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Back You are here: Home GLBTIQ GLBTIQ Don't call me transgender

Don't call me transgender

tracieAcademics and equal rights campaigners are stealing many people’s identities by using ‘transgender’ as an umbrella term for sex and gender diverse people, says Tracie O’Keefe.

Sex and/or gender diverse people come in many forms: intersex, transexed, transsexual, transgendered, crossdressers, androgynous and people who abdicate all forms of sex and/or gender identification (sinandrogen).

Each of these identities are genuine, have their own validity, physical, psychological, social and legal dynamics, and are quite different from each other.

It’s amazing however how many people confuse sex with gender – even doctors, academics, professors and equal rights campaigners, but the two are quite different.

Sex, gender and GOD

Your physical sex is made up of your primary and secondary physical characteristics such as ovaries, testicles, penis vagina, mammary glands and a plethora of physical attributes. Some people are largely male and some largely female but no one is absolutely either, just as no one is absolutely black or absolutely white, nature likes to give itself options.

The clown fish can change its sex from male to female and mate with its brother if they are low on females. Genetic Optional Diversity (GOD) ensures the development, evolution and proliferation of species and always wants options, not necessarily binary or prison like the concept of absolute male or female. GOD also produces the lesbian lizards that are self-fertilizing, have no males in the species, but requires the dance of the beast with two backs by two females to create offspring. Isn’t GOD clever?

Gender is the game of interpretation of the sexes or for some the absence of stereotypical sex characteristic behaviors. You can change your gender performance without changing any of your physical characteristics, it just a pantomime. These are basic sexological definitions that have been set down for many years. If you were a sexologist you would not be able to miss this even if you had your thumbs in your ears and fingers over your eyes.

‘Experts’ adopt ‘transgender’ in health association’s name change

This is why it was confusing and embarrassing to me and many others as a members of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA - which proclaimed to be experts on transsexualism) when it changed its name to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). Didn’t the board members take sexology 101?

The association asked for suggestions for a new name that did not have pathology in its title and it received many suggestions. Strangely enough though, the board decided to give only three options on the ballot papers, none of which as a member I voted for.

The intention may have been good but the execution was wholly undemocratic and left many members deeply unhappy with the board’s attempt to rule from the top down.  It begs the question: How many board members authored books or wrote papers with the word ‘transgender’ in the title when they decided to make the vote Hobson’s choice?

Needless to say I did not change from being intersex, transexed or transsexual to become transgendered overnight. Nothing happened except the violation of my identity.

You may think I’m paranoid but in 2009 there was a discussion about this very issue on the WPATH discussion board and the moderator censored members’ points of view. Some members’ views, who did not tow the party line, were sanctioned from publishing.

I accused the board of pushing its own agenda without taking on members’ concerns and of censorship. I was informed that the notice board was only for posting events and then received further emails of discussion only about topics of which the moderator approved. The board did not put the full range of suggestions up for voting and one has to question why.

I know the board did not make this decision in ignorance because I gave a paper on this very matter to the then president so ignorance is no defence. It seems the transsexual mafia of HBIGDA has turned into the transgender fascista of WPATH, and some transgendered members are among them.

Many of us are not transgendered

From now on I shall use the phrase transexed instead of transsexual because many people assumed that being transsexual was about sexuality but for many it was about being a form of intersex, namely transexed.

I never changed my gender identity it was always female. I had my body altered at 15 to reflect my correct sex characteristics and my gender has never been ‘transed’. If you look at picture of me at 12, I’m practically wearing the same thing then that I am now. I don’t do fashion – I’m too busy.

I don’t wish to be described as transgendered because I am not. To try and describe me as transgendered is inaccurate, uneducated and steals my identity. I have no objection to people describing themselves as transgendered if that reflects their experience but mine is not the same.

In the 1990s I wrote books advocating hormones and civil rights for transgender people but I was never one of them. Since then I have published books and wrote papers advocating for the rights of all sex and gender diverse people. My sex is female and I have lived as female for 40 years, even though I was registered as male at birth.  I don’t have a third sex or gender like transgendered.

Many of my transexed patients and friends have not become transgendered since the HBIGDA board members demonstrated their lack of respect. Nor did they become a third sex or gender that is other than male or female. They go about their business enjoying their identities as males or females for which they have often fought very hard to establish.

Not everyone is out and waving flags like me and those people are entitled to pass and enjoy their privacy no matter how unfashionable some campaigners may find that.

For many trans people who do not pass as their desired sex and gender the transgender label has allowed them to be accepted as this special category that takes them out of the binary male or female system. Instead of being failed as males or females they now get respect as being transgendered, but it is ‘other’, no mistaking.

For the many the transgendered label has allowed them to have a mixed identity in a place where sex and gender is a game of fluency. I get it. I support it. I understand it. I think it is a great thing for them, but not for me or some of my patients who have a strong identification of being male or female.

Who are the people gaining from transgendering us all?

There are academics that make a cushy living by constructing transgender theory out of groups of people who are really very different and need to be identified as separate groups with separate needs. It is nothing less than profiteering from social construction theory that has little basis in crosscultural realities. It is not science but branding, merchandising and profiteering.

There is also a group of clinician/academics who are still trying to indentify many trans people as having a mental illness. They are blind to the natural occurrence of sex, gender and sexuality diversity. For them transgenderism is often just as pathological as transsexualism was and a chance to improve their kudos by extending their pathological range.

Coincidentally the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) has had its launch cancelled for a year because of arguments between psychiatrists about over-pathologising human behaviour.

Sadly there are also transgender civil rights campaigners who show profound lack of respect for sex and gender diverse people who do not identify as transgendered and insist on calling us all transgendered. If you resist, you are labeled a dissident, betrayer of the cause, maladjusted or not being intelligent enough to see the big picture.

Then there are clinicians with little knowledge in sex and gender diversity who wish to make their money from transgender clients without really understanding the different sex and gender diverse groups. By confusing transgender people with transexed people the clinicians are setting up many of those patients for suicide later in life when the patient fails to get the outcome they needed.

The violation of identity continues with the gay rights movement tagging T onto the end of its GLBT acronymn to bump up the numbers and get more funding. But if you ask them what the T is for and what the issues are that pertain to each particular T group, they go blank. ‘Transgender’  they say as if it’s a password, not really knowing what transgender actually means or how mislabelling people steals their civil rights and their rights to privacy.

When Pakistan declared a third category to include transgender people in 2009 it was a disaster for many transexed people who identified as solely male or female. They could now be denied their right to be soley identified as male or female after transition.

It is fantastic for those who identify a third gender but not for sex and/or gender diverse people who only indentify as male or female. Transexed people could misindentified as transgender people and forced into a third gender with which they have never identified.

Sex and gender diversity: The new black

Salvation is, however, on the horizon for both the transexed (transsexuals) and for sex and/or gender diverse people in general.

The Australian Human Rights Commission adopted a new approach in its 2009 review of the legal rights of people who are sex and/or gender diverse. Its then Commissioner was blind so he was a gifted listener when people spoke to him.

The Commission was very sensible and used the phrase Sex and Gender Diverse People as an umbrella term to include all the people who may not be the average John or Josephine including intersexed people.

It is what is linguistically called open language and allows each group of people to consider their own identity as they so wish both by group and by individualism. Transgender is closed language and when used as an umbrella description it suffers from linguistic generalisation, distortion and deletion. It does not work. It’s like calling all non-Caucasians black. It steals experience and it misdescribes.

The Organization Internationale des Intersexes (Oii) also now accepts transexed (transsexual) people as members and sees them as part of the sex diversity spectrum, not necessarily asking them to categorically state a pathologised classification. It sees transexed people as intersexed. This means their treatment should be funded under sexual health programs and not under psychiatry.

We are not all the same. Many of us who are sex and gender diverse are not transgendered. I’ve signed on for one more year with WPATH as a clinician. It has no legal standing in any country, it’s just a trade organisation for those involved in a specialist section of the field of sex and/or gender identity.

WPATH does not encourage criticism, but as I once heard physicist Stephen Hawking say: ‘There is no science without criticism.’ One more year to be censored? I don’t think so.

Maybe one day the transgender fascista will be ousted just as the transsexual mafia were and all sex and/or gender diverse people’s identities will be respected equally.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, ND is a naturopath, psychotherapist and sexologist, originally from London, UK, who has been based in Sydney, Australia since 2001, where she is the director of the Australian Health & Education Centre. Tracie is the author of the books Trans-X-U-All: The Naked Difference and Sex, Gender & Sexuality: 21st Century Transformations and the co-editor of Finding the Real Me: True Tales of Sex & Gender Diversity and Trans People in Love.

Comments   

0 #32 Lisa McDonald AKA amym440 2011-04-16 21:25
On march 30th I posted a comment with a similar title on an NPR article about the survey Injustice at every turn by NCTE and NGLTF under the pen name transsexual people aren't transgendered. I hope more people start saying don't call me transgender and thank you for this informative and well thought out piece. Life is hard enough without other supposedly well intentioned people hanging another label with derogatory roots on you. I asked NPR to do an investigatory article on the misuse of transgender and how it is being used to promote an agenda.
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+1 #31 Lisa McDonald 2011-04-16 21:16
I left a comment on NPR stating don't call me transgender under the title transsexual people aren't transgendered. Seeing your article is great and more needs to be done. I am older than the word transgender and have never felt truly comfortable with its use as a smothering blanket label. I just want to be accepted as the woman I am born with a medical condition passable or not.
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-1 #30 Born Physiologically Intersex 2011-03-10 05:48
Tracie, I use the term transgender respectfully to refer to peoplewho have transitioned from the gender allocated to them at birth (usually in line with their sex or in the case of my physically intersex trans friends the sex assigned to them). I am a born physically intersex person and I understand the subtleties and distinctions of sex and gender. Trans surgery is about supporting the GENDER someone feels they are and I support this option for physically intersex people and for others who feel it is right for them. Someone can be trans whether they have surgery or not, and I don't think gender choice should be contingent on access to expensive surgery and lifelong medical treatment. Someones gender is theirs to define not a product of technology. You may have identified as a girl since early childhood, but I am guessing that surgery was helpful to help OTHERS identify your gender as woman. Thus surgery supports social transition and adaption. Surgery however cannot change sex . It cannot erase the intersex tendencies of my endocrine system any more than it can erase the male basis of your body. A transgender woman is a woman whose body started out predominantly male. Surgery can create a surgically mediated intersex state but cannot transform or transition male to female (or intersex to typical male or female for that matter) - and there is no shame in that, only the beauty of sex and gender diversity! I believe women who are born in male bodies (whether they have gender support surgery or not) should proudly express gender how they feel fit. And they should also be recognised and appreciated for their atypical and wonderful combination of biological sex and gender. Don't smother true gender and biological sex diversity with censoring of open discussion, and ideals which prioritize hiding biological identity. I am biologically intersex, and my personal priorities in terms of medical terminology and practice are about transparency, striving for truth, open recognition and informed consent. While I wholeheartedly support your right to employ gender supportive surgery and other treatments, I feel you seriously compromise others opportunities for informed consent by using dishonest terms. Hence I use the term Transgender when talking about the issues you are. When talking about individuals I prefer to just say woman or man (as they identify themselves) or better still to just call them by their name! And I use the term gender support surgery very conscientiously , with note that we should not promise anyone something (sex-change) that is not yet a scientific possibility. And also please don't claim affiliation with OII, an organisation that while sympathetic to trans issues specifically distances itself trans issues in attempt to represent the physiological intersex who are its main concern. There are many voices for trans issues, very few for physiologically intersex (even fewer that don't embrace pathologising terminology similar to the terminology harry benjamin used for trans). As someone who has received vital personal support from OIIs work I ask you not to appropriate the identity of an organisation you obviously share few values with.
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0 #29 Sharon Gaughan 2011-01-27 21:57
The application of the term "transgender", a sociopolitical construction, as an umbrella term that encompasses people who are facing - or have overcome - the transsexual medical condition is more than a careless practice. It is dangerous.

The practice turns attention away from the medical treatment of people who must transition and characterizes the treatment as a lifestyle choice. People denied treatment are subject to the perils of careless living, suicide, and murder.

It should be obvious that there is much more at stake here than social animus or political rivalry. Representing people as under the transgender umbrella without their consent is the height of irresponsibilit y and very dangerous.

Sharon Gaughan
http://ts-si.org
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0 #28 Saphirenz 2010-11-20 21:51
I find it so very refreshing to read Dr Tracie O’Keefe’s article and the supportive comments from Evangelina and others. My hopes are raised and my spirits soar that there really are some health professionals out there who care and actually know the score. My hope is for the restoration of the integrity of the core transsexual condition and the etymological placement of the term transgender where it belongs squarely in the mind of Charles Prince. However, like Evangelina (I have discussed it with her in the past), I am not without compassion . and would not deny treatment to those of other gender diversities for whom it may be indicated.
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+1 #27 Kim 2010-09-08 05:11
"pass as their desired sex and gender." ... to be a woman isn't a desire for many transsexual woman, it's just reality. In my experience to be a transsexual woman means, that you know what you are (a woman) and fight for your right to be accepted as yourSELF. In my whole live I never have had the wish to break the gender-boundari es, cause I never believed in gender-stereoty pes. And I feel very upset, when people want to define me as "man who breaks the gender-boundari es" (maybe just to affirm to have enough living examples for a transgender-ide ology) cause I never had been a man. Sorry guys.
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-1 #26 Marla Bendini 2010-06-13 17:47
Dear Dr. O’Keefe,

Would it be okay if they changed the name to World Professional Association for Transgender, Transsexual and Transexed Health instead? It seems the argument here is that “transgender” is too big an umbrella to adequately identify certain groups and define the “gender” and “sexual” disparity.

Our community is too diverse to be clearly defined. Harry Benjamin has pointed out that the Benjamin Scale (or any other classifications , in my opinion) can never and should never be sharply separated. Just as you’ve said “Some people are largely male and some largely female but no one is absolutely either”, we should all have the right to identify and be identified the way we want.

I identify myself as a pre-operative transgender woman- I was born physically a man, went through a phase as a homosexual man, experienced cross-dressing and gender-bending and lived fulltime as a woman for two years and now going through hormonal replacement therapy with no intention of sexual reassignment surgery. I quote a friend who is a post-operative transsexual- “I identify as a woman who happens to be transgender.” With regards to WPATH’s namesake, I do not see the original name with “gender dysphoria” as appropriate either and I support the need for an update and a name change.

Transgender, transsexual or transexed, we should not be judged on our physical appearance and genitalia either. “Transgender” was not meant to be a term to accommodate people who are unable to “pass as their desired sex and gender. Neither was it meant to segregate our community. Yes, people in stealth who have successfully assimilated into cis-society are entitled to their privacy but it does not change the fact that they were not and we were not born in the gender and sexual identity we live in now.

GLBISGDQ- Gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, sex and/or gender diverse, queer- this rather adequately mention all of us in this diverse community. If not, we can always add to the list with a smile.

Language is important and yet, language itself is linguistically challenged. Essentially, everybody is sex and/or gender diverse! The long debate on this article now has not even ventured into other languages like Chinese. I assure you that despite the long history of the Chinese language and literature, it is nearly impossible to reach a consensus on terminology for our community. The Organization Internationale des Intersexes (OII) calls itself “國際陰陽人組織” in Chinese and “陰陽人”, directly translated as “Yin-Yang-Perso n” sounds offensive or even derogatory for some in my culture.

The article was about the mishandling of the name change for WPATH and in turn, highlights the sensitivity about our community. I admire and envy the discussions and exchanges in this community, unlike in Singapore, our voice is still rather subdued. Nevertheless, we have much in common, by any name, in seeking the civil rights we need. We should stay focused more on what we have in common, than what it is that divides us. I would like to applaud the new policy change for gender reflection on U.S passport- that is the kind of change we need. ;-)


Regards,
Marla Bendini, Singapore
www.marlabendini.com
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-1 #25 Kate Mcdonald 2010-06-09 14:59
I wish there weren't labels. I wish people could just deal with the issues without having to find a particular box to apply to people so they can say they understand them. I cannot say I understand people until I get to know them, before that i don't apply a label and say; that's who they are.

I have been a woman all of my life. (I know, that's another label - but it's one that I accept for myself). The doctor who was there when I came into the world didn't agree with that assessment, but that doesn't change it.

I'm stuck in a medical quandary, doctors need to say there's something wrong with you before they start treating you.
I advised them I was hormonally deficient and had a small birth defect with associated typos on my papers.
There has not been a definitive recognized cause for my condition. I refer to it as a condition because I need medical assistance to treat it and surgery to amend things. I do not have any psychological issues, except those caused by the non acceptance of other people.

The only benefit I have received by the existence of a label is that doctors are willing to provide treatment and surgeons are prepared to complete surgery. Presently, I am in transit, and after that, I will leave the labels behind, and remain who I have always been, with a mole removed.



The true issue I take with labels, is that they often cause people to turn off their brains, as if they understand everything because it has a name. They stop accepting that they are dealing with people, and begin to categorize, to give or remove rights based on a label.
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0 #24 Evangelina 2010-06-07 06:57
I am aware that you campaigned with PFC Tracie, it is quite possible that we met either at Upper Street Islington or French Place Shoreditch in the mid 80,s. I am broadly in agreement with what you say. I think it unfortunate that some take advantage of the poor surgical options for FtM to avoid loss of Phallus. I am not so lacking in compassion that I don't recognise that there are circumstances that make surgery risky. However, any surgery at all carries risks even on the healthy and I am aware that one girl known to me personally in the 80,s suffered a heart attack while on the operating table undergoing SRS. She died 3 days later and her family buried her male. For my part, I would have preferred death than to live with that "thing" between my legs such was the power of my own rejection of the organ. I know many who felt the same way.
My own view is that unless this total rejection of sex markers such as genitalia is present, a diagnosis of transsexuality cannot be made. We must look to other conditions to make a diagnosis to decide a treatment rgimen.
BTW you mentioned Dr Russell Reid, how is he? Does he still practise or have they taken that from him? Such a wonderful and caring man. I have fond memories of dining with him.
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-1 #23 Tracie OKeefe 2010-06-07 02:41
Thank you for your comment Evangelina.

I was one of the Press 4 Change campaigners. PFC insisted on people not having to have surgery because some people are not well enough to have what could be a life threatening surgery. Also for transmen the surgery is not as advanced and a penis after all does not make a man. It also unfair to deny someone the right to identify as male or female if they don't want to take their life in their hands and I have seen some people die from genital reconstruction.

A person's sex is made up from many concomitants.

I agree with you as far as Virginia Prince goes. Her transition was about her public presentation, which was her gender. My issues were about my physical body only and gender had nothing to do with it. My body never fully developed into that of an adult male. I am between the sexes and I have never transitioned genders. I was forced to live as male as a child against my will. Just as I as an intersexed, transexed, transsexual person I respect other people who have transgendered identities. I also demand they respect
my right not to be labelled transgendered. In this respect WPATH and the transgender fascista who are presently in power are abusers.

Using transgender as an umbrella term is discrimination. They cannot claim ignorance because all this was pointed out to them before the name change. There is no defence.
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