Three More Thoughts on Labels

It seems, in the TG community, that the subject of labels is frequently brought up and, almost as often, feared. Recently, in the Vanity Club emails, the subject was on labels. These writings are from other members of the Vanity Club.

Hi everyone,

I decided to complicate this whole thread. I have agreed individually with some of you that I abhor labels as a poor substitute for reasoned thought. So much for that. Now I'd like to bring up the subject of "Who" is being labeled. To keep this from becoming a thesis, I'm cutting out so much that it may read like a fractured hard drive. Oh well.

You see, there are two of us. There is "J" who wanted desperately to be a girl beginning at age 4 and matured into a successful male who had a fanatic fascination with everything female and feminine. He began wearing his sister's undies at that age and, of course, progressed to mother's things. No surprises there. About age 12 or 13 he experienced a quite significant breast development (search on gynecomastia if you're interested). Hmmmmmmm??

At an advanced age Crystal was born. He and Crystal live quite comfortably together. When one is out, the other takes a break and for all intents just doesn't exist. There is some leakage of feelings and information. He isn't at all interested any more in being in the least feminine. Has Crystal's emergence taken away the fascination? - the mystery?

Anyway, J certainly engaged in what we would describe as CD/TV activities. What is he now? What is Crystal, who feels absolutely no connection to the male gender, while knowing that she is not really a woman? Does any label fit this situation?

What I'm getting at is "Who is being labeled?" Crystal or "J?" Both? Oh my, how confusing things get.

'nuf for now


I think Crystal brings up a fascinating aspect to this whole discussion. She really raises the issue of how our individual motives for dressing affect the label (psychological and designer, but that is probably fodder for another email at a later date.) that applies to each of us.

If why we dress is as a means to achieve sexual gratification, then some transgender monikers really don't apply. Presumably, a man, for whom crossdressing is solely a means for facilitating certain kinds of sex play, probably never entertains the notion of actually changing his permanent gender identity. That sort of person, at least to me, is a crossdresser, or even a fetishist (Not that there is anything wrong with that, to borrow the Seinfield line).

Likewise, a man who dresses primarily for social purposes - because he really enjoys being received in social settings as a woman (whether or not he may also gain sexual gratification) - but doesn't want to permanent change his gender, is probably a transvestite. And then a person who, although born with an "outie," so to speak, fervently desires an "innie," and then wears clothing of the gender he feels most honestly expresses his real gender identity, is a transsexual.

Likewise, as Crystal notes, a person who has segmented their gender expressions into two personas may also have a different transgender title applied. And, frequently, I know a lot of us use the shorthand "Tgirl" to describe ourselves because it's easier than trying to shoehorn our often complex and changing motives into a single titular construct.

In the end, I think titles are helpful in some respects and limiting in others. They can help us understand why we dress, and help others to gain a similar awareness. Unfortunately, however, to the outside world we often are all lumped under another term of art - just plain weird. I hate this pejorative stereotype, but I acknowledge it and hope, as I live my life, to contribute to changing it. Slowly, I think, society is starting to soften as it gains understanding of gender diversity. And as that happens, the titles we're given won't matter as much.

I also remember a small joke I was told by someone in a local transgender support group here in the Washington, DC area. On our first meeting, she asked me whether I thought I was a transvestite or transsexual. I told her I wasn't sure. She said that, in the group, they had a joke. "What's the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual," she asked. Playing along, I said that I didn't know. She smiled and said, "Five years, more or less. A surprising number of girls who start out dressing for purely recreational purposes jump the broom into womanhood as time goes by."

Gina Marie

Fellow girls,

That's a weird salutation, isn't it?

The discussion about labels brings to mind an article I read recently, the provenance of which I can't remember just now. It had to do with the term "label" and how that term is now of itself seen as a pejorative. To label something (other than in terms of branding or packaging) is to describe it, from an external perspective, in a short and often unflattering way. The label is then worn by the targeted party, sometimes unwittingly and often involuntarily. It's often a part of the spin world where one group is trying to get the upper hand on the other.

As an alternative to "label," the terms "name," "category," "title," "type," "group," and others each carry various weights of meaning. And their plentitude and variation suggest that what they offer, in terms of definition, identification (by ourselves and others), differentiation, stratification, etc. are valuable. I certainly recall that as a child, a teenager, and a young adult I kept looking for different T-related terms and their definitions if only as landmarks to help me determine where and how I fit in, to the T-culture in particular and the world at large.

I also remember, in an ancient nationally syndicated TV (television) appearance about our little world, having to address that categorization question. Then, one was as likely to find the term "eonist" or "transvestite" as "crossdresser" (fairly new in the early 80s) or "transgendered" (just a-borning if around at all). I disdained (and perhaps even dissed) the discussion, offering the more idealistic view that it doesn't really matter anyway, does it (in a Rodney King kind of "can't we all just get along" way). Sometimes I feel a little this way, sometimes a little that, so where does that put me, as I posed it.

Sometimes the labels are for us to use, sometimes for others. They evolve and disappear over time, as words and in their meanings, both absolute and relative.