Don’t Call Me Transgender and the Predictable Reactions

Predictable in that we have had this back and forth since the mid 1980s.

I went to the meeting of a “gender” group out in Santa Monica.  It was the activist in me.  I wanted to see what was happening and a friend told me about this group.

As anyone who has visited these groups tends to know, the people that one finds are often coming from wildly different places. There will be a few post-ops (usually politicos or counselor types).  Some genuine pre-ops.  A lot of lesbian identified permanent “transgenders” (used in the original meaning of the term). An F to M or two. A few transvestites looking for a safe public space and a few people who won’t use the term “gender-queer” or “gender-fuck” but who mess with stereotypes by being straight “effeminates”.

At this meeting I first heard about how important it was for us to all rally for equal rights and I thought… Cool, why should people be bullied or abused for being different.  Equality means just that.

Fast forward to about 1996.  I’ve read Kate Bornstein and Riki Wilchins. I’m on line…  I do volunteer work at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. I even have a “Transsexual Menace” t-shirt from the Silicon Valley chapter that some friends gave me.  I don’t wear it constantly but if a demo calls for it I wear it.

Oops…  According to some LA folks I should get one of their t-shirts instead, one that read “Transgender Menace”.  I make the mistake of saying,  “But I’m not transgender, I’m transsexual.”

At this point I’ve been an activist since I joined SDS in 1965… some 30 years of standing up for various progressive causes, many of which involve fighting for the rights of other groups.  I fight for the extension of rights to all because it is the right thing to do and because of how I was raised.

But I am also anarchistic and protective of my own rights and identity.

Many folks may not realize it but the term PC or politically correct was not originated by Rush Limpdick.  It actually came from the left and may have origins in 1950s lefties who rebelled against Stalinism and its supporters in the US Communist Party.

But I first heard it used in the late 1970s regarding people who were literally destroying progressive groups by nitpicking every word of people in various groups.  That is where I first heard the term “subtext” as in, “Well yes you said  XYZ and that sounds really good but when you used those words we can tell that your words had a subtext of hatred and oppression.”  The term PC also came about as a result of those who treated being oppressed as though it were an olympic event.

In Transworld straight men who fantasize about cross dressing from the safety of their potentially compromised straight male privilege consider themselves the most oppressed.  Often times their language is misogynistic and abusive to women with a transsexual medical history i.e. post-ops.  These refugees from the perversion of “Men’s Rights Associations” who already consider white men to be put upon by feminism and modern women in general target post-ops for special scorn.  They use such delightful terms for our anatomies as inverted penises.

The only actual roles for post-SRS women in the Transgender as Umbrella movement is as enabler or martyrs to be used repeatedly.

Yes what happened to Christie Lee was fucked up.  But she has also remarried and now has as an in-law one of the stronger Democratic women Senators in the Texas legislature.  BTW she was remarried legally in the same place where her previous marriage was voided. But more over many of us either are married to men or know sisters who have been in long term marriages that have had the same ups and downs the marriages my non-WBT friends have had.

But isn’t the actual best solution full marriage equality so that no ones right to marry is challenged?  Instead Christie Lee gets used as a club to force post-SRS women to submit to the identity politics of “Transgender is the inclusive umbrella term”.

Even those of us WBTs who are lesbian and identify as left wing progressive feminists, who support inclusive ENDAs as well as inclusive hate crimes legislation, the ending of DADT for everyone, as well as believing no one should have their health care needs left unmet simply because of their sex or gender status, are considered hateful separatists if we reject the transgender label.

We are told that merely asking for the usage of transsexual and transgender is hateful and separatist.  The last time I was involved with this sort of Stalinism was when I was part of the faction that expelled Progressive Labor from SDS and gave birth to Weatherman.

It some what resembles the sort of cult like behavior one sees in the fanatical right wing Xian cults where any deviation from the ideology is grounds for hateful rejection.

Perhaps a less dogmatic approach would mean that those of us who support the human rights/equal rights of transvestite/transgender people because it is the right thing to do rather than because we too are part of the transgender umbrella wouldn’t feel like fools.

Tell me why we should work for the rights of people who hate us and only use us to further their ends?

I feel like an ACLU member who hates the politics of certain groups but still thinks the ACLU should defend their rights.

This routine doesn’t bring the WBTs who are bigots back into line.  Nothing will.  It only drives away those WBTs who are supportive on principle rather than on the basis of membership in the the cult of Transgender as Umbrella.

9 Responses to “Don’t Call Me Transgender and the Predictable Reactions”

  1. Véronique Says:

    Guess I must be a hateful separatist then. I have no idea why I should be happy to be mislabeled.

  2. Hypatia Says:

    Why I don’t want to be labeled transgender: The word reifies a category like a cattle pen into which I’m herded. I was at Pride talking with a cis lesbian activist. I mentioned my desire to get involved in volunteering for lesbian social service organizations (where I had first met her), and asked if she knew some place I could join.

    Instead she suggested I volunteer with a transgender organization. At no time had I mentioned being trans at all, nor had I brought up the subject or indicated any interest in it. I had only talked about lesbian stuff. She had just clocked me and decided to herd me into the transgender cattle pen without even checking with me about it. I felt I was being treated as less than, because someone else had decided for me where I belonged– not with her people.

    I think this comes from a misunderstanding about the nature of the T in LGBT. For L and G, those are discrete groups of sexual orientation that never overlap. She made the assumption that T is one more discrete group like those that cannot overlap with any of the others– when in fact it inhabits a different dimension and can intersect any of the sexual orientation categories. I also this this misconception has been fostered by many transgender groups who claim such a discrete identity for themselves, making transgender taxonomically coordinate with L, G, and B, and mutually exclusive.

    She was basically implying I oughtn’t to be considered a lesbian, which is tantamount to saying I’m not a real woman.

    I would have less of a problem with “transgender” if it weren’t reified in such a clunky and oppressive way. I want LGB people to stop automatically herding me into the T cattle pen without even asking if that’s where I fit. Stop assuming stuff about me just because you clocked me.

    LGBT activists, who see lots of trans people as a matter of course, clock us much more easily. The straight world sees me as just another woman, which is correct. Ironically, it’s my own queer peeps who other me and herds me into the T cattle pen against my will. I’m only directly involved in it because I’m lesbian and my girlfriend is lesbian. If I were heterosexual, I would probably be only tangentially involved with LGBT activism.

  3. edith Says:

    I couldn’t say it any better, Hypatia.

  4. Margo A. Summers Says:

    Having transitioned over half a life time ago, at 30, now 62, it is my view that Lesbians have gotten worse in there overt hatred of transsexuals over time. They really never supported us, but the collective ‘consciousness’ of the Lesbian Community has changed significantly to be more exclusive those of us who love women. Many of us, including myself, have identified as a lesbian in order to hide. How sad is that! It is easier being old and alone than to hide in a cactus. At my age few test the waters except old married troglodytes now anyway. 

    Biber Baby 1978

  5. Véronique Says:

    I can’t argue with your personal experience, but mine has been quite different. The local LGBT centre, largely run and populated by lesbians, was one of the most supportive environments I could have hoped for when I came out three years ago. A lot of people I have met since transition have been lesbians, and those who know about my history are all supportive.

    As well, when the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective established a policy that they would serve only “women born women” at their pharmacy, lesbians were at the forefront of those vocally opposed to the policy, which I’m happy to say was changed to “all women” a couple of months ago.

    I know there are anti-trans lesbians, but in my experience more and more are pro-trans, not fewer and fewer.

  6. edith Says:

    My personal experiences are almost entirely positive. There have been one or two which haven’t been, not because of anything intentional but because of misunderstandings that were probably brought about as a result of presumptions engendered by the things the word transgender implies. It is the cattle pen analogy that I relate to in Hypatia’s reply to this post. Also, those who think they’re in the know because they know you and think they’re somehow hip usually have much less of a clue than those who are only able to take you at face value.

  7. dyssonance Says:

    Just as a note, check your origins on “political correctness”. First use is by 1980’s conservative writers.

    • Suzan Says:

      I did. I was there… Remember… I first heard it used in the 1970s and it probably dates to the 1930s CP USA internal struggles. The conservative babblers steal all the time.

      • Suzan Says:

        From Wikipedia:

        In New Left rhetoric

        By 1970, New Left proponents had adopted the term political correctness.[1] In the essay The Black Woman, Toni Cade Bambara says: “. . . a man cannot be politically correct and a [male] chauvinist too”. The New Left later re-appropriated the term political correctness as satirical self-criticism; per Debra Shultz: “Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the New Left, feminists, and progressives . . . used their term politically correct ironically, as a guard against their own orthodoxy in social change efforts”.[1][2][7] Hence, it is a popular English usage in the underground comic book Merton of the Movement, by Bobby London, while ideologically sound, an alternative term, followed a like lexical path, appearing in Bart Dickon’s satirical comic strips.[1][8] Moreover, Ellen Willis says: “ . . . in the early ’80s, when feminists used the term political correctness, it was used to refer sarcastically to the anti-pornography movement’s efforts to define a ‘feminist sexuality’ ”.[9]


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