of “biological sex” than you might have learned in school.

Even though we often think about physical sex being determined precisely when the sperm enters the egg, the actual development of our physical bodies follows the same template for the first few months of development, including the development of budding structures that would become the ovaries, labia, clitoris, and other body parts we currently see as exclusively “female”.

For some bodies where the SRY gene is activated, these existing parts transform themselves to a new genital configuration that will begin to produce testosterone. The ovaries descend and become the testes; the labia fuse together into the scrotal sack; the urethra fuses with the clitoris and grows out to become the penis.

The anatomy we see as distinctly “male” or “female” is all grown from the same root, and in our effort to make clear distinctions between men and women, the medical system creates collateral damage through forced genital surgery on intersex infants, defining our natural human variation as a disorder, and perpetuating a transphobic medical gatekeeping process that construes our most basic medical care as “cosmetic” and “unnecessary” medical procedures we must pay for out of pocket, while trans people are also twice as likely to be unemployed, and if employed, are twice as likely to make under $25,000 a year (from: http://www.one-colorado.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/OC_Transparent_Download2mb.pdf).

Even though we claim this division between “real men” and “real women” rests on the basic difference between XX and XY chromosomes, even the clean cut science of that divide is quickly becoming more and more muddled. It is possible, for example, to have XY chromosomes and a vulva or XX chromosomes and a penis. This article from Nature Magazine in 2015 outlines this process in greater detail:

“Gene mutations affecting gonad development can result in a person with XY chromosomes developing typically female characteristics, whereas alterations in hormone signalling can cause XX individuals to develop along male lines.

For many years, scientists believed that female development was the default programme, and that male development was actively switched on by the presence of a particular gene on the Y chromosome. In 1990, researchers made headlines when they uncovered the identity of this gene, which they called SRY. Just by itself, this gene can switch the gonad from ovarian to testicular development. For example, XX individuals who carry a fragment of the Y chromosome that contains SRY develop as males.”

By the turn of the millennium, however, the idea of femaleness being a passive default option had been toppled by the discovery of genes that actively promote ovarian development and suppress the testicular programme — such as one called WNT4. XY individuals with extra copies of this gene can develop atypical genitals and gonads, and a rudimentary uterus and Fallopian tubes. In 2011, researchers showed that if another key ovarian gene, RSPO1, is not working normally, it causes XX people to develop an ovotestis — a gonad with areas of both ovarian and testicular development.

These discoveries have pointed to a complex process of sex determination, in which the identity of the gonad emerges from a contest between two opposing networks of gene activity. Changes in the activity or amounts of molecules (such as WNT4) in the networks can tip the balance towards or away from the sex seemingly spelled out by the chromosomes. “It has been, in a sense, a philosophical change in our way of looking at sex; that it’s a balance,” says Eric Vilain, a clinician and the director of the Center for Gender-Based Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s more of a systems-biology view of the world of sex.”

Transgender people are a natural human variation of brains existing on a spectrum of identities, just like how bodies exist on a spectrum between what we designate as male and what we designate as female.

Both the gender binary and the sex binary are socially constructed. We first decided there was a difference at all in bodies on one side of the sex spectrum or the other, and then we maintain a system of strict division between physical norms, social norms, and gender expression norms that reinforce that original arbitrary division between masculine and feminine bodies.

We are led to believe that this “biological” division between men and women is tied to both the genitals, and having XX or XY chromosomes, however, most people never have their chromosomes checked. Instead, we just assume that the existence of a penis means someone has an XY chromosomal pair and the existence of a vulva means an XX chromosomal pair. But as we saw above, not only can someone be born with the “wrong” genitals for their chromosome pair, but also those with the “right pair” of chromosomes can develop traits of both genitals, including the full formation of both a penis and a vulva/vagina at the same time.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t observable differences between bodies, or that a division does exist in humans between the anatomy required to grow a child and those without the ability to do that, but it does mean that the actual biological differences between those bodies stops there. Even using birth anatomy as a binary doesn’t work, since we still see infertile cisgender women as women and infertile cisgender men as men.

Imagine a thought experiment: Due to an unfortunate accident, you were crushed above your hips by a massive object. In order to save you, the surgeon was required to remove your genitals completely. Do you stop being a man or a woman, in this scenario, just because your genitals are now gone? Of course not, because gender, the inner sense of who you are, exists independent of your genitals.

Instead of thinking about physical sex as two distinct categories with no overlap, I think it makes more sense to think of our categories of “male” and “female” as two bell curves centered around cisgender men and women. The majority of people who are born with a penis will identify as men, express themselves as masculine, and create the norm we have now, and the same for people with a vulva being women and expressing themselves as feminine.

However, there is a small chance on the edges of the bell curve that someone will be different from how they are assigned and expected to grow up. They may be a transgender woman, agender, gender fluid, or many other potential identity terms we’ve created to describe experiences outside of being cisgender. That doesn’t make the transgender or the cisgender person more or less right, just because it’s more common to be cis, it just means they are two very different experiences of being human.

Instead of seeing this natural variation within the bell curve as equally valid outcomes of the randomness inherent in human genes, we have medicalized, stigmatized, and pathologized these differences to say that less common experiences of gender are also somehow less “right” or less “natural”.

We’ve labeled these trans experiences as deviant, dangerous, and constructed them to be something wrong with the individual people, instead of an inherent flaw of our classification system.

If a so-called “scientific” classification system continues to systematically leave out millions and millions of people, we must ask ourselves: is the problem with those millions of people, or is the problem with our current classification system?

When the majority of people fit within the expectations of being cisgender men and women, we mistake something “common” for being something “normal”. In our current society, “normal” comes with all sorts of value judgements and safety systems that push us toward wanting to be seen as “normal” by others.

Additionally, having a category seen as “normal” for our gender fundamentally facilitates the creation of things outside of those expectations to be seen as “not normal”, or“other”. Our experiences precede our language to describe them. Trans and queer people who are naming terms to describe their gender are putting language to experiences of gender fluidity, non-binary gender, and other experiences outside of the historical categories of men and women.

Getting rid of those new identities, marginalizing them, mocking them, and ignoring them don’t make someone feel less like that identity, it just increases the social cost of coming out and staying out to a level where someone may feel hopeless enough to choose dying instead.

Our society constructs these transgender identities as being “abnormal”, “bizarre”, and defined by their defiance to the established norm.

Those who are hateful of trans people do all sorts of mental gymnastics to find other explanations for why trans people exist. These “explanations” are often way more complicated than the actual truth they refuse to acknowledge, that I am simply a woman who has a penis.

Instead, transphobic bigots justify taking our rights away and ostracizing us from society by saying that transgender people are sexually deviant, or that we are trying to trick people. They call our truest selves being “mentally ill”, and all sorts of other justifications for marginalizing and oppressing us without feeling guilt or shame for it. The people who truly cause harm to us are often telling a story in their own head about “saving us” from ourselves, but all they are really doing is using religious fundamentalism, TERF ideology, or other oppressive systems to attack an already endangered and marginalized group and endanger us further out of their own discomfort and fear.

Transgender People Have Always Existed

It is also important to note that even though trans identities and gender fluidity seems like something new, there is a long history of people who we would understand in our current context as “trans” throughout time and space. Many Civil War soldiers were discovered to be female assigned at birth in the US, Billy Tipton was a legendary jazz artist, who was also discovered to be female-assigned-at-birth only upon his death in 1989. There were also trans, genderqueer and gender fluid people living in a burgeoning queer movement in 1920’s and 30’s Berlin, until the Nazis came to power, destroyed the collected research of Dr. Magnus Hirshfeld, and the entire queer movement toward scientific understanding with it.

Trans women, transsexuals, and drag queens of color were also the first ones to fight back against police at Stonewall in June 1969, and also at the Compton Cafeteria Riots, in August 1966, almost 3 years before Stonewall.

Additionally, going back further than white European colonialism, there have always been communities of indigenous people who saw and respected people outside of a gender binary. While it’s impossible to paint the hundreds of indigenous groups in North America with a broad brush, many different traditions of indigenous gender and sexual fluidity are being illuminated by current tribal members, sometimes under the linguistic banner of “two spirit” people:

“Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand. The Navajo refer to Two Spirits as Nádleehí (one who is transformed), among the Lakota is Winkté (indicative of a male who has a compulsion to behave as a female), Niizh Manidoowag (two spirit) in Ojibwe, Hemaneh (half man, half woman) in Cheyenne, to name a few.

As the purpose of ‘Two Spirit’ is to be used as a universal term in the English language, it is not always translatable with the same meaning in Native languages. For example, in the Iroquois Cherokee language, there is no way to translate the term, but the Cherokee do have gender variance terms for ‘women who feel like men’ and vice versa.”

Many of the colonial occupiers that traveled to North America were not only confused by sex and gender categories different from their own, but they used their lack of nuclear families and existence of trans and queer people as a sign of godlessness and weakness, as the same article continues below:

“The Jesuits and French explorers told stories of Native American men who had ‘Given to sin’ and ‘Hunting Women’ with wives, and later, the British returned to England with similar accounts. [portrait artist] George Catlin said that the Two Spirit tradition among Native Americans ‘Must be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.’ In keeping with European prejudices held against Natives, the Spanish Catholic monks destroyed most of the Aztec codices to eradicate traditional Native beliefs and history, including those that told of the Two Spirit tradition.

In 1530, the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca wrote in his diary of seeing ‘soft’ Native Indian males in Florida tribes dressing and working as women. Just as with all other aspects of the European regard for Indians, gender variance was not tolerated. Europeans and eventually Euro-Americans demanded all people conform to their prescribed two gender roles.

The majority of historical empires and colonizing powers across the world have been based on a combination of heterosexuality and a binary sex assigned at birth, partially because if you are a colonizing power that needs new people to be born in order to constantly grow your army and occupy your new territory, then creating shame and stigmatization around any sex that is non-procreative and punishing people for stepping outside of gender norms becomes a social adaptation that allows empires to grow through the assumption that all people must be straight and wanting to have children.

We are beyond a time when these desires need to be the sole focus of a society. When people fall in love and/or have sex with genitals where a child can be born, great! And also there are many more options existing in this world to create your own children with another person, or grow your family by adopting those who don’t have one.

When we create a system of strict gender policing and threats of violence, sexual assault, homelessness, and more for crossing those boundaries, it’s hard to say the choice to stay within them is a “natural” one.

To Infinity And Beyond

Our ever-expanding scientific, social, and cultural understanding of the world is pointing more and more to the system of a gender and sex binary being unable to describe the natural human variation that has always existed in gender and sex, and which will likely always exist, no matter how many times an internet comment is written that there are only two genders, only two sexes, and only one way to see the world.

Bodies exist on a spectrum just as our brains and identities do. There is no clear distinction between a man and a woman, no matter how many non-consensual genital surgeries we perform on intersex infants. In order to make it appear that there is a stark difference between these two, we enforce clothing standards, body hair standards, makeup expectations, and genital surgeries on intersex people to make the actual differences that do exist between those body types hyper-emphasized and seemingly impossible to mix.

However, it is possible to have XY chromosomes and a vulva. It is possible to have XX chromosomes and a penis. It is possible to be born with both a penis and a womb. It’s possible to be born with both a penis and a vagina. It is, therefore impossible for us to truly create a divide between “man” and “woman” as distinct categories, especially if we plan to use chromosomes and genitals to divide them. Nature doesn’t like cleanly divided categories.

There are certainly biological differences between bodies, and some of those differences can be traced back to different body parts, some of those differences may even lead to some differences in thought, experience, and interests, however we know better than to say that such a random cluster of similarities are so important that they are more important than allowing trans and queer people to live freely and safely as we feel the most comfortable in our bodies.

I believe we should consider alternatives like remaking our sex assignment system, and all of the connected documents and expectations, to be held by a gender neutral placeholder until the person can communicate their gender and sex clearly instead of creating years, and potentially decades, of collateral damage by assigning someone incorrectly at birth. We can no longer claim that having one set of genitals puts you automatically into any one social category of gender or biological sex.

Instead of letting our genitals define our gender, the more accurate thing to do is allow our gender to define our genitals. If you’re a cisgender man with a penis, no one is saying you shouldn’t identify that way or that it’s wrong, simply that we need to have a classification system that is granular enough to include cisgender men with penises, women with penises, and non-binary people with penises, vaginas, or both as well.

Despite being born with a penis, I am not a “woman with male genitalia” or a “woman trapped in a man’s body”, both of which are ways to acknowledge the existence of transgender women without actually validating our identity as women. As I said in my previous piece, trans liberation is very simple, as long as we hold this to be true: “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are whole and valid identities outside of our western colonialist sex and gender binary. Repeat this to yourself over and over. This is the root of all trans liberation.”

I am a woman, so I have a woman’s body. My penis is a woman’s penis. My voice is a woman’s deep voice. My body hair is a woman’s body hair. Sex assignment at birth based on a genital inspection is nothing more than a social construction that takes the complicated bodily experience of humans and reduces it into just two categories.

The gender binary and the physical sex binary are both made up and real at the same time, they are constructed by human beings, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important or impactful to everyone. Being a social construction means that we, as human beings, made this system and maintain this system. And if we made this system, it also means that we can remake this system to include the wide, natural variation of all human bodies and minds.

Sara is the host of the Queer Sex Ed Podcast. You can learn more about her work and listen to the show at www.queersexed.org or on any podcast app. You can also follow QSE on Facebook at www.facebook.com/QueerS3xEd and on Twitter @QSEpodcast. If this article has enriched your life, and you would like to support the continuing work of QSE to educate and create queer, intersectional spaces for conversations about sex and sexuality, please consider joining our Patreon community at www.patreon.com/QueerSexEd.

This piece pulls heavily from knowledge gained here, here, and here

Reprinted from Medium.com

Aug 26

Not All Transgender People Have Dysphoria

transgender dysphoria - girl or boyNot all transgender people have dysphoria – and here are 6 reasons why that matters. I remember talking with a friend of mine who is transgender with the assumption that we both experienced dysphoria, which is the distress or discomfort that occurs when the gender someone is assigned does not align with their actual gender.

As I was talking, I could see their eyes start to stare off in another direction.

“Are you alright?” I asked, puzzled by their sudden disinterest in our conversation.

On an ordinary day, Kai and I could talk gender for hours. The only person who seemed more passionate about trans identity than me was definitely Kai.

But suddenly, in conversation that should’ve excited them, they seemed to be someplace else entirely.

“Well, I don’t…” Kai paused. “Don’t judge me or anything, but like, I don’t experience dysphoria.”

At that point, I had never heard of a transgender person not experiencing some kind of dysphoria. But there they were, right in front of me.

My instinct was to be protective over my transness. The idea that dysphoria was not required, and that anyone could just identify as trans if they wanted to, seemed to water down the importance of my identity and the struggles of my community.

No — their community. Our community.

I was getting possessive, trying to deny Kai’s identity, which was so unlike me. Just a minute ago, Kai was my comrade; now, suddenly, I was pushing them to the margins. Why would I try to tell someone what their gender is and isn’t, having spent a lifetime of being told the same?

“Yeah, I get it,” they said, seeming to read my mind. “It’s threatening to a lot of people, so I don’t often talk about it.”

But in my years as an advocate, I continue to meet more trans folks like Kai who don’t experience dysphoria, and further, who are afraid to open up about it.

I’ve been lucky enough to learn from them, and I understand now why my gut reaction – to exclude them – was such a problematic one.

So why shouldn’t we define transgender people on the basis of dysphoria?

Let’s talk about it.

  1. It Suggests That Gender Identity Is for Outsiders to Decide

It’s weird that some trans people are totally on-board with making a rulebook for transness, instead of encouraging people to self-identify and declare their gender identities for themselves.

When we allow other people to make the rules, we strip away the rights of trans people to self-identify. If we tell trans people that their identities don’t belong to them, we uphold a culture where the naming of gender identities belongs to outsiders instead of ourselves.

When I started to doubt Kai’s transness, what I was saying to them was, “You say that you’re transgender, but I don’t recognize that or believe that.” I was saying that I knew Kai’s gender better than they did. Yikes.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to exist in a world where I have to follow a set of prescribed rules before I can claim my own identity.

I should be able to declare what my gender is and have it validated, regardless of how I experience it.

Transgender people constantly have to resist having an assigned gender imposed on them. Do we really want to assign and impose a gender onto other trans people?

  1. It Medicalizes the Experience of Being Transgender

The phrase “gender dysphoria” became the go-to phrase after “gender identity disorder” was deemed offensive and inaccurate. Since then, the two phrases have been used interchangeably in the medical realm.

Need I remind you that Western medicine has been less than kind to trans people historically?

Trans people were “treated” by being encouraged to conform and accept their assigned gender rather than transitioning. Medicalizing the lives of trans people hurt us for a long, long time – it meant that we were treated as having a psychological disorder rather than a valid identity.

Placing the lives of trans people into an “illness” framework ultimately stigmatized their identities and left their needs to be dictated my “medical professionals” rather than trans people themselves.

The medical model disempowered trans people.

Trans people were treated as deviants with a shameful mental disorder, and language like “gender identity disorder” and “gender dysphoria” is tied to that history. The medicalization of trans people was a major source of oppression and harm.

When you suggest that dysphoria is the one way of determining whether or not someone is trans, you are relying on a medical model that wasn’t created by trans people, but rather, created by Western medical “professionals” who viewed transness as a disorder rather than an identity.

And I’d like to move as far away from this framework as possible.

Changing it from “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria” doesn’t change the fact that it’s still operating within the same medical model and still functioning as a “diagnosis.”

  1. It’s a Eurocentric Definition of Transgender

A lot of trans folks will say that “transgender” as an experience didn’t originate in the West – and they would be correct. There have been “trans” experiences in many cultures globally, long before the West had any concept of “transgender.”

Some identities outside of the West that you might know of include two-spirit, hijra, and kathoeys, and they have a history that precedes ours.

Many trans folks in the Western world insist that to be transgender is to be dysphoric, without acknowledging that this is a very Western understanding of what it means to be trans.

It doesn’t acknowledge that transness can exist outside of the West and has existed outside of it long before we came along – with its own definitions, language, insights, and experiences.

To say that being transgender is exclusively about experiencing dysphoria is making a universal statement for all trans people, but it’s steeped in Western understandings about gender. It completely erases indigenous and international identities and experiences.

It’s tricky (and sometimes, really problematic) to apply individual understandings of gender to all people.

“Transgender” as an umbrella is so diverse and complex that it’s best to avoid generalizations altogether, and allow people to name their own experiences.

  1. It Equates Being Trans with Distress and Dysfunction

If someone came up to you and asked you what it was like to be transgender, it probably wouldn’t be as simple as saying, “It’s terrible.”

It can be terrible. The pain can be very real. But for most people, being trans is a very complicated thing that involves a whole spectrum of emotions.

This is kind of where using dysphoria as the exclusive defining characteristic of trans people isn’t necessarily an accurate way of representing the experience of being trans.

As a trans person who does experience dysphoria, I can tell you that dysphoria is not the only thing that makes me transgender. It’s not even the bulk of my experience as trans.

It’s about the journey it took to disregard expectations and find myself. It’s about the layers I had to peel away just to figure out who I was. It’s about the pride and elation I felt when I found the words to describe my identity. It’s about the sense of community I found with others like me. It’s the way that I understand gender and the way that I move through the world.

Gender is complex. Transgender even more so.

The thing that Kai and I have in common is that we underwent a process in trying to understand ourselves and our gender, teasing apart what society asked of us and what we wanted for ourselves. We both discovered through that process that we didn’t identify with the gender we were assigned at birth.

The difference is that this realization doesn’t cause distress for Kai in the way that it does for me.

And if that’s the only difference, so what?

If distress is the defining characteristic, what are we saying about what it means to be trans? And what are we telling our youth, then, too? That who they are is contingent on how much pain they feel?

I want to live in a world where transgender doesn’t equate to pain and suffering. Because ultimately, the pain we feel is not what unites us. It’s the identity we claim and the unique journey we each took to find it.

I don’t want any trans person to go through this thinking that to be trans means to hurt. That only succeeds in saying to the world, “If you want to be in pain, be trans. If you want to be happy, be cis.”

We are so much more than that. Our lives and our experiences are so, so much more.

  1. We Privilege Some Narratives Over Others

I’ve been told before that I’m not “trans enough.”

I was hurting so much the first time I heard it that I actually blogged about it (this was, pretty ironically, before I understood the asterisk is problematic).

As a genderqueer writer, I’ve been told more than once that I have no business writing about the transgender community because I’m not “actually trans.”

And since I experienced that kind of invalidation, I’ve been sitting pretty comfortably in the camp of “everyone is trans enough and your gatekeeping is bullshit.”

At what point will we stop tearing each other apart and start lifting each other up?

I know what it feels like to have an identity that completely opened up your mind and your world, something that gave you new life and a sense of home, come crumbling down at the accusation that you’re not actually trans and, instead, just following the latest trend.

I’m just not interested in creating a power dynamic where some trans people are inherently better, more worthy, more trans, or more important than other trans people. That, to me, is not what social justice looks like.

Using dysphoria as the ultimate measure of transness means that any trans person for whom dysphoria is not present, not the language or framework they prefer to use, or not significant in their experience is suddenly invalid.

It says, “These trans people are the real trans people, and everyone else should be quiet.”

Our community has a history of doing this. Take, for instance, the transgender community’s initial resistance to including non-binary people.

Oh wait, that’s not history. That still happens.

I’m fed up with the power dynamics in our community and see absolutely no need to create more; we are still struggling day after day to dismantle the hierarchies that already exist.

We can already see the ways that certain narratives are privileged over others, the ways that certain voices are heard and others are silenced. And frankly, I don’t want to be a part of that.

I think we should be disrupting those narratives – not going along with them.

We should be affirming that the trans community is diverse, complex, and unique – not monolithic and homogenous.

  1. It Breeds Transphobia

There is a pervasive fear that if we leave “transgender” as a term that relies on self-identification, it will be rendered meaningless by people who claim it for the wrong reasons.

But this weirdly mirrors a lot of oppressive attitudes that are used against all trans people.

Take the trans bathroom debate, for instance. There is a widespread belief that cis people will pretend to be trans just to get into the wrong restroom and violate other people.

Um, when you’re on the side of Fox News, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your stance.

If trans people interrogate other trans people with disbelief, we are giving permission to the rest of the world to do it to us.

If we bully trans people and tell them they are deceiving other people, or following a fad, we’re telling cis people that they can accuse us of being imposters, too.

We’re taking away the right to self-identify and giving the rest of the world permission to misgender us if they, too, decide we’re not “trans enough.” We tell the rest of the world that they don’t have to believe us because we don’t believe in each other.

If you don’t believe a trans person when they say that they are trans, why should a cis person believe you?

***

When my friend told me that they didn’t experience dysphoria, my initial reaction was one of hostility, judgment, and skepticism. I’m forever grateful, though, that they took the time to educate me.

I had no idea that there were trans people who didn’t experience dysphoria – but now that I know, I work hard to make sure that Kai and others like them are included in the trans community.

I’ve received a lot of pushback as a writer when I talk about dysphoria not being a requirement for trans people. And I don’t necessarily blame them. I was resistant, too, and it took a while for me to come around.

But I believe that there are greater consequences when we exclude trans people on the basis of having a different experience from our own.

We become the “gender police” that we’ve spent decades criticizing. We become the very thing that has oppressed us for so many years.

If gender isn’t something that someone else can decide for you, then the reality is that it’s up to the individual, and that there’s no wrong answer. It’s not up for debate between outsiders – it’s personal, and it always has been.

Letting go of our need to control who’s in and who’s out and, instead, investing that energy into affirming and uplifting others in our community seems like a much more worthy effort.

So who is transgender? Let’s keep it simple: Anyone who identifies differently from the gender they were assigned at birth. Full stop.

Original source: Everyday Feminism

Sam Dylan Finch is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He is queer writer, activist, and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to his work at Everyday Feminism, he is also the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his hella queer and very awesome blog. You can learn more about him here and read his articles here. Follow him on Twitter @samdylanfinch

Mar 18

Transgender No More

Transgender No MorePeople ask me when I first knew I was female. Would you believe me if I told you that I don’t know if I’ve ever known, since I don’t really know what a woman is, other than a concept that exists outside me – still, I know that I have felt like one, a woman I mean, yet the only way I first knew was from males? Will you suspend prejudgment long enough to entertain the possibility that gender can be so relative?

See video review by Rachel Rollins

Purchase the book here  $0.99 on Amazon Kindle

Mar 18

The Transgender Guidebook

The Transgender GuidebookThe Transgender Guidebook: Keys to a Successful Transition is a self-help book for transsexuals. It is a wise and practical guide for any transgender person considering or embarking on a gender transition. It covers everything from the beginning stages of exploration and planning through the process of transformation to life after transition. This is the first book written by an experienced professional specifically for transgender clients. It will also be of interest to family, friends, allies, clergy,

See video review by Rachel Rollins

Purchase The Transgender Guidebook here   $9.99 on Amazon Kindle

Sep 23

Are You Gender Fluid?

gender fluid dressOver the years as I have grown to better understand my need to cross-dress and as I have watched the trans community become mainstream  with the media attention on Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner, coupled with the success of films like “The Danish Girl” and the Amazon series “Transparent”, I have seen a gulf grow between those of us that are part-time girls and those that are full-time or transitioned.

The media and the transitioning women have largely co-opted the term “transgender” and largely ignored that transgender is defined as gender identity AND gender expression leaving those of us that are not fetish dressers or sissies with a cloak of invisibility. This needs to change if we are to be protected under various new laws designed to prevent discrimination against our community.

Several recent articles address this concept of gender fluidity for cross-dressers (see the links below). I think it warrants our support. There are several closely cropped definitions of gender fluidity but the one that I prefer says Gender Fluidity is when gender expression shifts between masculine and feminine and can be displayed in how we dress, express and describe ourselves.

Here are a few articles that help to explain the concept.

Cross-dressing, Gender Fluidity and Their Relationship

I’m Gender Fluid – This Is What It Means To Me

You may also find this TedX talk in Columbus Ohio of interest

 

Apr 14

Normal

normal by amy bloomWhat is normal? I first ran into Amy Bloom when she wrote a short essay in the Atlantic Monthly in 2002 on heterosexual crossdressers. She expanded that essay as the centerpiece of this book in the section, “Conservative Men in Conservative Dresses” or perhaps you could say Republican men in granny dresses. I think in many ways that Ms Bloom’s views of our crossdressing world are fairly accurate but the issue I have is that her experience with our community was more or less limited to Tri-Ess on a Dignity cruise to Catalina Island and to Fall Harvest 2000, a gender convention in St Louis. Still her observations of the crossdressing men and their wives is fairly astute. To some of these men, they see it as a hobby. Some are not blessed with the physical features to present convincedly as a woman while others have not learned well the techniques of makeup and presentation.

Of course, some make striking women. I was also amused by the comment that “age is a great help to crossdressers”, being of somewhat mature age myself. Ms Bloom said, “I have seen far more convincing crossdressers over 60 than under.”

Of great interest to me were her observations from the wives on their crossdressing husbands. In most cases Amy observes that, with some notable exceptions, their circumstances are not happy. She paraphrases their feelings when she says, “There is no innate grasp of female friendship, of the female insistence on relationships, of the female tradition of support and accommodation for one’s partner and of giving precedence to the relationship overall”. She goes on to say that “the wives don’t tell their husbands (their true feelings) ….because they don’t want to hurt him and they don’t want to lose him” I think perhaps these feelings change in later life and it becomes “enough is enough” (read Terri lee Ryan’s article on the 10 Reasons Crossdresser Wives’ Divorce them)

From my viewpoint, this part of the book is worth the price of the book by itself although it may be difficult for some to see the truth of statements from those of the opposite gender.

Ms Bloom deals with two other segments of our community too, that of the FTM transsexual and the intersexed person. Her exploration of the FTM transsexual has equal truths for those that are MTF and the one comment that stood out in my mine was her discussion of hormone treatments on mammals who behaved consistently like the hormone wash with which they were injected. Conclusion: we will find eventually a biological answer. Since this book was published, the evidence is now substantial that our brains, influenced by our hormones, do control our gender.

If you would like a more complete review of the book, then read the review by Anne Lawrence for the International Academy of Sex Research trade journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. The book is available from Amazon here in hardbook or pape back from $.01

Dec 01

Personal Safety for Transgender Folks

Note from Tasi. Teri Lynn Richards is a retired police officer with an unusual sense of what works and what doesn’t work concerning safety issues for those of us in the transgender community. She speaks from the heart and with a lot of knowledge and common sense. I can only confirm the truth to which TeriLynn speaks from the many stories that I’ve read or have been told by others, so read, follow, and Be Safe

Hi Girls, Happy Holidays!

’I’d like to share some information which may help you to make you life safer, enabling you to enjoy your TG (transgender) life to the fullest, while avoiding some of the heartaches many TG’s encounter.

Confidence is a key for personal safety.  Confidence comes from positive experiences.  Thus, it is important to avoid negative experiences, as much as possible.  No, you’re not a failure when you encounter negative experiences.  Use the negative experiences to build towards more positive experiences.  Let me explain this.

I have a transgender friend who has encountered mostly negative experiences since she started living full-time as a woman.  Why?  After many discussions with her (and others), here is what I learned.

About 25 years ago, my friend, who we will call Lynn (not her real name), decided to live full-time as a woman.  And a very nice-looking woman she became.  She was so passable; she worked in large department stores in the Women’s Apparel section, among other jobs.  Things were looking pretty good for her.  However, eventually things went downhill for her – yes, even after several years of successful living and working as a woman.

How did this happen?  Well, Lynn didn’t make a clean break with her old life.  Lynn stayed in the same town, same neighborhood, and with her same friends.  So, what’s wrong with that?  You’ve heard the saying, “What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.”  Don’t ever believe that!  If you do, I have a real Santa Claus to introduce you to.  He flies down from the North Pole every Christmas………..

OK, you get the point.

Well, what happens when we have friends?  If you have friends long enough, you will have disagreements – maybe even fights.  Sure enough, add a little alcohol and things will get stirred up.  Before she knew it, Lynn’s “friends” called her employer and “outed” her.  And if you believe you can’t get fired for being transgender, I’ll sell you a bridge in Arizona.  The employer will just list the reason for your firing as “not meeting standards of employment.”  That can cover everything from being late once or twice, to misuse of the employer’s equipment (computers/telephones), to being a distraction at work.  Unless you have never made a personal phone call from your employer’s telephone, on his/her time, you are a candidate for firing.  Trust me, there are hundreds of cases of such dismissals and less than a handful of appeals have prevailed against the employers.

Here is another example from Lynn’s life.   Seems she once roomed with two or three other folks.  Two were TG people and the landlord claimed to be “straight”, but TG-friendly, holding a respected position in the community.  That alone should have aroused Lynn’s suspicions.  Why would such a person, who states he is straight, advertise that he was particularly looking for TG roommates?  Don’t fool yourself and think that this person was an enlightened individual and just did not want to discriminate against TG people who may be looking for an apartment to share.  Sorry, there is still no “free lunch” in our society.

We’ll cut this story short by saying that eventually there arose some disagreements among the roommates, ending in a lawsuit.  And as if that were not bad enough, when Lynn was in court, the two TG roommates (who had, sided with the “straight” landlord) appeared in court and “outed” Lynn, calling her unbecoming names in open court – Judge Judy’s Court.  OUCH !   (Never go to one of those Courts if you’re trying to remain in stealth-mode.)  Did she need that?  Do you ever want that to happen to you?  If not, then the following advice may help to keep you from experiencing such negatives experiences.

Please, even if you disagree with these recommendations, remember that this advice is taken from real-life situations, and from my 30 years in law enforcement.  Therefore, I may not paint the rosy picture some would like to believe in, but I think it will keep you from experiences you do not want to endure.

My first advice – if you are a part-time CD (crossdresser), be careful with whom you share your “secret.”   In a heated moment, your best friend may “out” you. Not to forget that there are still those who hate us, for no other reason than that we are crossdressers – and some still enjoy inflicting harm to our kind. If that does not concern you, fine, share with whomever you like, but, remember, the consequences may be more than just public embarrassment (friends, family, & neighbors).  You may lose your job (consequently, your house, etc), your spouse, and family.

My best advice – be very discreet.

If you are a pre-op or post-op TS (transsexual), or a full-time CD, make a new start of your new life, if at all possible.  MOVE – if at all possible!  If moving is not possible, try everything to make it possible.  I see this as the only sure way to start with a clean slate.  It’s the best way to avoid the heartache which Lynn encountered.  More about relocating later.

Keep your past “your past.”  What’s past is past – do not tell others – ever.  If no one knows your past, you have nothing to fear.  If you transitioned on the job, it would still be wise for you to get a new job, or transfer to another job-site with your employer (if they have more than one location).  Just like old friends, co-workers will spill-the-beans, regarding your “secret,” and usually at the worst possible time.  In the worst-case-scenario, we may find your picture in the obituaries.  If you’re lucky, we may only read a complete detail of your life in the local gossip column (or company bulletin-board) – courtesy of a co-worker.  If you want to avoid that, find a new job and a new neighborhood.

The new neighborhood should be far enough from your old one so that there is virtually no chance of meeting people from your past, whom you do not want to meet.  A new city is always the best choice.  Yes, this will inconvenience you a great deal, but that beats winding up as a statistic in the obituaries.  If you truly keep your “secret” a secret, then there won’t be those moments when someone confronts you and says, “I know you’re not really a woman.”

Let’s go back to Lynn’s story.  While still a pre-op TS, out in a bar one night, someone approached her and said that he knows that she is a man – a fagot sissy man, etc, etc.  Well, what to do now?  Not being confident, and unsure of how to react, Lynn thought that the best defense was to launch a counter-attack, so she smacked the guy in the face. Yes, before she knew it, she was in jail for assault and battery.  Naturally, the bully’s friends told the police that Lynn was drunk and hit him for no reason.  So, how did this bully know? You see, Lynn was still in her old neighborhood, running in the same circles as before and during an “alcohol moment” she told someone about her past.

Don’t make the same mistake Lynn made.  Lynn believed that everyone who patronizes a gay bar or gay restaurant is TG-friendly.  Not so!  These bar “patrons” may humor you for a few weeks, even months, and then, suddenly, they will turn on you for being TG.  All it takes is one drink too many, or some stress in their life, for which they need some relief – and suddenly you become their target.  Besides, there are the occasional red-neck/gay-bashers who go to gay bars just to have “fun” by finding TG’s whom they can humiliate, or worse.  Why set yourself up for such an encounter?  If you are totally “passable”, or even reasonably
“passable”, you may be better off in a straight bar or restaurant, because no one there is expecting you (as a TG) to be there, so you will just blend with the other folks in the establishment.   Isn’t that a better-way-to-go?

I notice that when I’m at one of our local transgender-friendly restaurants, people inside the restaurant and people walking by on the sidewalk, often slow down or stop to get a good look at us as CD’s.  Why?  Because this restaurant is in an area of the city known for its TG lifestyle.  They expect, even hope, to see CD’s/TS’s, etc, in these restaurants.  In regular restaurants in other parts of town, I get looks, but not nearly as often and not as long, because no one is actively looking for a CD.  And many of the looks I get, I attribute to men looking at a woman, because that’s what men do.

When you do get “read,” your best defense is a big smile.  It totally disarms people.  In my early days as a CD, my worst fear was to be detected as a CD.  Whenever that happened, I would lower my head and look down and be embarrassed.  It took me a long time, with much encouragement from others, for me not to feel ashamed because I am a CD.  Once I tried the smiling routine, I noticed that people would smile back or look away, rather than look at me and try to figure out what or who I was.  If you don’t act weird – don’t act ashamed – others won’t treat you as a ‘strange’ person/weirdo.

Be proud of who you are, but be proud without flaunting it.  A GG (genetic gender) woman does not flaunt that she is a woman.  Yes, she is proud of it and dresses the part (mostly), but she does not wear such outlandishly feminine clothes that she draws attention to herself as a woman (unless she is a hooker).  Now, that does not mean that women don’t dress nice and don’t like to be noticed.  Oh yes, they wear nice clothes because they want you to see how nice they look.  However, when a woman dresses nice to attract a bit of extra attention, she does not dress to the point of looking outlandish as a woman.  Too often we as CD’s want to look overly feminine/sexy.  We dress in poor taste – so that we do not blend with the average woman around us.  If you want to pass as a woman, blend as a woman.  (If you are a FtM (female-to-male) CD, this also applies to you.  Most men don’t run around looking like Paul Bunyan or Hulk Hogan – so why should you?  Blending is the true key to passing.  Most of us will never look good enough to fool everyone, but we can look presentable/respectable and that will go a long way towards others accepting us.

If society sees that we are attempting to present a respectable image, we will be respected in return.  Look outlandish and you will suffer the consequential sneers.  And one more item of advice for passing – practice.  Practice speaking in a softer, quieter voice.  Nothing is worse, for “outing” yourself than to sit in a restaurant and just about the time that the other patrons have stopped looking your way, you or someone of your group speaks up in a loud, male, bass voice while talking to the waiter or to make an announcement to the group.  No longer do the other patrons have to guess what you are, no matter how well you thought you “passed”.  And if you were unnoticed until that moment, now all eyes are turned your way.  Yes, do your best to develop a feminine voice.  Nothing is a bigger give-away than for a reasonably good-looking woman to be sitting in a restaurant and the people next to her to suddenly hear a loud, deep, voice coming from that short and sexy skirt.

Men have a tendency to want to be heard by all.  Women speak in soft tones, without broadcasting their voice through the entire restaurant. If you want to look like a woman and be accepted as a woman, shouldn’t you act and sound like a woman?  Besides, not attracting undue attention to your CD group, while out-in-public, is just plain common courtesy to the other members of your group.

If you do not think that it is important enough to work on developing as feminine a voice as you can, and as feminine an appearance as possible, then perhaps you are not a true crossdresser; but rather you are just a person with a fetish for women’s clothing.  Yes, there are those who don’t care much about their appearance.  Whether or not they present the image of a female does not matter to them.  They are happy just to be out, wearing women’s clothes in public.  These folks are not too unlike exhibitionists and sometimes they associate with crossdressers so that they can appear in public with some sort of a legitimate cover for being dressed in public, as they are.

From reports I have read, these folks are the ones who are most often harmed by strangers.  My personal advice — if you enjoy a fetish for just wearing women’s clothes, do so in the safety and privacy of your home, or limit your fetish to wearing women’s undergarments, while out-in-public.  Why look deliberately foolish?  Why make yourself a target?

Back to Lynn…  When she told me of her horrible experience in the bar, I suggested that she could have handled it by replying: “Well, I don’t know what made you think that, but I’m shocked. Do I look like a woman to you?”  At that point, your the accuser should apologize and say, “I’m sorry, you certainly do look like a woman.”  If he does not, your best move is to excuse yourself to the restroom and from there duck out of the establishment at the first opportunity.  That will prevent the situation from going down-hill.  Punching a guy is certainly not the answer.  And here is my point – had Lynn moved to a new town, and not told anyone of her past, probably no one would have ever confronted her in this manner.  Is it difficult to give up your old friends?  Yes.  Is it difficult to keep a secret? YES !  However, is it less painful than encountering what Lynn encountered.

Some may ask how to handle a romantic situation.  Those moments don’t come upon you without warning, so you have some time to prepare.  If you are a full-time CD, or a TS, dating/sex are issues you may encounter.  When you are out and encounter someone who has taken an interest in you and begins to talk to you, they usually will say something like: “Hi, how are you?  Or, “My, you look nice.”  Your immediate reply could be the ice-breaker and the key to your safety.  You could answer: “Thank you.  I wished I felt as good as you say I look.” Or you could say, “I’m not doing so well today.”  The natural reply will be, “Why?”  Now you have the opportunity to find out what this “nice” person thinks about TG folks.  Your next reply could be: “Well, my best friend just told me that he/she is a crossdresser (or transsexual) and I don’t know how I should take it.  What would you do if you were in my place?”  Listen carefully – here comes the clue you need in order to know whether this is the person you can confide in and maybe date.

You may ask why you should confide in them about your TG lifestyle.  From the numerous police reports I have researched, most assaults on TG’s occur when someone, who is expecting affection (sex), finds out that he/she has been led to believe that the other person (CD/TS) is something other [gender] than what they expected.  Yes, homicides have resulted from such encounters.  Are you ready for that – for a moment of thrill because you were able to convince someone you were really a woman when you are not?  Oh yes, in your eyes, you are a woman, but not everyone sees what you see.  So, honesty is still the best (and safest) policy.

Let’s talk a bit more about the occasional CD?  Do you need to start life over by moving and dumping all your friends?  No.  I have not done so.  Most CD’s learn to whom they can reveal their “secret”.  You probably know quite well, who, of your friends, would be comfortable with you, knowing that you are a CD.  Most of you know who will accept your TG lifestyle.  You may not have to move, but you should be discreet about where you go while dressed in your “other” gender, especially if you are married and have a family.

You may not care what others think of you (if they know you are a CD), but, how would your spouse or children feel if their father is known as a CD?  If your family and relatives all know and accept you in your “other” gender, then you are miles ahead of many of us and some of these precautions may not apply to you.  But, don’t forget about your employer and co-workers.  What would they think?  Not all of them are as open-minded as you may think.  Many folks are very good at having others think they are enlightened; but when it comes to challenging their feelings about gender, suddenly, just as with politics, you may get a real surprise.

People don’t always tell you the truth about their personal feelings.  For example, with over 70% of registered voters in California claiming to be Democrats, how do we occasionally get a Republican governor?  It’s simple – what people profess to believe or support is not always what’s truly in their hearts.  Honesty sometimes only comes out behind the curtains of the voting booth.  So, don’t be fooled by the smiling faces in the office when a recent TV program about crossdressing is discussed. They may smile at the story in the presence of their friends and you; but, unfortunately, when alone with you, a TG person, they may stab you in the back.

Personally, I had to be very careful not to reveal my after-hours-status to anyone at work.  Although lesbians were welcomed with open arms at work, CD’s are considered weird or sick – sissies, unfit for law enforcement.  Lesbians going into law enforcement are viewed as joining the macho realm and, therefore, are welcomed.  MtF crossdressers, however, are viewed as being weak because they are moving from the macho-role to a “weaker” role as a woman and thus are despised.  In some cases, job security can be compromised and in extreme cases, your life could be in jeopardy.  Unless you’ve been in at least one shootout, which is viewed as a very macho experience (and hopefully you have some scars from it, and better yet, saved a fellow officer’s life while taking a bullet and still surviving), you will not be favorably thought of, once they discover your “secret.”  Apparently, getting shot proves you are super-macho.  So much for the law enforcement crowd.

Upon retirement, I was finally relieved of the stress of the possibility of my employer and co-workers finding out that I am a CD.  I no longer have to worry about someone confronting me about my crossdressing on a Monday morning, after perhaps having seen me out crossdressed during the weekend.  Nor do I have to worry about someone pulling a “Serpico” on me during a raid or search warrant service.

I know that after being in-the-closet for so long, we tend to throw caution to-the-wind and we want to let the whole world see the new “me,” once we get up the nerve to go out in public.  I hope you see now that this may not be the best thing for us to do.  No, I’m not advocating that you continue to hide your “other” gender, but be very careful when and how you reveal it.  I have to add one more incident from Lynn’s life.  Lynn is fairly tall, so she stands out wherever she goes.  She has to do nothing to draw attention to her self.  Well, even though she lived as a pre-op TS for many years – because she remained in the same neighborhood, her “secret” was not a secret.  Some of her neighbors had doubts about the rumors they heard about her, while others believed the rumors and continually heckled her anytime they saw her.    Sometimes Lynn would get into a depressed mood for long periods, so she didn’t take care to look feminine.  While she was doing yard work, her neighbor spotted her in a flannel shirt, hair messed up, not looking particularly feminine.  Yes, she looked more like a man doing the yard-work.  Her neighbor made a comment to her about her appearance, stating that she sure didn’t appear to be a woman (as he had heard and now believed).

That did it – the fight was on.  This encounter smoldered and erupted into flames one day when Lynn said something to her neighbor, who promptly chased Lynn into her house and beat her quite badly.  To add insult-to-injury, Lynn was alone and the neighbor had “witnesses”; so when Lynn called the police to file trespass and assault charges against the neighbor, Lynn was the one carted off to jail – again.  Lynn started this fight because she felt insulted.  I can understand her feelings, but what was she thinking?  Did she think that she could fool all of the people, all of the time?  Besides, Lynn has been on hormones for so long, she no longer has the strength she had before she transitioned.  (If you must fight, make sure you can whip your opponent.)

I should mention again that Lynn is attractive, if she just brushes her hair and wears even half-feminine clothes.  Add some make up and nail polish and she’s a very nice-looking woman. So what causes her these problems?  A careless moment – feeling depressed and not caring about her appearance – and not leaving the neighborhood, where everyone knows her status.

Don’t forget, if you move to a new neighborhood, leave your “secret” behind.  Either appear all-the-time as a female (if you are a full-time MtF CD/TS), or always appear as a male (if you are a full-time FtM CD/TS).  This applies to appearances outside of your house for extended periods, such as yard work, washing the car, or walking your pet.  If you are crossdressed and just jump into your car to leave for a TG meeting or dinner, etc, hopefully you won’t be visible long enough for your neighbors to get a good look.  If questions arise because they did see you, you can always claim that the person they saw was a relative; or you can tell them that it was you and you were on your way to a TG meeting (if they are that open-minded). If they are not open-minded, tell them you were going to a role-reversal party for sensitivity training.  You know your neighbors well enough to decide what answer to give them.  But you should have an answer ready.  Nothing is worse than being questioned and then looking embarrassed as you search your mind for an answer.  Been there – done that.  Now I have my story ready – and it’s my final answer.

One last bit of advice – if you are out “dressed” with your spouse and your spouse says that (s)he  senses that something is wrong (or if you are alone and suddenly sense danger), don’t debate it or ask questions.  Get out of the area and head to a safer, more public place immediately!  You know what they say about women’s intuition?  My wife has probably saved my butt more than once.

I have not discussed the routine items, such as carrying pepper spray or Taser (which I highly recommend), or having a car alarm, a cell phone, etc.  I think these safety tips appear often enough on the local news & Internet and most of you are aware of them.  However, if you are interested in some of these tips, contact me and I can direct you to some good web-sites, or give you my personal recommendations.

So, enjoy your feminine-self.  Don’t be ashamed or hide it, but, when out, don’t push it past reasonable limits.  The life you save may be your own.

Be careful out there – while kicking up you heels and having fun!

 

If you have questions about your safety, feel free to contact me at: terilynn707@yahoo.com

 

Hugs,

Teri Lynn

 

May 15

Transgender Terminology

We start with the basics from Rachel Rollins

Then the following list is provided courtesy of Aunt Marci at “Why Men Crossdress” I have found Marci’s explanations to be of unusual clarity.

Admirer – A term to describe men that date, have sex with and or are romantically involved with or in pursuit of transgender women. Also known as “Tranny Chasers”. Note: Not all men involved with transgender women agree with this definition.

Androgynous – The general use of being androgynous is a person that blends both male and female gender characteristics into a single presentation, or someone that lacks any specific gender identification. An example of the first might be singers Annie Lenox or David Bowie.  An example of the second would be Hirjras (of India ) who are often described as “neither man nor woman”.

Androphilia/Gynophilia –  The romantic and/or sexual attraction to adult male, or the romantic and/or sexual attraction to adult females. These terms are increasingly used in the reference of transgender people and their attractions as the term homosexual (or gay) to describe a trans woman’s attraction to men for example, is not accurate.

Asexual – Asexuality is a general term or self-designation for people who lack sexual attraction or otherwise find sexual behavior unappealing. There is debate as to whether this is a sexual dysfunction or a sexual orientation; furthermore, there is disagreement over the exact definition of the word. There has been little research done on asexuality.

Autogynephilia – The love of oneself as a woman. A sexual behavior (or deviation) proposed in 1989 by Ray Blanchard, who defined it as “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.” It is part of a behavioral model for transsexual sexuality informally known as the Blanchard, Baily, and Lawrence theory; an attempt to explain  transwomen.

B & D – Bondage and Domination is the act of being enslaved by a master/ mistress, to succumbing to the will of another by force for sexual and/or emotional pleasure.  B & D activities are sometimes combined with S & M role play.

Bi-Gendered – A person who lives a dual life, having one role as a man and another role as a woman. Bi-gendered  people spend significant time in each role and have separate names, pronouns, social circles, and gender identities. Often one social circle is unaware of the person’s other identity. Sometimes
called a transgenderist. (4 on the Benjamin gender scale.)

Bi-Sexual –  Men or women who are attracted to both their own sex and those of the opposite sex.

Binding – The process of flattening (and thereby “hiding”) ones breasts to present a flat look under their clothing.

Boi – A slang term sometimes used for biologically born women that portray a male identity. Also used to describe a submissive male, as in the term houseboi, someone  subservient to a dominant male.

Butch – A term used within the lesbian community associated with a masculine or tough acting woman.  Also a female who crossdresses in men’s clothing, has a masculine haircut, and takes on the masculine
gender role, but does not try to pass as a man or change pronouns. See also Gender Bender.

Cisgender  – People whose gender identity and gender expression align with their assigned sex at birth (i.e., the sex listed on their birth certificates). Cisgender is a newer term that some people prefer when writing and speaking about transgender and non-transgender people, with the non-transgender people being referred to as “cisgender.” In this manner, a transgender person is not singled out as being different or abnormal

Crossdresser (or CD) – Literally, a person who sometimes dresses in clothing traditionally associated with the opposite sex. In practice, most crossdressers assume the feminine gender role, presenting completely as a woman (with long hair, makeup, padding, and sometimes changes to voice and body language.) Crossdressers change repeatedly back and forth between man and woman. Most  crossdressers spend only small amounts of time crossdressed, either alone or at a support group. (3 on the Benjamin gender scale.

Clocked – When the general public sees past a transgender persons presentation and recognizes their birth gender.  Alternative slang is “being read,” or “being spooked.”

Drag Hag – A term used to describe women that spend most of their time in the company of gay men, or are otherwise fans of gay men.

Drag King – A term used for biological women that perform as men, such a King Dredd.

Drag Queen – The term  is slang to describe a male that dresses up as a woman (usually in a very dramatic way) for the purpose of performance and/or shock value.  Their goal is to attract as much attention as is possible and their sexual orientation is usually of the gay persuasion. They are often mistakenly called crossdressers and even though they do dress in the clothing of the opposite sex, their motivation for doing so are entirely different from that of a crossdresser.  Unfortunately, this is another of the primary mental pictures, abet wrongly, that comes to most peoples mind when they hear the word ‘crossdresser’. Well known drag queens includes performers such as Lady Bunny, Miss Understood, and Heklina. They shouldn’t be confused with female impersonators like Randy Roberts or transsexual performers like Candis Cayne or Mimi Marks.

Drag Q – Effeminate behavior considered to be more feminine than masculine.

Endocrinologist – The professional you consult before engaging in sex reassignment hormone therapy. They are skilled in the study of endocrinology; the study of the endocrine glands of the human body, the hormones produced by them, and their related disorders.

Eunuch – A castrated human male.

Facial Feminization Surgery – Also referred to as FFS. It is a surgical procedure that alters the bone structure of the human face to present a more feminine appearance.

Female Impersonators – Men that strive to authentically impersonate women, usually for performance purposes. Not to be confused with drag queens that present more in “high camp,” like a caricature of a woman rather than an actual woman.   The women they impersonate are usually celebrities of some type and most who do this for a living are really good at it. Some who do this are transsexuals, some are crossdressers, and some are transvestites. In any of these cases it’s easy to see why society might see them as different and therefore lump them together with everyone else.

Femininity – Comprises the physical and mental attributes associated with the female sex. Some are partly culturally determined, rooted in the socialization of a girl’s early development (and adjusted throughout adulthood by picking up or reacting to societal cues),while other attributes can be traced to the female reproductive role. Female gender roles can vary between different societies and eras.

Gender – The role a person takes in social interactions, as in “man” or “woman”, “masculine” or “feminine”, “he” or “she”. Gender involves a person’s internal feelings of “gender identity” as well as external “gender role” or “gender expression”. Gender is not a synonym for “sex”,  although the sex and gender of most people are congruent. “Sex” is what you have between your legs, “gender” is what you have between your ears. See “Man”, “Woman”, “Sex”, “Gender Roles”.

Gender Bender – A person who presents elements of both masculine and feminine appearance without trying to pass as the opposite sex. Examples include a man in a skirt, or with painted nails, styled hair, or dangling earrings, a woman in jacket and tie, or in a tuxedo, or a short masculine haircut or bound breasts. A gender bender is expressing how they are most comfortable.

Gender Characteristics – The physical attributes of a person, as they relate to the traditional stereotypes of “man” or “woman” and “male” or “female”, usually applied to intersexual persons. Gender characteristics include height, body shape, deepness of voice, body hair, and also include biological sex differentiations like genotype, hormonal metabolism and genitals. Protection of gender characteristics means that a person will not be treated differently if their gender characteristics do not match those traditional for their sex. Examples include a short man, a woman with facial hair, a person whose genotype does not match their assigned sex, (e.g. a woman who is not genetically XX,) or a person with ambiguous genitals. (See http://www.isna.org/ for more information about intersexuality.)

Gender DysphoriaGender dysphoria is a condition in which a person feels there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

Gender Expression – The external presentation or appearance of a person, as it relates to the traditional stereotypes of “man” (or “boy”) and “woman” (or “girl”.) A person’s gender expression includes appearance, dress, mannerisms, speech patterns, hair style, and social interactions. Protection of gender expressions means that any gender expression that is acceptable for one sex is also acceptable for the other sex.

Gender Identity – The internal feeling that all of us have of being a man or a woman. In the case of transsexuals, the feeling of identity or belonging is not compatible with the sex assigned at birth. The gender identity of a crossdresser is somewhere between the endpoints “man” and “woman”, and may move back and forth. Gender Neutral are people who dress so as to express no gender or ambiguous gender.

Gender Queer – As defined by Jami, Gender Queer *can* mean those who self-identify as embracing all genders, not embracing any genders, are gender fluid, or deny gender in it’s entirety as a concept. Some may even self-identify as “gender-f**k: ” physically, and through mannerisms, to totally “f**k” with the rest of societies concepts of gender role, or even in defiance of such. (One example of such might be a person who has a full ZZ Top like beard, wears a dress, has hairy arms/legs, some makeup, or not, and freely masculine sounding voice – no voice disguise.)

These people are NOT fetishists. They are totally challenging all the old “established” notions/concepts of gender, gender appearance, gender mannerisms, and gender roles. They are just merely being themselves, and are true to themselves, without reservations, nor fear of consequences. For them, sexuality is freely expressed, and while they can be bisexual, more often they are pan-sexual; and are most often very openly-sharing of their sexual feelings/preferences.

They ARE usually very intelligent, well-educated, and very talented: as artists, as musicians, as authors, as spoken-word performers, as performance artists, as motivators, as leaders, as activists; and they are very much involved in causing change to occur. They are extremely comfortable with who they are, and how they express themselves.

They ARE very much at the “cutting-edge” “front-lines, ” of gender expression, what gender means, or that it means NOTHING. Gender Queer is NOT a fashion statement, nor a means to change fashion, but more a means to change society, sometimes in a political means… sometimes defiantly… but most often by just being themselves and being very proud of who they are.

Gender Roles – Societal expectations of how we are supposed to appear and behave depending on one’s being male or female. One of the most explicit social rules is that one is expected to present oneself in public in a manner consistent with one’s sex, and that presentation is to be unambiguous.

Gender Variance – The degree to which a person’s gender expression, or gender identity, or gender characteristics is different from cultural expectations. A gender variant person is
one whose gender variance is high enough for them to be harassed or discriminated against.

GID (Gender Identity Dysphoria) – A condition where the individual does not identify with or as the gender assigned at birth. The simplified explanation is for example a “woman trapped in a mans body” It is a case that a person’s mind, heart and soul tell them that they are of one gender but their physical sex is of another. GID is an actual diagnosis provided by PHD Psychiatrists following diagnostic criteria. Important note not all TS are GID but all GID are TS. GID often goes on to adapt some form of life as the gender they identify with. Many will engage in some form of body modification to achieve some form of congruency between body and soul. This could be anything from adopting and appropriate hair style with their actual hair (when possible) to full SRS, FFS, and HRT. GID will often adopt the life of the gender they identify with, in its entirety. They become for all intents purposes and to the best of their ability the woman or man they are meant to be. This is not emulating woman, or acting out, pretending, or “expressing their fem side”, they become, as best as they can and as best as they are allowed.

GG or GW – Genetic Girl or Genetic Woman

GM – Genetic male.

Intersexual or IS – A person for whom the process of biological sex differentiation has resulted in a genital phenotype which is culturally unacceptable. The term often implies a medical history of intersexuality and is preferable to the outmoded term Hermaphrodite.

Prevalence – The ratio of number of people with a given condition at a given time to the total population

Sex Characteristics – Another term for Gender Characteristics. Some Intersex individuals draw a distinction between gender characteristics (visible physical attributes of a person) and sex characteristics (biological sex differentiations.) Usually both types of characteristics are included under the term gender characteristics.

Sexual OrientationA person’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional, and/or spiritual attraction to others. May be lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual. Sexual orientation is distinct from sex, gender identity and gender expression. A person’s sexual orientation should not be assumed based on the perceived sex of that person’s  partner(s), since the partner’s gender identity may not match the perception.

SO or Significant Other – This can be anyone who real or imaginary is looked upon as a partner in life. Grouped in this is DH (dear hubby) GF (girlfriend) BF (boyfriend) wife, husband etc.

Tranny  Pejorative term for a transgender person. Offensive at the same level as the n-word, faggot, or dyke

Transgendered or TG (Sometimes Transgender) – A term that is used to refer to the entire community of individuals whose sex is not entirely congruent with their gender identity. This includes the entire range from the occasional, recreational crossdresser to the transsexual. This term is also used to describe non-operative transsexuals, intersexuals, feminine males, masculine females, or anyone who crosses the line outside the “man” or “woman” boxes expected by society. Transgender was the umbrella term used by medical professionals as a catch all term for anyone who displays, acts out, or otherwise indicates a crossing or mixing of tradition gender lines.

Transgenderist – Not to be confused with “transgender” or “transgendered”. A transgenderist is a person who lives fulltime or nearly full-time in the opposite gender from their birth sex, but does not desire surgery. Also called a non-operative transsexual. Sometimes the term “transgenderist” has been used to describe what this glossary calls a bi-gendered person. (5 on the Benjamin scale.)

Transphobia –  Dislike of, or discomfort with, people whose gender identity and/or gender expression do not conform to traditional or stereotypic gender roles

Transsexual or TS – A person who desires to permanently live as the opposite sex from their birth sex. This person may choose to have sex reassignment surgery. See “SRS.” (6 or 7 on the Benjamin scale. 6 refers to a pre-operative transsexual, and in some scales, 7 refers to a post-operative transsexual.)

TransitionThe process that people go through as they change their
gender expression and/or physical appearance (e.g., through hormones and/or surgery) to align with their gender identity. A transition may occur over an extended period of time, and may involve coming out to family, friends, co-workers, and others; changing one’s name and/or sex designation on legal documents (e.g., driver’s licenses, birth certificates); and/or medical/surgical intervention.

Transvestite –  Outdated term for Crossdresser. Commonly used in countries outside the U.S.