Recently a friend wrote about a person who admonished other trans*people to get out and show some support on the Transgender day of Remembrance. This person is relatively new to the whole thing and is just stating what any newcomer probably would when they look out and see the apathy among what you would consider the trans* crowd. What she doesn’t know is that is really the sum and extent of what trans* has always been; internet sound and fury and little in the way of ‘community’.
She also makes the common assumption, among the GLBT/Trans* crowd, that the definition of trans*people pushed by the preachy activists is the correct one. This of course is that all “gender variant” gays and lesbians, fetish crossdressers, drag queens, and transsexuals are basically the same. They are people who are “biologically” completely their reproductive sex, and the only distinction between the “gender variant” people and the rest of the world is simply one of behavior. While this is not a conscious thought, nor is it ever stated that way by those who preach it, it is nevertheless true and lies at the heart of the stress they feel. It also creates their ready need to divert the subject and talk endlessly about social paradigms in place of substance.
I don’t want to really come down on the writer of the blog, I actually think she is pretty cool. But I do want to illustrate a point about the current situation with her experience. She comes into this gender world with an open mind, and is treated to the TG mantra. Absent any other information, its easy to say “whatever floats your boat” to others and be non-judgmental, because you expect that courtesy in return. This is the way things should be.
We all know that mantra by now; gender is a social construct, biology isn’t destiny, genitals don’t determine your gender, etc. The key to all of this is the assumption that we all start from the same place and that it should be our behavior that really determines our place in the universe. Not a bad ethos. Yet when it comes to people born transsexual the paradigm breaks down, the considerations are different. We aren’t talking about a social justice movement, we are talking about people who need to cure a problem. The fallout from the blending of this gender-based view of society and the medical needs of people born with the TS problem is that the needs of the born-different are eclipsed by the needs of the want-to-be-different.
The first thing that comes to mind is the inaccurate view among the TG, such as the writer of the blog I mentioned, that all trans*people start out the same and that your place on the scale is determined by how far you go. They assume that everyone begins from a place of biological “normalcy” and skews it to “unnatural”. The professional TG of course disguise this feeling by saying they are bringing their “gender identity” into alignment with their body to one extent or another (and this determines the degree of your TGness), but it is very clear that those who push this position still regard themselves as being in opposition to the natural order of things in some metaphysical fashion. This is the reason behind all the pointless erudition and indeed TG politics itself.
The way this plays out to the man in the street is that they end up thinking that a person who gets a sex change is basically a normal man or woman who just decides to go crazy one day. The sex change person can never really be the other sex, its all just a mental delusion. This fits hand in glove with the TG position, though the TG themselves think they are fighting against it with their efforts at “education”. To the person born transsexual this whole deal is awful, because by the emerging science and our own experiences over our lifetimes we know that we were anything but “normal” before, and that’s why we do what we do.
We feel we are “one of nature’s extant errors”, and this “identity” is anything but a glorious expression of freedom. That is why arguments of freedom of expression made by the TG wing of the GLBT fall flat with us (not to mention with the general public). We do not worry over things such as the ability to “crossdress”, or being able to behave in a subversive or countercultural manner without retribution. We are concerned because our ability to live life itself is at risk.
After we are done with treatment, we feel normal for the first time. This stands in direct contrast to the attitude coming from the professional TG of perpetually excusing their behavior to the public at large and lobbying for new exceptions in the law for themselves. We don’t care about the things that the TG do, such as bathroom privileges. Pre ops have been fine with bathrooms for 50 years or more; its the crossdressers who endlessly obsess over where they pee. Transsexual issues and Transgender issues are at cross purposes politically. But they don’t have to be.
The origin for this acrimony is in the old nature vs nurture debate among psychiatrists and others who seek to weigh in on that topic. When the word went out that transsexualism was purely mental (McHugh v Money), it left the field to fall into disrepair. The only ones left looking at the issue were rather fringe. People like Blanchard were free to dredge up old garbage from Kurt Freund and restate the earlier stuff as original work. Gender therapists sprang up to cater to “gender needs”. The only thing that remained of science was the tiny bit of work that grew out of the study of the gay “condition”. A few studies about LH response in gay men, and a couple other avenues. The balance was a bunch of Freudian nonsense from people like Stoller, Person and Ovesey, etc. that described the transsexual condition as a kind of extreme dissociative trauma response. And this was all that was left- kooky junk that isn’t even science, just pure psychiatric conjecture. (No psychiatry isn’t a science, sorry people)
Then Gooren and his team took their studies of gays in a new direction and started looking at transsexuals. In 1990 Gooren published a study that showed that a part of a gay man’s brain was generally larger than his straight counterparts, who in turn had a larger number of cells than women. This places transsexual women at the opposite end of the spectrum from gay men, as far as this particular trait is concerned. This was the birth of the science that will eventually replace the gender paradigm.