A few days ago, before heading off to work, I tossed off a few thoughts that have elicited numerous comments as well as a couple of ad hominem attacks by a couple of other Bloggers.
I stand by my original comments and think they require expanding upon.
I am sick and tired of all the in fighting between people with transsexualism and people with transgenderism. While many of the more reasonable members of both groups have quietly agreed to work together on issues such as hate crimes bill and ENDA, extremists of both factions are doing their best to keep the horizontal hostility going.
Often times the ring leaders who are taking the most radical of the positions are misfits who have been around since the days of Usenet. While many of us moved on and have worked through our issues these people, have not. When they attack our Blogs we try to ignore them as trolls. Or we ban them.
I know about anger. I still haven’t surrendered my anger regarding the hegemonic erasure of transsexualism under the ideology of “Transgender as Umbrella”. It was that anger that led to Tina and me creating the Women Born Transsexual meme. But the meme had other purposes too. Those include pressing the idea of transsexualism as innate and countering the women born women position that placed us in the status of non-legitimate women.
I have rethought my positions, worked through much of my anger. I have been influenced in my rethinking process by the level of brutal murders and gratuitous hate mongering on the part of the religious right.
I am in my ninth year of sobriety. I have had to take stock and admit my own shortcomings. Re-channeled my anger toward real oppressors instead of toward people who may irritate the hell out of me but who are not the people actually creating the laws and policies that oppress me.
Working together with people who are attempting to remove GID from the DSM has had a big influence on me. Taking responsibility for my words since I am both blogging at Women Born Transsexual and being asked to write for other forums including TS-SI has also played a role in my losing the angry rhetoric.
I still think people with transsexualism are inherently different from people with transgenderism. Just as I believe that lesbians are different in many ways from gay men. I know from history that saying both are homosexual (one element of their being) therefore gay should be the umbrella term lead to a nearly 10 year conflict in the 1970s. People ended this conflict with a compromise that led to what had been the “Gay Community” now being called the “Gay and Lesbian Community”. This allowed lesbians and gays to work together on specific issues such as fighting the bigotry that surfaced when Anita Bryant lead the campaign to repeal a Gay and Lesbian anti-discrimination bill in Miami, Florida. Crisis brought unity. In 1978, California gay men and lesbians worked together to defeat Prop. 6, the Briggs Amendment, a pernicious law that would have barred not only gays or lesbians from teaching school but anyone who supported them..
Lesbians were there to keep the community going during the darkest days of the AIDS Crisis. Sometimes it seems more like working in parallel than together for the same basic goals as gay men, nonetheless the in fighting has decreased markedly
For people with transsexualism and people with transgenderism a similar compromise would be Transsexual and Transgender Communities. We could modify the alphabet city of special interest initials to LGBT/T with TS/TG used when referring specifically to transsexual and transgender people. I have already started to notice greater proper usage of the label transsexual to people who identify as TS and not TG. I also occasionally see LGBT/T or GLBTT. It is a start.
Certain events caused me to question some of the positions I went along with even if I no longer felt them to be either ethical or worthy of support from someone with my ideals. Last fall Jennifer Gale, a transgender veteran and gentle soul who lived in Austin died of exposure. Each week in the US seems to bring news of either another murder or violent assault of a transsexual or transgender person, someone generally of the poverty class and often but not always a person of color.
How can I be an ethical, caring human being and not be moved?
I plead guilty to lashing out in anger and using hurtful language like, “men in dresses.” I had forgotten a lesson learned many years ago when the bullies at school offered to stop bullying me and let me join their group. All I had to do was beat up a younger child who even more obviously feminine and an unrepentant sissy than I was.
I read the unemployment statistics. I know that the figure of 9.5% doesn’t take into account those whose unemployment has run out, the chronically unemployed, part timers. I also know that for many TS/TG people coming out and living a life that is true to yourself is a matter of hitting the down arrow on the social mobility elevator.
I am still not willing to allow the erasure of my reality of having been treated for transsexualism by a compulsory “Transgender Umbrella”. Nor are many other WBTs and I will add a few MBTs. Yet we are in crisis.
Forty years of public health and public service cuts have removed even the minimal safety net from those TS/TG folks at the bottom end of the economic scale. Those of us who have time or money, a voice to advocate with and a will to agitate need to create or push for support services to assist these folks who have fallen through the cracks.
When I started, my blog the first thing that happened was that, a few people made snide remarks about Andrea James and Lynn Conway. Later Donna Rose, Monica Helms and others were spoken of as though they were the problem and not part of the numerous people working to advance non-discrimination and anti hate bills.
People wanted me to take their position in the transsexual vs. transgender war. Instead, I was tired of fighting and I declared the war over. As a former hippie, I can do that and for me the war is over
Over the past couple of years, people have been after me to start using HBS instead of transsexual. Someone came on our Women-Born-Transsexual mailing list a few years ago. If I recall correctly she claimed to be from Spain she wanted us to start using BS or Benjamin’s Syndrome instead of Transsexualism. Without knowing there was already a Benjamin Syndrome: A rare disorder characterized mainly by anemia, bone abnormalities and mental and growth retardation, I objected. I pointed out that in English BS had a scatological interpretation.
Since then it has been modified to HBS or Harry Benjamin Syndrome. I still have no desire to embrace it for the same reason I have never referred to myself as one of “Dr. Laub’s girls”; for the same reason I used to cringe when Officer Elliott Blackstone used to refer to those of us who ran the National Transsexual Counseling unit as “his girls”.
I actually like the term “Transsexual” for the name of what I was born. Not so much as an identity but it gives clarity to the oppression I endured as a transkid and it doesn’t hide the reality of my life journey behind a bunch of jargon aimed at obscuring.
Sometime it seems like some women born transsexual are as eager to erase the history and agency of other women born transsexuals as those transgenders who wish to co-opt us into disappearing under the umbrella.
Some WBTs think their ways of dealing with having been born with transsexualism make them vastly superior to all the others who either came out later in age or who choose to live in a different degree of stealth/openness. I have recently come across the term “classic transsexual”. Looking at one of the sites where I have seen it used it seems to have homophobic connotations and be a slam on sisters who are lesbian in their post-SRS lives.
I have been assured it isn’t and that it means someone defined as transsexual in Dr. Benjamin’s book, The Transsexual Phenomena. Great except I was one of dr. Benjamin’s patients. I went through the process way back when and pretty much the same mix of people transitioned then as transition now. The main difference was that more poor people were able to get SRS than now and there were fewer computer industry people than now.
As for “classic transsexual” I recognize it for what it is, code for heterosexual transsexual. As such, I tend to see it as both homophobic and as a slam against sisters who come out later in life. It goes against my theories that the root cause of transsexualism is the same for almost all transsexuals. As well as believing, the truth can be found in people’s narratives. Reading biography after biography leads me to this conclusion that actual people with TS knew as early as their first conscious memories.
The rest is a matter of existential circumstance. I trust the veracity of our narratives more than the theories of the misogynistic psych establishment.
As for WBT homophobia; many heterosexual sisters have taken a homophobic stance in reaction to having been improperly described as homosexuals by both the public and by professionals like Bailey and Blanchard. Voicing homophobia while embracing some of the most reactionary and bigoted elements of our society can be a way of declaring one’s dissociation from gay and lesbian people. This has an ugly history filled with gay bashing homophobes who were later discovered to be gay themselves.
But there is another form of homophobia among WBTs and that is directed at sisters who are lesbian or bisexual. A pointing of fingers and calling lesbian sisters, “Men who made a mistake.” This can take a more subtle form in the expectation that lesbian sisters will put their energies behind the validation of straight sister’s marriages without the expectation of quid pro quo in the form of straight sisters supporting same sex marriage.
So even within WBTs there is a lot of fighting over who is transsexual in the correct way.
Horizontal Hostility… A better description might be a circular firing squad where the game is not co-operation to gain rights for all but rather spiteful fighting for your own particular factions rights by cutting special deals and agreeing to attack someone who may not be your sister but is your first cousin.
As an avowed lefty I rather prefer a unity in struggle to obtain a result that is of common interest. If you are not willing to be part of the solution then you are part of the problem.
I can not tell you to come to the same conclusions I have and compromise. As for me… I’m tired of fighting. I don’t like how much I have sounded at times like people I abhor.
If people with transgenderism are willing to compromise on TS/TG communities instead of Transgender (as umbrella) Community I am quite willing to extend my hand in peace.
This probably isn’t going to satisfy the straight CDs nor will it satisfy the straight WBTs but they locate their lives outside of the alphabet city of the non-straight minorities. We are the ones who should work on working it out.
There are ideologues on both sides of the equation, on the “Transgender as Umbrella” faction as well as the WBT/HBS side who will be totally unwilling to compromise on this either but the continuing petty fighting among the various oppressed groups only divides us and means we accomplish nothing.
We have worked on anti-discrimination bills and hate crimes bills together. I’m sure that if we stop the feuding we can make things better for all of us.