Education

A Crossdressers' Manifesto - written by a friend; a message for the TG community.

By K. C. Tyler

(I spent this week answering a TG questionnaire which wanted to know "what message do you have for the TG community?" After discussing my answer with her, Shari Williams pointed out that if I have a message, I also have a vehicle to proclaim it. So here is my answer, expanded. I beg forgiveness from my non-crossdresser TG friends - to use a horrible Washington-esque phrase, I'm reaching out to my "base".)

February 6, 2010

Debbie wrote:
> Almost all people look at GI (gender identity) and SO (sexual orientation) as being the same.

So who is going to educate them? We sure can't count on the government for that. And, sadly, we can't count on the gay community either. As Barney Frank stated, "More education is needed." Did women wait for some open-minded men to educate other men that women were worthy of participating in society? Did blacks wait for open-minded whites? Those of us who are out have to do this, even if it means giving up our desire to go stealth.

Gender 101

Let's take a brief look back over the last century: at the beginning of the 20th century we had the Women's Suffrage movement; in the mid 20th century we had Women's Lib (and I won't go onto this any more because I could write a book on it); in the last half of the 20th century we had the Civil Rights movement; now at the beginning of the 21st century we have Gay or Human Rights, to which, rightly or wrongly, we transgendered souls are trying to attach. What do they all have in common?

Our Western society, to which people of the USA belong, has a very basic tenet: a basic respect for every one of us as a human being. These movements all have in common reminding people that those who have been oppressed are human beings too. I know some people believe that respect must be earned, but that is not totally true. Western society demands the basic respect for human beings or we would be running around killing each other, as other cultures seem to do. This is not something to be earned; it may only be lost, as mass murders find out.

As part of this basic respect, one must not only practice a certain amount of "political correctness," but also live it. This means developing some sensitivity to the way people feel about certain words, phrases, or practices. However common it may be, this is not optional in our culture. Failure to observe this can have serious consequences such as loss of employment or even incarceration.

That means that total lack of basic knowledge about some things is unacceptable, yet so many go around not only demonstrating ignorance, but also practicing it (proudly). However you feel about Barney Frank, he was right about one thing: "More education is needed." For those of us in minority segments of the population, the onus of that education falls upon us. It is also imperative that we pursue our own education.

For an excellent example of proud ignorance generating total intolerance, I can point to James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" site where he demonstrates serious homo- and trans-phobia in a most un-Christian manner.

So let's begin some basic education for the TLGB community. First, sex and gender are NOT synonymous. This is probably the biggest mistake so many make, both within and without the TG community. And I may further disturb some people by suggesting that there are four components to "gender."

Biological - usually referred to as "sex." This is anatomical - male and female (mostly). I used to say genetic, but have recently learned that is not correct. I recently ran across some research papers discussing women who presented themselves to doctors complaining they were amenorrheic (not having periods). After a chromosomal survey it was discovered they were 46XY - that is, genetically male with a normal complement of chromosomes. Yet these people had been identified, treated, and lived comfortably as women. I'm still waiting for this research to have impacts within the TG research community.

Internal – how you feel and act. Inside you know that you have both masculine and feminine attributes, but most people identify with one or the other because it dominates the mix.

Orientation – who you're attracted to. The terms commonly used are homo- or hetero-sexual, and gay or straight. Most people understand the distinction even if they don't realize this is a separate component of gender.

Presentation – how you want to be seen. Amongst the terms that denote presentation are: man, woman, gentleman, and lady. "Man" and "male" are NOT the same thing, nor are "woman" and "female." If you stop and think about, you really understand that not all "females" are "ladies," even if you may still use the terms indistinctly.

In most people these four components align fairly well. But in some of us, there is a discrepancy in one or more of them. For example, I am internally feminine, orientationally (depending on your definition) heterosexual, and presentationally woman, but biologically male.

We are all familiar with effeminate men and butch women. They are examples of how biological and internal components can be out-of-sync. But I have known both who were straight. I also have known male/women who present in a more masculine (or butch) manner.

It seems that society can tolerate someone better if he/she at least adheres to the biological component. This is very short-sighted. There is a whole multi-dimensional spectrum in the world; some are easily detected, some are not. But it is this natural diversity that needs to be respected and accepted.

To put it more succinctly, some people suggest it this way: "Sex is between the legs and gender is between the ears." And, by the way, there is increasing evidence that both are genetic (as opposed to a "lifestyle choice").

When using gender terms, we must look at political correctness (sensitivity or tact) as well as true meaning. The term "real woman" is frequently used incorrectly and often engenders ill feelings. I understand the intent much of the time is to mean "genetic (or born) female," but the misuse will almost immediately turn some of us off to the point that we will no longer pay any attention to the remainder of your message.

It is true that there is currently no medical (as opposed to legal) treatment available that will render me female (46XX). I do believe, and others have agreed, that I am a "real woman." That is, my behavior and presentation are that generally expected of a female. If one says that I am not, or that I will never be, a "real woman," they have offended me and they risk my indifference, disregard, or even enmity. This is a term where sensitivity (political correctness) is quite necessary.

There are many terms (or labels) that are used to describe the range of transgender expression and several glossaries are available on the Internet (there's even one here). In general these terms were not originally intended to stratify (or rank) the community, merely to attempt to describe one's current position in the gender spectrum. When we carelessly, or intentionally, use these terms in a manner that stratifies, misplaces, denies, or intentionally offends someone, we beg retribution in some form. We must make an effort to learn, and internalize, the correct use of these terms or stop using them altogether. Ignorance is not bliss - it invites war. If you want your message heard, political correctness and education are not options but necessities.

Those who are victims of your misuse of a term may seem to have ignored it, but let me assure you, they did not. The effects of that misuse are cumulative and will eventually erupt in what may seem an irrational reaction. The only way to avoid the explosion is to not contribute to it.

As the quotation goes, "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool that to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." Learn your subject and be prepared to keep learning. Otherwise you are better off remaining out of the discussion.

However, we are not many, so we need every one of us to be an ambassador and educator to some extent. Please learn about transgender issues and be prepared to disseminate that information in a positive and sensitive manner. Much more can be done at a "grass roots" level now than at the national level; we will never be able to legislate against ignorance.

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