Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What is the Transgender Crowd So Afraid Of?

Something interesting has happened recently. In several blogs, the topics of Harry Benjamin Syndrome and what is referred to has "transsexual separatism" have come under attack from "transgender" activists.

They are adamant that those who do not wish to be referred to as "transgender" have on choice but to accept this label, even hurling insults at those who object. They seem to fear the very idea that someone might not wish to be called "transgender."

What could possibly be leading to this behavior?

A lot of transsexuals have never been happy with being labeled transgender. There are several reasons for this. Some feel the term is inaccurate, as they do not change their gender. Others prefer to not be lumped in with groups they feel they have nothing in common with. And many are uncomfortable with certain ideas that are becoming associate with "transgender," such as "gender deconstruction," and the rejection of "binary gender."

And now, they have become vocal enough that the transgender activists have taken notice. And they are very upset. And it appears that battle lines are being drawn between what is becoming known as the "deconstructionists," and the "separatists."

One, particularly outspoken activists went so far as to refer to the separatists as "gender fundamentalists." That is particularly ironic. The "deconstructionists" are the ones who are clinging to outdated ideas, who reject scientific evidence, and who insist on forcing labels onto people.

What are they afraid of? Perhaps they fear losing some of their numbers? They certainly try to extend the definition of "transgender" to the point that it is almost meaningless. But, more likely, they fear the truth. I think they fear the public realizing that many of them are trying to subvert society. And I think they fear facing the truth about themselves.


Nick K.D Chaleunphone said...

I believe that they are afraid of being fractured and are clinging on to the old ideas. They are afraid of losing their base and core support.

I assume that they are afraid that intersex will become larger and that the transgender will relegate to a very small minority.

You are even right, they are afraid of losing their base and these transgender activist are branding anyone as a separatist.

Even me, I don't like being lumped with or being associated with the transgender and these transgender activist are branding them as separatist.

Joann Prinzivalli said...

Hi Jennifer,

In the Beginning

First, I thank you for posting messages to my blog, trans-cendence.blogspot.com

Second, I think your "Simpsons"-inspired blog picture is cute.

Third, as one with a "transsexual inclusionist" point of view, rather than a "transsexual separatist" point of view, I would like to clarify the nature of the issues involved in the discussion.


Your blog entry What is the Transgender Crowd So Afraid Of? misses the mark in terms of how it identifies those who are inclusionist.

1. Not all "transsexual" people are "transsexual separatists." There are quite a few, even post-ops, who are inclusionists. Having HBS, or being a WBT or MBT doesn't make one automatically separatist. Acceptance of the term transgednder in the "umbrella" sense as being inclusive, is not an indication that one believes all those who fall under the umbrella are in any way alike except for a single common characteristic.

2. "Gender deconstructionists" and the "Disciples of Virginia Prince" are two other and different kinds of separatism that are also deplored by the inclusionists.

a. Gender deconstructionism is sometimes adopted by "gendderfluid" or "agendered" people for whom the whole cissexual binary is irrelevant. Their form of separatism would destroy the binary, and as a consequence cause harm to cissexual people as well as people with HBS who feel they belong in the binary, just in the sex assignment opposite that originally given. Not all genderfluid or agendered people want to destroy the binary, many are inclusionist.

b. The "Disciples of Virginia Prince" form of separatism sees people with HBS as deluded members of their original sex assignment for whom surgery is really inappropriate. This is often a "straw man" hurled at inclusionists for some reason by TS separatists who don't want to engage in a real discussion, but there really are VP disciples out there, some of whom can be found in organizations like Tri-Ess, though not all crossdressers are adherents to that philosophy, and agood number of them, like people with HBS, are inclusionist.

3. Monica Helms, who appears to have coined "gender fundamentalist," is also an inclusionist, and not a deconstructionist or a VP disciple.

4. Some post-ops believe that by having had SRS they become fully entitled to be classified as female; to them SRS is the ultimate divider betwen "us" and "them" and they see SRS as the boundary of womanhood for people who don't fit into their birth assignment. The fallacy is that this isn;t an entitlement; SRS does not make us cissexual, nothing can do that. All we can do in a cissexual world is "all that we can do" to try to conform our bodies to the assignment that matches our identity. Not all *can* have SRS - and it's inappropriate and inaccurate to claim that anyone who can't have it just doesn't "really" want it.

5. The thing is, those with HBS who are medically unable to have surgery (like me) find it disheartening to be accused of being "men" because we still have the visible birth defect. It is disheartening to be labeled "transgender" when the labeler means something very different than "a person whose sex identity does not match that which is expected on the basis of birth-assigned sex." (Which definition, BTW, would include all post-ops, some intersexed people (those who feel birth assignment was wrong, but not those who feel birth assignment was correct), as well as bigendered (but not fetishistic) crossdressers.)

6. "Transsexual separatists" in thei exclusion, seek an exclusive status. Inclusionists recognize that there are real differences in the need for "reasonable accommodation" and that persons with HBS have real needs for legal accommodation that are often different from, but not incompatible with, the legal accommodations that are required for basic human rights for the wider non-cissexual community.

There we go, perhaps "non-cissexual" might be a better umbrella term?

Just a thought.


Just Jennifer said...

No, Joann, not all transsexuals object to being called transgender. But a significant number do. And while yours is one interpretation of the umbrella, it is not the only one, nor is it the one pushed by the more outspoken activists. Many wish to speak of a spectrum, implying that transsexuals are just some sort of advanced crossdressers. Some even speak of people "growing" from crossdresser to transsexual.

Actually, many of those who push inclusionism also push deconstruction. They wish to see "gender" done away with. Or so they say. I honestly believe most of them would actually be very unhappy if they succeeded.

At one time, what you say about 'deconstructionists" being mostly gender "fluid" (aka, gender queers, as well as other terms that I would prefer not to use) was largely true, but that view has begun to become popular with many of the activists.

And yes, Helms seems to have moved squarely into the "deconstructionist" camp where she joins others, such as Kate Bornstein and Dallas Denny. They all push the idea that SRS should be unnecessary. It is kind of ironic when people who have had the surgery feel that way.

Virginia Prince is a bit of a kook. It is ironic that he actually coined the term "transgender" as a highly exclusionistic term. It is also kind of ironic how many Tri-Ess chapters try to be more inclusionist.

I'm sorry, but I disagree with you about what SRS can do. For many, that is exactly what it does. That is what we are talking about. We want to leave our pasts behind, and have a normal life. Now, I realize for some, that is not what they want. They want to be transgender. They find some pleasure in the idea that they are men who became women. I, and many others, do not. And we truly resent those who try to deny us that. And the "not all can have SRS" is at the heart of this discussion. Anyone who truly needs SRS can and will have it. It is not a matter of can, or cannot. It is a matter of how badly do you need it. That is what angers me. When people say things like, "Well, I would if I could," they belittle the efforts of those who struggled, suffered, and did without to have SRS. I actually got lucky. I got a job where the insurance covered my surgery. My alternative was going to be to find a job that would pay enough to save towards SRS. Ironically, from the time I got the job, until sometime after my surgery was completed, I only made what I planned to live on while saving for surgery. I really gained nothing by having the insurance. I now make more than twice what I started at.

But what is interesting, is that out of about six people I worked with who might have had the surgery, only one did. The rest either were not interested, or else made excuses. It would have cost them almost nothing, but they turned it down.

And the claim that one is medically unable to have SRS is highly doubtful. I know many who make that claim, but like cost, it is usually an excuse. In the past, people were turned down for medical reasons. That is rarely, if ever a permanent bar to surgery if one really wants it.

I'm sorry, but those of us who want out from under the umbrella should have our wishes respected. We are harmed by inclusionism, and quite frankly, we are tired of it.

Joann Prinzivalli said...

Thanks for your response to my comment, Jennifer. It gives me a better-nuanced picture of your thought processes, and position on the question of "transsexual separatism."

I grant that some people have different ideas about what it all means being "non-cissexual."

A lot of those folks who see the concept of there being a spectrum that would make a transsexual person into some sort of "advanced crossdresser" really don't understand what a spectrum would involve.

The colors in a prismatically created spectrum are separate colors, but have fuzzy edges. The infrared is far different from the ultraviolet, and each of the colors in between are similarly different, though neighboring colors are closer to each other along the blurred edges.

In the so-called "transgender spectrum," the infrared of bisex-identified crossdressers would be very, very different from the ultraviolet folks with HBS.

I don't share your cynicism about people who can't have surgery only claiming that they can't, particularly because I am not just making excuses. In my case, I can afford it - I have the money already saved up. Part of my cumulative problem may well be temporary. I am looking into having a lap-band done (a form of bariatric surgery that seems to be most promising). This might deal with both my binge-eating-disorder-caused morbid obesity and my not-terribly-well-controlled type II diabetes. It won't help with the heart situation, but if I can get under 210 pounds (which seems to be every surgeon's magic number), I can at least get considered.

On the other hand, I am sure that there are people who merely claim they can't have surgery when in reality they don't want it or don't feel the need. They might feel that they have to appear to "want surgery" to be "real."

That isn't so far from those who, surgery complete or not, go through great pains to establish that they were really intersex, that the surgeons found internal evidence of partially developed Mullerian ducts, or something like that, in an attempt to legitimize themselves as "intersex." As if having HBS isn't enough. While some of them are trying to legitimize themselves, others really are telling the truth.

Personally, I think that those of us who are non-cissexual should give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their personal stories, as long as they don't adversely impact us.

Perhaps that might well be one aspect of our disagreement.

Perhaps it comes down to the old optimist/pessimist thing illustrated by the half full/half empty glass of water.

I think we are more harmed by any kind of separatism than we can be by a properly-nuanced kind of inclusionism - but I can see that "reasonable minds can differ." This appears to be one of those situations where we are just going to disagree.

Be well.


Nick K.D Chaleunphone said...

That's how I see it also. I am seeing many transsexuals out their trying to legitimize the fact that they make the claim their their intersex even though they are really transsexual to begin with.

To me, it seems that are many transsexuals out their are using the intersex name and intersex label as a shield and an excuse for why they are transsexual. It's sorta like the transsexual community is scape goating the intersex community and label for their own perverted gain or perverted use.

Just Jennifer said...

Well, the fact that people misunderstand the idea behind a spectrum is one reason I reject that analogy. The other is simply that there is not a spectrum. To speak of a spectrum still assumes a certain commonality that leads to the error you speak of. There really is NO relationship between crossdressing and HBS/transsexualism. And there is really no relationship between other aspects of transgender and HBS.

Now you mention weight problems. That is a classic example of the sort of excuse that people use. I had to lose weight to have surgery. Fortunately, my doctor did not hold to a rigid 210 criteria...I was slightly above that, but I did have to lose weight, and I had to get my diabetes under control. The difference is are you willing to try? Some aren't.

And yes, I know some who make questionable claims of being intersexed. That is silly.

And I have to disagree. The needs of those who are HBS/transsexual are considerably different from the needs of crossdressers, whether full or part time. People pushing for changing birth certificates without surgery, for deconstructing gender, and other extremes only insure that we will fail if we align with them.

ganja said...

DO you have scientific proof that the CD, TV, and Andro are not also affected by a IS condition...

The point that HBS is heavly attacked is because it states that TS/HBS individuals are directly related to IS conditions, whereas all others in the TG population are not, and IT does so with no Scientific Proof...

Just Jennifer said...

There is plenty of scientific evidence that HBS has a physical basis. There is no evidence to support such a claim for crossdressers, and other variations of "transgender." Now, I will grant, the absence of evidence is not evidence that there is no such connection. But, for that reason, it is also considered dishonest to demand that someone prove a negative. All that can be said at this time is, there is no basis to assert that TG in any form has a physical basis. Until there is, it will have to remain an open question at best.

MamaR said...

Just to add a medical condition which many surgeons are not willing to work with you on. Malignant Hyperthermia is a condition which saw me turned down by many surgeons I corrisonded with. Everything was set until that was mentioned then they had a chance to look it up and learn about it.

Fortunately I did find a more then competent surgeon who was willing to work with me. I gave him the medical contacts and information he would need, then he and his team practiced a week before I was to arrive and had on hand the antidote should it be needed at no extra cost unless used.

So yes I agree I think in most cases most medical conditions can be over come but I would not be surprised to learn of some that could not or of surgeons afraid to try.

Joanne Proctor said...

HBS people claiming back the voice that has been stolen from them for years. As a writer and media commentater, one of the few ex HBS who has media acess, I say watch this space. There is more to come.


Dallas Denny said...

Actually, I have argued pro-choice in the matter of surgery. I believe my position has been represented in the comments above.

Surgery is certainly necessary for many of us, myself included, but no one should be required to sign up for it to get say hormones, which happened often in the past.

I remember one person on the AEGIS hotline back in the early 1990s who burst into tears when he learned from me that he did not have to have SRS in order to live as a woman.

Just Jennifer said...

Sorry, buy that is simply a straw man argument. Denny may have argued "pro-choice" with regards to surgery, but Denny has also argued that surgery should not really be necessary. I did not say that Denny said surgery should be banned, just that it should be viewed as unnecessary.

And since hormones serve a diagnostic purpose in some cases, I see no reason to deny them. However, I also do not believe they should be on demand. They can have serious, and eventually permanent side-effects. There should be some evaluation before they are presribed.

flow said...


i agree. if you want it enough, you'll get it, in whatever way you can.

the day before my surgery i was given a vision - it was of a family playing on the beach. Children, a mum and a dad. the vision made clear to me i'd lose this if i had surgery. it was all i'd ever really wanted, with one caveat. if i had to be the dad, i'd be in a constant state of pain, of being wrong. I had surgery. i lost the future family and it hurt, but 10 years later i'm still alive and happier than i've ever been.

i don't think the TG borg have any comprehension of what it is to be in the wrong body. if they did, they'd not be TG, they'd do whatever it was they had to do to set things right.

so why are they so afraid of TS claiming their own identity? i can only speculate. perhaps their claim to commonality with us boosts their ability to deal with the psychological stuff they are going though, adds legitimacy to their gender confusion / games / fetishes ? certainly, us establishing our distance would take that support away. they'd have to face up to the reality of their situation, then. that must be a frightening thing, as society trains us to dislike the peculiar. they must have a high degree of internalised phobias.

we've established legitimacy for ourselves. helped by the way we are in society. we recognise and fit into normal life. without a claim to our legitimacy, would the TG groups feel less safe? unprotected?

be nice if one of them would answer, but i've asked many times, and all i get is evasion.