November 21, 2011

Americans believe "transgender" means "transsexual"

Those who have followed the transsexual/transgender debate (or "war", rather), will have seen that a major argument made by so called "classic transsexuals" against the umbrella term "transgender" is that it mixes up real transsexuals with crossdressers, crossdreamers and the genderqueer.

Because of this, they are trying to change the meaning of "transgender". They use it as a term for every type of transgender condition they do not like, and would like to keep the term "transsexual" for the real women.

Transsexual is not the same as transgender

I have no problem with limiting the use of the word transsexual those that have undergone surgery, who plan to do so or who want to transition. But the attempts at splitting at turning the umbrella term "transgender" into a label for everything perverted, makes me angry.

This is not because all crossdressers and crossdreamers are the same as transsexuals. Most of them are not.  Most of the male to female crossdreamers and crossdressers do not even identify as women. Nor do the female to male crossdreamers and crossdressers always identify as men.

Click on comic to enlarge!
That does not stop them from having a lot in common with transsexuals, though. They all are, like the transsexual men and women, suppressed by people who feel threatened by those who do not adhere to the gender stereotypes of the day.

And whatever the classic transsexuals say or believe: The real bigots out there do not accept any male bodied person who feel like a woman.

What is even more important, though, is that there a quite a few crossdreamers and crossdressers who actually suffer from severe gender dysphoria. Some of them again are actually transwomen.

If you ban every transwoman or transman who has ever crossdressed or crossdreamed from the transsexual family, there won't be that many left.

The American public supports transsexuals

It now turns out that the term "transgender" does not undermine the status of transwomen and transmen in the eyes of the American public.

It, is in fact, the non-transsexual transgender who are under threat, including many of the readers of this blog.

A study made by the Public Religion Research Institute seems to indicate that overwhelming majorities of Americans agree that transgender people should have the same general rights and legal protections as others.

Here is what they say:
  • Overwhelming majorities of all major religious groups agree that transgender people should have the same rights and protections as other Americans, including approximately 8-in-10 (83%) white evangelical Protestants, and roughly 9-in-10 Catholics (93%), white mainline Protestants (90%), and the unaffiliated (95%).
  • Overwhelming majorities of Republicans (86%), Independents (94%), and Democrats (92%) also agree.
Given the toxic atmosphere of current American politics, these are mind blowing numbers, indeed.

It gets better:

"Approximately three-quarters of Americans both say Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people, and favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people."

This is seriously good news, regardless of how you interpret the word "transgender". The poll does not, however, reflect a correct understanding of the word "transgender".

Transgender is understood to mean transsexual

The Institute thinks so, enthusiastically telling the world that approximately two-thirds of Americans both report being well informed about transgender people and issues, and generally understand what the term “transgender” means.

It turns out the neither the respondents, nor the researchers, understand what the word means.

Take a look at this:
  • "Two-thirds of Americans agree that they feel well informed about transgender persons and issues, while 3-in-10 disagree.
  • In order to determine whether Americans understood the term “transgender,” PRRI conducted a follow-up survey in September 2011 that asked respondents to report what the term “transgender” meant to them in their own words. Among the 91% of Americans who report that they have heard of the term transgender, 76% give an essentially accurate definition. Thus, overall, more than two-thirds (69%) of Americans are able to identify what the term “transgender” means without any assistance.
    • Forty-six percent define a transgender person as someone who switches from one gender to another, either generally (39%) or through a medical procedure (7%).
    • Eleven percent define a transgender person as someone who lives like the opposite gender (6%) or identifies more with the opposite gender (5%).
    • Ten percent describe a transgender person as someone who is born the wrong sex or born in the wrong body.
    • Nine percent define a transgender person as someone who has identified with both genders.
  • The following are examples of verbatim responses:
    • “A person who feels like they are more like the other sex”
    • “It’s someone born one sex, and they think they’re another”
    • “Generally someone who thinks they are in the wrong body” "
What this means is that the great majority of Americans interpret "transgender" to mean "transsexual".  None of the four definitions listed above are in line with the current definitions of the word "transgender" 

I see the following meanings of the word in the litterature and in the online debate:
  • 1. (common use) Umbrella term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to diverge from the normative gender roles connected to their original biological sex, including transsexuals. 
  • 2. (derogatory) Autogynephiliacs and crossdressers, as opposed to "classic transsexuals" or HBS transwomen.
It seems to me that 9 percent of Americans interpret the word "transgender" to mean "genderqueer", 5 percent allows for some other type of ambiguity, while the rest believes it is a synonym for transsexual.

That does not surprise me, and I am not blaming them, but it does represent a problem.

The gender regime is powerful

I guess that within a culture that even now adheres strictly to traditional gender roles, the only type of transgender that makes sense is the one where a person switches completely from one role to the other. That kind of change is not a threat to the division of roles society is built on. 

This also means that Americans find transsexuals less of threat to the social and moral order than homosexuals, who actually do break with the "heterosexist hegemony".

The fate of those that live in both worlds, or who -- for some reason  -- cannot or will not make the switch is unfathomable. They do not fit into the paradigm. Heck, they cannot even be understood as "proper" homosexuals.

This explains why the classic transsexuals make so much fuzz about the not being put in the same box as crossdreamers and crossdressers. 

Male to female crossdressers and crossdreamers are understood as men who violate the "proper" gender configuration. They live as men, but still claim to have some kind of femininity. This does not fit with the stereotype universe of the classic transsexuals, where men are men and women are women. Any association with crossdressers and crossdreamers must therefore undermine their legitimacy as women, they believe.

As the study shows, it does not.

If they really wanted to exclude the crossdreamers and crossdressers from "decent society", they should have held on to the word "transgender", and then forced the queers and the perverts out of that family. By giving up the word "transgender" they have actually lost a great opportunity to use the traditionalism of America to beat the crap out of us "paraphiliacs". 

But it is also clear that the transgender movement (if there is such a thing) has lost, as neither activists nor experts have managed to explain the paradigm shattering part of the transgender narrative to the American public. For the majority  crossdressers and  genderqueer are not even on the radar.


  1. Like yourself, I have absolutely no problem with limiting the term 'transsexual' to those that have undergone, or who are undergoing, surgery. It's logical, it's respectful, and I think it's very much in line with public perception.

    However, I fully expect to see that respect reciprocated. We are a community - transsexuals, transvestites, genderqueer, crossdressers, crossdreamers, sissies, drag queens, etc. - and we are far stronger as community than we are alone. Yes, we all express ourselves in different ways, and for different reasons, but there's a common thread of crossing or blurring the gender binary that binds us all together.

    Not to mention, as you pointed out, just because we don't identify as transsexual today, doesn't mean that designation isn't in our future.

    I will continue to use 'transgender' as an umbrella term to embrace ALL my brothers and sisters within the community. There is strength (and comfort) in numbers, and I firmly believe we have far too much in common to obsess over the differences that divide us.

  2. Jack Molay,
    Atleast in America, homosexuality is considered separate from transgenderism. I am so thrilled to know that so many tg males are actually not 'gay' but are rather gynephilic (or lesbian identified).
    It does not seem so here in philipphines. I only see MTFs who also identify as 'homosexual' and date only men.
    I simply don't get how this variation across cultures occurs. Could it be that transgenders outside America are afraid to identify with diverse sexualities other than 'homosexual'? it seems the cultures have badly mixed up homosexuality with transgenderism.
    I am a masculine gay man who has led a formidable life here in the Philppino for long as only transgenders here identify as gay.

    Only in advanced western cultures do I find the existence of masculine homosexual men as well MTF identified lesbians, something that shatters this age-old connection between transgenderism and homosexuality.

  3. The issue is who has the authority to define what transgender, transsexual, crossdresser, or anyone is. Is it the medical community, the government, the press, the bloggers, society, or us? Even if it is "us", who can speak for "us"?

    As long as there are different definitions by different groups for these terms, there will be confusion, miscommunication, misunderstanding, and even hatred and resentment.

    For example, it might be very clear that a transsexual is person having or has had sexual reassignment. However, this excludes people who have medical conditions preventing them from taking hormones and/or having surgery. What about people who "pause" during their transition? Are they any less of a transsexual? Does this make them a non-transsexual person with GID?

  4. Thankfully, those of us who change sex and simply live the rest of our lives leave all that behind. Y'all can fight among yourselves.


  5. Sagebrush,

    If you left it all behind, what are you doing lurking on this web site? :-)

  6. @Lindsay

    I read all kinds of things and sometimes even comment. The world is a very interesting place, don't you think?


  7. @Malaya

    "I am so thrilled to know that so many tg males are actually not 'gay' but are rather gynephilic (or lesbian identified).
    It does not seem so here in philipphines. I only see MTFs who also identify as 'homosexual' and date only men."

    I hear the same thing from my Indian and Thai contacts. Still, I wonder if this is due to an even stronger stigmatization of those that challenge traditional gender roles. In other words: The M2F gynephilic crossdreamers are there, but they dare not express their feelings in any way. Because of this there has never developed a gynephilic crossdresser culture.

    Gynephilic crossdreaming is not a Western phenomena only. In Japan, for instance, there is a separate category of erotic manga (comics) and hentai (adult movies) that focus on male to female sex changes. This tells me there is a big crossdreamer subculture in Japan.

  8. @Robyn

    "The issue is who has the authority to define what transgender, transsexual, crossdresser, or anyone is. Is it the medical community, the government, the press, the bloggers, society, or us? Even if it is "us", who can speak for "us"?"

    Given that the public health authorities in most countries control the door to surgery (unless you are rich and can pay your way around the queue), this means that the medical community has usurped that power.

    Unfortunately, many members of that community hos broken that trust, and instead of helping they are stigmatizing, just as they did with the homosexuals up till the 1970's.

    This is just as much about a social, democratic and cultural process as it is about science, which means that transgender men and women have to speak up. Maybe the point is not to find one single explanation, but to allow for more than one voice.

  9. I have been a decade as a post op transserxual woman. The very idea of "forcing" a label on someone, as the HBS or so-called Classic Transssexuals suggest is ridiculous. A typical bit of nonsense that Jennifer Usher would support as it fosters hate and bigotry between groups. Usher is eristic, decicated to setting one group against the others. Yes, there are indeed differences between transsexuals and other transgendered folk. (The one that comes to mind first is that TS tend to be oh so serious and TG tend to be more fun loving). But that does nto take away teh obvbious similarities between them. I view, and always have viewed tanssexuals as part of an umbrella term "transgendered". A blue whale is muych different than a monkey, but both are classed as mammals - same type of thing.

    To be freank, after my operation I rarely visit these sites having goin on with a wonderful life. Do what you need to do, no further. If cross dressing is all you need to be happy, fine - I respect you still as a sister. If you must go all the way, you deserve no lesser respect but no more.

    Willow Arune

  10. Arune,
    I guess you are the same Arune who has been mentioned in the Lynn Conway's site- as an ardent supporter of BBL theories?
    I guess you really don't respect transwomen and transgenderism even though you say so here. Because any transgender who respects the BBL theories cannot be self-respecting herself,leae alone other transwomen and transgenders!

  11. Tanya, I will have to decline your offer. Sorry, but no, I am not going to accept the label "transgender," nor will I consider myself to be the same as a transvestites, cross dressers, autogynephiles, sissies, drag queens, etc. Transsexualism shares nothing in common with such people. We do not cross or blur the gender binary. Almost every true transsexual I know respects the gender binary, and does not consider himself or herself as having "crossed," but instead sees themselves as having simply gone to the proper side. Simply put, I do not wish, nor do I accept your embrace. We have nothing in common.

  12. Yes, Sultana, this is that very same Arune. This is a person who clearly made a tragic mistake and who is in deep denial. This is why this person obsesses about certain people, particularly anyone who has been remotely successful in their transition. And if that person has the audacity to disagree with Arune...or BBL, then that obsession can become completely out of control.

  13. Robyn, it is a person's right to self-identify. But words have meaning. If someone says they are a transsexual, but they have no desire for sex reassignment surgery, then that is clearly absurd. Just as it is absurd for someone to try to force people to accept the label "transgender." Transgender is a highly subjective term referring to an artificial social/political construct. It has no objective definition, and no one should be labeled as such who does not thus identify. A person is a transsexual because they seek to change their sex to bring it into alignment with their core gender. A person is only transgender if they willing identify as such. Transsexual is a medical term, transgender is a political/social term. I am a woman (no modifier, please) with a transsexual history, I do not identify as transgender.

  14. My brother was born female, *was* transsexual and now just considers himself male. He doesn't want any part of an umbrella term or a community, and I have to respect that.

    Meanwhile I am genderqueer of some sort; I never plan to transition, use the pronouns of my birth sex, don't have any dysphoria, interdress only a little bit and in subtle ways, have never dealt with bullying or discrimination that was overtly and directly due to gender issues, but know inherently my gender is not completely binary nor aligned with my biological sex. Yet I am "more trans" than my brother.

    The world is a funny place.

  15. I may have had a run in with one of those "CTs" in a comment section.

    I think I should stay away from those people. She yelled, and was angry and accused me of hatred and perversion and not validating her.

    She wants to be validated and leave the transgender umbrella as some TERFs conspiracy against her existence. She loved to throw out accusations as homophobia and tansphobia and called cross dreamers gay fetishist.

    She made me feel ill. The cognitive dissonance was astonishing.

    I can't deal with those people at the moment.


  16. You do not have to, M, you do not have to!

    In fact, the HBS-movement collapsed a couple of years ago under the weight of its own bigotry. Sure, there are a few of them around, even now, but they have close to zero support in the transgender community.

    Back in 2013/2014 there was attempts at establishing a new separatist movement over at tumblr, this time instigated by female to male transgender people. For a while they repeated the same story, attacking crossdressers and "fetishists", causing a lot of suffering in the process. Still, that movement collapsed as well. They did not find much support among the "millennials" dominating tumblr, who make use of much broader concepts of sex and gender.


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