Thursday, 11 November 2010

So just what makes a transsexual anyway?

    Confused by differing views on labels I've seen over the past few days, I went and looked up "Transsexual" in the Oxford Dictionary of English. They're authoritative, in writing an entry such as this one the lexicographer will have consulted with members of the medical profession as well as examined the way the word is used within the language.
    Two senses, primary first, then secondary:
  • a person who emotionally and psychologically feels that they belong to the opposite sex
  • a person who has undergone treatment in order to acquire the physical characteristics of the opposite sex
    Personally I have always taken the word to mean the second of the two senses, therefore I don't generally describe myself as transsexual. I'm in the queue for the place where you can get the treatment so I would describe myself as transsexual if I wasn't going to ask them to help me to avoid being transsexual, but somehow it doesn't fit.
    I was rather surprised earlier this year when I finally got my diagnosis to find that the medical profession follow the primary sense. Thus my psychiatrist, a doctor of some repute with way more letters after his name than I have and who has seen many hundreds of transsexuals over the years, described me as a transsexual. In his book it's a medical condition you can be treated for but you don't lose, the only way you can become a former transsexual once diagnosed is to be laid out cold on the slab in the mortuary. For him you can become a former gender dysphoria sufferer after treatment, but not a former transsexual.
    So now outside the context of my psychiatrist, I don't describe myself as transsexual. I could come over all trans-fundamentalist and do so, but somehow I don't feel even after forty years a loner battling gender dysphoria that I've earned it. It's a personal choice, so by the same metric if someone who has earned it and has conquered their gender dysphoria describes themselves as a former transsexual then that's their personal choice too.
     A happily transitioned trans friend of mine who attends my local support group, an archetypal granny in her mid sixties, is very relaxed about her chosen label. She once looked at me with a wicked grin on her face and stage-whispered in her most masculine voice: "I'm really a bloke you know!". She also has diabetes, for which she takes pills and has injections to keep it under control. I guess they're not unlike hormone tablets or injections in appearance, though I wouldn't know. I've never heard her describe herself as a former diabetic because of them though.


  1. uh, sugar and snails, and spiced puppydog tails....

  2. I cannot agree with the 'grannie' when she said 'I'm a bloke you know'. That smacks of admitting that being a (in her case, post) a transsexual is something of lesser importance than being a woman when really a transsexual (that is the female version) is female! It isn't about genitalia or not 'looking like' a woman, it is about who you are. This is why most transsexuals wish for complete transition because as women they feel they shouldn't look like men and be treated as such. I could never describe myself as a bloke after my operation just as much as I never described myself as a bloke when I was pre-op. I think one is transsexual until the transition but afterwards the gender you have always known yourself to be. I therefore have to agree with the primary statement in describing who I was and the secondary to a much lesser degree because I consider myself fully a woman after the op.
    Shirley Anne xxx

  3. If you knew the lady in question you'd recognise it as her exercising her particular brand of humour rather than a personal statement of identity. In context it was rather funny. I guess you had to be there...

    Sorry, I've noticed I screwed up the bullet point HTML. Damn, can't fix it from my phone.

  4. Jenny,

    I just LOVE this post!!

    Melissa XOXO

  5. I just want to say, and I mean this earnestly but in a friendly-way, Shirley Anne's comment strikes me as a good example of what's been flying around this part of the blogosphere lately: defensiveness. I mean, the woman in the story made a statement about herself...and yet, to some it comes off as a critique of the trans condition that requires critique.

    We're all so fragile, we take things others have said or done within the trans community as indictments of ourselves, and we feel like we just have to make clear - even though no one was accusing us of anything - that *that* does not represent *us*. These arguments about the difference between transsexual and transgender, derogation of coming out day, derogation of Spirit Day, derogation, derogation of trans seems it's impossible for us to let someone else speak for themselves without needing to make clear they don't speak for us. I don't want to make assumptions about anyone but defensiveness is a response to attack and when you feel like you're being attacked when you really aren't...well, that's insecurity. Be confident in who you don't need everyone - or anyone - else to agree with you for it to be true or right.

  6. A couple things struck me while reading this post and the ensuing comments.

    The first, and for me this is HUGE. Jenny is looking for ways to NOT be transsexual. She wants to find some other alternative to "THE CURE", "SRS". She would desperately like to some other way, (anyway, I suspect), around this dreaded, full on "TRANSITION".

    I understand. I was there. I spent four years of my life trying to deny the terrifying truth and fleeing the ultimately inescapable "Hounds of Heaven".

    One of the reasons that I was so afraid of "transition" was that I had spent my entire life trying desperately to be the "man", that I was not. I was also convinced that despite what I saw in mirror when "en femme", I would never "pass". I was almost 6' tall and played football in High School. At 17, I had no clue, and so I continued to struggle and pretend and perservere, until finally, thankfully, I COULD NO MORE.

    I gave up, I had no more options. I had fought the good fight, and she, I won. I allowed myself to be who I am, come what may. So YES, Jenny, I think I understand how you feel.

    The other thing that stuck me was what Renee said about defensiveness.

    I think a great deal of the animosity and hostiity tht my comments have generated , has been a result of a defensive posture that many who suffer from GD, or GID have adopted in order to survive the cruelty of a society with little understanding of, or for, their condition.

    I also understand how Shirly Anne's remarks might be MIS construed as defensive. I agree with Jenny that "grannie's" remark was no doubt meant in a humorous vein. And yet, Shirly's reaction was to disagree, and here IMO is why. No woman, even a woman of history, would, or even COULD sake she was a bloke and mean it. The only possibility which in this case is NOT the case is that that particular individua was a FtM TS.

    So there you have thoughts.

    Sure hope I don't start another flame war and get bounced, yet again. Jusy FYI...I ge bounced of all sorts of blogs on all sides of this issue for trying to hold the MIDDLE, (muddled) ground.

  7. Well thank you girls for your comments to my comment. I do understand your points of view and I respect them. I aologise for not being more specific in my own comment in that what I said should only apply to myself because I was simply stating how I felt on the subject. You are right Anne, I wasn't being defensive at all, just offering how I feel about myself. After Jenny had pointed out the lady in question had a certain sense of humour I realised she was just fooling around. Even if she was being ernest she has every right to be that way and we all do have that same right. Speaking of the differences between trans this and trans that I think it isn't worth arguing about. I mean does it really matter?

    Shirley Anne xxx

  8. @ Shirley,

    I agree! It certainly doesn't matter to me.

    Sorry for picking on your one comment, btw. The internet is a crappy communication device sometimes but I think some valuable things were said anyway.

  9. Morning everyone,

    At last, I'm in front of a computer with a decent screen and keyboard rather than a mobile phone.

    Thank you for your praise, this was one of those posts in which I wasn't sure whether or not I was lighting a blue touchpaper. I must try harder.

    On mornings like this when I have to get ready for work I wonder whether I didn't get some of those slugs as well as a helping of sugar and spice.

    I should have made it clearer my friend's comment was a joke. The sheer incongruity of a perfect grandmother saying that would be enough, I'd hoped.

    Heavens, Anne and I agree on something! You'll know my path if you've read the relevant parts of my blog. It may prove to be a futile effort but for Mrs. J's sake I have to try.

    Defensiveness, insecurity, whatever, Going by my own experience I guess by the very nature of our condition we're all a pretty screwed-up bunch at some time of our lives. That has to leave scars in all of us. It certainly has with me.

    Flamefests? I'm a veteran of frank exchanges of views on the internet since the end of the '80s. Flame grilling trolls as culinary high art! :)

  10. Good post, Jenny. I hope that you are able to have what works for you.

    Shirley Ann's comment struck me as simply her stating her own position. It's very difficult to perceive tone in something written. When a person disagrees with something, sometimes they have to say so.

    Of course I disagree with Oxford's second definition and with the psychiatrist. :)

  11. If everyone accepted what the dictionary says without question then we wouldn't have a living language and that's really not a good place to be.

  12. @Shirly Ann and Renee..
    "Speaking of the differences between trans this and trans that I think it isn't worth arguing about. I mean does it really matter?" Shirly Ann.

    Yes. I believe it does matter an here is why. If you go into restaurant and or eggs over easy, or poached, that is what you expect. You do not expect scrambled. How woould you feel if the waitress, just told you thag it did not matter because they were all the same.

    In a much more important sense if their is no clearly understood distinction between "trans-this and trans-that", how is a doctor or other medical professional able to properly diagnose and compassionately their patient.

    If "it is all the same, anyway" then a "one size fits all" works.
    However, because that is NOT the case, there will be a continueing stream of tragic casualties to feed the TOR's.

    The Mike Penner/Christine Daniels is just one of hundreds.

    I am hoping that this will not be another...

  13. I think you need to understand the extra pressures of dealing with all this while married before going too far down that particular pathway Anne. As I understood it the loss of her relationship was the straw that broke the camel's back for Christine Daniels, not some confusion over how transssexual she was, and though the outcome is different the same is the case in the post you have linked to.

  14. I totally agree with this post, although I do like Liz Stuart's use of the term, Former Transsexual, in her book, The Uninvited Dilemma - A Question of Gender.

    In that book, both of us would be classified, most likely correctly, as transsexual.

    I have never said in my blog that I am a transsexual. I have alluded to it as others would diagnose me, but I prefer to just say transgender. Indeed, my email address has always included the "tg" as the last two letters.

    Calie xxx