Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sharing Umbrellas?

In the US, some of the earliest human rights ordinances that were adopted (as early as 1975) treated trans within the definition of sexual orientation. Most later laws and ordinances have made a distinction. But that doesn’t stop some people from seeing “trans” as a sexual orientation.

Some will say that the LGBT “umbrella” (or (or "GLBT umbrella" for those who don't believe in "ladies first") is responsible for the problem. It's the "LGBT Umbrella" that creates the confusion - three "sexual orientations" coupled with "gender identity and expression." Of course, the reason for the inclusion of T (which always comes at the end in the four-letter versions), as well as I (for Intersex) and one or more Qs (for Queer and Questioning), is because all of these identities, orientations and expressions are not shared by the majority of people, who are Cisgendered, Cissexual, Conforming and Heterosexual.

There’s also a controversy about the "transgender umbrella," which has nothing at all to do with sexual orientation – but creates a great deal of agitation among transsexual separatists who claim they don’t fall within the shadow of that umbrella.

Unless it’s properly understood as being reflective of sexual minorities and not only sexual orientations, the "LGBT Umbrella" can create confusion - three "sexual orientations" coupled with "gender identity and expression."

And yes, the transsexual separatists do have a point – the “transgender umbrella” can be misunderstood. (In fact, the separatists themselves often misunderstand it.)

When I do one of my "Trans 101" lectures, I talk about "the binary of sex and gender" and explain that for most people, sex and gender are conflated - male is synonymous with man, and female is synonymous with woman. I also explain that in English, we don't really have good language to easily express the differences, so I use some terms as "terms of art" that take on a slightly unconventional meaning.

Then I start with four basic characteristics to break down sex and gender:

Gender Identity (GI)
Sex Assignment (SA)
Gender Expression/Social Role (GE)
Sexual Orientation (SO)

(You see, sexual orientation gets to be a part of sex/gender, but not the overarching thing)

Then I go with the "Either/Or" of the binary:

GI . . . Masculine . . . Feminine
SA . . . Male . . . . . . . . Female
GE . . . Man . . . . . . . . Woman
SO . . . Attracted . . . . Attracted
. . . . . . .to women . . . . to men

A bit over 90% of the population will identify as one or the other of these "either/or" columns.

Then I get into Both/Neither in each characteristic, bringing in bigender (GI), agender (GI), intersex (SA - for both *and* neither), alternate presentation (GE), mixed presentation(GE), neutral presenation (GE), attracted-to-both (SO), and attracted to neither (SO).

Then we go through how there is such a diversity of identities in that less-than-10% of the population.

Gender Identity and Gender Expression are Cisgender/Transgender characteristics. Sex Assignment is a Cissexual/Transsexual/Intersex characteristic, and Sexual orientation is a Heterosexual/Homosexual/Bisexual/Asexual characteristic.

It's clear to me that those with a reversed polarity in any of the characteristics, as well as those who are "both" or "neither" should be covered in human rights laws.

In a recent e-mail conversation I had with a Canadian trans-activist, I agreed that it is an error for the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition to include aboriginal two-spirit people *solely* under sexual orientation. Of course, just like everyone else, two-spirit folks do have sexual orientations, they also have gender identities and gender expressions, *and* sex assignments!

As to including "all gender-non-conforming people" as homosexual? That seems a *lot* like a retrogression to the 1960's and 1970's - when the public perception of "trans" was as a kind of "gay." I guess that there is a bit of education that remains to be done.

BTW, on the "transgender as umbrella" thing - if you were to take my little matrix, it shows that both those who accept the "transgender umbrella" and those who reject it, do have a point. Transsexual relates to "sex assignment," Transgender relates to "gender identity" and "gender expression."

But transsexual people, like gay people, don't live in a vacuum. Transsexual people have gender identity and gender expression as well as a sex assignment (or in some cases, a sex re-assignment). For someone assigned as "Or" at birth, having a gender identity that is "Either" is one of the bases for seeking a change of SA. (And part-time crossdressers are often "Both" in gender identity and thus don't seek a change of SA.)

A part of the problem with the way some transsexual separatists view the situation, is that they will focus exclusively on the sex assignment aspect of things, and will even deny the existence of “gender identity.” (And for some, I actually have to refer to “gender identity” as “sex identity” because they will claim “gender identity” doesn’t exist, or refers to the Butch/Femme scale, while taking the definition customarily associated with “gender identity” and calling it “sex identity.” This is, of course, a matter of semantics.)

I am a firm advocate of replacing the “skinner box” psychology-psychiatry-as-equivalent-of-alchemy-astrology idea of “Gender Identity Disorder” with a recognition of Harry Benjamin Syndrome, a medical condition, not a psychiatric one.

I am also a firm believer that people who are born with HBS never really belong in their original sex assignment, and are not really male-to female (MTF) but are Women Born Transsexual (WBT), or not really female-to-male (FTM) but are Men Born Transsexual (MBT). This terminology change would reflect the recognition that people with HBS develop in such a way that their BSTc develops with a characteristic neuronal density related to target sex, not birth-assigned sex, while the mullerian or wollfian duct system developed in accordance with birth-assigned sex (except for those individuals with an intersex condition that is not solely centered in the brain development). The existence of the studies related to the BSTc and the long androgen receptor gene goes a long way to establishing HBS as a reality. I also believe that there is a need for study of the causes of whatever it is that causes non-transsexual transgender identities – is it related to HBS, or is it a completely different phenomenon? Could there be situations where the long androgen receptor gene is only partly expressed? What does the BSTc look like for part-time crossdressers who indicate that they are expressing an inner “feminine identity?” We don’t have answers to questions like these, so we’re in a situation where there is a lot more gray area than one might like, regardless of whether one is a separatist or not.

The fact that there are some ostensibly-heterosexual part-time MTF crossdressers who have an organization that excludes gays and post-op transsexuals doesn’t mean they are the root of some vast “transgender conspiracy” even if the founder of that organization had poorly-conceived understanding of the nature of transsexuality. The fact that there are some who advocate in favor of destroying the binary of sex and gender for everyone (rather than expanding it so that it isn’t just a binary and includes everyone), does not imply that anyone who is not a post-op is a member of this straw-man “transgender conspiracy.” The fact that there are mentally ill and socially pathological people who also have a sexual fetish for opposite-sex articles of clothing does not make them representative of all people “under the umbrella” (and in fact, if these people do not have an “opposite” or “bi” gender identity, those folks are not really under the “transgender” umbrella in the first place), does not support the existence of a vast “transgender conspiracy.”

I can understand and appreciate the fact that there are certain aspects of “reasonable accommodation” to which post-ops should have easier access and recognition, by virtue of having undergone the surgical procedures, which should be recognized as prima facie evidence of entitlement, while those who are pre-op or non-op should have more hoops to jump and perhaps a degree less accommodation. There is a huge difference between this and a common transsexual separatist position, which is that surgery should be the bright line for everything. It is also hugely different from the “straw man” transgender conspiracy created by some transsexual separatists that supposedly advocates that surgery shouldn’t be a consideration for anything, and that everything should be based on identity alone. (And I am sure there are perhaps a few out there who fit the “straw man” definition – after all, there is a diversity among advocates, and some may well fit into the boogie-trans category, monsters waiting under our beds and in our closets. But a few extremists do not represent the entire “umbrella.”)

Some transsexual separatists claim that the inclusive “transgender umbrella” folks are invading their space and claiming that “we are all the same.” The first thing, is that there is not a person with HBS who does not fit into the “set” (set theory was taught to me in the 5th grade with “new math” and I have always found it fascinating) of “people whose gender identity is opposite that expected for persons assigned the sex they were assigned at birth.” That is a “set” that excludes anyone without HBS. But they’re also members of a *larger* set – that of “people whose gender identity is different from that expected for persons assigned the sex they were assigned at birth.”

With the set of “opposite” one includes only persons whose gender identity is opposite that associated with birth assignment. With the set of “different” one also *includes* those whose identity is bigendered or agendered as well as opposite-gendered. That’s the “transgender umbrella” by definition. The only people who aren’t under the shadow of that umbrella are the cisgendered cissexual people who form a large majority (larger, if we include non-trans folks who have a cisgendered cissexual identity while having heir differences in sexual orientation!)

The last thought brings us to the next – what about sexual orientation? It seems that many but not all WBTs who have an issue with the “transgender umbrella” also have an issue with the “LGBT umbrella.” Many but not all of these are heterosexual based in reassigned sex. Perhaps it’s because they, once having completed surgery, desperately want to be included with the Cisgendered Cissexual Conforming and Heterosexual majority, and they see anyone who thinks of them as falling within the minority umbrella (LGBT or transgender) as holding them back from recognition.

The fact is that those transsexual separatists, by aligning with an oppressor majority, attempt to currying favor with that majority by claiming that by virtue of surgery they’ve joined the majority – and it’s those others, those sexual minorities, who shouldn’t have rights. (And there are some who might be transsexual separatists in some regards, who are actually enlightened enough to understand that there are some shared rights.)

Some transsexual separatists who identify as lesbian or bisexual may not have a terrible problem with gay and lesbian people, but see the “transsexual umbrella” as keeping them away from recognition as cissexual, or at least cissexual enough to be accepted as cissexual.

Some of the loathing I see expressed toward “transgender” is aimed at those who are bigender. This phenomenon is very mucg similar to the treatment of bisexual people in some gay and lesbian circles.

It is perhaps axiomatic that people whose polarities are “opposite” bus still within the binary, might have a tendency to look askance as those who have an aspect that falls outside the “Either/Or.” A “Both” identity, orientation or expression, can be viewed badly by those whose desire is to assimilate. (And no one seems to want to bother even thinking about the “Neithers.” It’s as if they didn’t exist – but they do!) With those who are post-op, the assimilation is more acute by virtue of having undergone surgery to fit in, than it is with gays and lesbians who take this view, whose resort in seeking human rights is that “the only difference is in the bedroom” – thus showing a willingness to leave behind those who don’t look straight (or in the case of transsexual separatists, “pass.”)

There are some transsexual separatists who also see “passing” as a factor – they believe that non-passable folks with HBS perhaps shouldn’t have surgery, because they make the passable ones look bad. (There are not too many transsexual separatists with this uncharitable view, but I have seen it expressed).

And yes, there are those "transsexual separatists" who object to the *term* "transsexual separatist." This may be because the term "separatist" has an odious bit of semantic baggage, though they'll indicate that they're not "separate" at all, just "not transgender." (Which, of course requires different definitions of the terms from those communly understood.)

So, is it possible that people can set aside their differences and work together? Is it possible for people to recognize that the “transgender umbrella” does not imply that “we are all the same” but only that “we all share a single characteristic even though we are all different?”

Perhaps not - there will probably always be some who feel a need for separatism. I hope they are and remain a tiny minority. I do hope it is possible to respect the differences while still accepting the umbrella – by looking to our commonalities rather than solely focusing on our differences, we can get farther together.


  1. Very thorough and insightful. Genderqueer people, even more than bigender people, are disliked for our way of being transgender. Not only do we not fit into the Binary, we live violently against it.

    I surprised you didn't use the word "queer" as I think that sums up our differences. The TS "separatists" seeing queerness as bad, like the anti-trans cisgender do and want to escape it. The rest of us see queerness as good, neutral, or unavoidable.

    On a tangent, I dislike the WBT and MBT concepts because they inaccurately use gender. No one is born a woman or a man, we become them (or we don't). We are born gender neutral, assigned a gender by our community, and we may or may not embrace that gender. I'd say you have to at least be able to talk before you can tell whether someone's a boy or girl and woman or man come years later. Do you mean Female Born Transexual and Male Born Transexual?

  2. Thank you for your own insightful comment, Ephilei.

    I can't claim credit for the coinage of WBT/MBT, that belongs to Suzan Cooke (who will probably cite to a nameless FTM for the original concept). (Though I point out that I use the term slightly differently than the way Suzy originally intended.)

    Y'know, I am going to disagree slightly with your assessment. I do believe that some of us are "hardwired" to one gender identity, just as some of us are "hardwired" to one sexual orientation. And there are also some, perhaps more than we think, who are not hardwired. What we all tend to do is project how we ourselves feel about it onto the experience of others.

    There is the argument about nature v. nurture in so many things, not only in terms of personality development. I don't claim to have all the answers, though, what I have are hypotheses that seem (to me) to fit as much of the available evidence as I understand.

    I can fit "queerness" into my "Trans 101" matrix. When I get so much anecdotal evidence of both hardwiredness (as is my personal experience) and fluidity (as others relate), I come to the conclusion that both viewpoints are correct, but they don't apply universally. And that some folks are more "hardwired" than others. Indeed, one might try to explain "fluidity" as a form of "hardwired-both" froma hardwired context. (The best I can do in explaining hardwiredness in a fluidity context is something like "limited fluidity.")

    I don't see the John Money hypothesis (similar to the one you state) as holding water, as a universal. Money theorized that gender identity is not fixed until about age 2-1/2, and that it should be possible to raise a boy as a girl, or vice versa, if the intervention occurred soon enough.

    It did not work with David Reimer (John/Joan case). However, I have heard of a later study done, where it does work much of the time - which sort of supports my hypothesis that some are hardwired and some not.

    I see room for genderqueer people in my conception of the diversity of sex and gender. There is also room for classic transsexual people who do feel hardwired as I do. And for the classic sort of bigender identity that results in the periodic "need" for alternate gender presentation to "let out the inner girl." Which is one reason why I deplore the worst in separatism - we can all fit in, celebrating our differences as well as our commonalities.

  3. Good points. I fully disagree that gender identity comes from a combination of nature and nurture. But WBT and MBT implies (as I hear it) only the nature aspect ignoring possible nurturing affects.

    To be more clear, I would add another row to your chart. I would add "sex identity" or "body identity" meaning how we perceive our body's sex, the instinct that tells us we are male, female, or intersex. With that vocabulary, I completely believe that a TS has a body identity caused entirely by Nature and not Nurture (which totally separates me from Money). But born with a gender? No. Gender is completely socially constructed. What we refer to as "gender identity" I think varies slightly between people, but it falls somewhere between gender and body identity.

    In other words, I think you can be born with female instinct, but you cannot be a man or woman until your community teaches you want man and woman means (it varies among communities, after all). I hope that clarifies what I meant.

  4. I don't think I disagree all that much with what you just wrote - particularly when I suspect we may be using terms more, or less, as "terms of art" to one degree or another, with slightly different definitions.

    As I have been using it, "gender" as in identity is not completely a social construct, though gender expression/social role certainly is, and one can't evolve a gendered sense of social role or expression until one starts assimilating in society. But there are certainly situations where gender identity (or sex identity, if you must distinguish) will override the social role/gender expression that parents and society wish to impose on some poor transkid based on the blanket assigned at birth and the possession of the "outie" or "innie" as the case may be.

    Your thought regarding adding "sex identity" as a separate item is not bad. When I do my Trans 101 lectures I point out that there can be many other characteristics, but I don't go through all of the possibilities.

    Usually when I use the term "gender identity" I am including both the physiologically based and those psychological/sociological aspects that aren;t covered by expression/social role.

    So when I associate gender identity with nature, I'm referring to the genetic blueprint, embryonic development,things like "long androgen receptor genes" and their effect on development and identity, and even the ultimate development of neuron density in the BSTc (though that is more of an effect than a cause).

    Your way of setting it up by differentiating is different. I don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" in this.

    I'll give you an iconoclastic thought - even "sex assignment" {gasp} is largely socially constructed. (yes, there is a large physiological component - mullerian/wolffian development, BSTc, genetic and hormonal development, the shape of the 23rd chromosome "pair" (including variations there). The Catholic Church and the lesbian femininst separatists see sex assignment as based solely and irrevocably on mullerian/wolffian duct development without regard to genetic or other developmental factors. My take on it is that "sex identity" (using it the way you are) drives the vehicle, and should trump the mullerian/wollfian development when it comes to assignment - where those who can have the duct system altered to best resemble the correct results should certainly be entitled to the highest and best "reasonable accommodation" in a binary-based society, appropriate reasonable accommodation should be extended to all whose "Sex identity" is, well, "different."

    And that includes my friends born with ambiguous genitalia (example, having PAIS), who might well identify strongly as "neither" in terms of "sex identity" despite what surgical mutilation was performed on them at the time they were born.



  5. You just don't seem to get it, do you? You are just bound and determined to force those of us who vehemently object under your blasted "umbrella." Let me ask you this? How would you react if I insisted on calling you a man? Why, of course you would sputter and foam at the mouth, and get angry and scream about how I was not respecting your right to your identity, and how bad I was being, and on, and on, and on, and on... But, nevertheless, you insist that those of us who identify as HBS must accept the label of "transgender." And you base this on a completely faulty bit of logic that is downright insulting to us.

    Let me put this in very simple words that perhaps you can understand. The term "transgender" is a subjective one, that describes an artificial social and political construct that includes certain views and beliefs that are not shared by most of those can objectively be classified as "transsexual" or "HBS." Now, the term my have originated more as an umbrella term, but it has increasingly taken on the baggage of the deconstructionists, as well as those who vehemently object to the concept that one actually becomes a female (or male) by having sex reassignment surgery.

    Transgender is an identity that should only be applied to those who willingly adopt it. Forcing it on those who object puts you firmly into that class of people that I referred to as the "Gender Fascists." You demand that we join your merry band, even though we not only object, but find many of the views expressed under that label offensive.

    No, we are not trying to join what you refer to as the "oppressor majority," we are simply not willing to be oppressed by a minority of people that we disagree with.

    Please, try really, really hard to get a clue...and leave us alone. You will be far happier when you do.

  6. I could not agree more! Funny how if you use my words the way I would use them, it sounds exactly like what I would say!

  7. In response to Just Jennifer:

    First, thank you for sharing your deeply-held feelings here.

    There seems to be a lot of anger in your writing. There are transsexual separatists who indeed *do* insist on classifying me as a man, and (for lack of a better term) "transgenderist separatists" who would join with those NARTH idiots (NARTH people make *me* angry and upset) and insist on classifying *you* as a man (the "delusional mutilated male" POV - I assume you've heard that before, too). Don't confuse those people with the people who, like me, try to work on the common ground.

    I've had the New York Times call me a "man" in a poorly-written news story, so I know what it feels like.

    It isn't necessary for you to accept a label of transgender, particularly since you obviously use a different definifion of what the term means.

    If I were to insist anything, it would be that you respect the fact that your exclusionary definition of terms is not the only way of looking at things.

    Your "very simple words" make perfect sense, but only within the definitional structure you have adopted.

    If you read what I write with your definitional structure applied to it, it makes you angry. Of course it does.

    Look, not that I am going to convince you, but kindly calm down and read the following definition of the "set" of transgender:

    "The set of 'transgender' includes any one whose gender identity/sex identity is *different* from that expected based on the sex assigned to them at birth."

    This is the basis for inclusive legislation, such as New York's GENDA (I know because I wrote the first draft of that bill), that would cover the human rights of transsexual *and* other "transgender" people - anyone who is not cisgender/cissexual.

    "Gender expression" covers the above, and may include others if it were to be set up as "gender identity *and/or* expression." The formula is "gender identity *and* expression" though.

    Nothing about this changes your identity. It does not mean that other people grouped in the umbrella term for this purpose are in any way "the same" as you except for the single shared characteristic that you cannot intelligently or reasonably deny.

    To be sure, transsexual people fall into a quite identifiable subset of the set defined above:

    "The set of 'transsexual' includes any one whose gender identity/sex identity is *opposite* from that expected based on the sex assigned to them at birth."

    Two words were changed - transgender to transsexual to denote the set name, and "different" to "opposite."

    There is nothing in the "set theory" definitions used above that causes any insult to transsexual people - it is a simple inescapable fact that we are not cissexual and as much as we wish we were, the cards that we were dealt at birth precludes that. Any societal acceptance we get is a matter of "reasonable accommodation" in a world that has traditionally classified all of us based solely on our original sex assignment. Society is gradually changing.

    There is certainly a degree of "transsexual separatism" (without the militance) that can make sense - it's clear that even though "different" includes "opposite," that "opposite" is different from "different-but-not-opposite."

    Transsexual people need birth certificate changes and complete recognition of membership in reassigned sex for all purposes. This is more or different "reasonable accommodation" than one might expect for those who are "different-but-not-opposite."

    If you look carefully, my world-view can actually accommodate a calmer and less elitist version of yours. Yes, there are differences among people who fall under the umbrella under the definition I use and that is used in much "inclusive" human rights legislation.

    I have been exposed to separatist viewpoints for a number of years, and have explored them thoroughly. The extremist separatists, whether they are lesbian feminist separatists or transsexual separatists, do much more harm than good. Working together is a better idea - and mutual respect is a part of that. Denying the single common characteristic has no useful purpose.

    One more thought - I get the impression that you're associating "transgender" with "gender deconstructionism." While I have an issue with extremists in that area, too, I can fit a calmer and more reasonable version of people whose "different" means they feel *they* (not everyone) should be classified as "other." (I respect their needs for themselves, but I don't believe that those "needs" should be made applicable to you or to me.)

    If when you read this, you apply your definitions to what I am writing, you will still remain enraged and upset. There is really nothing I can do about it. It's not like we're going to be gathering in a circle around the campfire,, swaying from side to side, holding hands and singing "Kumbayah," is it? (I hope that last, at least, brings a smile.)


  8. Jeniffer,
    Whereas Joan and I were quibbling over semantics, you obviously have more invested in these words.

    You make some good points and "transgender" is a social construct. But that doesn't mean the definition is worthless.

    I would ask, what's so bad about the word "transgender"?

  9. Joann,

    Yes, I am angry. With good cause, I might add.

    Simply put, why would I want common ground with people who I share nothing in common with? Why should I want to identify with men who want to pretend to be women, where part-time (i.e. crossdressers) or full-time (i.e. so-called non-ops)? And please, don't tell me they have a "gender identity" issue just like me. That is an insult.

    And thank you for being so kind as to allow that I do not have to accept this identity.

    And my words are based on the common definitional structure of "transgender." In spite of rather silly attempts to make it something it is not, "transgender" is a highly subjective term. It has no objective meaning. Even its most ardent supporters cannot agree on exactly who should be included. That, effectively, renders the term meaningless as anything other than an identity that one might, or might not, adopt. It should never be used on anyone who has not previously agreed to be labeled as such.

    Now, as to your definition of transgender, it becomes a semantical game. What is "gender identity?" Is it a choice? Can someone choose to have a different gender identity? Is it inherent, or subject to environment? Does it equate to one's actual gender? Can you see the problems here? And how do we determine if one's claimed gender identity is "true?" What if somone lies about their gender identity? What if they are delusional? What is a drag queen's gender identity? What about a crossdresser? Your terminology is, effectively, subjective, and effectively worthless for any objective purpose. It is an extremely weak basis for any legislative purpose.

    And it is extremely insulting to refer to transsexuals as though they are automatically to be considered transgender. Many, perhaps most, transsexuals would diagree. Certainly the majority of those who are legitimately and objectively transsexual almost certainly would.

    Clearly, you are an avowed gender deconstructionist. For you, gender is something of an illusion, with no real basis. It is subject to the whims of the individual, and has no basis in biology. Of course, science has shown this view to be a load of crap, but that does not stop those who hold to this faith. No, we are not born gender neutral. That idiocy has been shown to be completely wrong. In fact, it is the very basis of discrimination against those with HBS. After all, people can say, "It is just a choice."

    Now, my view is not elitist at all. It is simply realistic. What you ignore is that the term "transgender" which has never had any real value, has been taken over by the extremists. You are so busy chanting "Can't we just all get along," that you are ignoring the fact that they are quickly dragging you down with them. They would rather go down glorious defeat than give up a single point. They will have birth certificate changes for all, or for none. They will have gender rendered meaningless, no matter who gets hurt. Sorry, but no thanks. My identity, and the only label I really welcome is "woman." Not "trans woman," just "woman."

  10. Ephilei,

    You ask what is wrong with "transgender?" That is simple. It is a misonomer. Gender does not change. It is immutable. Otherwise, the answer for transsexuals, or better, those who HBS, would be to change their gender, not their sex.

  11. You catch more friends with honey than vinegar.

    All words are subjective and no word has objective meaning. Including "transgender" and including everything you find in the dictionary. All words are created socially; they are not divine or biologically based. "Woman" included. I've thought a lot about how to define "woman" and "man" and my only conclusion is that there is no unifying principle. If you disagree, I'm always interested in reading on the subject. Humans are sloppy and our words are sloppy.

    So if I understand you, Jennifer, you're angry that transgender people, who are men who pretend to be women (and I presume you think transmen are women who pretend to be men), we trans people are saying you and us are in the same "club" but we're insulting you by associating us all together. If I understand you, you think you're better than us. Please tell me I'm wrong. I want to be wrong here.

    Also, would you define "gender" for us? I think your "gender" is my "sex-body identity" and Joan's "gender identity."

  12. Ephilei,

    Actually, words are not always subjective. For example, we can objectively define many things.

    I seriously doubt that the vast majority of humanity would have no problem defining "man" and "woman." Their definition would certainly offend most transgender activists, but I doubt that would bother most of humanity.

    Again, you use the concept of "elitism" as a smoke screen. No, not wishing to be identified as "transgender" does not mean I think I am better. It just means that I am not transgender. Now, why is that so hard to understand. And why do some have so much trouble with me not wanting to be part of their little group?

    And no, the definition of gender is both very simple, and totally different from what you suggest. It is simply a shorthand way of saying "sexual differentiation of the brain." You see, what we call "gender" is hardwired into our brains. It does not change, and it is not subject to choice. Gender expression is another matter. A man my choose to pretend to be a woman, or a woman may choose to pretend to be a man. Chances are, unless they are very skilled at acting, that they will fool no one. That, of course, is why so many transgender people end up whining about how they are treated, and why so many who are HBS simply transition and have their lives improve. And again, that has nothing to do with elitism, though it may speak to one's judgement.

  13. The following comments are primarily for Just Jennifer:

    I agree that the word “transgender” is used in many different ways, with different definitions. This is one reason I make clear which definition I have been using, and the contexts (such as in the legislative drafting process, where terminology is critical) in which it is used. The definition I provided is perhaps the most common one – with this definition, one separates transgender from cisgender clases. Transgender as a class, like non-heterosexual sexual orientation, is a kind of sexual minority.

    Semantics is not a game – it’s a branch of semiotics, a study that is all about meaning, and how we communicate and form common perceptions of phenomena that words describe. (If you want to read some interesting discussion of semiotic theory, I highly recommend Umberto Eco’s “Kant and The Platypus.” There are examples like Montezuma and the Horse, Marco Polo and the Unicorn, and the essay on the hypothetical confrontation of Kant with the idea of platypus.

    Gender identity is not a matter of choice, except within that subclass of “bigender” identity that is self-perceived by the individual as an experience of gender fluidity. (Read my discussion with Ephilei for more on how hard-wired and gender-fluid ifentities can co-exist.) In essence, though, the gender-fluid are “hardwired both” so even if they experience egender in a fluid manner, their identity is just as hardwired as yours or mine.

    It is not insulting to refer to transsexuals as automatically included in the definition of transgender I am using. The only people who can be “not-transgender” are cisgender/cissexual people. Essentially, if you are using the definition of transgender that I have clearly stated several times, and you claim to be “not transgender” it means you ar claiming to be cisgender/cissexual – which you clearly are not stating. Using the definition I have articulated, the statement that “one is transsexual but not transgender” is actually an impossibility.

    I don’t think that most transsexuals disagree with me, or agree with you. Certainly *I* agree with me. Most don’t get deep into gender theory, but prefer to just live their lives. Either of us could claim the “silent majority.” (And remember, even in my stated weltenschaung, transsexual as a subset of transgender is *still* easily distinguishable from other transgender subsets – I do believe that my viewpoint makes for a more robust way of looking at things. Those who are clearly and objectively transsexual are different from the other subsets, and there are differences between the other subsets, too. As I indicated, the single common characteristic is undeniable – else you’d be claiming to be cisgender/cissexual.

    I have to disagree with your characterization of what I've written as being "gender deconstructionist." I am not a fan of Judith Butler – Gender is neither an illusion or solely a performance (though there are certainly aspects of performance, they go with expression, not identity). It is unfortunate that you feel your argument is so weak that you actually have to characterize my point of view in this way.

    HBS is very real. There is a physiological basis fot HBS. (That doesn’t mean there isn’t a physiological basis for other transgender identities, just that there has not been sufficient scientific study in these areas.) Still, HBS is not something cisgender/cissexual.

    You’d be surprised how much I actually agree with you. Take birth certificate changes. People with HBS are going to want their birth certificates changed to match their immutable sex based on things like neuronal density in BSTc and the presence of the long androgen receptor gene (or whatever the equivalent study showed for MBT genetics), and surgery (though I reject surgery as the sole “bright line”). However, the gender deconstructionists are going to want to be able to change their birth certificates, too – to something like “other.” (The part-time crossdressers don’t want their birth certificates changed at all).

    Final thought – this entire message I have been using my definitions. Remember, if we use yours, your statements make sense. Ultimately, society will decide what viewpoint will prevail, and remember, there is likely to be a difference between the “dictionary” and “encyclopedia” version – and that may differe from the “popular concept.” Eco’s discussion of the way the platypus was differently classified and understood over the years is particularly apt. I have been planning on blogging something along those lines – I should get around to that sooner than later.

    Again, thank you for sharing – I may disagree with you but I see your viewpoint is worthy of sharing.


  14. Simply put, there is no definition of "transgender" that I willing to have applied to me, if only because the word is incorrect. I did not change my gender, nor is it really possible to do so.

    That said, the word "cisgender" thus ceases to have any real meaning, since by definition everyone is technically cisgender.

    Semantics itself may not be a game, but that does not stop people from playing games with semantics. That happens all too often.

    And "gender identity" is a term that is so subject to abuse that it has become effectively worthless. Anyone can claim any gender identity that they want. As you point out, "bigender" is imaginary. So is someone who spent, oh say, over 20 years in the military, serving as a man, with no problems, and then suddenly deciding they are "really" a woman, but "oh" they don't really need surgery, they are fully a woman with a penis, and don't they just look darling in their newly bought female uniform. (Yes, I have one such person in mind.) That sort of thing is a bad joke. If they were able to serve in such a capacity as a man, then they were never really a woman inside.

    Now, no matter how you define transgender, I'm not, and ever was. By any reasonable definition, since I have always been female in terms of gender, and remain female in terms of gender, then I suppose I would be "cisgender." But then, so would everyone else, since gender does not change. Now, depending on how one defines "cissexual" (oh brother, now we are entering the silly zone of made up words...) I may, or may not be. My gender and sex certainly match now, though they did not always.

    Now, transgender originally was meant to exclude transsexuals. I maintain that it is a misnomer, and one cannot really "trans" gender, but if one is going to insist on keeping that word, at least have the decency to leave out people who are clearly different. It is unfair to lump transsexuals, or better, people with HBS in with the others. I realize this is done in the name of the greater "good" of winning some imaginary rights for a group of people who can only be defined by behavior. A solid argument can be, and has been, made for transsexuals to have certain rights that cannot be made for the others. It is wrong for them to try to ride our coattails, and the end result will probably be harm to us, and nothing for them.

    Bottom line, using your definitions, my definitions, or someone else's definitions, I do not identify as transgender.

  15. Again, Jeniffer, can you explain your definition of "gender." You say, "using my definition" but you never say what your definition. I think that would make the conversation more productive for everyone.

  16. Actually, if you go back and read what I wrote you will see that I did give the definition of gender. Perhaps it is so simple you missed it.

  17. You did, thanks. I didn't see that entire comment. Could you elaborate? While I'm sure it seems self-explanatory to you (and I could assume it means what I think it means), why don't you be specific and make sure we're all on the same page? I'll withhold responding until then because I do what to understand you.

    Give me one word that is objective. The "closest" I can imagine would be a number, say 2, because what could be less subjective than math? Yet 2 has no meaning to someone who doesn't know English, which makes it subjective. Or is it the meaning, not the sound or letters, that makes a word a word? But where does that idea exist except in my mind and your mind, two individual places that exist in isolation (except for that sound and letters which we've dismissed). Again, 2 is subjective by definition. Further, if my friend owes me $2 and she gives me $1.99, I'll call that $2 and we're square. But if she goes to the bank, they'll define 2 differently. Or, compare the math of ancient cultures, some who had a concept of 0 and some who did not and you'll find different meanings of 2. Conclusion: all words are subjective. That does not make their meanings "imaginary" or worthless as you say. Best to accept it and move on.

    So you say that the majority definition of woman and mine are different. Exactly my point! There is no unifying principle behind them. It is subjective.

    I also want to emphasize that if you don't identity as transgender, I won't use the word on you. This isn't any reflection on my semantics but a reflection of my respect for you. Similarly, I have a good friend who's a genetic woman and attracted to women. She fits the definition of lesbian, but because she identifies as straight, I'll call her straight.

    When people call me gay (which I am not), it doesn't bother me because I don't see anything wrong with being gay. If I was insulted by that misunderstanding, it would probably mean I think homosexuality is beneath me. If you say you see me as your equal, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. But I hope you understand your words sound transphobic even if you don't think they are.

    Thank you internet, for giving me such distractions!

  18. I've reached the over obvious conclusion I'm spend too much time here. I won't be reading or writing any more replies.

    Jeniffer, I hope you know I do respect you and your thoughts are interesting to me. Both of us hold our ideas closely and strongly, so our disagreements are as much a commonality as a difference. I wish you the best.