[This was first published a year ago.
It first appeared in the online version of GayLife: Maryland’s GLBT Community Newspaper (May 4, 2007). GayLife is published by the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland.
And was republished in TS-SI.
I learned transgenders do not like post-SRS women who do not want to be part of their identity politics.]
Gwendolyn Smith asks what’s in a name?
She then castigates post-sex reassignment women who identify with the term “WBT” or “women born transsexual,” a term coined by my life partner and me in 2001 as a reaction to our sense of disappearing, being erased by the all-enveloping cult of “transgender as umbrella.”
At first, we made the simple request to some of the self-appointed community leaders that they use the combined term “transsexual and transgender” in order to reflect the reality that this political entity called the transcommunity is composed of groups of quite different people.
I was aware of these differences 35 years ago when I helped run the “National Transsexual Counseling Center” in San Francisco. It was obvious then that people who had sex reassignment surgery had little in common with those who later called transgender.
The coiner of the term transgender was Virginia Prince, a heterosexual crossdresser who held those of us who had sex reassignment surgery in contempt. Virginia was particularly vicious in her opinion regarding WBTs who were lesbian after sex reassignment surgery. She called us freaks and mistakes.
Nevertheless, when the transgender movement became popular in the mid 1990s many WBTs considered it a good idea. This was particularly true among those of us who were already active in the lesbian and gay community although many of us never saw the “T” stuck after LGB as applying to us.
As time went on many of us started to feel the leaders of the transgender community were using us. Many of us felt pressured by these leaders to identify as something we did not in our hearts feel we were.
When we said we were not transgender, the leaders started telling us we were transgender by definition. Imagine my surprise when 30 years after sex reassignment surgery, which made me female, I learned that in the name of political expediency and without my consent I had been defined as something I am not.
When I started calling people who identified with the transgender movement on this act of colonizing my life they started calling me an elitist and warned about how I could not live without the support of the community. They told me how lesbian separatists hated my kind even though I lived among lesbian separatists and worked for a lesbian publication where they knew my personal history.
Over the past year, WBTs have been debating replacing the term “transsexual” with “TS” for “Transsexual Syndrome” or “HBS” for “Harry Benjamin Syndrome” in honor of Dr. Benjamin who first defined the syndrome and treated us as human beings in need of medical care and sex reassignment surgery.
Prior to 1979 when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) pathologized transsexualism with the classification of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) it tended to be treated as innate, something similar as to how homosexuality is currently treated.
Many, including Dr. Benjamin, saw it as being more of an intersex condition than a psychiatric one. Indeed the surgery that changes our sex from male to female is similar to other surgeries performed on intersex people with one major exception. It is performed on us after we have reached an age where we have the agency to give fully informed consent.
The original meaning of the term transgender specifically excluded us and meant people who live full time in the gender role not associated with their current genitalia.
Those wishing to use post-sex reassignment surgery women for their own political purposes colonized us without the consent of many of us, claiming us as transgender because they believed it to be to their political advantage to have the public associate transgender with post-sex reassignment surgery women and men.
Because most of us assimilate as members of the sex that we have been reassigned to and are loathe to make spectacles of ourselves few stand up to contradict the politicos who claim to represent us. We do not march with the transgender community on Pride Day nor do we seek a “T” after LGB. Many of us are heterosexual and others like me are lesbians. If I march, I march with other lesbians. I do this even though I did at one point think the transgender community was a positive thing.
The transgender community is like a cult that pounds extremely negative messages into the heads of people treated for TS/HBS. Its fear mongering aims to convince post-sex reassignment surgery people to stay in the transgender ghetto rather than assimilate in to the world of members of their new sex.
So I’m saying good-bye to all that.
Good-bye to the fear mongering. Good-bye to the guilt tripping. Good-bye to being used for the political gains of people who do not represent me. Good-bye to all the negative messages aimed at convincing me you have the right to keep me hostage. Good-bye to letting you call me transgender, I never was one. Good-bye to the ghetto. Even though I still have friends there and still play there, I don’t live there anymore.
Good-bye to all the word games that try to turn “woman” from being descriptive of any adult female into a word that describes someone who acts and dresses in a certain manner. I’m too much of a feminist not to see that one as having the potential to oppress all women.
I long ago learned the lesson of abusive relationships, ones that abuse me emotionally and use me. The transgender community does just that to all WBTs. Some will stay just as some stay in abusive personal relationships.
As for me, I am serving divorce papers. Good-bye transgender community I want a divorce and I am taking back my own identity.
Good-bye to all that.
(“Good-bye to all that” as a statement has a history. See Robin Morgan and Del Martin.)