Too often those espousing the identity politics of “Transgender as Umbrella”, in order to enlarge their numbers from being a small minority group within world of L/G communities, set such broad factors for inclusion in the transgender label that it appears that only a small minority of people aren’t transgender.
This of course erases transsexuals to the point where GLAAD’s style book and folks like Autumn Sandeen appear to think that it is appropriate to change transsexual to transgender when ever the word appears in print. The same goes for pre-op, post-op and sex change operation which enter the Orwell New Speak Morphing Machine and emerge as the nicely euphemistic and neutered “transition”.
Since when did “transsexual” acquire the same sort of stigma as a word like “nigger” that requires its being euphemized?
For me transsexual means changing sex or physical sex characteristics. Not to mention living 24/7/365 in a manner consistent with the sex you are becoming.
At its core transsexualism is about the deep seated need to change sex from that assigned at birth. Arguments as to why change with the seasons and are almost matters of faith. Reasons are all legitimate to those doing the changing. No matter the strength of evidence as to a physical nature there is no argument that will ever convince the bigots.
People with transsexualism have struggled to put words to what they feel ever since we started putting pen to paper and trying to relate our stories in the 1950s (I am currently rereading Roberta Cowell’s autobiography) The language lacks the words to relate what we feel inside and so we are forced to use metaphors.
At its core transsexualism is about having an operation to change one’s assigned at birth sex, that is why it is sex reassignment surgery.
Transsexualism has several common narratives. Those narratives distinguish us from others who appear similar but who do not have the same desperate drive to actually have an operation to change their sex.
To placate the bigots we have desexed transsexualism to the point where it seems that wanting to be able to have sex as female or male bodied people (depending on the direction of change) no longer plays a part in our wanting SRS.
We have desexed transsexualism under the rubric of transgender to the point where wanting our bodies to look consistent with our gender of presentation when we are naked is looked upon as elitist rather than consistent with our changing sex to have our bodies match our core sex identity.
I view gender as suspect. Over thousands of years gender roles have been used to keep women as second class humans. Substituting gender for sex reifies gender roles that keep women as second class humans deemed inferior to men.
What is gender identity if gender itself is an abstract construct that shifts over time and location? Gender identity makes sense in the claims of transgender people as they are claiming that acting the role makes them real. Indeed they denounce the “body essentialism” of those of us who point out that women are adult females and that men are adult males irrespective of their presentation.
But I am a woman born transsexual and not a woman born transgender so I do not have to stake claim to womanhood based on my ability to adhere to an abstract gender role that I claim such an intensity of identity to, that it allows me to deny my actual body.
My femaleness in all its mix of masculine and feminine hippie anarchist feminist elements is confirmed every time I squat to pee, shower, make love or masturbate.
Now there are some who feel the need to add “Classic” to their transsexual. I generally find these people to be conservative and heterosexist if not down right homophobic. It especially sends them into a tizzy when two sisters form a lesbian bond. It also seems as though “classic transsexual” is the latest incarnation of BBLZ etc’s AGP/AP model.
I am vaguely amused when lesbian sisters who initially embraced the term discover that it doesn’t mean those of us who have had SRS . That it isn’t a substitute for post-op the way WBT was initially envisioned and instead it requires the embrace of a heterosexist stance that says post-SRS women who are lesbian should work for the protection of heterosexual marriage for post-SRS women. While lesbian sisters are expected to settle for civil unions for themselves because same sex marriage would denigrate the heterosexual marriages entered into by “classic transsexuals” At the same time “classic transsexuals” refuse to recognize the validity of lesbian relationships within the post-op transsexual community.
You know there was a time when those of us who had sex change operations were rare, indeed. When I got mine there were maybe a few thousand people who had the same surgery I had. But now there are hundreds of thousands of us and the only thing that unites us is having had sex reassignment surgery.
Now I’ve know post-ops who have been perfectly flawless in every way and others who can’t live outside the ghetto. But the vast majority of them who didn’t flat out lie and deceive the screeners had elements of that basic set of early established narratives as part of their life experiences and that makes all of them “classic transsexuals” in my book, which means I can dispense with the classic modifier.
If you want to say transsexuals who actually get sex change surgery then say it. Don’t beat around around the bush. When you start using “classic transsexual” in any other context than post-op then you are as much as saying there are many different kinds of transsexuals. With many comes validation of the claims of transgender people to being “non-op transsexuals”.
I am also not a fan of HBS. I liked Dr. Benjamin. He was nice in an old school liberal, paternalistic sort of way but like most of those who study us he leaped to many many erroneous conclusions. But even more so syndrome isn’t much of an improvement on disorder if any. It is as though we are making Dr. Benjamin into some sort of definer of us rather than a facilitator who learned from what we told him.
We existed in ancient times and in every culture. I perfer the term transsexual.
Now the argument can be made that it is tainted by association with sex workers. Yet long before the emergence of IFGE, NTAC and other Transactivist groups, sex work was often the only means of survival we had. It still is for way too many people.
By the same token isn’t the transgender argument for the use of transgender instead of transsexual based upon transsexual being the term of choice for so many trans* sex workers?
To me WBT, transsexual, post-op, woman of a transsexual history, classic transsexual all pretty much mean the same thing. They all mean that the person to whom those various terms are applied had an operation that changed their genital from those of one sex to another. All the other stuff is just window dressing that tries to hide the fact that having sex reassignment surgery is what defines us as transsexual.
Not having it and talking about gender as though it is more than clothing and mannerisms is a transgender thing, not transsexual. We don’t transition, we get sex change operations hence the term transsexual.