The resistance to assimilation to the collective identity presented by Transgender Inc. is not a new phenomena, nor is it simply the product of a few disgruntled post-transsexual women who are “elitists’.
If we struggle with anything it with finding words to describe our lives after the whole hoopla of SRS and transition has become ancient history.
Mostly we leave transgender nation become assimilated into the ordinary world.
The following piece was written in 1994.
It is republished here with permission of its author who has requested anonymity. I consider this to be of historical significance as it articulates our early resistance to erasure by Transgender Inc.
( With Reservation )
Do you use the word “transgender” without thinking?
[ originally published, 1994 ]
There is something going on. A subtle change, fundamental and insidious. Transsexuals are now being referred to as “transgendered”.
If you are a transsexual, be afraid Be very very afraid. It is social engineering disguised as political correctness.
Like most social engineering, the intent was not necessarily evil.
Transgendered was a word created to describe any individual who appeared to fill the opposite gender role of the one more typically associated with the sex of their birth. This nebulous term encompassed a broad range of conditions, from fetishistic cross-dressing (otherwise known as transvestism), to transsexualism.
Some of the behaviors typically associated with these conditions may be quite similar in appearance and manifestation, and so the term transgendered indeed applied. However, they are dramatically different in causation and degree, and so the original terms would be necessary for clarification. It is the typical structure of scientific classification wherein all humans are primates, but not all primates are human. All transsexuals are transgendered, but not all transgenders are transsexual.
Such was the intent, and it probably never would have impacted the life of any transsexual at any time, save for being used in a therapist’s file as an initial diagnosis. It does not bear the obvious ramifications of immediately diagnosing one as transsexual, and yet, at the same time, it is a term more kind and gentle than Gender Dysphoric. Again, it probably would not have affected the life of any transsexual, but something happened somewhere. Now it not only affects the life of an individual transsexual, but it threatens to impact the very future of all transsexuals.
What happened was that individuals outside of the scope of social sciences began using the word transgender indiscriminately.
Originally it was all quite harmless on the surface, and even remotely benevolent. These people were no doubt well meaning. This neat new term gave them a large box into which they could quite nicely fit everyone who did not fit elsewhere. It made them feel good, socially progressive. It also meant that they did not have to tax their minds and their sensibilities by sorting out all of those bizarre folks.
No more discomforting thought of a man wearing women’s underwear beneath his business suit, or the mental gymnastics required to wrap around the concept of a woman in a man’s body (or a man in a woman’s body). No, all of those people were simply transgendered, and that was that.
Worse, many transsexuals became warm and fuzzy with the word themselves, and for the exact same reasons. Some may have also felt that it was a tip of acceptance being extended, and they had best grab onto it while it was being offered. To do anything less would be…. well, impolite. The offering should be accepted gratefully by the affected minority from the gracious all-powerful hand of the majority.
The majority is saying that, on the one hand, you are separate from us, but, on the other hand, you are equal to us. There is no polite way to argue with that sentiment.
This insidious tool of manipulation may have led to African Americans continuing to endure a prolonged period of social inequity. However, more than that minority, it proved wholly crippling to Native Americans.
They were sent to reservations. They were given the freedom to preserve their culture and their ways as much as they wanted, only not in “our” backyard– the white people’s backyard– a yard which grew progressively larger every day. It was kind of like this for the Native Americans: existence is preferable to extinction, and assimilation is not an option. As a result, acceptance as a human being came with a very high price tag; it was acceptance with grave reservations.
About the same time the word transgender was being applied indiscriminately (not yet social engineering but simply mildly benevolent bigotry), a different movement was underway. It was the movement to remove the word “sex” as the overhead classification of the terms male and female. That is, male and female would become terms descriptive of an individual’s gender, not their sex. Sex as an identifying term will eventually slip into extinction through disuse.
This will affect many words. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has far reaching, and largely unintended consequences.
This is how words work through social progression. We can’t get rid of the stereotypes associated with a word, but we can get rid of the word. African Americans have gone through many such evolutions. At one time, being called a Negro was seen as socially progressive. It was much more preferable than the alternative. Words that may offend the sensibilities of people today were simply the words of progressive usage yesterday. Perhaps we can’t change the world, but we can change the word.
Transsexual is a word about to be changed. It (along with others words containing the word “sex”) is about to become extinct through planned disuse. Political Correctness may be the term being used to describe the pressure that will lead to that extinction.
Ideally, the “transsexual community” should not even exist at all as a static group. It should be a “revolving door”, a community through which individuals pass only briefly on their way elsewhere (that is, to an assimilated life as the sex opposite that of their birth). The “transsexual community” is a way station, a processing point, an encampment for sexually transient refugees. It is the Ellis Island of the sexes. It is a community unlike any other, and it is certainly not a destination in and of itself. I don’t think anyone aspires to be a transsexual. They aspire to live as either a male or a female, and they accept being labeled a transsexual for a period of time as a part of the process.
To accept the label “transgendered”, however, is to accept a permanent place, a reservation, if you will, a territory graciously given to you in which you may freely dwell. It is a territory that is different, apart, and separate from the two sexes, and regardless of what anyone says, it is certainly not equal.
Once a person has declared themselves “transgendered”, claiming this label for their own, they have accepted a social contract which is not breakable and non-negotiable. They have forever joined a static community in which they will live for the rest of their lives. They will not live as a female, they will not live as a male. These social locations and their associated neighborhoods have become out of reach, beyond the pale. Instead of living as a man or a woman- that which a person has labored so hard to achieve –the transgendered will, instead, live under a roof which has been handed to them. To do anything less would be… well, rude. After all, you have been given a name and a place in this world — with the footnote, of course, that you certainly cannot have our place. Individuals who accept such an offer may have a place to live life a little more easily, but they may also have reached the end of their journey.
This may be fine for some. There are transsexuals who are incapable of assimilating into life as the sex opposite that of their birth. They may have painfully obvious physical limitations which may impede or prevent their assimilation. They may also have mental and emotional obstacles as well. To these individuals, signing the social contract and accepting the Transgender Territory is a blessing. They have found a place in which they may eke out a life unburdened by the rules and struggles that apply to either sex (it also should be noted, however, without having any hope of ever being equal to them).
There are others who live in Transgender Territory too. Transsexuals who prefer being known as such, who are outrageous, or notorious.
Still others, who could have lived a life as the sex of their choosing, but who were called out, either by their own choice or by circumstances beyond their control. Renee Richards, for example, after coming out as a transsexual to her friends and associates, and then going back into society as a woman, came back out again into the spotlight as a woman tennis player, one with quite a sensational past.
This was her own choice. To fight for something that she believed in required that she sacrifice one of the very things that she sought to achieve- her privacy -and we owe her a debt of gratitude. Another example is Caroline Cossey, otherwise known as Tula, who was outed by circumstances beyond her control. She is a beautiful woman, and she no doubt would have enjoyed a very successful modeling career as such.
However, after being so publicly outed by someone who wanted only a sensational tabloid story, she became less of a beautiful woman, and more of a beautiful sexual curiosity. This is very unfortunate, and surely not what she wanted when she began the process.
I refuse to accept the “Transgender Territory”. Make no reservations for me in that name. I am a transsexual, and I am that only for a while. I am one who has crossed the ocean between the sexes, and I have already staked my claim. I have assimilated into a greater territory, a broad expanse of land defined only by myself. I have a life as the sex opposite that of my birth. I have worked hard to make it work, and like a settler coming to this country 200 years ago, I may not have been born here, but I have no intention of ever giving it up. Nor should you, at least, not without knowing exactly what you are surrendering, how you are surrendering it, and what you are accepting in return.
You can live as a male, you can live as a female, or you can live as a transgender. There are no other options. By accepting the label of transgendered, you are surrendering the very way of life that you have worked so hard and fought so hard to achieve. Neither male nor female, you will live in a separate territory apart from both, forever becoming a part of a static community. In addition, this territory is composed of many different “tribes”, from fetishistic crossdressers and transvestites to drag queens, not all of whom you may feel comfortable being closely associated with. It is important to remember that the married heterosexual male transvestite who spends perhaps a few days a month in women’s clothing is given “transgender territory” right along with the transsexual. An Apache and a Cherokee may be quite different, yet to the general population, they are both simply American Indians (much to the dismay of both, I’m sure). A transsexual and a transvestite are equally different, yet to the general population, they are both simply transgendered. There is no difference.
As a transsexual who accepts a place in “transgender territory” you surrender your unique identity, along with the entire path you have taken to reach it. Simply ponder the educational task that lies ahead when the word transsexual eventually becomes extinct through disuse.
You accept this social contract simply by claiming the term transgender to describe yourself. It doesn’t matter whether it is on your website, your business card, or used as your preferred term of social reference. By doing so, you forever accept your place in “Transgender Territory”. My fear is that you may be doing so without thought, without reservation. It may seem more socially acceptable to you than transsexual. If so, then you have already been socially engineered, adapted to fit the new age of political correctness.
Quite frankly, if you wish to live a normal life as the sex opposite that of your birth, then you are a transsexual. It’s as simple as that. Use the word, hold the word, embrace the word. Do so for as long as you feel necessary. It represents a “revolving door community”. It is your Ellis Island. Then, if you wish, move on.
Assimilate into the life of the sex opposite that of your birth.
Live as a male, live as a female, but live.
Here is the bad news: I fear that regardless of what you may do, the word transsexual will effectively become extinct through disuse within our lifetime. It will become as dusty and as brittle as other words that you may be able to remember, but rarely, if ever, use. Some descriptive words should be allowed to drift from common usage through social pressure. They bear stings, negative associations, and bad memories. Negro, Colored, Red Man, Yellow Man, Mongoloid, Retarded, etc. These were all socially progressive and perfectly acceptable words in their time. I, for one, do not believe that the word “transsexual” belongs in such company. Yet even so, I am equally confident that it will eventually join them. The best that you can do is simply delay its demise.
I have no prejudice, no axe to grind, and nothing to gain. I have close friends who use the word transgender prolifically. It is not a “bad word” (although when I don’t know someone’s category of sexual identity I prefer to simply use the initial “T” to describe them). I am not on a personal crusade, and I do not want any recognition. If you are a transsexual, I simply want you to think before you use the word “transgender”. If you don’t have a reservation about using it, then, in a matter of speaking, you may end up living on one.