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I explained that when I look like a boy I will use the boys' toilets. She laughs and tells me I am crazy, I should just use the boys' toilets now, because I am a boy. She makes my heart smile.
- Parenting Sideways
- Jayke is transgender, female-to-male, gender-queer and bisexual. His thirteen year-old son and four year-old daughter have accepted his transition better than anyone. They are able to see the joy, confidence and contentedness he has found in being truly his whole self.
- The Gift of Transition on Your Child
- Being part of your child's life, interacting with the staff at your child's school, the management of their sports teams and other domains can present unique challenges for the transgender parent if a child encounters transphobia because of the fixed gender ideals others hold.
- Genderism in Sport Under Attack Again
- Lana Lawless, a former police officer who had affirmation surgery in 2005, has successfully challenged the U.S. Ladies' Professional Golf Association's ban on transgendered players, having previously had a policy that players be female at birth.
- The Terminology of Intersex
- Many attempts have been made at finding a new term for intersex people including the recent adaptations, "Disorders of Sex Development", and "Sex and/or Gender Diverse". Intersex has been the scientific term since 1901, we wish others would refrain from assigning us.
- Klinefelter's Syndrome: A Simplified Guide
- Many men are unaware that they may have an extra chromosome which signifies Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY), the most common chromosomal variation found in men. This overview gives an insight into the anatomical and physiological outcomes for those with Klinefelter Syndrome.
- Anre's Story
- Anre was born with 11 Beta C.A.H. Doctors were concerned at hir virilised appearance and advised hir mother to attend a children's hospital. Medical experts there contacted the then leading hospital on intersex differences. The advice from Johns Hopkins was extraordinary.
- The Proposed Revision of the D.S.M. V
- Jessica Williams provides an in-depth critique of the proposed changes to the way that transsexualism is classified in the D.S.M. and the significant differences from the previous edition including changes in terminology and a separate set of criteria for children.
- National Women's Health Policy Fails Intersex Women
- Intersex people already face enormous barriers of ignorance within the medical profession, yet the problems faced by Intersex women in accessing basic health care are set to continue with the National Women's Health Policy's listing intersex as a mental health issue.
by Katherine Cummings, Polare Editor
The time has come, again, to talk about terminology, which seems to have a life of its own, not least because there are large, assertive groups here and overseas who want to follow-the-leader rather than thinking about the way in which languages work. Rather than adopting logical forms they prefer to say "But it's always been done this way."
The biggy, of course, is the ongoing furore caused by those who want to make distinctions between various sub-classes of our transgendered community. This is partly, I fear, because they see a pecking order in the range which includes cross-dressers, pre-ops, post-ops and drag adopted for various reasons, some commercial, and some for personal amusement without any ongoing commitment to gender change, temporary or permanent.
The pecking order phenomenon is well known in almost every animal society, and humans have refined it to a complex art which attempts to define superiority in terms of race, politics, ethnic origins, nationalism, skin colour, religion ... you name it, humans have asserted that "x" is better than "y" and "y" should therefore be oppressed, discriminated against and learn their place. And, in turn, will try and identify "z" to take an even lower place in the pecking order so that they, too, have someone to look down on.
Because, however, humans are almost infinitely complex there will always be changes in status and changes in the laws which administer status, so that one group will gain ascendency over a formerly dominant group, or, at the very least, will achieve a legal, if not actual parity. And because of human complexity there will often be movement from one group to another.
Although people seldom change their skin colour (exceptions like Michael Jackson test the rule) they can and do change their politics, their religions and their allegiance to various gender or sexual groupings. For many years I was prepared to think myself a transvestite and act accordingly but the time came when I admitted to myself, and the world, that I was transgendered. And yes, for years I imagined the correct term was transsexual, because I accepted the term in general use, rather than thinking through the assumptions and the inevitable parallel with the words homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual and asexual. In other words, the assumption that "transsexual" had something to do with sexuality and the selection of sexual partners.
But, hey, sexuality, like politics and religion, is a movable feast, and there are many who change their sexuality, with or without also changing their gender role.
And changes are not always final. People go back and forth across these so-called borders, sometimes more than once. If there is something a human being can do, some human being will do it.
So for a start, let's abandon the "holier than thou" attitude some people adopt, and recognise the fact that people change their views and even their inner-most feelings mutate. The N.S.W. Gender Centre takes the view that it exists to help anyone with gender issues, and the sooner that sinks in with some of the clients of the Gender Centre, the better. There is no pecking order recognised by the administration of the Gender Centre and anyone who accepts the services of the Centre is expected to treat everyone else with respect and civility.
I have said in other places that the English language, vast and powerful and beautiful in its flexibility and subtlety of nuance though it is also a behemoth when it comes to taming it, and an ocean liner when it comes to altering its direction. People strive to change its forms to suit their own needs and occasionally they succeed, but not often. A case in point is the personal pronoun (he, she, it), which some people see as perpetuating undesirable superiority/inferiority relationships. Those who find the feminine form demeaning or degrading for some reason, want to create mosaic monsters like "shim" (which means something else, compounding the confusion) or "zhe", "yt", "thon", "ve", "xe", "zher", "zhim", "phe" and so on. (Google "alternative pronouns" if you wish to be driven mad by lexicographical stupidity.) This has been going on since 1850 without noticeable change in written English other than a tendency to alternate between "he" and "she" and the deplorable modern use of "their" as a singular possessive ("each student is to pick up their essay by Tuesday.")
Language doesn't work like that and the few neologisms which creep in usually do so for good reason (the use of Gloria Steinem's "Ms" through a feminist belief that a woman's marital status was nobody's business but her own) or from popular repetition and/or whimsy (Spike Milligan's invention of "the dreaded lurgy").
There have been recent attempts to use portmanteau phrases which virtually delineate an individual's medical history ("woman of transsexual background", "post-op man of transsexual experience", "man with a transsexual history") but I see no reason not to adopt the terms "man" and "woman" for those who have completed their journey from one gender role to the other, and if more detail is requested, a clear description of the process of, and reasons for, transition can be supplied to the enquirer, if one feels like it.
Sometimes, when I am being whimsical, I will tell an audience I used to be transgender until my surgeon cured me, but I always hasten to add that this is not literally true. I was a woman before my transition, and hormones and surgery merely made it easier and more comfortable for me to live in my innate gender role.
As far as terminology goes, the most strident conflict revolves around the usage of "transsexual" as opposed to "transgender". The term "transsexual" is the older term and harks back to Harry Benjamin's book, The Transsexual Phenomenon, published in 1966, although he had published a number of scientific papers before the book came out. "Transsexual" became the accepted term for those who wished to revise their gender identities and live in an affirmed gender role.
Virginia Prince, who was born Arnold Lowman and later called herself Charles Prince when in male mode and Virginia Prince when female, apparently coined the term "transgenderist" or "transgenderal" because she wished to make a clear distinction between sex and gender and claimed in her own case to have changed one but not the other. The term "transgender", which derives from Prince's coinages has also passed through some redefinitions, with some people seeing it as a simple expression for those who change from one gender role to the other (I do not intend to enter the murky waters of multiple genders, about which I am sceptical) while others see it as an umbrella term covering every possible gender variation, however temporary or commercially inspired it may be.
I cleave to the belief that "transsexual" is misleading, partly because of the false parallel with other "-sexual" words, all of which refer to sexuality or the lack of it, and also because I do not believe that medical science has the ability at this point to change a human's sex, except in terms of cosmetic and plastic surgery and in terms of altered appearance through the influence of hormones. These verge occasionally on a true conversion (the ability through hormones to create feminine breasts and to induce lactation in formerly male breasts, for instance, and the creation of a functioning clitoris from a section of the glans or "head" of the penis). These examples, however, merely demonstrate the overlapping similarity of the sexes in some areas (for more information, Google "male lactation"). Surgical intervention, of course, is mostly cosmetic in changing the body's appearance.
Beyond these limited changes, the sex one is born with is, currently, the sex one will die with. I leave aside the variations involved in the phenomenon of intersex. We have material on intersex from the Organisation Intersex International (O.I.I.) to inform this issue of Polare and I will be writing an overview article on Kleinfelter's Syndrome as soon as I stop writing this editorial.
The differences between sex and gender should be too well known to be laboured here. Suffice it to say that sex is physical and physiological and gender is social (and/or grammatical, in English at least, although other languages seem to divorce sex and gender more readily). A person who is sexually male and who is transgendered is mentally and socially female (and vice versa for the transman). Usually the inner-conviction of transgender status occurs very early in life. Treatment received by the transgendered person may make it simpler for him or her to live in her or his affirmed gender role, but it is not medical intervention that makes a person transgendered. As the name implies, "transgender" is a process, a journey, a transition, but it is all these things only in the sense that a known goal is attained and a foregone conclusion is realised. By contrast the term "transsexual" is something of a con, since, however much a transgendered person desires full conversion to the other sex, there are currently no ways in which this conversion can be achieved. In fact, by virtue of some misguided and muddle-headed thinking on the part of legislators, the major medical procedures specified for "recognised" transgenders are procedures intended to remove the ability to have any kind of sex other than recreational, and on the completion of "sex reassignment surgery", which, as described above, is designed to remove functioning sex organs and replace them with cosmetic approximations of the organs visually appropriate to the affirmed gender.
Conversely it is significant that those who draft legislation for our community, in N.S.W. at least, have preferred the term "transgender" to "transsexual" for our laws, thereby displaying uncharacteristic understanding of the truth.
It would be good if we could establish some kind of consensus on terminology.
What this would require in the way of a conference, seminar, working party or standing committee is uncertain. Some terms, like "recognised" transgender are overdue for consideration. Others will never be standardised. But we should at least recognise the problem and work on it.
The Gender Centre advise that this edition of Polare is not current and as such certain content, including but not limited to persons, contact details and dates may not apply. Where legal authority or medical related matters are cited, responsibility lies with the reader to obtain the most current relevant legal authority and/or medical publication.
Polare Magazine is published quarterly in Australia by The Gender Centre Inc. which is funded by the Department of Family & Community Services under the S.A.A.P. program and supported by the N.S.W. Health Department through the AIDS and Infectious Diseases Branch. Polare provides a forum for discussion and debate on gender issues. Unsolicited contributions are welcome, the editor reserves the right to edit such contributions without notification. Any submission which appears in Polare may be published on our internet site. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor, The Gender Centre Inc., the Department of Family & Community Services or the N.S.W. Department of Health.
The Gender Centre is committed to developing and providing services and activities, which enhance the ability of people with gender issues to make informed choices. We offer a wide range of services to people with gender issues, their partners, family members and friends in New South Wales. We are an accommodation service and also act as an education, support, training and referral resource centre to other organisations and service providers. The Gender Centre is committed to educating the public and service providers about the needs of people with gender issues. We specifically aim to provide a high quality service, which acknowledges human rights and ensures respect and confidentiality.