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Friday, June 15, 2012

Well Cyrsti, Since You Brought It Up.......

After my last blog, Cyrsti, wrote in her blog to say she would like to hear my thoughts on identities within the "Transgender community" and tensions that exist for the various identities included within that umbrella. It actually was my intention to turn some attention to that issue soon, so Cyrsti, once again you have been a bit of a muse for me. Thank You!

Sometimes, when I hear the umbrella term "Transgender" and "Transgender Spectrum" as opposed to"transgender" as in a shorthand way of referring to themself, I start hearing Michael Jackson and the All Stars sing "We are the worllllld, We are the childrennnnnn" I can't help it. My mind just works that way. Oops, too much information........

Though irreverent, it is not meant to be disrespectful of those who are invested in the transgender spectrum concept. Many people I know well and respect  both professionally and as friends are heavily invested in this model. Based on the state of the knowlege base, I'm not ready to agree that everyone under the Transgender spectrum concept have a milder or more severe version of my identit as distinctly female. On the other hand while I make my assertion that I believe transsexuals, preop, post op or no op have a fundamentally unique identity and lies within the gender binary,I have enough of a biomedical background that I can generally keep up with the arguements and research findings. I do, as a researcher myself, have an open mind that I could be wrong and am willing to listen and redecide if necessary. It's not an ego thing for me.
Lets take a moment and define what we are talking about. If I use these terms without placing them into the context I use them I would not be communicating very clearly. When I use the term Transgender Spectrum, I am defining this as a set of people who diverse in gender identity. This list includes but may not be all inclusive of:

Gender Queers: "People who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as one or more of the following: both man and woman (bigender, pangender); neither man nor woman (genderless, agender);
  • moving between genders (genderfluid);
  • third gender or other-gendered; includes those who do not place a name to their gender;
  • having an overlap of, or blurred lines between, gender identity and sexual orientation"
-From Wikipedia.

Crossdressers may or may not be the same as transvestites depending who you speak with. There are individuals who identify as Sissies. There are people who identify as fetishists. There are drag kings and drag queens. Intersexed people are included also. This is an area of controversy for people who are intersexed as much as it is for transsexuals, They often contend they are not part of a transgender continuum.

One purpose the transgender continuum serves is to promote a unified theory of etiology from a biopsychosocial perspective. Essentially the concept is that the same thing causes it and it lies on a continuum of relative severity. I use this term because one end of a continuum has to be the most mild in existence and the other end of the continuum has to be the most extreme example of the phemonenon varience in gender identity.

The gender spectrum concept is used also as a sociopolitical mechanism to bring diverse groups of people together for political power. This group has been subsumed in the acronym of GLBTIQ. I have seen proposals to add HIV+ and illegal immigrants to this acrocnym over the past year. This is for the purpose of political gain for each member group by bringing together groups that have not much if anything in common. They are able to exert more political power in this manner, which can be a positive thing, but the social reality is that identities become blurred at the same time. This happens in collectivist movements. This where we begin to lose our diversity again.

It seems to me that a lot of people in the Transgender Continuum camp become upset if you are skeptical of the continum model. They do not agree that transsexuals such as myself and many I know, both male to female and female to male, do not buy into the continuum model of identity. People such as I clearly identify a clear gender identity that has not varied over most or nearly all of their lifetime. Their physical body is incongruent with their sense of being a man or a woman. I have always known I was a girl and then a woman. I have never felt that gender was something that I played with. I never thought of myself as partly male or partly female with alternating unified sense of identities. Some people do. I don't believe that they are the same as a transsexuals. I have never felt that I was genderless. There is nothing wrong with having an alternating identity, or being a cd or a tv or a dq/ dk, being genderless or any permutation of what we refer to as gender.

 The existing science sometimes suggests that there is some evidence to support the continuum theory.  However there is not enough to prove it and there seems to be evidence to the contrary as well.

Politically, I don't wish to be placed in a collective of people with little in common and in some instances nothing in common, depending on how many letters you want to throw in to your acronym. They may not represent my political views accurately and they may not be the same. It makes it even more difficult for the culture to understand us. The concept that we are all equal under the law is the very basis of the U.S. Constitution. We must recognize that the lack of mention of categories of people means that there can be no denying we all have the same rights in this country. The guarantee in real life is still something that remains to be realized. It is expedient politically to have this collective, but expedient decisions come with a price tag too. Consider this hypothetical conversation:

"So you are a transsexual. Uh, when did you know you were a sissy? Did you figure out you were
gay first or did you crossdress first?"

"Um actually, I'm not a sissy. I'm not gay either....."

"But you're GLBTIQ"....., and we're off to the races!
My issue is about my gender identity. It is not about my sexuality. I haven't the experience of conflict over my sexuality and I don't feel oppressed for my sexual orientation. I do not feel I have common ground with sissies, drag kings or queens, fetishists, and I do not feel that I am part of the gay community. It is true that all of these groups have been and are being deprived of our rights, but being included in this heterogenious group blurs my identity into things it is not.

Like minded transsexuals and intersexed people see each other as distinctly different but we respect that difference and it does not impose a heirarchy at one or the other's expense. Neither should the separateness of transsexual people from others who do support the continuum model. Transsexuals are not better or lower than any of these other identities, we are different. And that is ok. Everyone is entitled to their own identity.
One reason I do not think there are parellels between some identities and that of a male to female transsexual can be illustrated in the sissy identity. I am not a sissy. I am not less than (fill in the blank). I do not feel I  need to be humiliated or forced to be who I am. One cannot rape the willing, so to speak. I do not see how they are on the same continuum as I am. I've met several over the years at conferences. Very nice people. I was glad that they were able to be who they are.
In my experience, most CD's and TV's enjoy the experience of spending some time in the opposite gender identity for the experience for a variety of reasons, but they still retain a strong sense of the gender of birth.
These examples are not the experience of a person who never has identified with the gender assignment of birth, whose true desire is to live the life of their internal gender identity outwardly as well as inwardly. Whether it is feasible or not and whether they are able to make any progress in becoming congruent with their internal gender identity, they all have that internal sense of being the opposite gender of their body.
The problem that creates rifts in the gender community is that the transsexual experience is considered unique to transsexuals while, other identitied groups are threatened by the unwillingness of transsexuals to agree they are variants of the non transsexual members' "spectrum".

I do not attempt to say which is right or which is wrong. I merely wish to point out the disparities in identities and identity politics. Each must decide for themself.


  1. It would seem to me, that identifying with the LBG group, can only benefit ourselves in the recognition that we have a variance from the majority of the population but we are not mutant or anything similar.
    The gay movement took the world by the throat and made them take notice that they are not a threat but an asset to society and if we need to hang off of their shirtails to gain that similar recognition, so be it.
    Either way you look at it, we are either gay in the eyes of society or gay in the eyes of our community.Think about that.
    At the end of the day, does it matter what the label is, as long as it's not demeaning in our own eyes and as long as it further desensitises the stigma attached to being a trans person.
    To me, that is all that matters.

  2. " and I do not feel that I am part of the gay community." I am sorry but this seems like such a strange statement from a woman involved with another woman. To deny that you are a part of the community to me seems as buying into the mentality of being less than a full woman. In the eyes of society two women together will be labeled as gay irregardless of the title you chose to use.

  3. Transgender as an umbrella term is fine, I guess. Just don't use it as being synonymous with Transsexual. But, like you say, Transgender Spectrum carries with it an idea of endpoints, of extremes - Who's more trans or less trans? Who is more or less weird? . . .

    Is it pragmatic to have the T in LGBT? Perhaps. Like Rachel alludes to, there is power in numbers. My opinion is that the T should stand for Transsexual, not Transgender. After all, it is the transsexual person who is in the anti-discrimination fight.

    Could it be that the non-transsexual people who feel they need protection under the law really belong in the Queer category?

  4. As Transsexuals, I believe that our fight against discrimination and acceptance should be detached from any and all other movements such as LGBT. We are quite unique and lumping us in with LBG does absolutely nothing to gain the respect and acceptance that we seek as LBG is a sexual issue, not a gender issue.

    If you are MTF transexxual and in a relationship with a female, then yes, the LBG label seems to fit. but it is a different issue. I think this is why the public is so confused and our plight as transsexuals is so misunderstood.

    I myself, don't feel that we should fall under the Transgender umbrella as we are fighting for our lives, literally! I feel that it is far different from being a performer or someone that enjoys dressing female on the weekend. This is way more of a life or death thing for the Transsexual and the umbrella, in my opinion, marginalizes us even more than we already are.

    The fact is, we all need and should have the right to be ourselves in this world. Rift? I don't deny anyone the right to fight for what they believe, however, I feel the fight of we transsexuals would see greater rewards if we fight alone.

  5. Its easy for me to see Deanna's position, but how does one identify with being lesbian if one has lived almost their whole life being perceived as a heterosexual male by the dominant culture and have no experiences being a lesbian with a lesbian? Maybe it is a lack of "time in grade". I've never been involved in the lesbian community or with lesbian culture. Neither does my spouse who has never been a lesbian. She's a heterosexual female and that identity is stable, even in view of her relationship with me. She didn't start out in our relationship with the idea she was entering into a relationship with a woman, though she did know I am a transsexual. Maybe someday that will be an identity I will feel comfortable in, but that day isn't here. At this time, I'm not even sure what the public views us as. We aren't openly affectionate in public, so for all I know all the public sees are two women who are friends. Patty and I have (even in view of my own gender identity) have a pretty heteronormative relationship.

    Because of this, I feel that my affinity is with other male to female transsexuals and genetic born women. I don't relate to the gay community as a member at all, though I have gay friends. It seems to me, that if we are grouped in with the gay community by the dominant culture, we are denied of our individuality as much as gay people who are gender congruent. They often don't see us as part of their community. Spend some time in a gay bar to observe this phenomenon.

    Rather, I see the issue of sexuality intersecting gender identity as something as an X Y axis and while there is a point on the axis where sexuality and gender intersect, it is only somewhat more than tangential.

    What are your thoughts about this?

    1. Just a few observations me and my other half at first thought that the public would just see us as friends if we weren't openly affectionate in public but it soon became apparent from others reactions to us that they seen us as co'moms to our children and a couple. This is an observation that was made and discussed by both of us during the early days of my going full time. I do find it interesting that you mentioned spending some time in a gay bar to see the phenomenon of not being seen as part of the community as I spent a year bartending in a lesbian dance club. So yes I have seen the divide between some in the LGB community and those in the T but I have also found complete acceptance in my identity as a woman and as a lesbian more often than I have seen the reverse.

  6. I, too, have always seen myself as heterosexual. After all, the only place sexual orientation intersects with gender (being male or female) is in their very definitions, for without male or female, the words would make no sense. Beyond that there is little correlation between the two.

    I have observed and have data that would support that there is a much higher proportion of people who claim to be lesbian in the ranks of the post-operative transsexual people than in the general population. Never could figure this out. But I have a theory. The transsexual person subjects herself to an incredible amount of introspection. It's a very exhausting process for most transsexual people to figure out who they really are, and then to accept who they are as being good. Therefore, we tend to become very open and honest with ourselves and anyone else who will accept our openness and honesty. Add to that our experience of being both male and female, and the rejection that many receive from the religious folks (which is the main source of negative thinking about homosexuality) and what do you have?

    Well I can tell you my perspective - I now see myself as a sexual being, perhaps bisexual if you must have a label, who, because of where I am in my faith journey, is heterosexual by conviction.

    Perhaps most people who claim to be straight are straight only by conviction. This is the stuff that could skew the statistics all over the place.

  7. Debbie Dunkle

    I am a post op TS woman in a relationship with another woman. I do not as a rule even let people know I am trans and identify as a very out lesbian. I will be marching in Bangor Maine's pride on the 30TH of June and singing with an all women group Women With Wings. So for me the identity lesbian is appropriate in pubic discussion. I certainly am supportive of the trans communtiy and go to conferences. I give back to my community and participate in the local support group and at Purple tent at the local temple.
    Sherri I love your discription and break down here. I do not feel better or less than any other community member, just pointing out that lesbian is how many of us live our lives

  8. Debbie, you nailed it. You aren't better or less, you are a lesbian. I totally agree with you.

  9. A point I would like to add, I have been a man( of sorts) why would I want one?

  10. I am trans and I am married to a wonderful cis woman. It was not easy for my wife to accept this at first but we love each other very much and we are still together. Even after being post-op and that made things hard for her but she still stayed with me. It's not easy being a lesbians but love finally conqured all. Hang in there.

  11. I thank you for the conversation Sherri Lynne, brightened my morning, definately lol, broke out the chalk board again and another cup of coffee : )