Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Diversity Lesson 101: Transgender

Transgender is a term used for people who do not fit the gender role assigned at birth (male or female), as well as the role traditionally held by society.

Sex Does NOT Equal Gender:
People often get these two terms confused because they are similar yet in reality they are entirely different. Sex is the biological genitalia we are born with, either male, female, or intersex(combination of male/female genitalia). Gender is how we identify and is a social/biological construct, so one may have the parts of a male yet their mind, body, and spirit identifies as a female.

The Gender Continuum:
Like sexuality, gender identity lies on a continuum. Most people identify with the gender corresponding to their biological sex of male or female. However, some people fall along this continuum. For example one may be fully comfortable in their female gender identity but they may exhibit more masculine traits. In reality there are as many genders as there are people on the planet, we each view ourselves and our roles differently and there is no unifying code of gender.

*Male ------------------------------------------------------Female*

Transgender is an umbrella term for people exhibiting gender variant behavior and is used for transvestites, drag queen/kings, transsexuals, and sometimes genderqueer.

Transvestite-Someone who wears the clothing of the opposite sex (AKA - Crossdresser). An individual whose gender identity may or may not match their birth sex.

Drag Queen/King-A drag queen is a biological male who impersonates a female, and a drag king is a biological female who impersonates a male. Drag is usually done for entertainment purposes and does not necessarily reflect the persons desire to live as a male or female.

Transsexual-A person who desires to live as the opposite sex. Some choose to undergo elective surgery or take hormones to have their sex match their gender identity. Pre-operative Transsexuals are those who have not undergone surgery. Post-Operative Transsexuals have undergone surgical procedures. Non-operative are transsexuals who choose not to undergo surgery. Most transsexuals who have transitioned classify as male or female but some identify as transman, or transwoman.

Genderqueer-Individuals who self-identify as gender queer may consider themselves to be both male and female, androgynous, being neither male or female, or falling completely outside of the gender binary spectrum.

Sexual Orientation Does NOT Equal Gender Identity:
Sexual orientation and gender identity are two completely separate concepts. Transgender people can be gay, straight, bisexual, or asexual. Just the same that gay/lesbian people may have no issue with their gender identity and their gender fits their biological sex. One's gender identity or sexual orientation has no influence on the other.

This is the fear of gender variant people. Many people do not understand transgender people and are disgusted, scared, or don't understand, instead of seeking to educate themselves on the topic they look to harass, tease, or physically cause harm to trans-folks.

Transgender Resources:

Susan's Place

National Center for Transgender Equality

Sylvia Rivera Law Project

Sylvia Gender Public Advocacy Coalition

International Foundation for Gender Education

Transgender Awareness Videos (20/20 Video 1-5):


Anonymous said...

You omitted intersex as identity along the spectrum, so you FAIL at "Diversity 101."

Queers United said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Queers United said...

I contemplated whether to add intersex but it wouldn't make much sense. Trans is about changing yourself and "trans"itioning but intersex people are intersex and do not necessarily transition, those who transition are than transgender. I do have a diversity lesson 101: on Intersexuality which you are welcome to check out.

Jesse said...

lol.. right on QU. Nice post..

Anonymous said...

Then perhaps the post should have been called "Transgender 101" instead of "Diversity 101."

Queers United said...

I refer to all my educational posts as Diversity 101. I would recommend you check out my post about Intersexuality.

Dreki said... Laura's should maybe be on that list.

I can't tell of the "Male--Female" is supposed to be a spectrum or not. It really shouldn't if it's meant to be that, gender seems to be a lot more fluid and 2 or 3 dimensional than that.

Anonymous said...

Transvestism does not generally have a gender cross-diferentiation. Transvestites may dress in the clothing of the 'opposite' gender but generally do not identify as that gender.

Queers United said...

Thanks for the clarification, it often gets confusing. I reworded it and hopefully it does a little more justice to the term.

Anonymous said...

On a slightly LIGHTER note, yet still on topic, have you seen the wonderful movie, "To Wong Fu, thanks for everything, Julie newmar?" For sure the accomplishments of those three gay men in that town made me feel GAY PRIDE: They made the place BEAUTIFUL, and the people happy.... BUT, there was one very very big error, (of course, which I forgive) The three men were DRAG QUEENS! Costumey, contest-oriented, etc. But they were NEVER once shown out of drag! Drag queens are entertainers, etc., and do not live every waking hour in drag. Just a comment I wanted to make about drag, movies, etc.

Dear QU, you are lauded and applauded daily by myself and so many others; this is for sure the very best site that I have discovered. I am sorry that some people come here with a "chip" on their shoulder, and not only insult you, but try to make you feel that you have not done a good job. Just imagine, people like they probably go through their day treating everyone similarly! SO SAD FOR THEM.

Nicky said...

Your right, not to put intersex in the same category with the transgender. Intersex is totally separate and different from a transgender. Putting them two together would cause confusion and conflating the two.

Queers United said...

Larry - You are too kind! Thanks for your continued readership and participation and advocacy on behalf of the community. I'll have to check out the movie, I haven't seen it but any movie with positive portrayals of LGBT people makes me happy. I am sick of seeing people die of AIDS, and have depressing lives. I want to see some happiness =)

Nick - I agree with you 100% IS and TS are different but both fall under the broader term Queer and we must work to support all sexual/gender minorities.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to tackle this challenging and often misunderstood area! I know I want to be as understanding and empathetic as I can be on transgender issues.

Nicky said...

I don't think that IS falls in a broader term because one is defined medically and the other is more of a gender/psychology.

world-bound said...

I'm a women's studies and queer studies major and I just shared this with my mom to educate her on the topic! Thank you for such a great resource!

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