Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Transgender Trouble

Like a lot of people who identify as having Harry Benjamin Syndrome, I object to the use of the label "transgender" to refer to me. While this is objectionable to those of us with HBS, it is also harmful to others who are included under the imagined "transgender umbrella."

One aspect of the so-called "transgender" paradigm seems to be that all people considered to be under the transgender umbrella are basically the same, with the only differences being a matter of degree. That is, the only "real" difference between a cross-dresser and a "transsexual" is the degree to which they feel their "gender discomfort." This of course is not remotely accurate.

Another aspect of the transgender paradigm is the belief in a sort of "transgender hierarchy." This view seems to hold that there is a ranking to the various types of transgender person. The most common such scencario holds that crossdressers are on the lowest rung, followed upward by transgenderists (people who live full time, but who do not desire surgery), then pre-op "transsexuals", with post-op "transsexuals" at the top of the heap. Other versions may include a broader group of catergories, such as differentiating between crossdressers, and "transvestites," which are defined as those who only have a fetishistic desire to crossdress, or drag queens.

All of this is silly enough, but it leads to view that is actually dangerous, the idea that one can "advance" up this hierarchy. Now, it is entirely possible that someone might misindentify as a crossdresser and actually be a "transsexual," just as it is possible that someone might identify as a "transsexual," but actually be a crossdresser. But this quickly become obvious. A person who is truly HBS is not going to remain comfortable with the concepts associated with crossdressing. If, for example, such a person joins a group like Tri Ess, they will quickly discover that they have nothing in common with others who identify as crossdressers. If they research the subject, they will soon discover that they do not relate to the ideas often expressed by crossdressers.

But, in other cases, a person who really is a crossdresser will decide, for various reasons, that they wish to pursue SRS. The problem with this, is that a crossdresser derives his desire to crossdress, and his pleasure, from the idea of being a male dressed as a woman. If he ceases to be a male, then he loses that. He may try to replace that with the idea that he used to be a man, and for some that works, at least for a while. But for many, as the truth sinks in, they become depressed.

The simple bottom line is, those who are happy as crossdressers should stay crossdressers. If they feel the urge to advance they should fight it at all costs. They will never be happy as women, no matter how much they may try to convince themselves otherwise.


Jackie said...

It's all so complex. You do a good job of explaining. Do you think Rene Richards was a cross dresser who opted for SRS and is now so regretful?

Just Jennifer said...

I have to wonder about Richards. If you haven't read it, try to find a copy of "Second Serve." It does, at the very least, raise some troubling questions. And in Richards' latest book, there is a lot of effort to justify what was done.

I am not a licensed therapist, so I am reluctant to diagnose anyone, but I believe there is a real possibility that Richards' made a mistake.

Jackie said...

I saw the movie "Second Serve" and she certainly had a BAD therapist.
I'll have to check out her new book. I am so glad that so much more is known and info is so available now. I do believe Trans people are getting more positive exposure and hopefully it will help folks understand the gender issues under that huge umbrella.

Just Jennifer said...

The movie does not containt the detail that the book does. And yes, Richards had some very bad experiences with therapists. The sessions with the psychoanalyst are very interesting. Traditional Freudians hate transsexuals because they cannot talk us out of it.

It is important for anyone considering surgery to have a good therapist. I was lucky enough to find someone with real experience. I also encountered one who was a disaster. She pushed me to move faster than I wanted to.

Surgery is a one way street. Once you go under, there is no turning back. I knew I was doing the right thing the day I had mine. In fact, when I walk up, I had no sense of time having passed, and I had a momentary panic thinking they had decided to not do it. Of course, that was silly, and I have never looked back.

Jackie said...

That was that wonderful anesthesia they give you, hon. : )

Yes, a one way trip for sure. It's so wonderful that this is all possible now. Just wonderful!

Nick K.D Chaleunphone said...

Wow, if this was a college level essay or thesis, I would give it a A+. Jennifer, that is very well written and very well said.

Courtney said...

I transitioned in 1979, and only recently learned what 'transgender' actually meant, when someone explained it to me. I do not like labels like this, and do not believe this one applies to me. I think a lot of other transsexual women would have trouble with it as well.

Nick K.D Chaleunphone said...

You may want to check out this site. Some transgender is making a joke about HBS people and calling them loonies.

Here's the persons website

wxhluyp said...

The essay doesn't seem to recognise the extent of the essentially nebulous nature of self identification, for example the psychological construction which can eventually produce the most severe of gender dysphoria out of the most inconspicuous of circumstances, even sexual fetishism.