Over the past few years it has become fashionable on the part of some people to advocate for the replacing of the term transsexualism with the term HBS for Harry Benjamin Syndrome.
I’m not one of those people.
When the proposal was first floated by some one from Spain it was put forth as Benjamin Syndrome. Given my working class earthiness and anarcha-feminist streak I responded, “Bullshit!”. They went huh. I then pointed out that Benjamin Syndrome produced the acronym BS which in common American slang meant bullshit.
Now the con artist floating this one pled that in Spanish it was Sindrome Benjamin. But I still wasn’t buying.
It then morphed in to Harry Benjamin Syndrome or HBS and I remained stoically unimpressed.
For a multitude of reasons.
Back when I worked with the NTCU, Officer Elliott Blackstone of the SFPD Community Relations Department was supposedly in charge of what we were doing in a weird form of in loco parentus. I found it far more grating than others who occupied the position with the office. My feeling was that we were adults and didn’t need a father figure benevolent or otherwise watching over us.
I used to cringe when he called us his girls. It was all I could do to keep from going Valerie Solanis on people who called us Elliott’s girls. I wasn’t Elliott’s possession. I found the entire idea infantilizing.
I was really impressed with many of the sisters I knew back then. We managed to dig up enough information to figure out that we were transsexual and then find a mode of treatment we often taught to the doctors who helped us get hormones.
I was actually one of Dr. Benjamin’s patients and found him to be a pleasant enough old man. But I wouldn’t call myself one of Harry’s girls. I mean he said all the right things that I would get used to doctors saying, “Like you are one of the most perfect cases of transsexualism I have ever seen. and I’m sure that with you there is something physical.
So why, if I liked him and he created the initial treatment protocols wouldn’t I want to use HBS instead of transsexual.
Habit, I suppose is one reason but there is another one. I tend to seriously dislike the claque that has embraced it. Many of them seem to be thoroughly unlikeable people who act as though self affirmation of worth requires the putting down of others.
I honestly never saw transsexualism as a contest. Although class differences mean that those with the money have access to more and better surgeries. Sometime when I listen to the list of all the surgeries I have to wonder about the quest for the Mercedes Benz of pussies styled and shaped as though with Photoshop. Now I know that women born female get these customized pussy jobs too but still it seems a tad obsessive even considering I too had a labiaplasty way back when.
The whole game of I am more woman than you is pretty tiresome and evolving in a direction that has started sounding actually disturbed.
Way back when in the late 1960s and early 70s we called the surgery a “sex change operation” and used that in a very straight forward way as a dividing point between those who were queens (transgenders) and those who were transsexual. The operation made you real.
Of course we saw it as the final step when we were pre-op and it is only in retrospect that some of us see it as a starting point.
Now there are all these word games that have replaced what was a pretty straight forward descriptive metaphor, “I feel like a woman trapped in a male body.”
Instead of producing clarity all the psychobabble has produced confusion and dishonesty. From sex change operation or sex reassignment surgery we have gone to GRS which stands for about a half dozen different things including gender reassignment surgery and genital reconstruction surgery. WTF. Who are you trying to kid?
Part of the reason middle class and older transsexuals first embraced the term transgender had almost nothing to do with any sort of umbrella. Back in the 1970s and 1980s many queens in the sex industry used transsexual in their ads and promoting “trannie porn”. Heaven forbid we be associated with lumpen trannie sex workers.
Sometimes the classism is so in your face and about as subtle as a note tied to a brick through your front window that you don’t need a Marxist education to see it. I’ll toss in a streak of racism too since it contributes to people being so far down the economic ladder that SRS will never be obtainable much less the designer pussy version.
Now I can understand not wanting to be a transsexual. Hell I had an operation to get past being transsexual. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m the one everyone assumes is the doctor at the group meeting or a lesbian friend of someone.
But word games and status games are not growth.
It doesn’t matter whether what we have is called transsexualism or HBS. Acceptance is personal and not a product of denial or of putting others down.
Becoming real is in an existential sense a process of being true to yourself not running a game on others.
I don’t need to call transsexualism something else, especially when I dealt with it transsexualism was an accurately descriptive term. Changing the name won’t make the bigots like us any better.
I looked like a girl before I ever started hormones so I may well have not processed testosterone very well but I don’t feel a need to obsess on all sorts of different forms of intersex conditions to stake my claim on realness because realness is a way of life and not a genetic condition.
So I’ll stick with transsexualism and continue to use WBT as short hand for a woman born with transsexualism.
August 26, 2009 at 11:26 am
Good. You stick with transsexualism or whatever it is you’re calling yourself today and I’ll use HBS. Better still, I’ll just stick to calling myself a woman, because that’s what I am and how I see myself, no dashes required.
August 26, 2009 at 4:20 pm
One mistake you make is that transsexualism is something I was treated for not who I am. The other is that I was treated by Dr. Harry Benjamin and he called it “transsexualism” not Harry Benjamin Syndrome.
August 26, 2009 at 5:36 pm
In its own way, HBS merely describes a syndrome to be treated. It does not in any way describe the person treated.
Someone treated for HBS can personally describe themselves as TG, TS, etc.
WBT on the other hand describes a WOMAN who was BORN transsexual. It speaks to the very antithesis of TG.
WBT cannot BE transgender. At the same time, WBT does not have to denigrate others. It is not a zero sum game.
August 28, 2009 at 7:11 am
[…] Sanity from Suzan Cooke I’m not going to say I agree with everything at Women Born Transsexual, but this post by Suzan is well worth reading: HBS? Count me out. […]