I just came across this Manifesto first published in 2002 by Cathryn Platine, and requested permission from her to rerun it.
The historical revisionists would have you think that there was a time when transsexuals, transgenders, drag queens, heterosexual transvestites and fetishistic panty-wankers cheerfully gathered together under this one umbrella and sang Kumbyaa together.
Except I don’t ever remember that utopian era. Instead I remember transsexuals and transgenders (drag queens and heterosexual transvestites) always going their own separate ways.
Cathy published this at roughly the same time (within a year or so) of Tina and I coining “women born transsexual”.
Cathryn blogs at: http://radicalbitch.wordpress.com/
by Cathryn Platine
It’s easier and more understandable to non-trans folks to refer to all of us with a blanket term, but in reality, transgenders (TGs and CDs) and transsexuals (TSs) are about as similar as gays are to lesbians and for largely the same reasons……..basic core identity issues. While coalitions are possible and even desirable when talking about having enough numbers to get a foot in the political door, if the identity differences are soft pedalled, someone gets their needs tossed out. In order for coalitions to succeed, the needs of all must be considered. Why transsexual separatism? Trans-everything gets defined as people who transgress the gender expectations of their individual birth sex. Sounds ok, but it’s like saying that gays and lesbians are essentially the same because they are attracted to the same sex. It’s true, but if you stop there you’ll never understand the issues between the two. Further, this relatively new term, “transgender(ed)” as a blanket term is just plain inaccurate when applied to transsexuals. Gender is fixed at birth for most people, it is the internal sense of who you are in regards to male or female and transsexuals know what their gender is. They don’t “trans” or cross gender, it is a constant from birth on and the reason why they are driven to change their bodies; to match their gender. They are transsexuals because they “trans” the sexual characteristics they are born with. If you aren’t driven to make this match, you aren’t transsexual. If you are, you aren’t transgendered.
With transfolks there are many different flavours. Males and females who self identify as such but transgress gender norms, males and females who do not readily identify as either and males and females who identify as opposite of the gross anatomy of birth sex. They are not all the same thing, obviously.
The same dynamics apply as anywhere males and females are grouped together with a few new wrinkles. Because transsexuals in particular are dependant on the medical community for treatment (hormones and surgery), we’ve been forced to dance to the tune the doctors and shrinks played and the prices were quite high at times. Like gays and lesbians, crossdressers, transgenderists and even bi-genders can avoid having to jump through the hoops of professionals. It’s very difficult (not impossible) for transsexuals to do so. Gays and Lesbians can be open and out and still keep it from poor Aunt June or Uncle Ray who couldn’t handle having their world rocked. The only way a transitioned transsexual can avoid being out to *everyone* is to avoid totally those from their pasts, family and friends, they don’t wish to know. Crossdressers and transgenderists can play cross gendered games all weekend and return to straight jobs and middle class neighbourhoods on Monday morning. Transsexuals face a lifetime (increasingly more likely in our security conscious post 9-11 world) risk of exposure and overt, often perfectly legal, discrimination and harassment.
Transsexual needs are for basic tools of living others take for granted. Without proper ID, we are denied jobs and housing. Even with proper ID, background checks or even medical records expose us. Some states won’t issue amended/new birth certificates meaning every time you have to show one such as just to get a driver’s license, you are outed and your basic identity questioned. Even moving from another state with all the other papers in order doesn’t change this.
Civil servants and total strangers feel free to question and discuss the current state of your genitals once they learn you are transsexual. Can you imagine how embarrassing and insulting this is? Done to anyone else it would be an automatic sexual harassment suit, done to us, it’s standard procedure and even considered their right to do so. In order to get an official box checked (f) or (m) you are asked to provide proof of surgery and sometimes even that proof is questioned. Years down the road, when your life issues should be settled, over and done with, these sorts of things will jump up and remind you when you least expect it that you don’t really belong and never will no matter what you do. That you will always be considered a freak of nature by some.
Crossdressers and most transgenderists do not face these issues, just transsexuals. Transsexuality is a neurological, pre-natal form of intersexuality. At minimum, the central nervous system of transsexuals is at odds with the birth genitals. Quite often recent discoveries show other intersexual traits are present as well. Cross-dressing is a behaviour, transsexuality is a physical birth condition.
Why separatism? From the 60’s until recently, transsexuals were told to invent new pasts for themselves, deny their transsexuality, avoid other transsexuals and blend in with society as the price for the needed medical intervention. If your orientation wasn’t 100% white bread hetero, you’d often be denied surgery. If the doctors thought you’d fail to conform to the image THEY had of male and female, you could be denied. Male to female transsexuals were “flunked” by therapists for such things as wearing jeans rather than skirts even once to a therapy session. Abuses of gender role policing by gate-keeping “professionals” were more the norm than the exception until recently. As a result, the majority of transsexuals never had the chance to develop a community among themselves and now, today, find any attempt to do so is met with strong resistance by non-transsexual transgenders and they are labelled “elitists” or worse. This is why a “gender community” is a myth. This is why transsexual separatism, for how can we present a united front within a greater community if we haven’t even been allowed to develop our own first? When this “community” denies us our own identity so strongly in their, mistaken, idea of unity?
The very fact that transsexuality is a medical condition requiring our dependence on the medical (and psychological) professions which enslaved us is now being used against us because of a perception by non-transsexual transgenders that it confers a legitimacy on us they wish (without paying the price naturally) to coattail. The result is we’ve steadily lost what little legal ground we had gained as the “transgender” movement becomes more visible in the form of a steady judicial backlash.
Transsexuals, even those who’s birth certificates were changed, can no longer marry anyone with sure knowledge that the marriage won’t be considered invalid when it’s convenient to do so by ANY third party. The implied promise of the past that blending in, hiding, denial of past history in exchange for a “normal” life has been repeatedly broken by the courts recently. Our needs for the most basic tools of daily living are frequently jettisoned at the drop of a hat by our “allies” as a bargaining chip. Our merely pointing out our differences and different needs is greeted by self appointed “sisters and brothers” with hatred that often escalates to sometimes vicious harassment we don’t even get from the outside! Gay men often tell transsexual women that we are gay men in denial. Radical lesbian separatists label us “agents of the patriarchy” and that our biology is our destiny in an interesting reversal of the original feminist battlecry and have been known to join forces with the extreme right to deny even inclusion in the ADA. Janice Raymond did this with Jessie Helms. Our history co-opted by gay historians. We are denied the most basic tools of survival, often lose everything and everyone we hold dear when we transition, often cannot get even burger flipping jobs while holding college degrees, bear the brunt of homophobia since we are more likely to be identifiable as “queer” and yet are pointedly and repeatedly excluded from legislation such as ENDA nationally and SONDA here in New York. Being thrown out of our own families and denied contact with our own children is the norm, not the exception. Trans-children have been ripped away from supportive families by social agencies and subjects of years of extremes of behavioural modification to get them to renounce their gender identity.
Transsexual issues often boil down to life and death. The decision to transition is often exactly that. Having chosen life, we are then denied the tools to continue and have our very identities highjacked, denied and ridiculed, often the most strongly by those claiming to be our allies. Coalitions are possible, but only if we transsexuals are allowed to first find our own voice and to own our own identities. This is why transsexual separatism is necessary. Let my people go, we aren’t you. We can work together, but not until transgenders learn give us the simple respect of our lives.
copyright 2002, Cathryn Platine. All rights reserved. This page may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any electronic or print media without the express written permission of the copyright holder.