by Ronald Gold
What is transgender? Well, there are two sorts who seem to be covered by the name, the drag kings and queens so good at portraying cartoon imitations of straight people, and transsexuals, the folks who report that from an early age they've felt themselves trapped in the wrong bodies. Despite the equipment they were born with that belies their assertions, they say they are really men or really women.
What does it mean to be really a man or a woman? Since it's not about genitalia, it must be about personality, and what, one asks, is a male or a female personality? Even straight people nowadays concede that some men are the warm, loving type that used to be thought exclusive to women, and some women are the strong, action-oriented sort that used to be thought exclusive to men. And lesbians and gay men have always known that people of the same gender can be very different from each other. Isn't it true that those we form mated relationships with are always complementary - even polar opposites - to ourselves?
Let me state it categorically. There is no such thing as a male or female personality. Personality is not a function of gender.
So where does that put the concept of transgender? In my view, down the tubes! And that leaves the further questions of how transsexuals got to think the way they do, and what to do to resolve their dilemmas. I hope I'll be forgiven for rejecting as just plain silly the idea that some cosmic accident just turned these people into changelings. What happened, more than likely, is that, from an early age, when they discovered that their personalities didn't jibe with what little boys and girls are supposed to want and do and feel, they just assumed they mustn't be real little boys and girls.
So, parents of such little boys and girls, do not take them to the psychiatrist and treat them like they're suffering from some sort of illness. Explain to them that, whatever the other kids say, real little girls do like to play with trucks and wear grimy jeans, and real little boys like to prance around in dresses and play with dolls. And make sure the teachers are on the same page.
As for adults struggling with what to do about their feelings, I'd tell them too to stay away from the psychiatrists - those prime reinforcers of sex-role stereotypes - and remind them that whatever they're feeling, or feel like doing, it's perfectly possible with the bodies they've got. If a man wants to wear a dress or have long hair; if a woman wants short hair and a three-piece suit; if people want romance and sex with their own gender; who says they can't violate these perfectly arbitrary taboos? A short historical and cross-cultural survey should establish that men and women have worn and done all sorts of stuff. I recall reading something by Jan Morris in which it seemed that he thought he needed a sex change because he wanted men to hold doors open for him and kiss him goodbye at train stations. For starters, I'd have told him that I've had these nice things happen to me and I've still got my pecker.
Perhaps it isn't needless to say that a No to the notion of transgender does not excuse discrimination against cross-dressers or post-op transsexuals in employment, housing and public accommodation; and I strongly support legislation that would forbid it. I would, however, get after the doctors - the psychiatrists who use a phony medical model to invent a disease that doesn't exist, and the surgeons who use such spurious diagnoses to mutilate the bodies of the deluded.
"Yes" to the reality of transgender
by Suzanne Clayton
Transgender: not a disease, but a normal variation on the human condition that most certainly exists.
What is transgender? It's more than just drag performers and transsexuals. It includes a wide range of people, including gender queer and crossdressers. Then again, maybe there's really no such thing as gender at all? Don't believe me? Well, follow this argument for a moment, and let's see where we come out.
What does it mean to be a man or a woman? It's certainly not just about genitalia, is it? If a man loses his penis in a motorcycle accident, is he not still a man? So then it must be about personality. But there is no such thing as male or female personality. We can state as much categorically, and put it in boldface to make it even more convincing, as if we've thought it through and there's no more room for discussion: Personality is not a function of gender. Okay, so if it can only be about genitalia or personality and it's not about genitalia or personality, then there is just no such thing as men or women. Q.E.D.
Did you agree with this logic? Then you agree with Ronald Gold's argument and then of course there is no such thing as transgender (you cannot be "trans" something that does not exist in the first place). We can go on to just assume that these people are confused to think that their bodies and minds are out of sync, gender-wise.
Or we could take a tiny step back and realize that maybe we made a mistake somewhere in our logic. Gender most certainly exists. We don't have to fully understand what it means to be a man or a woman to know that most of us strongly identify internally as one gender or the other. Some boys may like to do "girl things" and some girls may like to do "boy things." There are fuzzy lines between male and female. Gender identity, sexual preference, and male/female appearance are not on a binary scale. Still, I think most people have no trouble reconciling this with the notion that they identify internally as "male" or "female" and that that feeling goes beyond their physical form and what they like and do not like to do (and whom they like to do it with).
It is a nice feeling to know that your external presentation matches up with your internal gender identity. I know this, because I have worked very hard to make mine line up, having been born with a male physiology while having strong feelings since at least age 4 or 5 that I wanted to be a girl. I never felt "trapped" in the "wrong body". I have my body. It's the one I was born with, and I'm no more trapped in it than anyone else is in theirs. Maybe it developed differently than I'd have liked, to the point where I always felt like something was wrong with me, but I felt reasonably at ease blending in with male society. And society accepted me readily and completely as a male for 37 years.
Still, no matter how easy it was for me to pass myself off as a man (and I was very convincing), my desires to be female never went away. At some point, I realized they never would, and at a much later point, I realized that I would never be satisfied living out my life as a man. So even though I knew it would be extraordinarily difficult, I worked to change my external self to live as the woman I had to be. And it wasn't about kissing men or having men hold doors open for me. And it wasn't about having a vagina instead of a penis. And maybe I don't really understand everything about what made me feel the way I did, but I'm quite sure I'm a lot happier living the way I am now.
Some people might think I'm deluded. Some people might disagree with my choices to have my body surgically altered to be more in line with what is generally accepted as "female". Some people probably don't consider me to be female at all (but only if they know I'm transsexual, which they generally don't unless I tell them). Maybe they have a point, but I don't really care, because I'm living the way I want to be, and this works for me.
I am a transgender woman. Believe me, I exist.
Posted because the first op-ed was written on Bilerico, the largest LGBTQ group blog around. It caused a lot of outrage that you can read on the front page and comments.