Monday, October 18, 2010

Transsexual, transgender, differences, similarities, and my head hurts now

**********Addendum to original post *************

I continue to be told we have commonalities with everyone under the transgender umbrella but nobody has given me a list of those commonalities.  Would someone please list them and I will add them to this post. If there are commonalities I will support them but right now I do not know of any.


My post on coming out resulted in an interesting comment from Melissa that brought up some questions and a comment that I hear a lot today. I have great respect for Melissa's opinions and for all opinions regardless.

I have one simple question for all of you and then I will give my opinion.

Why do so many in the Trans community only want to celebrate similarities and not difference?

I guess I am a little confused by all this transsexual verses transgender and down with differences and up with similarities game. Difference makes the world go round and I believe that in my heart. It is our differences that makes the human condition tolerable. Lord, what a miserable world it would be if we were all the same yet here we are today with many telling us, me in particular, that we should celebrate or only discuss and promote our similarities. How did you people get so lost?

The best answer I can come up with is fear or an inferiority complex based on the assumption that one group is better or more trans the other so if we only celebrate similarities I am as good as they are. That is just plane silly but many want to perpetrate this myth for some reason.

Each and every life on this beautiful orb called Earth is just so very precious and nature creates difference for its own reasons and whether we like it or not they exists and should be examined, cherished, treasured, and celebrated as OK as long as the differences are within the bounds of reasonable which means keep the church out of it.  Pedophilia is not but being trans is OK because being trans is not a choice but just the way it is and how you are or were. Nobody gave their mom a call on the internal baby to mom phone and said hey mom I want to be a cross-dresser, hey mom I want to be bi-sexual, hey mom I want gender confusion or hey mom can I be born with an endocrine system that cannot decide if I am boy or girl along with gender identity issues.  It is not much different tha another child in the womb calling mom on the internal phone asking if they can please be born intersex or with some birth defect.

I do not believe any of us had a choice and Harry Benjamin believed similarly. My problem is why can't people understand that a Type V or VI transsexual has decidedly different issues than a cross-dresser or a drag queen or any other person not considered transsexual under the transgender banner. It is just the way it is.  It does not make anyone more important than others but the issues are different.

Changing birth certificates, changing names on a driver license, social security in the United States,  and such problems are transsexual problems. Workplace safety and protection during transition is a transsexual issue. Transsexuals have to deal with therapists, hormones, and more than likely surgery.

I am totally uninformed about transvestites and others defined as transgender so I welcome anyone to list for me the issues they have that relate to transsexuals.

I will admit I have always been baffled why the term transgender was chosen since it was stolen from Charles "Virginia" Prince the noted transvestite with the sole purpose of distancing transvestites from the loons that wanted to desecrate their bodies with surgery. Transsexuals were specifically excluded form transgender which begs the question did anyone bother to ask whether transsexuals wanted to be under the banner transgender or was that a decision made by activists?

It is not that I get heart burn thinking about it but it certainly confuses some issues. People say they are transgender in one quote and transsexual in the next quote.   Confusion is not good because it obscures what is and what isn't.

Transsexual is a medical definition that is reasonably specific.  Transvestite has a specific meaning while transgender has really no specific meaning or definition and to back this up I provide this link to the definition of transgender and in particular this paragraph.

A transgender individual may have characteristics that are normally associated with a particular gender, identify elsewhere on the traditional gender continuum, or exist outside of it as "other," "agender," "Genderqueer," or "third gender". Transgender people may also identify as bigender, or along several places on either the traditional transgender continuum, or the more encompassing continuums which have been developed in response to the significantly more detailed studies done in recent years.

What do any of us identified as transsexual or even transvestite have in common with anyone existing outside our norms or considered "other". I have digressed from my original idea so I beg forgiveness because as I delved into all this stuff I am getting more confused and I'm usually not easily confused.

Maybe the world has really passed me by. I cannot wait to be enlightened!!!


Veronica said...

I can't speak for anyone else. I can only remember how things were for me before I transitioned. The first time I met someone who had started transition, I was in awe. Here was someone doing what I wished with all my heart that I had the courage to do! I think it was about a year and a half later that I realized I too would make that leap and would do what I had previously only dreamed of doing.

And there's the rub. Many people wish they had been born a different sex. For various and sundry reasons, relatively few actually transition and turn the dream into reality. Those who go through with transition can't help but acquire a kind of elite status. We've done what so many dream of! And as Anne said, we're (relatively) rare birds.

I don't think we actually are elite. But I know that when I was not yet at that point, someone transitioning seemed pretty elite to me. I'll have what she's having! And I did, eventually. But there were a lot of things standing in my way, and I might not have transitioned. And if I had not, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life -- however long that would have been. And I might well have wanted my own status, my sense of myself and my core sex identity, to be respected.

As I said, I can speak only for myself. I don't want to universalize my own experience. Perhaps others will chime in.

As for transgender, I'm avoiding that designation as much as possible. I was transsexual. I didn't realize it at first, and I did consider myself transgender, i.e., gender-variant in some way, but when I realized what was really going on with me, that label no longer applied. And I do agree that it's pretty vague.

But here's one things about political activism and legal rights. The world isn't as simple as it used to be. I know people who transition all the way through surgery and are pretty gender normative, like me. I know people who have transitioned all the way through surgery but who are still gender-variant, for whatever reason. I know people who transition but use the pronoun "they" to refer to themselves. I know people who transition to a point and live a kind of in-between life. And there are lots of non-ops, either by choice or because they can't afford sex reassignment surgery.

Dr. Benjamin's scale is about transsexualism, if we accept his contention that transvestism (cross-dressing) is a milder form of TS. He didn't know about all the other ways in which people would live their lives. And all those people want not to be discriminated against. Thus, the political transgender umbrella and the even larger LGBT.

I don't know who first went from Prince's "transgenderist" to "transgender." I don't know the history.

Elizabeth said...

Good comment Veronica. The problem I have is I have nothing in common with many of these people yet I am told because I was once transsexual I am lumped together with people who are deciding to be one gender one day and another gender another day. Come to think about that I had a friend Alana who did that but just to piss off her dad.

I think maybe I understand the anger some transsexuals now have toward the transgender community and those that insist they are similar.

As for legal issues the only one we have in common with many is hate crimes as far as I can see.

Now I know why a friend of mine had her legal team at their wall street firm replace transgender with transsexual when it came to policy on work place issues. I never understood before and to be honest I don't think I want to understand.

I should have known every fringe group in existence claiming some form of gender issue would latch onto transsexuals. It allows them to lay claim to being similar and gain a shot at legitimacy from society not that all transsexuals have that.

I wish none of them any ill will nor harm but they have nothing in common or similar to any transsexual I have ever known.

God I feel so stupid that I never really delved deeper into this stuff because people I yelled at might have been correct.

Anne said...

Elizabeth. You continue to hit the nail DIRECTLY on the head. Your response to Veronica's very astute comment is spot on. Like you, I seemed to have missed the boat when it comes to the whole 'transgender thang'. Once I had fully recovered from the surgery, I spent the next 2-3 years, making up for lost time and meticulously testing and "exercising" my new toy with while scrupulously following my Doctor's instructions to "use it, or lose it". Fortunately, my first husband was man enough to finally settle me down and married me. Whew! I never once looked back to "those bad old days."

About three ago, I heard about the Susan Stanton affair and the reality of how fortunate I had been, and how so many were still suffering for NO REASON, that I could understand. I mean why all the "trauma and the drama"? I mean the technology today should be light years better than it was 40 years ago...BUT ITS NOT!!!

What is THAT all about?

Gin said...

Labels are a sad fact of our existence. I understand your position completely and as Veronica said, I look at women who have transitioned completely with envy and awe. It is a tremendously brave and difficult journey and they are not in the same place as I am. I'm a transsexual. Am I transgendered? By your definition, no. I am going through the steps, however slowly, to live as a woman completely. I have an "official diagnosis" as a transsexual, not as someone who is transgendered.

However, I take a more liberal view of the transgender label because to me it is a larger umbrella designation for a number of subset communities that have a set of commonalities. This is a political necessity more than anything. And while this takes the term beyond its intended usage in reference to 3rd gendered individuals (who may, along take offense to be lumped in with transsexuals).

Does it feel like a pejorative to be labeled transgender? Not so much because it doesn't matter all that much to me. I am what I am. But I can see where the problem lies and will think more on it. Thank you for your excellent post.


Elizabeth said...


Please explain the commonalities we have with all the others listed such as bi-gender etc..

Veronica said...

Elizabeth, I would add a few things to hate crimes that people born transsexual can have in common with gender nonconformists -- if they get outed. One is that in some states, no matter how long ago someone transitioned, if it was discovered, that person can be fired or discriminated against in hiring. Just from having a transsexual history. There can also be other legal issues, such as we have seen Nicki Arraguz going through. As well, again in some states, birth certificates can't be changed, no matter what. Even in states that allow a change, sometimes the change is incomplete (such as adding "a.k.a." in front of a former name).

My political inclinations are more toward electoral politics than activism. As you say, for the most part, the activist issues aren't our issues. But also as you can see, the wider population, and sometimes the law as well, don't always make the distinctions that we do. Heck, those who hate don't even distinguish between gay and trans.

Elizabeth said...


How do you out someone that is a gender nonconformist? How do you tell if someone is agender, bigender or genderqueer?

No business should have to allow anyone not transsexual to dress as or present as female therefore the only ones that can be discriminated against are transsexuals. I am sorry if that irritates anyone but that is just how I feel.

I am a little confused by part of this comment. What does having a new birth certificate issued have to do with anyone other than transsexuals?

It is insanity to allow anyone to alter a birth certificate if non-surgical. My feeling is these alternate lifestyle advocates attached themselves to transsexuals and are now trying to blur the definition of gender for their own particular life-style. God bless them but I have not one thing in common with them.

Niki Arraguz is more a case of same sex marriage than a woman born transsexual getting married since she had not had surgery and in Texas that is a no-no. I do support same sex marriage by the way.

In fact a survey in Houston showed overwhelming support for transsexuals getting married after surgery. When they interviewed people on the street support was overwhelming so transsexuals or more accurately women born transsexual or men born transsexual have support for getting marriage.

What this all comes down to is we want to be recognized as simply women so we can legally be married and the alternate gender folk want to blur gender lines which HURTS us. If I am wrong I am willing to listen but as I currently understand it I am considerably irritated.

I have no interest in blurring gender lines. I was a girl and all I ever wanted was to simply be what I should have been which is female verses male.

I guess I would be politically socially liberal but fiscally conservative voter but blurring gender lines so there is no boy-girl is not my cup of tea and I am sorry but that hurts transsexuals and only transsexuals which I find conveniently convenient for those that blur gender lines.

Veronica said...

Sorry, I wasn't clear. When I wrote "if they get outed," I mean people born transsexual. That would be outed as having been assigned the other gender at birth. That's what can lead to discrimination in many states, since legal protections are lacking.

As for birth certificates, again, I was talking about people born transsexual, no one else. In some states, it's not allowed to change the sex on your birth certificate, so that a person born transsexual can never legally be the sex to which they transitioned. And that can certainly affect marriage.

I was writing only to say that people born transsexual can have discrimination issues.

Personally, now that I've transitioned, I'm pretty gender normative. But others are not, and it's not for me to tell them how to live their lives. I agree with you that we should not be dragged into battles that are not ours and that indeed can makes things worse for us.

Melissa said...

@ ELizabeth

Re: No business should have to allow anyone not transsexual to dress as or present as female therefore the only ones that can be discriminated against are transsexuals. I am sorry if that irritates anyone but that is just how I feel.

I know transwomen who have undergone HRT, female facial surgery, hair transplants, full facial electrolysis, breast augmentation, voice training, and live full time as females. For their own reasons, the only thing they haven't done is undergo SRS. They live entirely as women, and everyone who sees them, sees them as women. For all intents and purposes, they are women. Should their employers be allowed to force them to crossdress to keep their jobs?

This is a free society, where everyone has the right to express themselves in the manner that they feel suits them best. Yet you say that an employer shouldn't be forced to allow them to come to work dressed as a women, simply because of what is invisible, and rendered useless under their skirt. Following that logic, even those who intend to have SRS, should not be allowed to come to work dressed as a women, until she has a certificate of SRS, from her surgeon.

Yes there are differences, and no one that I know if is trying to deny them, but obviously there are also similarities. I fail to see why allowing one of the above described women to come to work as the women she and others see her to be, should be any skin off the nose of anyone who has undergone SRS. I don't think that anyone is trying to ride the backs of women who have undergone SRS, or in any way, shape, or form, doing anything to denigrate their experience.

This is probably the last word I'm going to have on this subject, because it appears to be just too volatile. The last thing I ever wanted to do when I started my blog, was to make enemies out the people I love more than anyone on this earth.

Melissa XX

Elizabeth said...


It is simple. If they are transsexual then they should be allowed to work and live as they please. I support non-op transsexuals and agree in principle with them working anywhere without prejudice.

But the thought of anyone being able to dress as a woman that is not transsexual is NOT something I support in the work place. It is my opinion and I have some experience with transsexuals transitioning and working.

I managed people and R&D groups at multiple large companies and I was totally supportive of the girls as they transitioned. In fact one of them was never going to be able to have surgery because she was a hemophiliac.

No offense to cross-dressers or anyone else but the workplace is not where they should be living their fantasy. Businesses have enough issues trying to be fair to transsexuals and I know what I went through to make it easier for them but how can I tell people working for me that this individual just wants to present as a woman but this person wants to be a woman. What happens with ladies rooms. It is tough enough for transsexuals transitioning in the workplace without this happening.

I know of two fortune 500 companies that have it in their human resources handbooks that only transsexuals can transition and they must be surgery bound unless medically advised against it.

Again I here form you we have similarities. I respect all opinions but I have not received a single point where any transsexual or woman born transsexual has ANYTHING in common with anyone not transsexual.

It has been tough enough for transsexuals and now we must support some non-transsexual because they may want to present as female. Sorry but that does not cut it and is just another example of how those non-transsexuals are trying to latch onto laws that were meant for those changing gender.

Where does it stop?? Maybe the bi-gender ones can come to work with the left half female and the right half male or male one day and female the next. There have to be boundaries and transsexuals have been thrown in with people who want ZERO boundaries because they want to do whatever.

I support their right to do what they want away from the workplace as long as it is legal but not in the workplace and I stand by that position.

Why would discussion of this make enemies out of anyone?

Anne said...

@ Mellisa.

Perhaps you can helpus understand this..."I know transwomen who have undergone HRT, female facial surgery, hair transplants, full facial electrolysis, breast augmentation, voice training, and live full time as females. For their own reasons, the only thing they haven't done is undergo SRS."

You KNOW these people. What possible "reasons" might they have for choosing to not rid themselves of that "useless thing under their skirts"?