December 29, 2009

The Falsifiability Talk

Posted in Gender issues, Uncategorized, Women's issues at 3:30 pm by Maggie Clark

We need to talk about falsifiability.

This isn’t an easy conversation, so let’s talk first about why we need to talk about it. There are many different communities that apply the “inner truth” model to their real world actions, especially when seeking respect, tolerance/acceptance, resources, and access. In no chronological order:

1) The traditional feminist movement used it to highlight that gender is externally enforced, though not deterministic.

2) The queer community emphasized that gender roles and their expectation sets do not reflect the real world, with all the varying orientations within it.

3) The trans activist community forwarded the argument that we are who we say we are: If a sex-male identifies as gender female, she should be recognized and addressed as such. She should also be given access to resources to help overcome the perceived division between her sex and gender.

4) The trans ableist community argued that if we are who we say we are, it follows that there should be equal legitimacy and respect for people who feel their actual identities involve a physical limitation — an amputation or deprived sense — whether or not they actually have the physical limitation (yet).

5) The intersex community, having no clear social gender roles externally enforced, takes issue with the notion that physical realities, such as being intersex, can be inner self-identities, too.

In short, we have a discursive plane that straddles two very difficult realms: Personal perception and the physical world. And both are exceedingly important, because the denial of both is responsible for serious oppressions in the real world. But as with anything in life, where there are limited resources, there is conflict for the lion’s share — and in the course of that conflict, grievous missteps allow for the misrepresentation of one realm in the course of promoting the other.

The trans ableist community offers the best encapsulation of this discord, because along with the insistence upon a disabled “inner truth” regularly goes an envy towards the “privileged” who are already disabled. The true farce of this misuse of the word “privilege” can be seen in the case of a hypothetical cancer patient: If someone were to say, “Oh, you’re so lucky — you have cancer, whereas my inner identity tells me I should have cancer, but I’m not privileged enough to have it yet!” we would recoil in horror. We would call the speaker mentally ill, and in great need of medical assistance.

But wait, trans ableists point out: their community isn’t talking about cancer, or other fatal diseases — it’s talking about amputation and blindness and -plegic states. True, but amputation and quadro- or paraplegic states are also fatal in the natural world: Only the advent of science, and whole industries of care-giving, make it possible for someone to lose a leg and not die from gangrene, or be quadraplegic and not starve or dehydrate to death. This is why self-identity is such a tricky basis for real world policy: The only difference between these identities being recognized as legitimate or treated as manifestations of mental illness is the existence of a society that can maintain the livelihood of persons in those states.

The problem is that, working backwards from this theoretical argument, transsexuality also falls into sharp question — quite frequently, in fact, from radical feminists and mainstream discourse — because transsexuality would literally not exist [ETA: as a realized condition] without the advent of science. Eunuchs would, and have, existed throughout history, but these have been socially-imposed male bodies with either feminine manifestations (when cut prior to pubescence) or extremely masculine manifestations (when cut after pubescence). How, then, could one person’s inner identity be transsexual (i.e. a gender female that requires transition for realization) if the very realization of that identity is dependent on the existence of sustainable systems of medical transition?

This is the issue that often arises in radical feminist discourse, which sees any inner identity moored to the medical industry as one inherently moored to a strict gender binary. To this end, TheBeardedLady wrote a stunningly good encapsulation of how women feel in their own bodies here, which highlights the marginalization many born-sex-female women feel of their lived experience in trans/feminist discourse, wherein the central site of gender oppression against women is regarded as something they should feel privileged to have had since birth.

“All right,” you say: “So you’re arguing that inner identity doesn’t count for squat?” No. Not at all. Because, as many people have noted, regardless of whether or not the transsexual identity is moored to medical institutions, there is one clear fact at work here: Medical transition helps some transgendered people. It has a higher success rate than therapy. It lessens depression and related mental illnesses in trans patients. The post-surgical regret percentages are almost non-existent. So, they’re happy as individuals, and their invididual life choices aren’t intrinsically hurting anyone. To refuse a treatment you know will increase someone’s quality of life, when it in no way harms another person’s life, is therefore unethical. Regardless of where transsexuality “lies” in a person, it is in and of itself an outcome that legitimately benefits individual lives.

The trouble only arises when recognizing another person’s right to shared resources solely on the basis of inner identity pushes someone else’s right to shared resources out of the way. And this, sadly, happens in the one place that is ostensibly fighting the good fight against gender oppression on the whole: the activist sphere.

    — It is in this sphere we find lesbians who are uncomfortable with the thought that any male-sex person may, simply by identifying as being gender female, demand access to their safe spaces; and who are furthermore not okay with being called transphobic simply because, being lesbian, they are most often attracted to the female sex, not the gender construction.

    — It is in this sphere we find radical feminists who worry about government mandates saying no space can be female-sex only — and therefore losing funding if they have to choose between finding ways to involve victimized religious immigrant women in safe spaces, and maintaining an open door policy for all people who self-identify as women — regardless of whether they’re post-op or non-op transgendered — in every single women’s centre activity.

    — It is in this sphere we find born-sex-female women in general recognizing people in the women’s washroom who look like men, and (fearing harassment or assault) telling them to get out or calling a cop on them.

    — It is in this sphere we find trans women, post-op and non-op alike, regarding as transphobic the fact that these women in the bathroom question refuse to recognize them as women, too. (The “everyone needs a place to pee” issue.)

    — It is in this sphere we find brutal deaths for non-gender-normativity appropriated by various gender/sex communities with no regard for the actual self-identities of the people being brutalized. It’s bad enough that how you self-identify doesn’t matter to your murderer, who will impose his horrific punishment on you for being what he thinks you are: When activist groups then scrabble to differentiate between an effeminate gay man beaten to death, or a straight man in drag beaten to death, or a trans woman beaten to death, inner identity is again thrown right out the window.

This is why we need to talk about falsifiability — or rather, the lack of it, when it comes to creating gender/sex theory and policy on the basis of inner truths alone. Because no one can know another person’s inner identity, what we then have to operate on is a social system that supports those inner identities wholeheartedly when they do not deny anyone else’s lived experiences or access to resources, and likewise demands further, external measures in setting policy for all instances where two or more groups’ access to resources are in conflict due to dissonant inner identities.

What will these external measures look like? That’s a damn good question. Taking into consideration the conflicts I mentioned above, and any related ones I may have overlooked, I open the floor to you. What do you think we need to ensure our activism helps all people oppressed by their gender or sex?

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94 Comments »

  1. Michelle said,

    The issues you raise are valid and real issues, but only in a world where we insist on discussing gender using the polarization of male versus female. A rather different view emerges when one shifts the dialogue to a foundation that recognizes the broad spectrum of possibilities that exist in reality. This is one of the reasons I have come to explore gender in the context of a continuum model where absolutes are simply the extreme ends of the continuum.

    If, for example, we nominally agree that gender is reasonably well described by three basic attributes – physical gender, social gender and gender identity – each distinctly expressed as being a discrete continuum itself, then we can begin exploring the social and policy related issues at the points where policy and the three attributes intersect.

    For example, to address the notion of ‘safe spaces’, I think it becomes very interesting when one views it from a perspective of intersecting needs and policy. Is it unreasonable for a pre-transition transsexual lesbian to demand access to lesbian only spaces which imply both spiritual and physical femininity? Perhaps it is, and with good reason. On the other hand, if that same transsexual is post-transition and post gender surgery, is their demand for access unreasonable then?

    In other words, we must examine not only the intersection of the streams of attributes that we call ‘gender’ on an individual basis, but then examine how those cases intersect with the political spaces.

    Similar analysis techniques apply when we start talking about health care decisions as well. For example, as a transwoman, there are areas where my health care needs intersect quite well with those of natal females (e.g. Breast Cancer screenings), and other areas where the intersection is non-existant (e.g. pre-natal care).

    The downside to such a model is that it makes the creation of policy much more difficult for policy makers, for they then have to give consideration to where a given policy intersects with both commonly understood gender lines but also with the gradients that lie in between.

    I don’t think that there is a good answer to the notion of “falsifiability” per se, especially when it applies to Gender Identity – a subject which I have discussed at length here.

    The mental health world has struggled with this very topic for decades in it attempts to understand transgender people and their varied needs. Ultimately, both the DSM IV and the WPATH SOC come down to one basic thing – persistence:

    A strong and persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex)

    I think it’s important to recognize that in the absence of external verifiability, we ultimately are constrained to accepting someone’s narrative as valid … but we must be similarly aware of the consistency – or inconsistency with which that narrative is expressed in other aspects of the individual’s life. (Maggie, your own expressed “agenderedness” (quotes are to signify a lack of meaningful term in my vocabulary, so I’m inventing, not sarcasm) is particularly intriguing in this respect)

    • maggieclark said,

      Hi Michelle!

      So happy to see you commenting on this post — thanks for your thoughtful response.

      My first question is a clarification of terms: Was it accidental or intentional that you identified the three spheres of gender as “physical gender, social gender, and gender identity” instead of “physical sex, social gender, and gender identity”? My point being that the term “sex” doesn’t emerge in your discourse, and I’m curious if that’s a conscious omission or not.

      When I wrote “In short, we have a discursive plane that straddles two very difficult realms: Personal perception and the physical world” I was alluding to gender and sex, because the site of gender oppression is sex-based — both in the gender expectations for persons of the dominant sex and other sex, and in the consequences for non-gender-normative persons of either sex.

      This is key for me when you write that “the issues you raise are valid and real issues, but only in a world where we insist on discussing gender using the polarization of male versus female” because the framework of my argument recognizes almost individuated gender fluidity, but a far more rigid framework of sex outcomes, especially informed by the fact that a full 3.5 billion people are targeted for oppression solely on the basis of sex. Whether or not we in the activist communities want to push for a gender definition that transcends sex, the fact remains that the world’s gender oppressors prioritize sex, and sex-based expectations, as the basis for their oppression.

      And as I write this, I wonder if this is ultimately what stymies so much discourse between trans activists and radical feminists: If the latter are seeking policy to protect against sex-based oppression, and the former suggest that only gender should matter, it’s no wonder each group thinks the other completely disregards their own needs, identities, and lived experiences.

      So again, just seeking clarification: Did you omit “sex” consciously from your response, and if so, why?

      I think it becomes very interesting when one views it from a perspective of intersecting needs and policy. Is it unreasonable for a pre-transition transsexual lesbian to demand access to lesbian only spaces which imply both spiritual and physical femininity? Perhaps it is, and with good reason. On the other hand, if that same transsexual is post-transition and post gender surgery, is their demand for access unreasonable then?

      I agree that intersecting needs and policy is the most useful way of looking at this dilemma. I thoroughly hope a born-sex-female lesbian enters this discussion comfortable sharing her own input on this matter: being impartial/bi myself, I anticipate I have a very different investment in the answer. FCM had an interesting twist take place in one of her recent posts, actually, when the notion of “political lesbianism” was raised — to the horror of one lesbian, and the thorough endorsement of two others. There’s a whole dialogue here, therefore, that I don’t feel at all equipped to speak to or about: so I hope other more capable persons will comment on their lived experience and community needs in this regard. (Any lesbian trans woman is also equally encouraged to share here how the question of lesbian spaces relates to their experiences and needs!)

      Similar analysis techniques apply when we start talking about health care decisions as well. For example, as a transwoman, there are areas where my health care needs intersect quite well with those of natal females (e.g. Breast Cancer screenings), and other areas where the intersection is non-existant (e.g. pre-natal care).

      The downside to such a model is that it makes the creation of policy much more difficult for policy makers, for they then have to give consideration to where a given policy intersects with both commonly understood gender lines but also with the gradients that lie in between.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly on both accounts. There is an incredibly exciting book I’m ordering in the new year, called The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen, which argues that no universal approach to policy can ever effectively ensure universal justice. The promotional example for this volume is a question of three children and one flute: the first created the flute, the second can play the flute best, and the third has no other toys or opportunities whatsoever, so who is entitled to the instrument? And is that answer the same if we’re not talking about a flute, but a vaccine? I very much look forward to reading Sen’s argument, applying it as I invariably will to the question of gender/sex activism. Do we need universal solutions? Will the same approach or starting premises work with every gender conflict we encounter? And if not, how do we effectively balance local ownership over gender/sex solutions with the need for big government to protect against any one group losing access entirely?

      I think it’s important to recognize that in the absence of external verifiability, we ultimately are constrained to accepting someone’s narrative as valid.

      Again, I wholeheartedly agree: Your comments about the success rates of medical transition, and my own exploration of the low regret rates, highlights that falsifiability should never impede on clear-cut matters where one person’s self-identity in no way suppresses another’s: if medical transition yields better life outcomes for some transgendered people, there is no ethical reason to refuse them access.

      Alternately, when we ask ourselves, in the feminist sphere, how best to recognize the needs of some transgender people for physical transition, while simultaneously promoting born-body positive policy for young, non-trans women, then it becomes important, I think, to question trans activist assertions of born-sex-female “privilege,” and the potential harm they do to born-sex-females who kill themselves because they hate their bodies. These would be the different kinds of intersectionalities you referenced above: And by understanding when and where our individual lived experiences can constructively come into activist discourse, I’d wager we have a far better chance pursuing positive policy for all.

      On a final note, I absolutely don’t take your terming of “agenderness” as sarcastic, but I do wonder at how intriguing you say you find it. The number of born-sex-female women I’ve spoken to who recognize the same in themselves — namely, as a) being sex-female, b) having the gender female designation externally imposed, c) hating (even feeling trapped in) their bodies, and d) holding an “inner truth” that recognizes no intrinsic gender identity at all — works out to roughly three quarters of all the born-sex-female I know. Definitely all the feminists. The latter quarter, by the way, roughly translates to the most gender normative women I know. This is, I know, horribly anecdotal, but it does make me rather intrigued in turn: From your own conversations with women, I’m assuming you’ve acquired a different anecdotal data set?

      Thanks again for responding!

      All the best,

      Maggie

      • Michelle said,

        Maggie,

        The use of the term ‘physical gender’ instead of ‘sex’ is deliberate on my part. I came to this part way through my own transition as I started to deconstruct my own sense of gender and sexuality.

        I found that the term ‘sex’ was too easily laden with all kinds of salacious overtones, even when used strictly with respect to an individual’s genitalia. I deliberately chose to use the term sex as a verb, not as a noun, adopting the concept of physical gender to fill in the gap. That freed me to talk of gender transition and related topics apart from the parallel but distinct topics of sex and sexuality.

        I am not arguing that sex is apart from the picture at all – the cold reality is that the arbitrary criteria of ones physical gender is used as an excuse to oppress. This is true regardless of whether one is female, trans or intersex. I am simply using a parallel term that I have found somewhat freeing from the overloaded meanings associated with sexuality and sexual activity, which tend to colour how others read discussions which include term ‘sex’.

        With respect to the issues of body image issues and trans activist accusations of ‘female privilege’, I must reflect upon my own experiences during transition. One of the biggest lessons I had to learn was to accept my body – flaws and all. It is far from ideally feminine for obvious reasons. The piece I had to learn was that people come in all shapes and sizes – few, if any, meet any kind of ideal.

        I can’t speak for the trans activists who make accusations of “privilege” – it is my own experience that there is far more to be gained in accepting people for who they are, and I have never had reason to make such accusations.

        In my view body image is as much of a problem for trans people as it is for born-female. We all need to learn to accept ourselves, and not give others the right to tell us whether we meet their standards for appearance.

        With respect to an ‘agender’ identity, my own anecdotal experience is different than your own. This may be skewed as a result of my own transition. I have found that most of the women I know have thought about their own sense of gender in light of my transition. (it’s very interesting how knowing someone who has transitioned provokes others to review their own identity more carefully)

        None of the women I know have ever expressed the kind of self destructive narrative you describe although I am aware of its existence.

        This is not to discount the validity of your own experience – I suspect that the sample I have is influenced by factors that do not inform the narratives of the majority of the population.

      • maggieclark said,

        Hi Michelle,

        I found that the term ’sex’ was too easily laden with all kinds of salacious overtones, even when used strictly with respect to an individual’s genitalia. I deliberately chose to use the term sex as a verb, not as a noun, adopting the concept of physical gender to fill in the gap. That freed me to talk of gender transition and related topics apart from the parallel but distinct topics of sex and sexuality. … I am simply using a parallel term that I have found somewhat freeing from the overloaded meanings associated with sexuality and sexual activity, which tend to colour how others read discussions which include term ’sex’.

        I find this very interesting from an intersectionality perspective. You note that this freed you to talk about “gender transition” — which I assume you take to be the retraining of social gender identity to match inner gender identity, in part through the modification of physical gender / sex? This seems to subordinate the role of physical gender / sex to that of a tool for reshaping external identity — a framework vastly at odds with the oppressions inherent to the female sex, and how feminism grapples with the issues therein. As I mentioned to Lisa, the presence of vernacular or discourse in isolation of the vernacular or discourse of other gender/sex communities is likely the central cause of gender activism conflicts: How do you interpret the born-sex-female bid for gender/identity reformation in terms of your own language of gender and sex? Also, you say your issues with the term “sex” arose from associations to sexuality and sexual activity: is this true for you even in your medical discourses? I’m not surprised that the general public has difficulties with the word, but the medical community seems a curious perpetrator of such conflations.

        I can’t speak for the trans activists who make accusations of “privilege” – it is my own experience that there is far more to be gained in accepting people for who they are, and I have never had reason to make such accusations.

        Oh goodness — I wouldn’t ask you to speak for them! Lisa’s presently engaging in a discussion about cis privilege with me, so I trust she can speak to those accusations all on her own. Personally, I find intra-oppression fragmentation along privilege lines derails the discussion completely from fighting the source of gendered oppression, and creates whole new spaces for presumptions about other people’s lived experiences, but clearly I’m biased, so I’ll just keep my conversation to that end with her, and focus with you on creating the theoretical space for comprehensive public policies instead.

        In my view body image is as much of a problem for trans people as it is for born-female. We all need to learn to accept ourselves, and not give others the right to tell us whether we meet their standards for appearance.

        Couldn’t have said it better myself!

        With respect to an ‘agender’ identity, my own anecdotal experience is different than your own. This may be skewed as a result of my own transition. I have found that most of the women I know have thought about their own sense of gender in light of my transition.

        That’s really interesting! And truly, all I was getting at by asking after your own experience with this. So often terminology comes up as specifically trans (gender neutral, for instance) that fits so perfectly with radical feminist gender modelling, to say nothing of my own, non-trans identity, I wonder if the real tragedy here is how far removed two of the closest identity spheres in this discourse really are. I can’t recall the name of the condition, but there’s a lot of research showing that the more people have in common, the deeper our feelings of betrayal become for slight differences therein. Looking at the terms lying at the core of both trans activist and radical feminist gender discourse, I get the strong feeling that often happens here.

        Also, just as an aside, I recently finished responding to a comment by Cheryl, who has a very different interaction set with the medical transition process than what I’ve interpreted (from posts on your own blog) to be your own. Not sure if that’s something you would be interested in discussing with her, but since so much can get lost in these very long comment threads, I thought I might as well pass it on. I asked her what her desires for change to existing trans medical practices would be; I don’t think I’ve yet asked the same of you?

        All the best,

        Maggie

      • Michelle said,

        Oh my – can open, worms everywhere! I’m not sure if I can respond to all of the concepts you have raised in one comment – so if this seems incomplete at first, there’s likely a second comment coming once I’ve had a chance to think it all through intelligently. (as best as I am able, at least!)

        Regarding Transition:

        This seems to subordinate the role of physical gender / sex to that of a tool for reshaping external identity

        Hmmm… I think I need to summarize my experience of being trans, because it is very relevant to fully understanding what I wrote.

        If you think of gender as a braid, with the physical, social and identity strands interwoven, you have a good basic sense of how I came to imagine gender as existing in most people – a relatively well balanced, graceful braid. For me, I didn’t get a braided identity – I got something closer to macramé done by someone who was all thumbs! The physical, social and inner identities were all tangled up with each other.

        When I refer to transition, I am talking about the entire process of untangling that mess, and constructing a balanced braid that is more or less harmonious. The physical and social strands of the braid are just as important as the inner identity, and ultimately each supports and reinforces the other. There is no subordination of one against the others, although at various times I found it necessary to focus on the social over the physical, or vice versa as I was reassembling my “gender braid”. Perhaps the only constant was the inner identity – but my experience is my own, and not necessarily Lisa’s or Cheryl’s.

        I hope that clarifies for you some of the perspective from which I am writing.

        On to your questions:

        How do you interpret the born-sex-female bid for gender/identity reformation in terms of your own language of gender and sex?

        Since I do not see born-sex females attempting to change their gender per se, but rather the discussion is more about changing and refining the feminine social role in the broad context of society’s “social contracts”.

        Since we (Western societies) have had an extended period of male domination in society – to the extent that women have been essentially property for extended periods of history, the issues cover a very broad range of topics from political and economic power to the regulation of sexual activity.

        Also, you say your issues with the term “sex” arose from associations to sexuality and sexual activity: is this true for you even in your medical discourses?

        Not so much with the medical practitioners I have been dealing with. My therapist in particular was actually very helpful in helping me arrive at a language that I could use in both clinical and non-clinical settings. Similarly, my doctors tend to use the language of ‘gender’ in preference to ‘sex’ even when discussing the physical. (It is notable that the Montreal Clinic that performs GRS uses the term ‘Gender Reassignment Surgery’ in its language as well – although that could be a cultural artifact of translating between Québecois and English)

        I thought I might as well pass it on. I asked her what her desires for change to existing trans medical practices would be; I don’t think I’ve yet asked the same of you?

        Hmmm… I haven’t read Cheryl’s comments yet, so I may be completely off-topic.

        Right now, my own perspective is that the issues around the medical treatment of transsexuals are rooted not in the treatment protocols themselves, but more in the politics surrounding our treatment.

        We will not achieve broader access to treatment, or more flexible treatment options until we can overcome the ongoing politicization of our very existence. In Alberta this year, the government used Alberta’s transsexual population as a political football, kicking a key aspect of our treatment needs out of the provincial health care coverage as part of initiating their program of neutering the public health care system.

        As long as we are seen as less than legitimate, then our access to treatment will continue to be restricted.

        That said, I am not entirely opposed to the principles that the WPATH Standards of Care embody, either. The SOC are an interesting balance between the needs and desires of the patients, and the ethical considerations that the treatment community are bound to. I’d like to see a greater degree of flexibility in some aspects of them (and I am no fan of the kind of highly structured programs such as the Gender Clinic at CAMH), but after some lengthy discussions with my own treatment team, I have developed a certain respect for the caution of the treatment community. (Which in part is rooted firmly in the fundamental issue of verifying someone’s stated gender identity over time – the persistence issue that is so nicely spelled out in the DSM)

        I would like to see some changes in the DSM. In particular, I like the idea that Kelly Winters has been proposing around a diagnostic category that is separate from the Sexual Disorders chapter, and a more clear sense of “exit criteria” – in other words, language to describe when the GID diagnosis no longer applies to an individual.

      • maggieclark said,

        Hi Michelle!

        Yes, that’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’m going to wait a wee bit to see if there’s anything else you’d like to add before we move forward (though this seems quite comprehensive thus far!).

        There exists, however, one statement in your answer that I think so perfectly embodies radical feminist concerns with the way many trans activists regard difference between born-sex-females and trans persons — and in the meantime, I’d very much like to discuss that.

        You write:

        Since I do not see born-sex females attempting to change their gender per se, but rather the discussion is more about changing and refining the feminine social role in the broad context of society’s “social contracts”.

        The argument you seem to be making is that switching gender categories is distinct from making gender categories so broad as to be universally inclusive — because the latter is precisely what feminism forwards. Here we therefore find the seeds of binary essentialism, the defense of which does not go over well with radical feminism, and which I also doubt was your specific aim.

        So the next trans argument likely becomes one of extremes: Specifically, that the lengths to which a trans person needs to go to change their social gender are greater than those to which a born-sex-female woman needs to go to change her social gender. Again, though, this presumes born-sex-female lived experience: Is it easier to undergo a long transition process through medical institutions from one gender to another, or to wait until 30, the earliest age most medical practitioners in Canada will agree to give a woman a hysterectomy if she’s not trans identified? Is it easier to experience the horrific threat of violence for being “queer” until one passes for a specific gender again, or easier to live a life with regular fear of rape, forced pregnancy, and the latter being used to keep one in an abusive relationship?

        Clearly these are horrible rhetorical questions, because these very comparatives are the absolute bane of gender activist discourse. They’re all awful. They’re all oppressive. And they’re all based on the same overarching system in which social gender defines how a person is treated by society.

        This is why I strongly feel that, at our core, radical feminism and trans activism share a staggering amount of overlaps, especially in our pursuit of realizing our inner identities in the social sphere. The problem is, when anyone on either side starts presuming and denying experience for the other, we instead end up with derailing discourses that serve no greater good.

        I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir here, though, so for now I’ll leave off with that!

        All the best,

        Maggie

      • Michelle said,

        Maggie Writes:

        The argument you seem to be making is that switching gender categories is distinct from making gender categories so broad as to be universally inclusive — because the latter is precisely what feminism forwards. Here we therefore find the seeds of binary essentialism, the defense of which does not go over well with radical feminism, and which I also doubt was your specific aim.

        I’m not really arguing for a gender binary at all, this is more about intersections of attributes, and how they play out against the triad of attributes previously discussed.

        I would argue that we are in fact talking about two distinct intersections. In the case of gender transition, the intersection includes a somewhat greater emphasis on the physical than is necessarily the case when we are talking about redefining the social gender roles. When one recognizes that gender role exists more clearly in the social space, then the feminist notion of erasing the gender binary makes a perfectly reasonable amount of sense, even when viewed in the context of the transsexual who is moving from ‘physical gender – male’ to ‘physical gender female’ (as closely as possible).

        Specifically, that the lengths to which a trans person needs to go to change their social gender are greater than those to which a born-sex-female woman needs to go to change her social gender. Again, though, this presumes born-sex-female lived experience: Is it easier to undergo a long transition process through medical institutions from one gender to another, or to wait until 30, the earliest age most medical practitioners in Canada will agree to give a woman a hysterectomy if she’s not trans identified? Is it easier to experience the horrific threat of violence for being “queer” until one passes for a specific gender again, or easier to live a life with regular fear of rape, forced pregnancy, and the latter being used to keep one in an abusive relationship?

        I almost opened this can of worms in my last comment, but chose not to precisely because comparative questions like this don’t make for entirely useful argument. However, since you have been braver than I about it, I think it deserves a response.

        First, one has to examine the natural intersections of gendered attribution that are involved. For example, comparing gender transition with hysterectomy does not square. While both involve significant physical dimensions (and I will accept as equal), it is not in the least bit clear to me that both involve the individual’s identity to the same degree. (e.g. having a voluntary hysterectomy does not necessarily change or involve one’s identity as a female)

        Similarly, transsexuals can find themselves in abusive relationships just as natal females can. However, in the case of the natal female, the intersection can move further into the physical when forced pregnancy is brought into the picture. (transsexual women are just as subject to rape as natal women are, but without the possibility of pregnancy resulting from it)

        I think I would have to argue that each of those situations needs to be addressed in its own right individually, and not as a comparative. To engage in comparative discourse will rapidly degenerate into “my lot’s worse than your lot”, and will fail utterly to address the needs and concerns of anybody.

        There are areas of feminist discourse where transsexuals have legitimate voices to be heard; and there are similarly some areas where the transsexuals have lesser stakes, and therefore deserve less prominence. For example, beyond expressing my horror at the notion of forced pregnancy, as a transwoman that is something I will never experience, and really have little to contribute meaningfully to; but in terms of discussions around regulating female sexuality in society (e.g. ‘slut shaming’ tactics etc.), the transsexual voice is perfectly valid.

      • Cheryl said,

        Michelle said,

        December 30, 2009 at 9:33 pm

        (apologies if html markups malfunction)

        First, one has to examine the natural intersections of gendered attribution that are involved. For example, comparing gender transition with hysterectomy does not square. While both involve significant physical dimensions (and I will accept as equal), it is not in the least bit clear to me that both involve the individual’s identity to the same degree. (e.g. having a voluntary hysterectomy does not necessarily change or involve one’s identity as a female)

        Again, as I already stated elsewhere, there is no reason why it has to have anything to do with gender expression either. That requirement in the SOC is purely sexist refuse left over from the 1950’s when the Church of Harry Benjamin first started making transsexuals tell bald-faced lies and ruin their lives in order to qualify for surgery. In fact, Benjamin went so far as to require participants to physically move, change names, change jobs, change occupations, and break all social ties, including family, including divorce, before approving surgery, on the notion that transition could not be successful unless the patient wiped the slate clean and started over from scratch.

        Similarly, transsexuals can find themselves in abusive relationships just as natal females can. However, in the case of the natal female, the intersection can move further into the physical when forced pregnancy is brought into the picture. (transsexual women are just as subject to rape as natal women are, but without the possibility of pregnancy resulting from it)

        You are leaving out the transmen. Transsexual men can also be physically raped and bear children, at least until after hormonal reassignment does its work, which typically takes a year or two to become permanent sterility.

        People often forget the transmen. They generally do not spend much time on these debates and they are grossly underrepresented on the Internet. My understanding is that they just sort of woodwork themselves into the lesbian movement until after reassignment and then vanish, since they tend to pass fairly well unless they have hips like a tractor trailer.

      • Michelle said,

        Cheryl,

        You write:

        That requirement in the SOC is purely sexist refuse left over from the 1950’s

        Ummm… what particular requirement in the SOC are you referring to? (Since the V6 SOC is available online, I would appreciate a reference within that context, please)

        In fact, Benjamin went so far as to require participants to physically move, change names, change jobs, change occupations, and break all social ties, including family, including divorce, before approving surgery, on the notion that transition could not be successful unless the patient wiped the slate clean and started over from scratch.

        Ummm…I don’t claim to have an authoritative biography of Benjamin’s work at hand, but what you are describing is consistent with some of the ‘Gender Clinic’ programs of the 1970s. I think you may be attributing to the <a hrefHarry Benjamin himself attributes that were true of some of the Gender Clinic programs sponsored by some universities and large hospitals at that time. (and possibly before HBIGDA’s SOCs started to be widely adopted)

        You are leaving out the transmen. Transsexual men can also be physically raped and bear children

        Agreed, I did leave them out of my language, although one might argue that the term ‘natal female’ applies to a transman as well.

        In terms of the substance of my argument, I’m not sure that the omission is significant.

        However, I do wish to address one of the interesting ironies of transsexuals. (as distinct from several varieties of transgender folk who transition to varying degrees) Although transsexuals generally go through a period of being distinctly gender transgressive, a large number are fundamentally quite conservative when it comes to gender role or lived gender. This is not to say that all are that way inclined – if such was the case, the narrow definition of transsexualism in the DSM III would adequately describe most of those who seek clinical assistance.

      • Cheryl said,

        Hi Michelle,

        Sorry for the delay getting back to you.

        Ummm… what particular requirement in the SOC are you referring to?

        Specifically, pre-surgical transition from one stereotypical gender into the opposite, the one requirement that is ostensibly about ‘proving’ to the surgeon that the diagnosis is correct and that the ‘treatment’ will be successful (as if that were even possible), but that more often than not results in more stress due to having to cross-live without legal protections, and sometimes causes financial disaster that aborts transition at a vulnerable point, and rarely ‘catches’ anyone who does not belong there, as well as not really being a ‘requirement’ at all in practice and therefore of questionable medical necessity.

        The experiences of those large numbers who work around the SOC protocol covertly have shown me that in most cases, by the time a person is desperate enough to seek surgery, especially if already taking hormones and not getting enough relief any longer, the motivation for surgery was not to ‘become’ anything or anyone, but rather to suppress overwhelming symptoms of gender dysphoria.

        Hormones do not typically work to suppress symptoms of other unrelated problems, in fact hormones usually make other problems worse, so if a transsexual improves on hormones that is usually considered diagnostic all by itself within the TS community anyway.

        Social transition may also improve the situation emotionally as it did minimally for me, but it is not going to be effective at all in someone who transgresses gender. Aside from some occasional jewelry, and sometimes a blouse instead of a starched collar, and a short wig to cover the bald spot, with usually jeans or casual slacks that were cut slightly roomier in the bottom but otherwise identical to my prior look, my ‘post-transition’ look was virtually identical to my ‘pre-transition’ look.

        I only wore makup and a dress or skirt with heels on rare occasions and it is still that way. I do not look much different from an M2F androgynous occasional crossdresser. I only had one surgery and that does not show in public. I usually still have the same androgynous look I always had, just not bald any more, which I would have prevented if I could have preserved my fertility at the same time.

        Although transsexuals generally go through a period of being distinctly gender transgressive, a large number are fundamentally quite conservative when it comes to gender role or lived gender.

        I have not found this to be the case. I have found that transsexuals have such a difficult time fitting in anywhere, or finding a comfortable match between inside and outside, that we adopt whatever lifestyle works regardless of what it entails.

        Many of us get on a surgery treadmill until we run out of money or have a malpractice disaster. It is quite difficult to ‘pass’ in bed for many transsexuals. In my case it will never be possible, unless someone comes up with a way to replace 50% of my hair. Stem cells? That still leaves the skeletal anomalies to deal with…

        I have also found that transsexuals as a class prefer to present themselves publicly as conservative while being distinctly non-conforming in private, especially when it comes to sex itself, and I interpret this to be a symptom of the blurring of gender that is inherent in the condition and the limitations it places upon the range of available mates.

        Actually I have found quite a large overlap between the LGB and the T communities. The only true distinction I would comment on is that a straight post-op transsexual and a gay or lesbian person are not necessarily going to be attracted to each other, but I have found that a ‘straight’ transsexual is usually a bisexual transsexual in denial. There seems to be an abundance of cis-bisexuals who want to date transsexuals, as well as an abundance of bisexual transsexuals who end up dating each other when the late-transitioner’s post-operative dream of a straight relationship fails to materialize for want of a straight non-transsexual partner who is accepting of a gender-ambiguous late transitioner.

        Hormones, surgery, and re-education can only do so much for passability and there is always the problem of fertility to contend with. I was dumped by a bisexual marine who married a straight girl in order to have children. I encouraged him to go rather than forego his chance to be a father. What else could I do? I could not compete with a fertile woman and he would forever be regretting it if he gave up his chance to make a mark on the world.

        I know of many transsexuals that possess gender traits of both sexes, in fact all of the transsexuals I personally have met and interacted with are distinctly androgynous in substantial ways, even those who transitioned ‘early’ (I do not personally know anyone who transitioned before puberty). I know women truck drivers, auto mechanics and techie engineers like me, male hairdressers, teachers and sales clerks, people who at first glance might appear gender-normative but after inspection are notably bulging out of the post-transition closet and not really too concerned about it unless it leads to discrimination.

        There is this problem with trying to characterize transsexuals. First there is no reliable data anywhere because we are pariahs and nobody really cares. Second there is just as much post-transition pressure to conform as there was pre-transition, even though conforming to a gender binary is very difficult for someone who is naturally out of the box, and this leads to lots of pretending and denial. Third it is very difficult for many transsexuals to overcome the fact that the TS brain is in fact intersex, therefore possessing characteristics of both sexes, and even though the M2F electrical engineer may be a great cook and may have worked on her speaking voice to the point of near-perfection, chances are her handwriting and dancing and singing voice and hand-eye coordination are just as graceless as the average roofer, especially if she waited until after exploring the world, getting a college degree, getting married, and fathering a family, like I did, before starting hormones, rather than starting hormones illegally from the internet at the age of 12 as is increasingly common.

        My understanding is that early transitioners may be much more ‘conservative’ in their gender presentation since they have the opportunity to prevent the wrong kind of puberty and all the damage it brings, but as I said I have no personal knowledge of any such person. Everyone I know transitioned after puberty and many much later, most in mid thirties to late forties.

        These are the kinds of things that are difficult to perceive unless one has access to a large population. The one thing I learned about transsexuals is that none of us are gender-normative, even those who protest strongly to be so, but only have the grace to pass flawlessly if they are young and had access to illegal hormones from the internet while still children.

        So this raises the inevitable question, which is, what exactly is the advantage of a real life test if what it is testing by and large does not even exist in reality for the late transitioner, and does not exist in practical terms even for most of those who would transition early but (for one reason or another, most notably lack of parental support let alone consent, and certainly for lack of professional employment and the financing it brings, and for lack of insurance coverage or at least lack of priority even where socialized medicine provides coverage) cannot have anyway?

        I am all for caution. I just do not want to see doctors using caution as an excuse to terminate legal rights to malpractice awards for damages that are completely unrelated to regret. The worst part of it is they can legitimately claim that the ‘legal’ rights are not affected by the SOC even though in practical terms it terminates all legal rights just by its existence, because it creates an overwhelming sense in the minds of the jury that the transsexual consented to any and all consequences.

        This is not my opinion. This is the opinion of dozens of attorneys I consulted for help with my medical malpractice case. I never filed because I could not find a single attorney who was willing to risk a nickel on a transsexual contingency case, specifically because juries are inherently biased against us and if we sign up to anything that gives the appearance of having given up our rights it is automatically assumed we cannot ever win damages. Persistent questioning, if successful in bringing out the truth from the more forthcoming attorneys, always brought out this one last sticking point after we had dispensed with all of the bogus reasons for not proceeding.

        This SOC is separate and distinct from the standard ‘elective’ surgery disclosure that applies to many surgeries, which although it conceivably should apply to breast implants since they are only for improving looks, should not apply to facial surgery, electrolysis, mastectomy, or bottom surgery, since those are undertaken to correct primary and secondary sexual characteristics that are radically offensive to the transsexual brain and cause profound distress as well as potentially life-threatening suicidal ideation and maybe profound or lethal prejudice.

        Anyway, enough said, I think this dead horse has been beaten to a pulp.

      • Michelle said,

        Cheryl,

        I trust that you are referring to the RLE portion of the SOC.

        The act of fully adopting a new or evolving gender role or gender presentation in everyday life is known as the real-life experience. The real-life experience is essential to the transition to the gender role that is congruent with the patient’s gender identity.

        I do not believe that this requirement is as rigid or narrowly defined as you are claiming. (that isn’t to say that some practitioners apply an overly rigid understanding of it)

      • m Andrea said,

        think it’s important to recognize that in the absence of external verifiability, we ultimately are constrained to accepting someone’s narrative as valid.

        Absolutely not logical.

        “IF one is in the presence of neither internal nor external validity, THEN one is required to do whatever somebody else demands”. I know this is going to come as a shock, but logic doesn’t work by describing an absence of factual awareness and then sticking whatever the hell you want after it. That thing in italics isn’t even in the form of a logical argument, which is why I corrected it for you. It’s a persuasive piece of propaganda and nothing more.

        Let’s stick to real logic, shall we? Keep in mind, I am highly offended by non-logic; it is a constant pet peeve superseded only by hypocrisy, which is the unintended consequence of that little word-salad.

        When there is no internal or external means of determining validity, there is also no reason to insist that “everyone” accept any particular person’s word for anything. Whose word is “everyone” supposed to accept, and for what reason should that particular person’s word be accepted over another person’s word? To demand that for yourself which you are not prepared to give in return is HYPOCRISY. To demand that “everyone” believe Jane instead of Jack, in the absence of proof, is Jane acting like a goddamn special snowflake.

        Perhaps explaining this again would be helpful. “Gender Identity” is how one person perceives oneself. “Reputation” is the word used to describe how others perceive oneself, and it should be obvious that no one is entitled to expect other people to alter their own perceptions without proof.

        To insist that one specific group is allowed to demand that everybody else accept their very personal, most intimate perceptions of themselves as gospel without ever allowing any other group that same entitlement, is hypocrisy.

  2. Cheryl said,

    “The only difference between these identities being recognized as legitimate or treated as manifestations of mental illness is the existence of a society that can maintain the livelihood of persons in those states.”

    Sorry, I have to respectfully disagree.

    Schizophrenics, depressives, and manic-depressives who successfully suppress severe symptoms (more or less) with psychiatric medication are still mentally ill, regardless of whether their employers allow them to retain their jobs once they have been ‘outed’, or whether their employers choose to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and terminate such mentally ill individuals instead.

    If you google search on “transsexual stuttering gene” you should find ample evidence that researchers have finally identified a genetic cause for transsexuality that manifests as a repetitive gene sequence disruption along a prolonged section of a specific chromosome. Replacing the genetic sequence with a repetitive sequence could be analogous in its effects to the application of an erasure magnet to magnetic recording tape. It is a remarkably obvious genetic defect that requires no special decoding and translation to recognize as an erasure of information.

    Similarly, if you google search on “BSTc transsexual” you should also find ample evidence that researchers have finally identified a pea-sized brain sex ambiguity deep in the primordial central brain of M2F transsexuals (both human and rat) that is centered in the core portion of the brain and is already known to respond to prenatal testosterone surges by doubling in size under a natural flood of testosterone in the very earliest stages of gestation. Rat studies using injected prenatal hormones to manipulate testosterone levels in the fetus confirmed this lack of doubling change in M2F and a correspondingly opposite uncharacteristic doubling change in F2M as well, proving that male-presenting rats have a BSTc that is on average twice the size of female-presenting rats, regardless of the physical sex of the animal. The BSTc is known to control the central neurological response to adult gonadotropins (sex hormones) as well as suspected of being central to pre-pubertal gender identity.

    These two discoveries, as obscure as they may be to the average doctor and as unpopular as they are for repeatability testing to validate them, are peer-reviewed and the best evidence we have to date of the ’cause’ of M2F transsexuality, and they clearly point to a genetically induced prenatal hormonal abnormality (using the mean as a representation of ‘normal’ in the colloquial sense of the word, rather than the normal distribution as a representation of ‘normal’ in the scientific sense of the word), specifically they point to a genetically induced prenatal hormonal abnormality that induces a permanent crippling neurological abnormality in the very core of the brain where the most basic and central brain functions are controlled.

    The fact that a pair of studies show a clear physical cause in the genes and brain for the misery that transsexuals endure, in itself demonstrates that transsexuality, almost unique among innate mental illnesses that manifest outwardly as unusual but otherwise harmless behavior (at least until puberty sets in), has a clearly identifiable physical cause, even if it can only be scientifically detected in a specific individual through objective laboratory investigation with exotic genetic testing or post-mortem frozen section of the brain core. Even schizophrenia, a mental disorder that also takes off on a ballistic trajectory in puberty, lacks that degree of objectively testable clinical definition, despite the extreme effects of schizophrenia on the individual.

    Yes I know that there will most likely (but not necessarily) be exceptions where one or both of these factors will eventually be determined to be less than 100% conclusive, same as in genetic and brain studies of gayness or depression or bipolar or numerous other genetically influenced traits such as cancer and heart disease, but for now these two studies are the best information we have on transsexuality, and in terms of conclusiveness, the available evidence seems to be fairly conclusive, even more so than for gayness. Here is why.

    Most transsexuals that I have met eventually self-destruct without medical intervention and find themselves forced to transition or at least begin covert illegal hormonal reassignment via illegal internet pharmacies and spend a significant amount of time crossdressed, often covertly in isolation to avoid social complications. Usually such individuals begin transition at the latest in their mid 40’s for those who determined (but failed) to keep it secret in order to avoid oppression and provide a stable home for their own genetic children. Then eventually things deteriorate or at least change drastically as the person inevitably begins to transform either into a psychiatric train wreck or a person who expresses an alternate gender presentation (sometimes both, depending on how well the transition is received or how long the person delays transition), usually resulting in an immediate divorce in either case.

    Any physical neurological abnormality that severely degrades or terminates life of the affected individual if appropriate medical treatment is withheld is by definition an illness, regardless of where we want to place the blame for the divorce or the termination of employment or the withholding of appropriate medical care, denial of emergency food and housing, or access to bathrooms.

    The condition itself is completely independent of how society treats such individuals. Transsexuality exists in the brain, independently of the outside world, and it eventually destroys most of those who are afflicted unless appropriate treatment is rendered, regardless of whether or not the outside world accepts the individual. That makes it a mental illness. Period.

    On the philosophical level we can argue until we are blue in the face that we should be accepted for our uniqueness and nurtured, but that will never change the medical fact that transsexuals are incompletely differentiated and express physical characteristics of both sexes, even if the physical sexual ambiguity is often completely hidden in the brain same as for homosexuals and bisexuals. As such, we definitely fall into the realm of intersex. Since our condition interferes with longevity, mental stability, and procreation by compelling us to reject not only our medically assigned sex at birth but also our physical bodies as young children and adults, even compelling us to acts of genital self-mutilation or suicide if medical treatment is withheld, it is a severe mental illness too, an important distinction from gayness.

    For transsexuals, the body is usually well-formed. Regardless of the fact that my testosterone fluctuated around the lowest end of the male scale and I was a pencil-necked weakling geek who lactated from puberty until I started taking estrogen at the age of 40, I can lay no credible physical claim to being female other than the physically minor but neurologically overpowering anomaly in the core of my brain. Even my hair permanently fell out under the influence of the minimal testosterone my gonads produced, and I fathered two children. My illness is mental.

    The incapacity of medicine to relieve my suffering at its origin rather than at the periphery in no way pushes the problem outside of my central nervous system. All it does it point out the infantile state of psychiatry and the impenetrable complexity of the human brain, with its billions of neurons that each contain a better-than-state-of-the-art quantum computer in the nucleus as well as thousands of physical synaptic interconnections of every single neuron and uncounted ethereal chemical and quantum effects between otherwise unconnected neurons, some of those interconnections including the quantum possibility of instantaneous action at a distance with paired particles that could exist millions of miles away or even in alternate universes for all we know.

    Psychiatry has little chance of dealing directly with the physical manifestations of transsexuality given the present state of medical understanding of the brain, but at least now we have a target, and it is only the size of a pea. Surely they will think of something eventually.

    If psychiatry could have safely fixed the problem with a simple drug or stem cell procedure that regenerated a normally sized and functioning BSTc, and boosted my testosterone a little so that my muscles would develop normally and I would stop lactating, I would have unquestionably chosen that treatment instead.

    Even better would be if they could also splice in the missing genes so that my children would never inherit a trace of this miserable condition.

    In the grand biological scheme of things it may be counter-evolutionary to eradicate genetic diversity with technology, but on a purely selfish level it would have been a heck of a lot less painful than having my beard yanked out one needle insertion at a time and letting a sawbones hack go after my genitals with a scalpel.

    It would also have been far more acceptable socially and could have preserved what was otherwise a functional home environment for my children. Plus it would have saved a hundred thousand dollars in uninsured medical expenses, it would have been an insured procedure, and it would have avoided the disastrous financial and emotional costs of divorce as well as preserved my fertility should I choose to have more children later.

    The choice would have been a no-brainer (no anti-pun intended…)

    The saddest part of it all is that no matter how many times I elucidate these simple and self-evident points, I still hear M2F transsexuals all claiming they would rather have a magic pill that turned them into a fully functional woman. Well that may be emotionally appealing to a transsexual, even to me, but for me on a realistic level, I would rather have something effective that is at least potentially within the realm of the possible some day, instead of a fantasy that will never materialize at any time in future history.

    I only wish that researchers would start looking into a real cure or at least a genetic screening and prenatal prevention-oriented hormonal treatment that focuses on the known physical causes, rather than focusing on demeaning fetishistic diagnoses and oppressive ‘reparative therapy’ or hacking up our bodies to make us slightly more comfortable. That is sort of like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped, or maybe even forcing the horse back into the stall while the barn is on fire.

    • maggieclark said,

      Hi Cheryl,

      Thanks for the long, thoroughly evidenced description of genetic indicators of transsexuality. I greatly appreciate your addition to the conversation.

      I am, however, terribly confused about what brought you to write about these genetic indicators. The quotation you pulled was in a paragraph about trans ableism, not transsexuality. Was that not clear? Is that an overlap to trans ableism that you’re inferring with the genetic evidence for transgender identities?

      Best,

      Maggie

    • maggieclark said,

      Okay, wait — I think I get it now. Your second paragraph doesn’t naturally lead into your third: they’re distinct commentary on the original post, yes?

      If so, I thought about other mental illnesses when phrasing that statement (which, by the way, is not meant to endorse trans ableism: I hope it’s clear I do very much feel it is a mental illness, and only permitted any traction whatsoever in discourse due to the reason I outlined above): The difference is that society can’t maintain the livelihood of people with schizophrenia and depression — just as it can’t with cancer — and that its inability isn’t intrinsically a death sentence, the way being amputated or quadraplegic would be in the natural state I referenced. I know firsthand that individuals are mostly responsible for handling their own mental illnesses on a day-to-day level, and that by definition, those who have these conditions are necessarily considered a constant threat to their own well-being, and that of those around them. Moreover, while the quadraplegic would not survive in a natural state (i.e. before welfare states, and before scientific/social advancement), schizophrenia and depression don’t necessarily determine such a fatal outcome (in fact, if research into the higher incidence of schizophrenia in denser population groupings is any indication, these conditions might be a lot rarer, too, in a “natural” condition). In contrast, with a person who identifies as trans abled, the threat to themselves is finite in scope (limited to the specific disability), after which point society has both the capacity and, in welfare states, the responsibility to maintain them: This is, in essence, what I think causes the specificity of disability fetishization in the first place, and what I was referring to with the line you quoted above.

      I hope that clarifies things!

      All the best,

      Maggie

      • Cheryl said,

        Actually I assumed that you intended that quote to apply to all the groups you mentioned, since popular perception is that every single group that is either sexually or body dismorphically different in some way is crazy, no matter what the DSM or ICD say (or do not say). Also, when I read your article, it was somewhat longer and more convoluted than most of what I read these days, and I had some difficulty holding it all in my head long enough to gestalt it all at once, so I was basically just spouting off my own personal experience without putting it into proper context. Sorry for the confusion. I am not a journalist or even a scientist any more. Anyway…

        At the least, common perception among most of the medical community is that transsexuality, with the obsessive desire for hormonal and genital reassignment, is simply a body dismorphic mental disorder rather than an innate, physically proven brain difference that justifies extreme physical intervention (hence the autogynephilic/sissy boy/reparative therapy for the primary school crowd firestorm raging against the selection of Blanchard and his disciples to write the gender identity portion of the next DSM). The trans ableism quote thus applies to the transsexual population equally well in our current political climate. I assumed that was why you lumped them all together in the same discussion.

        Many transsexuals want the diagnosis of gender identity disorder removed from the mental disorder diagnostic manuals, and another physical disorder added to the medical disorder diagnostic manuals instead, to both remove the stigma associated with the condition and to force the issue on insurance coverage for medically necessary treatments, as well as to de-emphasize the gatekeeper role of the therapist that currently serves primarily as a strong legal defense against misdiagnosis and post-surgical regret medical malpractice claims against doctors when things go wrong in the patient’s post-operative life under the crushing burden of trans stigma and medical complications that could arise from any source, including from actual medical malpractice in the operating theater. The typical concern raised by doctors and therapists that they do not want us to make an irreversible mistake and they want to make sure we do not freak out on hormones due to comorbid mental disorders is largely a sham. Most transsexuals I know spent decades praying to wake up changed every night of their lives from at least the onset of puberty and in some cases from the time they learned language skills, and the only mental disorders most of them face were induced by the treatment they got from society itself, including in many cases the disdain or outright ostracism by parents, siblings, employers, and landlords, and in others the arrogance and even reckless wanton malpractice of their own surgeons. Such issues do not properly belong in the therapist’s office but rather in the legislature.

        Another popular item on the transsexual Santa Claus wish list is to abolish gender markers on birth certificates and by extension abolish gender restrictions on marriage so that those who are capable of and comfortable with leaving their gonads alone can marry an appropriate partner. This of course is an ironic wish since it is not God but rather the pediatrician who misidentified the transsexual in the first place, and thus created a lifetime of misery, and it should be just as easy for a psychiatrist to spontaneously correct that error upon a solid diagnosis of gender identity disorder as it was for the pediatrician to create it in the first place by looking at the genitals instead of waiting for the child to develop language skills and inform the doctor of his/her/its true gender, or lack of gender, or pan-gender eclecticism…

        I am comfortable with all that on a political and emotional level, but on an intellectual and medical level, at least as far as the classification of transsexuality as a physical birth defect rather than a mental disorder, I feel it is dishonest. The brain is at fault. The DSM as well as the ICD specifically avoid either attributing specific physical causes (such as neurotransmitter levels or neuronal organization) or specific recommended treatments (such as antipsychotics or surgery be it brain surgery or genital surgery), both because the science is not mature enough to sustain such absolute statements in a medical malpractice court where the standard of care is defined on a case-by-case basis, let alone in the treatment room where potentially anything at all can happen, and because encoding such things in the diagnostic manuals would exceed the purpose of the books in the first place. That leaves it up to the doctors and the legislature and the insurance companies and the attorneys to fight it out and hand down edicts as to the true cause and cure of our conditions on a case-by-case basis, which although it is potentially the most flexible system possible, in practice it almost always results in oppressive inflexible edicts that serve no one but those who create them.

        As I stated, either way it really does not matter what society thinks. Both trans conditions in question are currently and appropriately defined as mental disorders and medically it matters not one whit whether the society approves and is supportive or not. The only reason that sexual orientation is exempt from similar criticisms is because, aside from the obvious difficulties it causes for procreation in those who absolutely cannot or will not cross over at least long enough to start a pregnancy, there is no significant medical impact either physically or mentally, and even for the devote homo adherents we have simple artificial insemination techniques and adoption to mitigate the empty nest syndrome, at least where local laws and customs permit, and barring that there is always the possibility of relocation to a more accepting state. Realistically those compensatory measures should also be regarded as medical artifices that are necessary to overcome the mental stressors when infertility is caused by being gay, but our society is too forgiving now to encode it and condemn gay people to a life of medical stigma just because their condition might interfere with fertility, which is after all a common problem that many straight people also face.

        Clear now, or did I just muddy the waters?

        BTW I had never heard of trans ableism before, and it is not even in Wikipedia or Dictionary.com so I had some difficulty finding a definition. I had heard of fetishistic amputations and Munchhausen and hypochondria, but I never dreamed anyone could want to be disabled. I have found it to be the most painful and depressing thing that ever happened to me. What an awful mental illness to have. Here I was thinking that nothing could be more stressful than transsexuality except perhaps full-blown psychosis, and there are people out there who want to lose their capacity to work or hear or see or move intentionally and become completely dependent… what could possibly bring someone to such a place? I would give up anything except my children to regain my capacity to work. I guess that might help me understand how the average person abhors the thought of rearranging their genitals…

      • maggieclark said,

        Hi Cheryl,

        Sounds like the confusion was on my end — sorry the piece seemed so convoluted to you. As should be readily apparent, I only got as far as defining why we need to have a falsifiability talk: justification for it ended up becoming the whole of the piece, and that no doubt complicated things a bit. Yes, trans ableism is extraordinarily hard to wrap one’s brain about, and its existence demonstrates a great deal of weakness in our present language for identity, gender, privilege, and even sex. This was the sole connection to transsexuality I presented above: The language for one has created problems for the discursive model for the other (and through it, other gender communities in turn). This is another consequence of a discourse that prioritizes noumenological truth as the sole deciding factor for public policy, and thus a reason to question that prioritization. (Either with Michelle’s argument for the “persistence” model, or site-specific identification of other relevant factors, case-by-case.)

        That said, I found this interesting:

        Many transsexuals want the diagnosis of gender identity disorder removed from the mental disorder diagnostic manuals, and another physical disorder added to the medical disorder diagnostic manuals instead, to both remove the stigma associated with the condition and to force the issue on insurance coverage for medically necessary treatments, as well as to de-emphasize the gatekeeper role of the therapist … The typical concern raised by doctors and therapists that they do not want us to make an irreversible mistake and they want to make sure we do not freak out on hormones due to comorbid mental disorders is largely a sham.

        Because if you’ve read Michelle’s comments, you’ll know that she instead removed “sex” from her theory of gender identity, which she links to in her first comment. I think it was also on her blog (in the comments for that gender identity post) that she also talks about the benefits she sees for a long-term approach to transition — specifically, the benefits for a great many transgendered who, having explored the possibility of transition fully, ultimately decide it’s not for them. For this reason, I think you two might be better off discussing this with each other: Not being transgendered, I have absolutely nothing to say about whether or not the current model meets your needs, but it does strike me that such a wide range of differing opinions about the current medical community nonetheless exists among trans persons themselves. I hope these divergent opinions don’t too severely hamper trans activist public policy initiatives on the whole. Would you say, then, that the ideal for you would be any trans person being able to skip the year of living fully in their original sex, attending therapy sessions the whole while, and instead jump right to the surgery on demand? What do you think that would do to the regret rate — which is currently exceedingly low, despite the number of transsexual surgeries themselves skyrocketing? Also, on what basis do these trans persons seeking the excision of gender/body dysmorphia and the replacement of a physical model base their argument? Even research into distinct trans attributes in the brain is just that — based on our organ of perception, not the body itself. So how are they approaching this bid for redefinition?

        Another popular item on the transsexual Santa Claus wish list is to abolish gender markers on birth certificates and by extension abolish gender restrictions on marriage so that those who are capable of and comfortable with leaving their gonads alone can marry an appropriate partner.

        While I absolutely endorse this myself, I am confused by your use of “gender markers” on birth certificates: You mean “sex,” don’t you? Because that’s what pediatricians are noting. The sex of a person. Not their gender. I just don’t recall any double categorization (gender AND sex) on official documents that would allow one to assume the doctors in question are making any concrete proclamations about how the child self-identifies. They’re talking about basic physical biology here, and the different care sets therein prescribed. I’m just exceedingly surprised by an argument that eradicates the place of sex in this discourse, when it comes so soon after you said many trans persons want to shift the identification of body dysmorphia to the physical realm.

        I am comfortable with all that on a political and emotional level, but on an intellectual and medical level, at least as far as the classification of transsexuality as a physical birth defect rather than a mental disorder, I feel it is dishonest. The brain is at fault.

        Ah, okay! I see now — just as I was holding up certain radical feminist arguments as distinct contributions to the discourse, so too were you holding up certain trans activist arguments as distinct contributions as well. This is also no doubt something that made my original post seem convoluted to you; I’ll keep that in mind in the future.

        As I stated, either way it really does not matter what society thinks. Both trans conditions in question are currently and appropriately defined as mental disorders and medically it matters not one whit whether the society approves and is supportive or not.

        Agreed, inasmuch as trans genderism stands distinct from society’s favour — but disagreed, inasmuch as I think it still matters a great deal that we have a society that does not deny individuals access to treatment with such a clear benefit profile to quality of life.

        So I guess, in closing, and hot off your deconstruction of other trans activist aims, I’d just like to ask what YOU feel the trans community needs in the way of medical/procedural reforms right now, and how you engage the matter of “sex,” which is for born-sex-female women so crucial to our lived experience — being, as it is, the central site of gendered oppression.

        Thanks again for responding!

        All the best,

        Maggie

      • Cheryl said,

        HI Maggie,

        Great discussion, by the way…

        “noumenological” ?

        What does that word mean? I cannot find that one in the dictionary either, it seems to be a religious or philosophical term and maybe an antonym to phenomenological, but the web sites I see it on do not define it.

        “Would you say, then, that the ideal for you would be any trans person being able to skip the year of living fully in their original sex, attending therapy sessions the whole while, and instead jump right to the surgery on demand?”

        Fact is, this is not the way it works anyway. Depending on the therapist or surgeon, it can vary considerably. Consider this range, for hormones:

        – two or more years real life test (RLT) before therapist or doctor approves hormones, requiring referral by a licensed psychiatrist M.D.

        – three months therapy with a licensed therapist M.S. before therapist approves hormones, three sessions total to confirm persistent desire, no real life test required for hormones

        – endocrinologist M.D. decides independently in one or more appointments based on patient history, presentation, and/or narrative, no real life test required

        – illegal hormones on the internet, person chooses whatever gender presentation serves the immediate purpose

        – legal hormones over the counter in some countries… etc.

        Obviously if a patient has already taken hormones for decades via whatever means, the doctor is not going to argue, same foes for an open-minded endocrinologist who simply interviews the patient, thinks for himself, and disregards external factors.

        Then it gets even wilder for surgery:

        – two years real life test full time plus two psychiatrist M.D referral letters

        – one year real life test full time plus one M.D. or Ph.D referral letter and one therapist letter

        – six months real life test full time plus one psychiatrist M.D. appointment and letter obtained via referral by the surgeon immediately before surgery, or hand-carried from home

        – several years real life test with no therapy or any other supervision, with or without hormones depending on the state of health of the patient and other factors

        – real life test of a predetermined length is attempted, but patient cannot raise the money for surgery and spends several years or decades non-op until finally able to pay. Usually the delay is because patient was immediately fired upon announcing intentions to employer and immediately divorced too and spent several years finding a way to raise the money with a substantially decreased salary and substantially increased expenses. Probably no longer professionally employed and no longer able to afford single-family home, probably also depressed or suicidal which may be interpreted as a ‘co-morbid’ condition that was ‘revealed’ under the ‘stress’ of hormone therapy, leading to years of antidepressant therapy and repetitive refusals to provide referral letters for surgery. May require starting over with a new therapist and lying about the past to get around the acquired stigma of ’emergent’ mental illness that is actually induced artificially by the protocol itself.

        – patient lies to therapists and doctors and hides the truth from employers, only lives in role when under direct observation to deceive therapist in order to obtain referral letter, then reverts during working hours, only living in role while stealth to protect employment and avoid huge financial setback. Prevents having to save up tens of thousands of dollars for surgery, after fired and spending months or years looking for new employment — with gender presentation not matching gender marker on identification or work history — and entire business sector spreading nasty rumors and lies about the person to deliberately sabotage career and transition out of transphobic spite.

        (Actually, this is the mode that most people in my company expected me to go, because they all assumed that surgery is on demand. They expected me to just go off for surgery as a guy and come back presenting as a woman. They were quite surprised to learn that I would spend two years using the unisex bathroom that was downstairs as far as possible from my desk and presenting myself as female while still packing. They were even more surprised when we moved into a new facility that had no unisex bathroom and they learned that I had to share a bathroom with the ladies. So was I, frankly. I was afraid to use either bathroom because I expected to be attacked, but it was actually quite uneventful.)

        – patient forges referral letters. (most surgeons require that the letters be posted by the therapist now because some patients were very creative in their approach to forgery)

        – patient has surgery with a surgeon who is not part of the medical monopoly and does not follow the protocol. The last one I heard of doing this was a Mexican with no medical license and no medical training who also performed fetish amputaions. Most of his patients had severe complications or died, until he was incarcerated.

        – surgeon waives real life test and/or hormones for patients whose livelihood would be terminated or whose lives might be endangered by transitioning before surgery. There are many reasons to make this exception and it is rarely denied anyone who truly needs it.

        Then there is always the default path:

        – patient encounters several stumbling blocks and traumas that are specifically due to the real life test and that are completely unrelated to the appropriateness of the path or the eventual successful integration. Patient becomes disillusioned with the entire medical model, loses all hope of ever curing the gender dysphoria as it continues to worsen to an intolerable lever, gives up and commits suicide.

        or its variation:

        – patient becomes frustrated after months or years of being blocked and reaches the brink of suicide. The therapist relents in fear that the patient will actually commit suicide, writes referral letter for hormones and/or surgery even though protocols specifically prohibit taking this action.

        (this is how it worked for me with my referral letter for hormones. My therapist has a reputation for delaying patients to the brink of death. My endocrinologist insisted that I take an antidepressant and it caused permanent brain damage. The doctors I see still refuse to acknowledge that I even have brain damage, let alone that the antidepressant caused it.)

        So you can see that the ‘requirement’ is not really a requirement at all. Patients can find ways to circumvent all requirements either out of choice or necessity, and in some cases it either harms or kills the patient.

        The problem is that these things are all portrayed by the medical profession in polar extremes when in fact they are not even close. Transsexuals who need to transition often get desperate and that desperation is both easily detected and easily misinterpreted.

        I know patients who have gone all these myriad ways, and they all seem to have the same essentially happy outcomes, except for the ones who give up and die of course, and the ones who were victimized with medical malpractice, and they only regret the victimization. The only ones that have regrets about their choices that I know of are the ones who interrupted transition and reversed their physical changes under social pressure, mainly from spouses. There are some reported cases of pure regret on the internet but I never met anyone out of hundreds. When you think about it, the problem from the transsexual’s standpoint is that it is entirely too hard to complete the process. Too many get mangled in the machinery and spend the rest of their lives roadkill because it was too hard to finish.

        I know of one person who had full electrology and hormones but not surgery, then was talked out of it by his wife, who was a therapist that disapproves of transition. They divorced and he took me to dinner once, during which time I told him that I felt anyone who went through that much of the process and was still hanging around with the community was definitely transgender but that it was completely up to him what he wanted to do with his life. He disagreed and claimed he was not transgender. I explained that sometimes just taking hormones to damage the gonads, or having them removed, is enough to shut off both the libido and the dysphoria at the same time, and suggested maybe that was what happened to him, but he disagreed. I let it drop. We never talked again.

        As far as whether people should have to go through a real life test or not, here is what I personally believe.

        Any surgeon who imposes such requirement should offer a free unemployment insurance policy, a free life insurance policy, and a free health insurance policy that covers the full cost of transition and living expenses for the entire real life test. It is fine if the patient’s employer-provided or state-provided insurance is primary, but let’s get real here. No other medical procedure has this bogus requirement. It exists for one purpose only – to protect the surgeon from medical malpractice lawsuit. If the doctor wants that protection, the doctor should pay for it.

        The last time I checked, patients were always responsible for their choices, regardless of whether it was a face lift, a breast implant, or a stomach reduction. If there was any huge problem with people getting sex changes on a whim like they get married on a whim, we would have seen it already. Fact of the matter is that a few months of intermittent psychotherapy is plenty to weed out the wackos, and for the rest, well, everyone takes their chances, so why should innocents suffer and die needlessly for the choices of a couple of idiots?

        Doctors have no business ascertaining the motives of patients. Patiets come to doctors for medical help, not for life coaching.

        The real life test and the ‘standard of care’ that are imposed originate not with a regulatory authority but with a medical monopoly to protect its own members from legal liability. It is repackaged and sold to patients as a form of protection in the same way that credit card companies sell us useless credit protection services that serve only to enrich the credit card companies by limiting their exposure to the financial losses of identity theft. Consumers are already protected by legislation.

        The same goes for real life test and standard of care. Physicians are already protected when patient signs informed consent form. The physicians want more than that though. They want a document that will completely insulate them from any conceivable liability no matter how gross their misbehavior is, and between the therapist’s referral letters, the real life test and the ‘standard of care’ they have managed to exploit public bias so perfectly that no one ever sues a surgeon for a botched SRS and wins any substantial damages regardless of the facts of the case. The jury is convinced by implication that the patient signed away all rights because the patient agreed to crawl through broken glass naked to get to the operating table.

        If the real life test and standard of care were a medical necessity it would be required of all patients. It is not. Therefore the only reason for its existence is to protect the doctor. Period. This is simple deductive reasoning and plain as the nose on your face. No doctor would ever skip a medically necessary blood test simply because it was inconvenient for the patient and might lead the patient to change his/her mind about undergoing the procedure.

        “What do you think that would do to the regret rate — which is currently exceedingly low, despite the number of transsexual surgeries themselves skyrocketing?”

        The regret rate will go down, because ensconced predatory surgeons who have no business being in the marketplace would be forced out by new competition when demand rose and the stigma to both patient and surgeon lessened. The quality of services provided to the patient will also go up as surgeons who perform these reconstructions on cancer patients bring their knowledge to the table and begin marketing their techniques to transsexuals, forcing surgeons who have monopolized the thinking on these procedures as applied to transsexuals to update their skills or be forced out of the market.

        “Also, on what basis do these trans persons seeking the excision of gender/body dysmorphia and the replacement of a physical model base their argument?”

        Well, as we already discussed, the interest in, and funding for, research that would validate the existing few studies is slim to nonexistent, which is one reason why this has not happened. Another is that there is a very strong sexist interest in repressing all sexual minorities to preserve male privilege, particularly male Christian/Islamic privilege, and transsexuals are a convenient and highly visible wedge issue / bogeyman to frighten people with and reinforce that privilege by strategy of divide and conquer, setting us all at odds with each other.

        There will be a fight to the death, because if transsexuals ever gain legitimacy for a physical basis in the brain to the condition, it will suddenly become indefensible to use transsexuals as whipping post. It would be like trying to use crippled people in wheel chairs to frighten your political base into action. It would suddenly become obvious what a morally despicable thing it is to use transsexuals to frighten people, seen as cynical and underhanded and completely dishonest, and that would call every major Christian denomination into question, since their primary selling point is goodwill.

        It would also invalidate the very basis of sexual discrimination that the ‘male and female he created them’ crowd relies on to manipulate humanity — it would call into question, even more than genital intersexuality already does, the nature of sexual dimorphism and thus the validity of the ancient texts would also by extension be called into question. The decline in religion would accelerate, leading to a conservative backlash the likes of which we have never before seen.

        My prediction is that transsexuals will never gain recognition for the intersexual brain because the required research will never be done. We are far too valuable to the Christians (and others) as we are now. It would be like a pimp sending his tricks out to work in restaurants for minimum wage.

        “Even research into distinct trans attributes in the brain is just that — based on our organ of perception, not the body itself. So how are they approaching this bid for redefinition?”

        Don’t know. As far as I know, at this point it does not go much beyond bitchin’ and whinin’. Most of us are desperately trying to make it through the real life test without getting fired so that we can afford surgery, or litigating a divorce, or finding cheap housing and paying child support, or turning tricks for hormone money, or convalescing after surgery, or rebuilding our entire social network after being rejected, or laying under an electrologist’s needle for several years, or saving up for implants and scalp revision and bony facial reconstruction, or dying of AIDS and suicide before we even get started on the hard work.

        The thing is, the main reason transsexuals woodwork themselves after transition is that after dealing with all that stress of transition, what with having to convince everyone of our legitimacy and having to work several years to pay for our medical treatment and not ever being able to retire once damaged by divorce, or not ever being able to work again after a bad surgery, or being completely ostracized by friends family and employers, we are so psychologically traumatized that most of us are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder just as if we had been through a war. We are so irritable and/or depressed that we have difficulty being around each other and we just sort of disperse, looking for non-trans people who have not been so severely traumatized, so that we can have a calm existence without having to watch all the eager fresh faces that we know are going to grow jaded with time, and without having to justify our own apathy and inability to be supportive to each other.

        At least, that is the way it has worked out for me and most of the transsexuals I know.

      • Cheryl said,

        P.S. as a late transitioner, my experiences are not analogous to someone who transitioned early.

        An early transitioner will have experienced several differences. First, early transitioning was basically unheard of in my youth. Transsexuals were all underground. Not many girls my age transitioned as teenagers. We would have been locked up in a rubber room instead. Most early transitioners will be much younger than me and will have undergone the ordeal of transition with more energy and fewer responsibilities.

        Second, early transitioners, being younger, will have transitioned at a later time in history than me. That means that they had access to much more information as well as a more open society. There was no internet when I was a teenager. I used a slide rule until my junior year in high school, and the only reason I even had a computer in the house was because my father was an electrical engineer and built it himself from a kit one chip at a time with a soldering iron (er, actually, I was the one who built it for him… but never mind). IBM had not even created the PC yet. Magnetic storage did not exist except on tape. Apple did not exist as a company and I had never heard of the Internet. The computer at the university ran programs on punch cards and we were charged for processor bandwidth by the second when we did our programming assignments. If you ever visit the Smithsonian Museum you might see some of the equipment from that era.

        I never intended to transition. In my case the risks were too great and the ‘mother instinct’ was too powerful to ignore. I married and had children of my own to satisfy a basal drive to procreate.

        In so doing, I traded off my peace of mind and my hair in exchange for

        1) my children’s lives
        2) a spouse and a house
        3) a career to sustain them with.

        Then I lost control of it and had to make the change.

        Early transitioners give up their fertility and that is a terrible price to pay. It was too great a price for me to pay, but I can easily understand how, for different transsexuals in different circumstances, waiting would be intolerable and drive one insane.

        The one thing I share with early F2M transitioners is that neither of us will ever gestate, bear, and suckle a child.

        What a FAB fails to realize is that F2M’s who express envy of your womb are not fetishizing it, they are simply expressing their regrets that they could not have felt the mind-body harmony that comes with being comfortable in your own skin — not just for eating and excreting but also for reproducing.

        Regardless of the inherent exploitation by man of woman’s womb, it is nevertheless true that not EVERY man makes a slave of his woman. Some of you have decent husbands, beautiful children, and never felt the pain of rape or the shame of sexual servitude. Others chose artificial insemination and braved the risks of childbirth because the reward, a new life, justified itself.

        What woman goes through her entire live paralyzed with fear of the worst-case scenarios? Life is hope.

        Think of it this way. Two bicyclists are riding toward each other. The road they are on is their life path through time and space. Let’s keep the analogy simple. They were magically born on their bicycles, magically appeared as adults, traveling at top speed.

        There is a 100km per hour wind. One bicyclist is basically coasting, blown along with gale force wind, whereas off in the distance the other approaches huffing and puffing in low gear and barely moving.

        As they pass by, the one who is stalled to a near stop calls out, “Nice womb!” – er, I mean, “Hey you’ve got a nice tailwind going there, wish I could enjoy that!” as the doppler shift lowers her voice from a squeaky falsetto to a basso rumble.

        But the one who is essentially coasting has never once had to even think about the wind, because she cannot even feel wind on her face let alone pressing back on her pedals. She moves effortlessly with it, and yells backward over her shoulder, “Stop fetishizing my womb!” – er, I mean, “What tailwind??”

        Every aspect of life for transsexuals is subject to this same dichotomy, this same internal friction, until the patient turns round and follows the wind too. The only problem is that she loses her fertility in the process. That is the price she pays to Lucifer in exchange for wavering on the path. As she raises the apple to her lips, her grasp on the steering slips momentarily, she wobbles, falls onto the crossbar momentarily when the cycle whips around to the opposite direction, and in that instant a part of her is nipped off and dies — her potential for eternal life as lived vicariously through her offspring. The pound of flesh he extracts… well maybe not a pound, but enough. All her hopes for the future die with it.

        It really, really hurts to lose that potential before even having any children. The average early transitioner carries that burden, the knowledge of good and evil, to her grave, knowing that at its most basic level, what she did, terminating her fertility prematurely, was an inherently evil act. Maybe necessary but as unnatural as anything, especially if she really wanted children of her own.

        Regardless of what point in her life she discusses it with a FAB, she at least hopes that she can broach the subject without being accused of trespassing. She is after all wounded.

        Even if she had children of her own, she still missed out on the months of hormonal brain bath, the sensation of new life inside, and the feeling of accomplishment for having brought a child into the world and raised it from infancy to independence. She also missed out on the maternal bond that is far stronger than anything that passes between father and child. Most M2F transsexuals barely get visitation if anything.

        “What tailwind?” feels exactly like the attack the right wing uses on marriage equality — “If those queers can marry it will defile my marriage.”

        Does that help you understand just how hurtful it is to describe a medical condition as a fetish? You might as well have called us all a load of flaming tarts.

        All we want is to feel normal.

      • polly said,

        Cheryl approximately 20% of females in the UK, in the near future will not have children. Some don’t want to. Some haven’t been able to, for whatever reason. Some of those who do have children never wanted to but found themselves pregnant anyway.

        The point Maggie was making, as far as I can see, is that is not a privilege in a political sense to be of the sex that is able to become pregnant. Particularly when women even in western countries, are berated by society at large for having children and berated for NOT having children.

      • Cheryl said,

        The point Maggie was making, as far as I can see, is that is not a privilege in a political sense to be of the sex that is able to become pregnant.

        I guess this is all a matter of perspective. I know that my own sister, who is sterile, disagrees with this assessment.

        I can understand why lesbians would feel this way, but certainly a large number of straight Christian women do not.

        My point is that, for a transsexual, psychologically, from the perspective of the gender reassignment treatment, the loss of fertility when going in either M2F or F2M direction is potentially devastating, so much so that Beatty kept his womb and had a baby, and many of my late-transitioning F2M friends had sperm frozen.

        I also can attest to the fact that, sociologically, although I fathered children of my own, I lost a potential mate post-transition to a fertile female. This I do not see as an advantage to me, especially since I would have loved to have his baby.

        I guess the whole concept of ‘fetish’ when applied to transsexual womb envy sort of misses the point. A lesbian might see the issue in political terms that make it seem like a womb is a liability because that fits the overall narrative of a lesbian. This conflates the political with the sexual aspects.

        Others with differing sexuality might see things in a completely different light.

        This raises the main issue for me which is that politics is always about personal power. When a transsexual woman loses the power to attract the mate of her choice because she has no womb, she really has lost power.

      • Cheryl said,

        sorry I meant late transitioning M2F had sperm frozen (duh)

      • Lisa Harney said,

        I know this is kind of cherry picking, but:

        This was the sole connection to transsexuality I presented above: The language for one has created problems for the discursive model for the other (and through it, other gender communities in turn). This is another consequence of a discourse that prioritizes noumenological truth as the sole deciding factor for public policy, and thus a reason to question that prioritization. (Either with Michelle’s argument for the “persistence” model, or site-specific identification of other relevant factors, case-by-case.)

        Call it like it is. “Transabled” is misappropriation of transsexual people’s lives and experiences. We try to explain ourselves as best we can, although most of our explanations are overridden by medical professionals, queer theorists, feminists, and any other cis privileged person who thinks they know everything about gender and gender roles because they never wanted to transition. The language of transableism comes as much from that as from attempts by trans people to explain our own lives and experiences, and the decision to misappropriate that language came from people who want to justify their appropriation of PWD lives.

      • Lisa Harney said,

        misappropriation of pwd lives.

      • Michelle said,

        This is actually responding to a couple of points in Polly’s comments:

        firestorm raging against the selection of Blanchard and his disciples to write the gender identity portion of the next DSM

        Blanchard has relatively little to do with the GID portion of the DSM V – he’s on the working group that is dealing with sexual paraphilias. The working group dealing with GID is headed up by Peggy Cohen-Kettenis.

        Zucker is the chair of the overall working group, but in such circumstances, the chair has relatively little direct power to dictate outcomes.

        APA Statement on DSM V

        Based on what I do know of Ms. Cohen-Kettenis, she is not a “disciple” of Blanchard.

    • Nicky said,

      @Cheryl,
      I clearly have to disagree with you on both parts because their is no gene for transsexuality because at the moment, science and the medical science hasn’t proven the existence of the transsexual gene. Much in the same way as people trying to prove that gay people have the gay gene. At the moment, the science is very flawed and at the very least I can not accept your logic.

      Also on the so called BSTc, you failed to explain why they introduced an elderly MTF who committed suicide by hanging himself and was found 3 days later and placed into the BSTc study into the control group. Which as a result the elderly MTF invalidated the whole BSTc study and throwing out the whole research all together because someone decided to introduce someone into a controlled study group from the outside. Which violated every scientific research protocol out their So why put someone who’s not in the control group and ruin the study in the process.

      See, what you people don;t realize, is that no matter how much hormones you pump into your system, you brain never changes. Your brain remains the same regardless of how much hormones is pump in. This study here proves it and I will quote from their conclusion in the study

      “In conclusion, our data show that in young adult humans, androgen treatment increases the volume of the female brain towards male proportions and anti-androgen + estrogen treatment reduces the size of the male brain towards female proportions. The findings imply plasticity of adult human brain structure towards the opposite sex under the influence of cross-sex hormones.”

      Here is the study I am referring to;
      Changing your sex changes your brain: influences of testosterone and estrogen on adult human brain structure
      Hilleke E Hulshoff Pol, Peggy T Cohen-Kettenis1, Neeltje E M Van Haren, Jiska S Peper, Rachel G H Brans, Wiepke Cahn, Hugo G Schnack, Louis J G Gooren2 and René S Kahn

      Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, A01.126, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands, 1 Department of Medical Psychology and 2 Department of Endocrinology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

      (Correspondence should be addressed to H E Hulshoff Pol; Email: h.e.hulshoff@azu.nl)

      Abstract

      Objective: Sex hormones are not only involved in the formation of reproductive organs, but also induce sexually-dimorphic brain development and organization. Cross-sex hormone administration to transsexuals provides a unique possibility to study the effects of sex steroids on brain morphology in young adulthood.

      Methods: Magnetic resonance brain images were made prior to, and during, cross-sex hormone treatment to study the influence of anti-androgen + estrogen treatment on brain morphology in eight young adult male-to-female transsexual human subjects and of androgen treatment in six female-to-male transsexuals.

      Results: Compared with controls, anti-androgen + estrogen treatment decreased brain volumes of male-to-female subjects towards female proportions, while androgen treatment in female-to-male subjects increased total brain and hypothalamus volumes towards male proportions.

      Conclusions: The findings suggest that, throughout life, gonadal hormones remain essential for maintaining aspects of sex-specific differences in the human brain.

      http://www.eje-online.org/cgi/content/full/155/suppl_1/S107

      What is obvious is that the intersex brain theory as to what a lot of transsexuals like to believe. Is just a theory on paper and it’s not accepted within the intersex community. No intersex person, including myself will ever accept the intersex brain theory as an intersex condition because at the moment, it’s not considered to be an intersex condition and not accepted as an intersex condition by the intersex community.

      • maggieclark said,

        Nicky,

        … You do realize, don’t you, that the study you posted proves exactly the opposite, right?

        You write:

        “See, what you people don;t realize, is that no matter how much hormones you pump into your system, you brain never changes. Your brain remains the same regardless of how much hormones is pump in.”

        But the study you cited says explicitly:

        “In conclusion, our data show that in young adult humans, androgen treatment increases the volume of the female brain towards male proportions and anti-androgen + estrogen treatment reduces the size of the male brain towards female proportions. The findings imply plasticity of adult human brain structure towards the opposite sex under the influence of cross-sex hormones.”

        It also explicitly says:

        “Conclusions: The findings suggest that, throughout life, gonadal hormones remain essential for maintaining aspects of sex-specific differences in the human brain.

        In layman’s terms, this study says that different hormone treatments CHANGE the brain’s development and organization, and that gonadal hormones are therefore the only means by which sex-specific differences are maintained.

        Did you even read this study before posting it as proof to the contrary?

      • Cheryl said,

        First, with regard to the study you provided, it addresses minor differences of a few percentage points in the gross volume of the entire brain and brain stem, not its neuronal organization on the microscopic level.

        The study you referred to used MRI imaging on live subjects and could not even resolve the structures that were studied in the literature I was referring to.

        The brain study I referred to was quite different, requiring frozen section on dead subjects, and can be found here:

        http://faculty.bennington.edu/~sherman/sex/TRANSGENDER.pdf

        This was a microscopic study of one pea-sized structure deep in the core of the brain, not the dimensions on the periphery of the brain stem or of the entire brain. The size difference was not a couple of percentage points, the size difference of that particular structure in male-identified individuals was nearly 250% of the female norm.

        The specific trait that was studied was the vasoactive
        intestinal polypeptide (VIP) innervation, or in other words the nerve density of the BSTc which is a tiny specialized structure within the amygdala that responds to gonadotropins — not the dimensions of the entire amygdala itself as measured at its outer boundary.

        The feature of brain that was studied was independent of the gross size of the brain, and the difference between male-identiied individuals and female-identified individuals was not a few percentage points, it was a couple of MULTIPLES.

        Note that the size
        of the BSTc was not influenced by sex hormones in adulthood and was
        independent of sexual orientation. The brain wasting of AIDS also played no role in the size of the BSTc. These control factors were proven by careful selection of the subjects to obtain individuals with case histories that would control for these various factors.

        As far as including someone at the last minute who recently died, well what did you think they were going to do, go out and murder someone so they could slice up his brain? They had to use whatever was available to them in cadavers. There was no ‘control group’ that volunteered to die and have their brains sliced up. Every ‘participant’ in the study was a cadaver. What they did was choose subjects whose case histories would control for extraneous variables by making sure that each of those variables would cancel out when the whole set was studied as a group. That is why they had people with and without AIDS, and people who were ‘post-menopausal’ or post-hormonal in both cis-gender and transgender respects, to verify that the neurological changes were permanent despite the withdrawal of hormones.

        Also note that these persistent reversals of gender polarization were duplicated in dozens of rodents using prenatal hormonal injections only. No adult injections were required in order to maintain the reversed neuronal differentiation in the BSTc. I do not have a link to that study, but it is referenced in the NOVA documentary, ‘Sex Unknown’.

        The ‘stuttering gene’ study I referred to, plus others, can be found here:

        http://shb-info.org/id37.html

        As you and I both pointed out, these genetic studies have some potential exceptions and our current understanding of gayness and transsexuality both indicates statistical likelihoods from genetic studies rather than the absolute correlations found for simple things like sickle cell anemia, however, once again, this is the best science we have to date and the brain is very complicated. So far no one has provided any more compelling hypothesis and with time it is likely that we will identify genetic traits, physical environmental factors, and social stressors that predispose individuals to varying degrees, combined with some element of chance. The studies that show gayness, transsexuality, and intersexuality tend to run in families, same as schizophrenia, is highly compelling statistical evidence that tends to support the hypothesis of major genetic influences, even if the science on the genes is not yet perfected.

        Note that I specifically stated that there will possibly be exceptions found where these apparently conclusive rules are violated, but again, this is the best science we have to date, and so far it conclusively points toward a genetically influenced physical cause for transsexuality. There may be other factors that are still unidentified, but there is enough evidence to state the near certainty of a physical neurological cause that probably results (at least in part) from a genetic defect, or difference, whatever politically correct euphemism you want to use.

        Calling the science ‘flawed’ is a mischaracterization. The science is solid. The conclusions are tentative at this point, but the science is just fine.

        You have to be careful when evaluating these studies. Some individuals with strong points of view (usually religious or at least politically ultraconservative) will go around launching spurious arguments simply to confuse the issue, knowing that the echo chamber will pick them up and amplify them.

        The exact same thing is going on in the debate over climate change right now. Highly profitable and powerful fossil fuel industries are hiring corrupt scientists and lawyers to produce and promote junk science that purports to debunk the theories on man-made climate change.

        Here we are in the middle of what should be a long slow cooling period according to the planetary orbit around the sun, with the sun’s temperature very, very stable, and the junk scientists are ignoring the fact that the ice caps are melting so fast they will be completely gone before we are dead. They are saying that the sun’s temperature was cooler before, when actually the sunspot activity was less, meaning that actually the sun was warmer before. They are saying that we just emerged from a ‘little ice age’ when in fact that ended long before the industrial era began pumping carbon into the atmosphere. They complain about splicing estimated historical planetary temperatures and CO2 levels as based on ice cores into the data from contemporary global monitoring stations and satellites set up within the past few decades, when there is no practical alternative since cavemen did not launch any satellites. They complain about the computer modeling needing to be simplified and its initial conditions tweaked so that the numerical simulations converge on the ocean in isolation first before adding the effect of atmosphere to the study, and then they also complain about throwing away the data from obviously erroneous simulations when the algorithm fails to converge and produces a garbage run from one or two sets of initial conditions, when I did the same partitioning, preconditioning, and filtering of my own simulations when verifying integrated circuits in order to work around practical limitations of the processing power of the computer and the stability of the numerical algorithms – but never once turned out a bad chip.

        For every contentious issue there is always a hired gun willing to sell his soul to the highest bidder. Beware the ‘experts’. Follow the money. (not John Money, I mean the green kind, no wait he is dead now and maybe green too… never mind!)

      • Nicky said,

        The reason why the BSTc study is very flawed is because they violated their own scientific research rules. By putting someone outside of the research control group into a control group, that is enough to invalidate any study out their. Anyone who has ever done research of any kind should know better than to put someone from the outside into to a control group. They should have at the very least set up two research groups, the controled and uncontrolled group.

        What they in effect did, was to put some elderly MTF who hanged himself and was found 3 days later and placed into the control group. Now explain to me why is the study not flawed because I think it’s very flawed and it is not very conclusive. By putting someone who hanged himself and was found 3 days later, I would bet you that body was not viable anymore and they as a result invalidated their whole research by violating their own research rules and protocols.

        What you don’t understand is that the brain remains the same regardless of sex change or hormones pumped into the system. The brain actually stays the same and their is no brain size difference.

  3. Lisa Harney said,

    the marginalization many born-sex-female women feel of their lived experience in trans/feminist discourse, wherein the central site of gender oppression against women is regarded as something they should feel privileged to have had since birth.

    This is a matter of intersectionality. It’s not that cis women are privileged because they’re women, but because they’re cis – and the same goes for cis men. Cis men are privileged both because they’re men and because they’re cis.

    A cis woman experiences the oppressions that all women experience, but then so do trans women who transition and are seen as women. In addition to experiencing sexism and misogyny, trans women also experience transphobia (trans hatred in general) and trans misogyny (the ways that trans hatred specifically manifests against trans women).

    It’s incredibly problematic to collapse this down to womanhood or femaleness being a privilege without looking at how womanhood and femaleness can be treated as genuine or false. Or to put it more bluntly: How likely is a cis woman to hear that sex with her, if she doesn’t disclose that she was indeed female assigned at birth, is akin to rape? There is indeed other baggage that a cis female could experience with regards to sex, but trans women experience some of that other baggage as well, in addition to the added baggage of disclosure.

    This isn’t establishing a hierarchy of oppressions, either – I’m trying to point out that rans women experience a set of oppressions that cis women do not, because cis people tend to react to trans people in oppressive aways. This does not in any way cancel out the ways that womanhood (for all women) is maligned, but trans women experience that as well.

    Also,

    How, then, could one person’s inner identity be transsexual (i.e. a gender female that requires transition for realization) if the very realization of that identity is dependent on the existence of sustainable systems of medical transition?

    This is the issue that often arises in radical feminist discourse, which sees any inner identity moored to the medical industry as one inherently moored to a strict gender binary.

    Transsexual is not an inner identity. If it’s an identity at all, it’s an identity like any other. It’s a trait that many people have to live with. It intersects with all of those other traits as well. The main reason that transsexual people hide being transsexual for as long as we do is because the culture we live in shames, attacks, and punishes us for asserting it out loud. I found it interesting that nearly every adult who knew me as a child knew or suspected that I was trans, but that at some point I had developed a massive fear of admitting it – a fear so overwhelming that when I started trying to tell people I felt like just saying it out loud would kill me – for some reason.

    Transsexual is not moored to the medical industry. Transition is not even wholly moored to the medical industry. Access to hormones and surgery is moored to the medical industry. Please do not confuse the fact that there are transsexual people with the fact that transsexual people seek medical treatment.

    Transsexual is not moored to the gender binary. Transsexual is related to your body’s shape and how that clashes with your brain’s sense of your body’s shape: Male, female, even neutrois (neither male nor female). I know many transsexual people who do not see themselves as men or women, although all realize they are gendered as men or women by others.

    It seems like whenever certain cissexual radical feminists want to talk about transsexual people, they carry their own baggage into the discussion and assign that baggage to transsexual people. They assign meanings and consequences to transsexual lives that they perceive as harmful to the lives of cissexual women, and I think that in large part, most of this baggage doesn’t even really apply. It’s like your paragraph above about what TheBeardedlady said about how cissexual women feel in their own bodies, with the implication that transsexual women apparently have no discomfort in our own bodies – as if we never experience eating disorders, never feel that our bodies aren’t female enough (and believe me, there’s an entire school of insults that are used against trans women to tell us how badly we allegedly fail at femaleness and womanhood).

    Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to talk to many cissexual radical feminists about my own relationship with my own body as a woman and a female because I have to deal with rhetoric and assumptions written by cissexual people who think they know what transsexual people are like better than transsexual people do. That despite the fact that I had to seek medical intervention to be comfortable enough in my own body that I wanted to live in it, that it’s simply assumed that I somehow don’t have a complicated and often negative relationship with my own body. That somehow being trans and taking the hormones and getting the surgery is all I ever want, and all I ever could want. The difference for me pre- and post-transition is that post-transition is a lot more positive, but it’s not uncomplicated, or simple, or entirely positive.

    To answer the question at the end of your post, I think that oppressed people need to be listened to, and allowed to speak their truths. They do not need to have someone else impose their assumptions over those truths.

    • Lisa Harney said,

      ETA: Trans women who are not seen as women don’t have it better because they don’t receive the usual kinds of sexism and misogyny, because then they’re treated to the usual kinds of transphobia and trans misogyny, and sexism is still leveraged against them as well.

    • maggieclark said,

      Hi Lisa,

      Glad to have you back in the discussion!

      This is a matter of intersectionality. It’s not that cis women are privileged because they’re women, but because they’re cis – and the same goes for cis men. Cis men are privileged both because they’re men and because they’re cis.

      Sorry to say, this is not how many trans activists phrase it when they fetishize my fertility as something I am lucky to have because they want it — despite that expectation of fertility being the central site of all female oppression. This is also not how many trans activists phrase it when they tell me I have to pick an inner gender, male or female, despite neither reflecting my inner truth.

      What is cis? Cis is having an inner perception of gender that is at odds with one’s sex and social cuing. By this definition, most feminists — certainly radical feminists — would not be cis. The only way to exclude feminists from this definition is to narrow “inner perception of gender” to specify a gender binary, “male” and “female.” Anything else includes our own, varied refutations of socially-imposed gender modelling — and you yourself, later on, argue that transsexuality is not moored to a gender binary, so you end up requiring such a broader definition. Ergo, feminists, especially rad fems, aren’t cis. In essence, if you want to utilize a definition for privilege that does not tell me what my inner gender is, that’s something else — but even then, it would still get back to my earlier point, which I made to you here, about the manifest absurdity of this notion of intra-oppression privilege when extrapolated to other oppression spheres in turn.

      It’s incredibly problematic to collapse this down to womanhood or femaleness being a privilege without looking at how womanhood and femaleness can be treated as genuine or false. Or to put it more bluntly: How likely is a cis woman to hear that sex with her, if she doesn’t disclose that she was indeed female assigned at birth, is akin to rape? There is indeed other baggage that a cis female could experience with regards to sex, but trans women experience some of that other baggage as well, in addition to the added baggage of disclosure.

      Ah yes, I think I know the conversation you’re referring to. Kate Harding, right? I attempted to post a respectful response it, but the timing of my queued post demonstrates that my comment was likely what made her close comments on that thread. Which is too bad, because I think there are serious problems with the thought experiment being used here. I highlight most of them here, but another huge one goes unmentioned in that post: Who is the source of violence against trans women when they’re afraid to reveal their identity to random sex strangers? It’s not cis persons, as you define that term to include both men and women. It’s men, the perpetrators of violence against non-gender-normativity of all strokes (female, queer, trans). So as an argument for fear of violence, ergo cis privilege, this one fares poorly. Which is not to say that all such arguments would: Just that this thought experiment is especially poorly constructed, and I wish Kate Harding had been open to thoughtful discourse on that score.

      I’m trying to point out that rans women experience a set of oppressions that cis women do not, because cis people tend to react to trans people in oppressive aways. This does not in any way cancel out the ways that womanhood (for all women) is maligned, but trans women experience that as well.

      I recognize that’s your aim, but the cis privilege checklists I’ve encountered include a staggering number of abuses suffered by born-sex-females the world over, and in so doing imply that born-sex-females do not suffer these abuses. The fact that these lists don’t distinguish between male privilege (suffered by all women) and privilege specific to being born into certain bodies (suffered by trans people) shows a clear incomprehension among many trans activists about what is suffered for being trans, and what is suffered for passing as gender-female — and that in turn does nothing to engender good faith among feminists who take very seriously the abuses visited upon born-sex-female women the world over.

      Furthermore, you say this “does not in any way cancel out the ways that womanhood … is maligned, but trans women experience that as well” but this is simply not true: Born-sex-females have an experience set predicated from birth on an expectation of fertility, while trans women do not. The fact that trans activists do not commonly recognize in discourse the male privilege trans women grew up with before transitioning/passing (for understandable reasons, considering the number of feminists who accuse them of being men regardless) also makes this a very difficult, very tempestuous point when struggling for constructive conversation — as I’m sure you’ve found just as well as I have, in the course of your own dialogues online.

      Transsexual is not an inner identity. If it’s an identity at all, it’s an identity like any other. The main reason that transsexual people hide being transsexual for as long as we do is because the culture we live in shames, attacks, and punishes us for asserting it out loud.

      Like I said, all identities are inner identities. That’s made pretty clear in the original post: when feminists refuse social gender and biological essentialism, they are recognizing an inner truth. For queer persons, it’s the same. For transsexuals and transgendered persons in general, the notion of “feeling female” from birth into a sex-male body, with gender-male social cuing, positions transgenderism as arising from noumenological truth, which no one else can ever refute.

      Please do not confuse the fact that there are transsexual people with the fact that transsexual people seek medical treatment.

      This one is new to me. Are you referring to transsexual people who are pre-op — who would have the surgery if class finances and/or legislation permitted it, but can’t, because one or the other doesn’t? Or is this a different categorizing of transgendered persons? I’d be greatly obliged if you could explain what you’re referring to here.

      Transsexual is not moored to the gender binary. Transsexual is related to your body’s shape and how that clashes with your brain’s sense of your body’s shape: Male, female, even neutrois (neither male nor female). I know many transsexual people who do not see themselves as men or women, although all realize they are gendered as men or women by others.

      Yep, I agree. Which is, again, another reason why the definition of cis, and the checklist for cis privilege, inaccurately represents as solely trans those experiences and identities also experienced by born-sex-female women.

      It’s like your paragraph above about what TheBeardedlady said about how cissexual women feel in their own bodies, with the implication that transsexual women apparently have no discomfort in our own bodies – as if we never experience eating disorders, never feel that our bodies aren’t female enough (and believe me, there’s an entire school of insults that are used against trans women to tell us how badly we allegedly fail at femaleness and womanhood).

      Of course trans persons are just as liable to be dissatisfied with their bodies — to suffer the same anxieties about fitting into gender normative expectations, and to be cut down by others seeking themselves to get ahead in the gender normative hierarchy. The point of TBL’s comment, however, was in marked response to a strain of trans activist argument calling women privileged for the very bodies we have, and especially the expectation of fertility they carry, while often pointedly disregarding the history of abuse that comes with them.

      This especially emerged when a trans woman challenged the conversing born-sex-female women to fess up that, all abuse aside, we really love having the bodies we have — as if the constant fear of abuse which makes up our bodies’ history could ever so conveniently be put aside. I was also personally addressed by another facet of this fetishization, because in the course of the conversation I was told by a trans woman that the only reason I’m not able to put aside all the gendered problems that my fertility causes me (in the form of externally imposed expectations and limitations on safe access) is because I’m weak.

      Now, I don’t say any of the above to get in the throes of that debate again: Rather, I say this to highlight the sort of misunderstandings that end up centering so much of our shared discourse on internal bickering about fetishization and misappropriation of lived experience (from rad fems), and denial of personal identity and abuse (from trans activists).

      (And again, this whole confrontation is made more difficult by the fact that, while telling women that our actual physicality is a privilege, trans activists commonly deny male privilege among pre-transition trans women, and then go on to construct cis privilege lists born-sex-females are supposed to agree to [under threat of being kicked out of the discourse if we don’t] that are in better part just lists of male privilege.)

      There has to be a better way to get past this kind of constant undermining — from both sides — of lived experience and self-identity. This is what I’m attempting here, first and foremost by highlighting the arena of these conflicts: a constant push and pull between gender identities and physical centres of gendered abuse. And I think you hit the issue bang on the head yourself, when you wrote here:

      Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to talk to many cissexual radical feminists about my own relationship with my own body as a woman and a female because I have to deal with rhetoric and assumptions written by cissexual people who think they know what transsexual people are like better than transsexual people do. That despite the fact that I had to seek medical intervention to be comfortable enough in my own body that I wanted to live in it, that it’s simply assumed that I somehow don’t have a complicated and often negative relationship with my own body. That somehow being trans and taking the hormones and getting the surgery is all I ever want, and all I ever could want. The difference for me pre- and post-transition is that post-transition is a lot more positive, but it’s not uncomplicated, or simple, or entirely positive.

      That, right there, is an extraordinary paragraph, and I thank you for sharing it.

      The problem really comes down, I think, to how few people are willing to acknowledge the other side when identifying their own lived experiences. Many born-sex-female women feel their experiences and identities are being grossly misrepresented, redefined, or even imposed. Many trans women clearly also feel their experiences and identities are being grossly misrepresented, redefined, or even imposed.

      The consequence is that when we talk about these disconnects, we always seem to do so by pointing out the abuses on “our” side, and pointedly omitting abuses on the “other” side — as if mentioning both in one fell swoop would somehow de-legitimize our arguments.

      In closing, you write:

      To answer the question at the end of your post, I think that oppressed people need to be listened to, and allowed to speak their truths. They do not need to have someone else impose their assumptions over those truths.

      And I think this is absolutely true. We’re at a point right now, though, when most everyone (online, at least — in real life this always seems to be much easier, doesn’t it?) is imposing their assumptions over those truths. I think this needs to stop.

      That said, thanks again for taking part in the conversation here again.

      All the best,

      Maggie

      • polly said,

        Can I add one thing to everything you’ve said above, Maggie, all of which I endorse, and it’s a question.

        The concept of ‘cis privilege’ is used as a reason why FAB only spaces should not exist, that the existence of such spaces is akin, for example, to a white women only space, and an exercise of privilege.

        How would the admittance of trans women to such spaces in any way negate or compensate the fact that – for example – a trans woman is accused of deception if she does not disclose her trans status before sex, or even negate the (very real) threat that she will suffer violence if her trans status becomes known?

        How would it negate or compensate for any other type of cis gender privilege, even if the acceptance of such privilege is accepted?

        The purpose of a white woman only space could ONLY be racist, as the only common experience shared exclusively by white women but not black women is the experience of white privilege. Therefore such a space must perpetuate and celebrate privilege.

        However the purpose of a FAB only space is to include those whose commonality of experience includes being physically female and/or experiencing misogyny from birth.

        Therefore the purpose of such a space is not to exercise privilege (even if we agree it exists) unless you consider either of those to be “privileges”. And inclusion in such a space would not in any way negate any other disadvantages trans women may experience, or perceive themselves to experience compared with FABs. So why the continued objection?

      • polly said,

        And I’m going to add one more thing, yes I do love having a female sexed body. I wouldn’t like to have a male sexed one. That’s an accident of birth, not a privilege.

      • maggieclark said,

        I think the crucial point in that conversation was the trans woman in question saying, “Yes, but putting all that abuse aside…” when a born-sex-female woman who loves her body loves the WHOLE of it, because there’s no way to visualize a female-sex body that doesn’t have that history to it.

        Again, I hope that makes sense. I’m going to be conking myself out with meds soon to run this fever out. Hopefully cogency will return thereafter!

      • Zoe Brain said,

        Polly wrote:

        “That’s an accident of birth, not a privilege.”

        Polly, that is what privilege *is*. To me, privilege is the intersection between the social circumstances one moves in, and the aspects of one’s position within that society dictated by one’s circumstances of birth. I’d be glad to find an alternate definition that works.

        Here is one particularly egregious example of privilege – it never occurred to the person who wrote it that their statements unconsciously oozed, even reeked of privilege:

        It’s what we call “cis-privilege”, like “white privilege” or even “western privilege”. You consider it abnormal, even unthinkable, that you could routinely be denied the ability to re-enter the country should you leave it. I don’t. It took me a 20-month legal battle to “earn” that right.

        It never occurred to me – for I’m the one guilty of writing this – that I was exhibiting “western privilege”. The automatic assumption that a female could apply for a passport without a responsible male giving her permission. Or that she even knew what a passport was, not something true for many women in the third world.

        It was not my fault that I was born in a 2nd world country. It was not my fault that I had access to education, and the ability to earn enough money to pay for my medical expenses.

        It was merely an accident of birth, and being born in a society that allowed people such as I such opportunities.

        My fault is that I just didn’t think of the possibility that others may not be so fortunate.

        It is no fault of mine that I was born sighted, not quadraplegic, intelligent, wealthy compared to the average villager in Africa etc. All of which are privileges, accidents of birth that could easily have been different.

        Where I am at fault to a lesser degree is not taking the time to educate myself on the extent of my privilige; and to a greater extent, not taking into account sufficiently the difficulties of others born without the proverbial “silver spoon” in the mouth. I may be well below the poverty line in Australia, but compared with, say, the equivalent situation in the Congo, I have wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

      • Lisa Harney said,

        The assumption of fertility does in fact have negative repercussions for infertile women, and that includes all trans women. Perhaps you could refer back to Femonade’s description of trans women as “sterile fucktoys” for an example. Or this paper, which discusses how the expectation of fertility affects infertile women.

        I also question why you find it wrong that trans women want pregnancy? You make it sound like an unnatural desire for a woman to want to have children, but I think it’s just as natural and reasonable as not wanting to have children. Are you interrogating cis women about their desire for motherhood as well, or is this solely for trans women whose desire is framed as problematic or fetishistic because, well, it’s easier to demonize that than it is to accept that trans women are subjected to those expectations as well?

        The reason trans women are not willing to discuss male privilege with many cis feminists is because that is used to define our entire lives, to tell us that what we experience isn’t true, to tell us that despite epic levels of unemployment and poverty, difficulty in receiving health care, constantly being framed as liars or pathetic, of our lives being treated as disposable and unworthy (and this is the intersection of transphobia and misogyny), that male privilege defines everything about who we are. That we are, in fact, treated as if we currently receive a full measure of male privilege, and that our voices have to be controlled and measured against that assumption.

        Since male privilege is constantly invoked against trans women as a form of oppression olympics, and is referenced as if what you assume we experienced in our past, rather than what we’re experiencing in the present, how can you expect to have any kind of conversation about it? Will you refuse to discuss disability with a PWD who won’t talk to you about any assumed past able-bodied privilege they may have? Or do you see how that would be a tactic that reifies ableist oppression? I’m not saying that being trans and transitioning is like being TAB person who becomes a PWD later on. I want to point out that bringing this up the way many cis feminists do is simply used to silence trans women and shut us out of discussing how we experience oppression as trans women.

        You missed my point about transsexual not being moored to the medicine. Being a transsexual person is no more moored to the medical profession than being a diabetic is. You have diabetes, you’re a transsexual person. It’s simply the case that some diabetics need insulin and transsexual people need hormones and surgery. But medicine doesn’t define this need, doesn’t implant it or create it in us, it meets the need. Medicine does not reify us, it provides us with relief. Medicine didn’t create the idea that trans people needed treatment. Trans people came to medicine and asked for help.

        As for the statement that it’s cis men who primarily commit transphobic violence (and yes, I noticed how you tried to remove cis from the question there), I think you’re ignoring transphobic and trans misogynist culture – when Lisa Vogel says that trans women have no place around cis women because trans women weren’t female assigned at birth and raised as girls, she contributes to the transphobic culture that says trans women are really cis men in drag. When radical feminists harp on how trans women aren’t really women because we don’t have the ability to bear children, or because we might have or once had a penis, they contribute to the transphobic culture that says trans women aren’t really women. When radical feminists characterize trans women as liars and fetishists who “get off on appropriating an oppressed identity” (as frequently happens at AROOO) this contributes to that trans misogynist culture.

        This transphobic, trans misogynist culture says that it’s okay to murder trans women, that shooting a trans woman in the back is voluntary manslaughter. This is not at all different from rape culture.

        I am not saying that radical feminists are exceptional or unusual in this hatred – I see it from every group you care to mention – left wing, right wing, cis lesbians, cis gay men, white people, people of color. But it is frustrating to see cis feminists who can and will lay down the law when it comes to rape culture, but then turn around and say “Our anti-trans hate speech doesn’t hurt you, men hurt you.” Yes, and for the most part, portraying women as victims in the media, the acceptability of rape jokes, slut shaming, and victim blaming doesn’t rape women – rapists rape women. But the rape jokes, the victim blaming and portrayals, and the shaming encourage an environment where it is easier for rapists to get away with it. Similarly, when cis people spend so much energy focusing on the ways in which they think trans women fail as women and are really men, it encourages a culture where some think that trans women should be killed.

        And the only violence that happens to trans women is not murder. We’re raped, we’re attacked, we’re harassed, we’re pushed out of spaces that we belong in, all because someone decides we’re not really who we say we are. When Robin Morgan publicly confronted a trans woman at the West Coast Lesbian Feminist Conference in 1973, shamed her for daring to show herself, and called for the entire conference to vote on whether she should stay, what was this, if not a form of violence? A form of abuse? What about Janice Raymond’s decision to out Sandy Stone as trans, prompting a boycott of Olivia Records until Sandy Stone was forced to leave? What about the threats that Olivia Records received? What about Germaine Greer’s attempt to oppose Rachel Padman’s election to a fellowship at Newnham college on Germaine’s assumption that Dr. Padman was not a woman and really a man? What about Vancouver Rape Relief appealing the decision about Kimberly Nixon that ultimately resulted in legitimizing broader discrimination against trans women?

        And these are not isolated cases, but part of a history of such harassment and exclusion. No, cis women do not typically kill trans women for being trans, but there’s more to violence than killing.

        As for cis privilege checklists – privilege checklists can be and are problematic and inaccurate and poorly worded, but one of the most common refutations to privilege checklists is when one of the privileged class insists that they don’t experience all of the privileges listed when the point of the list is that a particular group of people experiences none of the privileges listed.

        Cis privilege isn’t the privilege of being female assigned at birth or male assigned at birth. All trans people are female assigned or male assigned at birth as well as all cis people. It’s not framing femaleness as a privilege. It’s framing cissexualness – not transitioning, not having the need to transition – as a privilege. And it is. It does not erase what cis women experience as women. But the fact is that trans people – men and women – experience transphobia (and in the case of trans women, trans misogyny) that cis women do not. And yes, not experiencing that oppression is a privilege.

        For example, a rather blatant example of cissexual privilege is framing trans women’s desire for fertility as problematic, under the assumption that we simply don’t understand the differences between being raised under the assumption that we’re boys and being raised under the assumption that we’re girls. In fact, framing trans women as ignorant of the differences is itself an act of privilege, by positioning our pre-transition lives as being no different from those of cissexual men. Nothing had my attention more growing up than the differences between how boys and girls were treated. When you’re living with so much dissonance between who you know you are and how you’re treated, it tends to hold your attention.

        It’s also an expression of cis privilege to use this difference as so defining, all-consuming, and important to define trans women as separate from cis women, as necessarily separate from cis women, and it invokes a supposed commonality of experience that I see women of color and women with disabilities deny without even touching on trans women.

        The problem isn’t that differences between cis women and trans women aren’t acknowledged, the problem – and this is again cis privilege – is that trans women’s differences are used to exclude us from discussions about our own lives and bodies, to shame us, to characterize as disgusting fetishists, as delusional and insane, as potential or actual rapists, as “sterile fucktoys” who want to exist only for the pleasure of men.

        If a trans woman says something misogynist, call her out, and rightfully so – I know I have. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s when trans women are characterized as misogynist because we’re women, because we take estrogen, because we have surgery, because we express regret because we can’t get pregnant, because we express anger when men try to take advantage of us, because we try to talk about the experiences that are unique to us as trans women, because we try to access women’s services, because some cis women think they understand everything about our lives because they assume we experienced a full measure of male privilege, because we object to being excluded from those services, because we’re called liars, perverts, because we dare to argue when these things are said about us.

        It’s also when anything we do is characterized as male: A trans woman is angry, it must be her male anger. A trans woman wants access to women’s space, it must be her male privilege and her assumption that she must never be told no.

        When these things happen, we’re being cut out of conversations about our own lives and experiences, and being cissplained to about what our lives are really like, who we really are, and that we should shut up.

        Much of what’s said about trans women on trans-exclusive radical feminist blogs is straight up hate speech. It’s not analysis, it’s not discourse. It is little more than spreading stereotypes and falsehoods about us, our lives, and experiences and deliberately excluding us from discourse – either by explicitly refusing to allow us to response, or by ignoring or dismissing what we say when we do respond.

        And I think this is absolutely true. We’re at a point right now, though, when most everyone (online, at least — in real life this always seems to be much easier, doesn’t it?) is imposing their assumptions over those truths. I think this needs to stop.

        I agree with this.

        I do my best to not impose my assumptions over other people’s truths, but the favor is rarely returned.

      • maggieclark said,

        Hi Lisa,

        It’s very difficult to respond to a comment predicated on a complete misinterpretation of my initial statement, so I have to address this first:

        I also question why you find it wrong that trans women want pregnancy? You make it sound like an unnatural desire for a woman to want to have children, but I think it’s just as natural and reasonable as not wanting to have children. Are you interrogating cis women about their desire for motherhood as well, or is this solely for trans women whose desire is framed as problematic or fetishistic because, well, it’s easier to demonize that than it is to accept that trans women are subjected to those expectations as well?

        I never said it was wrong for trans women to want pregnancy (or born-sex-female women, for that matter! I have a lovely nephew because of my sister’s choice in that regard, and I cannot wait to be an adopted mother myself). I said it was fetishistic to call women privileged for having such fertility as it stands in the world, while time and again ignoring the fact that female fertility is the central site of oppression against born-sex-females. In a great conversation I’m having with Cheryl, another opportunity came up to clarify just this point, so I’m going to quote from that comment now:

        Cheryl writes: Marriage was the primary method of inheritance, and property lines as well as family names historically have been sex-linked to both females and males, when viewed throughout history, but the cis-based lines of procreation are the single constant trait when viewed over the historical/prehistorical long run. When viewed in that context it becomes very difficult indeed to rationalize sexist oppression as benefiting males exclusively, and even more difficult to deny the cis-based privilege inherent in sexual reproduction.

        I write: I would agree with most of this paragraph if it weren’t for your terming of the privilege as cis, because again, to do so infers that all queer persons — who similarly suffer an inability to procreate [ETA: as they would want to] in social models throughout history — are trans. This is not the case, and since it’s not the case, it becomes quite clear that you’re using the wrong term to describe such privilege sets: They’re gender-normative privilege sets, and as such, they favour everyone who prescribes to gender-normativity.

        This becomes exceptionally clear when we recognize that the majority of transsexuals were not infertile prior to transition. A trans woman or trans man, up until the point they engage in bottom surgery, almost always has the capacity to procreate. And many do, leading to such news items as that ridiculously stupid media sensation about the “trans man who gave birth!!!”

        Now, I anticipate your argument would then be, “Yes, but trans persons don’t have the ability to procreate the way we want to — i.e. trans men delivering fertile sperm, and trans women having functional wombs.”

        But this leads me right back to my frustration with the fetishization of female fertility: Women also don’t have the ability to procreate the way we want to. On a very basic, physical level, do you think we enjoy the nausea, the back pain, the swelling of joints, the extreme emotional duress, the complications, the labour, the sleeplessness, the nine month gestation period? Not quite the same as jerking off into a woman’s body in the throes of pleasure, is it! And in a fuller contextual level, do you think we enjoy having society constantly bicker about our rights to do with our bodies as we will; to have males take ownership over our fertility; to bear with us in all social encounters, all threats of assault, the fear of rape for the pregnancy it might incur; to have our periods used against us as a sign of female mental inferiority; to have our social value plummet at menopause; to be blamed by others for not making the most of it, for society’s benefit, while we could; to be taught that sex is something we have a special responsibility to protect against for years because our fertility is a problem we’ll be blamed for, and punished, if we get pregnant; to be prescribed the task of primary caregiver, even in societies that have “emancipated” enough that we’re also expected to be primary breadwinners a lot of the time too; and most of all to have women the world over oppressed because this fact of female fertility makes us less worthy than men?

        I have to reply to Lisa after this comment: She’s inferred that I don’t want trans women to be able to become pregnant. That’s not what my issue is, and not what I said: My issue is that when we talk about fertility, we again find both sides of the issue pointedly ignoring the articulated experiences of the other party. So when trans women say they want my privilege of fertility, what I hear is them saying they want my “privilege” of being oppressed. Trans women should not want female fertility as it exists in the world today: Trans women should want better, and in doing so, trans activists and feminists should be far stronger allies than they presently are in fighting all female oppressions stemming from the social appropriation of individual fertility. Why they aren’t should mystify me, but it doesn’t: Trans activists don’t want to give up the notion that fertility is a privilege, for fear that means they’ll lose the right to pursue fertility; and feminists don’t want to give up the fact that fertility is the number one source of female oppression, because hey! It is, and billions of women the world over suffer for it in different ways. We, as a gender activist collective, need to do better.

        I hope this clarifies things in that department. But just in case it doesn’t, let me respond to this statement of yours, sprung as it also was from a misinterpretation of my comment:

        For example, a rather blatant example of cissexual privilege is framing trans women’s desire for fertility as problematic, under the assumption that we simply don’t understand the differences between being raised under the assumption that we’re boys and being raised under the assumption that we’re girls. In fact, framing trans women as ignorant of the differences is itself an act of privilege, by positioning our pre-transition lives as being no different from those of cissexual men. Nothing had my attention more growing up than the differences between how boys and girls were treated. When you’re living with so much dissonance between who you know you are and how you’re treated, it tends to hold your attention.

        You assert that it’s an act of privilege to frame trans women as ignorant of the differences, and that knowing there are differences is equivalent to living out those differences. However, when trans women tell me I’m privileged for my fertility, and refuse in those same assertions to acknowledge the horrific and inseparable legacy and consequences of female fertility, being as it is the central site of born-sex-female oppression (as developed above), they don’t manifest as anything BUT ignorant of these differences, because they haven’t lived them. That’s the entire point I was making: It’s the denial of born-sex-female experience, in the midst of wanting something we born-sex-females see as a central means of oppression, that does absolutely nothing to forward discourse, and everything to make faulty assumptions about other people’s burden sets. (This is made all the worse by denials of lived born-sex-female experience of male oppression, a strain of which Cheryl and I are presently discussing elsewhere in these comments.) In short, noumenological truth being what it is — specifically, unknowable to anyone but the bearer of that truth — it falls to the external sphere for people to represent their respect and understanding of the full breadth of other people’s lived experiences. It is not an act of privilege to expect people not to deny my experiences in the course of forwarding their own needs.

        This, however, leads perfectly into so much of your comment, predicated as it is on the present, deplorable state of discourse between different gender activist communities. Because you’re absolutely right that antagonism exists on a level that denies both individual and group experience sets. Even the blog that inspired me to take a different direction with my blog here is rife with such assertions, so that my agreement with underlying concepts therein is sometimes made untenable by their approaches to the questions. I know firsthand what it feels like to be silenced for my base sex — to be told that my arguments are invalid solely because I’m sex female. And I DO understand why a feminist reaction set to this oppression has been to silence men in turn — to tell them that in certain spaces, on certain topics, they need to be silent because they’re not sex female. But I don’t always agree with that tactic. And I especially don’t agree with it when it means presuming or denying someone’s inner identity, as it does time and again with trans persons in conversation.

        This is what got me wondering in the first place about why all these debates are going so wrong: Why trans activists often argue things that deny born-sex-female women the legitimacy of their needs, identities, and experience sets, and why radical feminists often argue things that deny trans persons the legitimacy of their own needs, identities, and experience sets. Because both narratives are crucial to going forward with gender activism; and more generally, to creating a more humanistic environment for all.

        My realization was this: both sides seem to think that recognizing or acknowledging the arguments other people make is tantamount to losing their own. Ergo, we ignore those parts of each other’s statements that might cause us to concede certain points, and when talking about shared experience questions — like the bathroom question, and the sexual disclosure question — each side recognizes only what is relevant to them.

        As I demonstrated above with the fertility question, this puts us so often at odds with one another, when truly we should be working together — and would be better for it if we did. (To which each side says in exasperation, “Yeah, well, tell the other side that!”) This in turn gives me great discomfort with the whole of the intra-gender privilege discourse (not just with cis!), because while people say these checklists are a useful way to look at different people’s experience sets, I only see a useful way to deny a wide range of experience sets among marginalized persons, ignore that privileges do NOT always map onto power ownership, create an internal scrabble for top/bottom rung in our new hierarchy of suffering, and altogether deflect focus away from those groups that DO own the power in respective domains of oppression. This was why I pointed out the absurdity of gender privilege hierarchies when mapped onto other oppression discourses (specifically, racism), and to that end why I was rather sorry not to see a response from you — though again, I’m not surprised, when the nature of discourse in our gender activist collective generally does not favour any kind of individual concession if a person wants their overarching opinion to be heard. It’s something we need to change if we want to progress as a group, however.

        We also need to stop avoiding other people’s articulated experiences, either by shifting the discourse entirely, or just reiterating the problems on our “own” sides of these questions, when confronted by other people’s different stakes in various questions. I feel you did this when you raised the sexual disclosure question, but didn’t respond to my own experience set and needs-based-perceptions therein. I’m absolutely confident you feel I’ve done the same somewhere myself. I think internet discourse is especially well suited to creating such huge webs of conversation that we stop properly considering each and every point therein; and I think we need to change this. In the course of conversation we need people to acknowledge their respect for these alternate perspectives/experiences/needs, and make concessions therein. So please catch me if I ignore and key points of yours; and I hope you’ll respond to my aforementioned points in turn.

        After all, you did write:

        I do my best to not impose my assumptions over other people’s truths, but the favor is rarely returned.

        I do my best too. I think, though, that both of us can always push ourselves to do better.

        That said, let’s go back to those concerns you raised, about the critical treatment of trans persons in gender activist discourse. You wrote here:

        But it is frustrating to see cis feminists who can and will lay down the law when it comes to rape culture, but then turn around and say “Our anti-trans hate speech doesn’t hurt you, men hurt you.” Yes, and for the most part, portraying women as victims in the media, the acceptability of rape jokes, slut shaming, and victim blaming doesn’t rape women – rapists rape women. But the rape jokes, the victim blaming and portrayals, and the shaming encourage an environment where it is easier for rapists to get away with it. Similarly, when cis people spend so much energy focusing on the ways in which they think trans women fail as women and are really men, it encourages a culture where some think that trans women should be killed.

        There are two key statements early in this paragraph that speak perfectly to the omitted experience set of born-sex-females in this discourse. When you write of born-sex-female feminists pointing out that the male-dominant gender binary is the true oppressor of trans persons, and then cite social oppressions against women, you forget that women are also perpetuating these media stereotypes, the “slut shaming,” the “victim blaming” against their own communities. As I develop in full in this post and the resulting comments, born-sex-female women can be absolutely horrible to other women in the pursuit of better expectation sets in the male dominant gender binary. Just as trans persons can be absolutely horrible to born-sex-women in turn. Call out a trans woman on adopted misogyny, you say: Well, call out cis women on adopted misogyny in turn. That’s what women do with one another when one of us perpetuates the gender-binary in a way that harms other women. That’s furthermore how the oppressed work together for mutual gain – not by presuming experience and denying oppression (as, yes, members of both sides do), but in the gender activist sphere by recognizing that gender normativity predicates all intra-activist conflict, and should therefore be the ultimate target of our allied criticism. Until you have an answer for the intersectionality problem raised by trying to map the current, trans activist / liberal feminist gender strategy onto other activisms (specifically, the absurdity of similar privilege lists ever dominating discourse between groups marginalized along race and geographical transition lines), it’s difficult for us to progress in this line of discourse.

        As for cis privilege checklists – privilege checklists can be and are problematic and inaccurate and poorly worded, but one of the most common refutations to privilege checklists is when one of the privileged class insists that they don’t experience all of the privileges listed when the point of the list is that a particular group of people experiences none of the privileges listed.

        Cis privilege isn’t the privilege of being female assigned at birth or male assigned at birth. All trans people are female assigned or male assigned at birth as well as all cis people. It’s not framing femaleness as a privilege. It’s framing cissexualness – not transitioning, not having the need to transition – as a privilege. And it is. It does not erase what cis women experience as women. But the fact is that trans people – men and women – experience transphobia (and in the case of trans women, trans misogyny) that cis women do not. And yes, not experiencing that oppression is a privilege.

        The problem here is that the great majority of items on the cis privilege list are gender-normativity based, not cis; and that we’re talking about literally billions of women who do not benefit from the privileges therein described. This really makes it difficult to sort out what is and isn’t cis privilege, and further questions how much is really understood by those making these lists about the lived experiences of others suffering from male dominant gender normativity. I have seen trans women here regularly conflate cis privilege with straight, and male, and gender-normative privilege. I have further seen incidents claimed by trans activists as examples of cis privilege overlook the fact that cis persons are equally targeted for the same (i.e. butch women in the bathroom question). Which should make it clear this is gender normativity we’re talking about, but for many activists it doesn’t.

        Meanwhile, in the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re a straight cross-dresser, an effeminate gay man, or a transsexual woman who doesn’t quite pass: Your self-identity doesn’t matter at all, whereas the identity your potential perp perceives you as having is everything. That’s the ultimate consequence of gender normative oppression: those who pass as male gender normative have the capacity to erase all measures of self-determination among the non-normative gender, “female,” as well as any males who fail to pass as gender normative in turn. The fact that gender activist groups are tearing into each other instead of fighting this common oppression is very frustrating, and equally difficult to grasp.

        And yes, not having to transition to feel right about the harmony of inner gender, social gender, and physical sex is a definite benefit. But your definition of “transition” therefore excludes transgendered people in general, unless you allow transition to include changing social gender to fit inner gender, whether or not that involves physical sex. And the moment you make that inclusion for non-transsexual trans persons, you create a definition set that absolutely encompasses the born-sex-female feminist’s lived experience — because we too have social genders that do not match our inner genders.

        “Yes,” some trans activists then argue, “but you’re tackling variance within a gender pole, and we’re tackling a jump from one pole to another.” An argument which is wholly untenable, because the moment you treat variance as something that does not include spanning both poles, you deny the transgendered who do just this, and the born-sex-females who present as male without identifying as trans, and the born-sex-males who present as female without identifying as trans either. In short, your definition of cis privilege as the privilege not to have to transition to feel all three measures align either excludes transgendered persons on the whole (i.e. non-transsexuals), or else necessarily includes the lived experience of born-sex-female women – particularly, any who consider themselves feminists, too.

        Yes, the right to do what one wishes with one’s body, and to be accepted for one’s inner identity in society (obviously, just so long as that identity is not harmful to oneself or others – you know the extremes to which I’m referring), is something I wholeheartedly support – for everyone. For gay and lesbian couples, for trans persons, for born-sex-females. And yes, the lived experiences of every group therein equally needs to be respected and heard, because there is a hell of a lot of suffering out there for reasons of gender identity and sex reality. All these are principles I endorse, and always will, in my own feminism and gender activism. But I will not take on a term that doesn’t represent my inner identity, or concede to having privileges that in actuality deny my own experiences in turn. That should be the basic requirement of any sustainable gender activism, really. As for other requirements for a “New Deal” in gender activist discourse – well, that’s what I asked at the end of the original post. That’s what I’m still getting to, in catching up with the wonderful volume of responses here to date.

        As your experience shows you, Lisa, there’s a lot of shit being talked across the internet – the worst of which, clearly, being that which denies your essential truths. The aim here is to create a new store of good faith by finding ways to go forward together. I’ve outlined some of the key problems I have with contemporary discourse: the denial or presumption of other people’s identities and lived experience, the refusal to acknowledge other people’s suffering or difficult arguments in the course of debate, and the huge efficacy problem of intra-activist privilege sets.

        What about you? What would an ideal gender discourse look like for you? Going forward, what do you feel should be the central tenets of gender activism? Can we be equally unified around all gender issues, or are certain issues best handled by distinct gender communities therein? Should we be aiming for that? And are the ideal solutions we’re looking for in the real world universally applied, or locally developed? What would the best possible real-world outcome, for our lifetimes, look like for you?

        Many apologies, too, for the delayed response. It took me about another week to get my energy levels up after being sick – and god, has everyone else been busy in my absence!

        All the best,

        Maggie

      • Michelle said,

        Hi Maggie,

        I think I spoke to some of your questions in this comment (which for god knows what reason, WordPress decided to attach to a much earlier comment)

        – Michelle

      • Cheryl said,

        Lisa wrote:

        It’s framing cissexualness – not transitioning, not having the need to transition – as a privilege. And it is. It does not erase what cis women experience as women. But the fact is that trans people – men and women – experience transphobia (and in the case of trans women, trans misogyny) that cis women do not. And yes, not experiencing that oppression is a privilege.

        Maggie responded:

        The problem here is that the great majority of items on the cis privilege list are gender-normativity based, not cis; and that we’re talking about literally billions of women who do not benefit from the privileges therein described. This really makes it difficult to sort out what is and isn’t cis privilege, and further questions how much is really understood by those making these lists about the lived experiences of others suffering from male dominant gender normativity. I have seen trans women here regularly conflate cis privilege with straight, and male, and gender-normative privilege. I have further seen incidents claimed by trans activists as examples of cis privilege overlook the fact that cis persons are equally targeted for the same (i.e. butch women in the bathroom question). Which should make it clear this is gender normativity we’re talking about, but for many activists it doesn’t.

        This whole line of political framing misses the point. Lisa’s first statement is in fact the reality for transsexuals.

        Transsexuality is not a political identity based around an orientation, it is a medical condition, the ultimate expression of transgenderism, when the brain sex is mortally opposed to the body sex.

        As such it is de facto the defining criteria of someone who lacks cis privilege and is in danger of dying for that lack at his or her own hand because the trans existence, if completely extreme, drives one insane.

        Long before there were technological solutions, trans people were attempting to surgically alter themselves and dying. If a woman dying from a self-inflicted coathanger abortion is the quintessential male privilege talking, then a transwoman dying from a self-inflicted penectomy/orchiectomy is the quintessential cis privilege talking.

        Moreover, transsexuals are universally condemned for having this medical condition, finding few if any safe harbors in life. In most cases we are made 100% fiscally responsible for medically necessary care that is often life-saving.

        Even in lesbian political discourse, the compulsive M2F medical necessity to have a cis existence is framed as a fetish where the (currently fictional) alleged gain of female fertility is under consideration. This is simply an insulting characterization.

        So as far as good-faith ways of going forward together are concerned, a good first start would be to stop calling a medical condition a fetish.

        This is exactly the battle that transpersons are preparing for in the committee that is revising the DSM, since two major players in the game are solidly in the fetish camp. If they win, they will make the transition path much harder to obtain because transition will be framed not as a medically necessary intervention to correct a life-threatening birth defect, but rather as a last resort palliative to make a mentally defective person comfortable.

        The end result will be frustrated transitions and unhappy or dead patients.

        The logical fallacy comes from defining cis privilege purely in political terms. When the medical realities are taken into account, it does not matter whether the transsexual is M2F or F2M, the fact is that the condition itself defines the lack of cis privilege. If the privilege were purely male privilege, it would make a difference which way the transition was headed, since F2M would be seen as a step up and M2F would be seen as a step down by the patient, whereas in both cases the patient sees the transition as a step up because it relieves the medical condition.

        If the privilege were purely gender-normative, there would be no incentive to transition at all because the person would benefit most by expressing the gender that was assigned at birth rather than making changes that result in clearly distinguishable ambiguity and infertility. In this case, politically transition either way would be seen as a step down whereas the patient still sees it as a step up regardless of which way it goes.

        The fact is that the DSM spells out the cis privilege when it states that a transsexual or for that matter transgender of any stripe expresses a trans identity persistently for its own sake rather than for any perceived political privilege or social benefit. By ruling out the possibility of any such gains from transition, the DSM de facto defines the loss of privilege that is inherent in the condition, and in fact much if not all of the motivation behind the ‘real life test’ is to confront the patient with that loss of privilege that goes along with transition before committing to surgery, in order to establish that the patient is fully aware of and accepts that loss of status. The doctors cannot very well shake the patient by the shoulder and say, “Look dummy, this is the end of the line where your cis privilege is concerned,” nor can they force a transitioning patient to sign a disclosure that expressly acknowledges the loss of cis privilege as a side effect of treatment, because such a disclosure would not stand up in court. Instead the surgeon leaves it up to the SOC and the therapist to obtain informed consent to the loss of cis privilege implicitly rather than explicitly by framing it in terms of ‘regret’ or buyer’s remorse, when in fact a transitioning transsexual could care less about the loss of political privilege and is only interested in the medical necessity, because there is no other reason to transition at all that makes any sense.

        This is where the conflation of politics and medicine makes for bad medicine. Transition is a medical issue and should be independent of any political considerations.

  4. polly said,

    Medical transition helps some transgendered people. It has a higher success rate than therapy. It lessens depression and related mental illnesses in trans patients. The post-surgical regret percentages are almost non-existent. So, they’re happy as individuals, and their invididual life choices aren’t intrinsically hurting anyone. To refuse a treatment you know will increase someone’s quality of life, when it in no way harms another person’s life, is therefore unethical. Regardless of where transsexuality “lies” in a person, it is in and of itself an outcome that legitimately benefits individual lives.

    Ok, first of all I have to ask, Maggie, what the evidence for this is and what data you’re basing this on. Because the only study I am aware of (which has been criticised for various reasons) shows no difference in outcome between those who have sex reassignment surgery and those who don’t. I’d argue that simply the fact that some people report feeling happier, for want of a better word, after SRS isn’t proof that SRS has a net beneficial effect. Anecdotally, most of the people I’ve met who have had SRS also had significant mental health issues, but that IS anecdotal.

    I’ve got another point to make, so I’ll move on to a different comment.

    • polly said,

      And the above has to be read in light of the physical side effects of medical transition, which are not inconsiderable.

    • maggieclark said,

      Hi Polly!

      Thanks for commenting — it’s not that I’m not enjoying the conversations I’m having here with people speaking from trans experiences, but the conversations sure get one-on-one instead of collaborative!

      The comment you’re referencing came out of a long exchange with Michelle here, and a study I found on the regret rate, which has been exceedingly low. That latter is really what caught my attention. I thought for sure there’d be a higher incidence of people not happy with the change to their bodies, but there wasn’t; and the very fact that a huge transformation of the body hasn’t led to a tremendous surge of negative response is itself worthy of note. One thing I pointed out in that conversation with Michelle, though, was that there still isn’t enough research into what happens after — in large part, she argues, because a lot of transsexuals disappear into the woodwork after surgery, and just want to focus on their new social identities.

      These transsexuals, I don’t see as hurting anyone: Their individual claim to a procedure with an individually beneficial outcome should therefore be respected.

      The persons we need to target are those trans activists and even born-sex-female women who would push policies based on trans choices or experiences that then limit our ability to mitigate the oppressions of born-sex-females, if not protect against them entirely — by denying that sex is the site of gendered oppression, by fetishizing and forcing the label of privilege on born-sex-females for the expectation of fertile and otherwise inhabiting abused bodies, by pushing social outcomes (like sex pos) from a place without recognition of the unique history of women’s bodies, and so forth.

      I really liked FCM’s argument about the non-falsifiability of inner identity, and its huge problems as a theoretical or practical basis for gender activism, which she made using the Joe the Plumber analogy: I just don’t think the language with which she makes it, in denying trans inner identity entirely, is useful in furthering our discussions. TBL also articulated the inner identity / external policy conflict very well, but in a way that similarly implies denying inner identity entirely.

      I think the effective route is to recognize that which no one else can falsify, and allow those identities room to manifest unimpeded wherever they do no harm to anyone else, and have indications of benefit to the individuals themselves. But then to draw the discursive line firmly where those inner identities threaten or limit other people’s access, presume other people’s inner experiences, and otherwise create conflict sites in theory and in practice. I think that’s really the gist of what I was trying to get at above, so I hope that makes sense.

      Thanks again!

      Maggie

      • polly said,

        Hi Maggie

        The study I’m referring to is here

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2004/jul/30/health.mentalhealth

        And I think this bit is particularly significant:

        Its review warns that the results of many gender reassignment studies are unsound because researchers lost track of more than half of the participants. For example, in a five-year study of 727 post-operative transsexuals published last year, 495 people dropped out for unknown reasons. Dr Hyde said the high drop out rate could reflect high levels of dissatisfaction or even suicide among post-operative transsexuals. He called for the causes of their deaths to be tracked to provide more evidence.

        Self reporting is problematic as a measure of clinical effectiveness of surgery, simply because there may be a pressure to not express regret.

        In terms of medical ethics, and indeed spending NHS resources, the overall outcome and costs of a treatment do have to be looked at – which is why certain treatments are not available. Doctors are being advised not to prescribe HRT for instance, which has some positive and some negative effects, for beyond 5 years because of the increased risk of breast cancer. Yet some women (myself included) find it has very beneficial effects on their quality of life, and it also prevents osteoporosis. The risks and benefits of any treatment need to be balanced.

        Someone taking oestrogen for sex reassignment purposes can take up to 8 mg, which is 4-8 times the dose prescribed as HRT for females. This carries a high breast cancer risk. There are other side effects of SRS as well, not least the loss of sexual function.

      • maggieclark said,

        Hi Polly,

        Thanks for posting the link. I find this bit interesting, because it’s misleading:

        “495 people dropped out for unknown reasons. Dr Hyde said the high drop out rate could reflect high levels of dissatisfaction or even suicide among post-operative transsexuals.”

        Yes, it could reflect high levels of dissatisfaction with the surgery. Or it could equally represent a complete immersion of many trans persons into their new social gender. Both are equally legitimate speculations — but only speculative, no more. Added to this is the fact that other things might equally cause dissatisfaction — not the least of which would involve a cost claim for the surgeries not being accepted. Which is why more research is definitely important.

        In the meantime, I’m inclined to agree with Michelle that when transition is approached gradually, with therapeutic involvement and a lived year in the subject’s base sex with no hormones or similar augmentation, the outcome is a low regret rate, indicative of patient satisfaction with their medical outcomes. Another poster here, Cheryl, seems to take issue with the long wait times, and that seems reckless to me — an opinion bolstered by the determination of malpractice given in many states/countries when doctors fail to provide therapy throughout a person’s medical transition process.

        Best,

        Maggie

      • polly said,

        I think that’s the point though Maggie, the data is unreliable. The high drop out rate across the studies MAY indicate people were just too happy to participate any longer, but that’s not a conclusion you can justifiably draw – any more than you can draw the opposite conclusion.

      • maggieclark said,

        On the basis of that study, yes — but its results are made distinct by the high drop-out rate from other studies. Thus reverting me to other work, like the body of research Michelle posts, many studies therein which demonstrate a low regret rate — most notably for people going through a longer transitional process.

        That said, you made a really excellent remark in one of the other comments getting really weirdly nested on this page, about the tremendous difficulty in registering a difference between correlation and causation. I think you’re right — that definitely needs to be taken into consideration. But what we’re talking about here is trans aims of trans activism, where those trans aims don’t interfere with feminist policy. Until there’s better research to the contrary that would then compel a humanistic response from those not in the trans community, the fact that individuals have reported satisfaction with results confirms that, on an individuated basis, these policies and procedures can be beneficial: in the meantime, trans / feminist discourse can focus more on the actual places of intersection between our disciplines, and the resulting real world policy.

        … I hope that makes sense. I’m not exactly in a cogent state of mind right now. My inner identity is presently “fever-ridden.”

        All the best!

        Maggie

      • polly said,

        To clarify Maggie, the Birmingham study was a review of over 100 studies, looking critically at the research methods used. It was not a study on its own, it was a critical examination of the research methods used and hence the validity of the conclusions of other studies. The overall conclusion was the the research was poorly designed, with a bias “which skewed the results to suggest that sex change operations are beneficial. ”

        The UK system for getting SRS theoretically includes a requirement of ‘lived experience’, but in practice this can be cut short, and it’s almost impossible of course to check that someone is actually ‘living’ in a certain gender role. I don’t think it’s necessarily this that is the issue, so much as having some kind of ‘cooling off’ period, so people don’t make decisions either in haste, or while undergoing some other kind of life crisis.

        But I think the chief problem is still that the ‘medical model’ pushes the sex/gender connection. If we are legally being told that exhibiting non gender conforming behaviour is ‘gender dypshoria’ then I’ve got gender dysphoria and so have a large number of people I know.

        The number of breast augmentation operations (implants) carried out has soared hugely in the UK recently. A lot of women think that they would be happier if they could have breast implants. A lot may report that they ARE happier after having breast implants. A lot may feel suicidal because of their small breasts. Is this a reason to fund breast implants on the NHS? Or is it a reason to look at the cultural pressures that have led to this large demand for breast implants?

      • Michelle said,

        Polly,

        From what you are describing, the UK system is still operating very much in the structured model of the Gender Clinic that was for the most part abandoned in the 1980s in North America. (With the possible exception of the Gender Identity Clinic at CAMH in Toronto)

        If that is in fact the case, then I think I better understand the dramatic differences between my experience and yours.

        Both are likely as not driven by the WPATH Standards of Care PDF of Version 6 here, but it sounds like the NHS in the UK has implemented the SOC as rules rather than guidelines.

        I’ve discussed the SOC in considerable depth with my own therapist, as well as other practitioners, and the principles behind it are basically sound in my view. (We can discuss the particulars at my blog if you wish – just let me know, and I’ll post something to seed the conversation from – I don’t want to turn Maggie’s comments section into a debate over the problems and merits of various aspects of something as specialized as the SOC) You are fundamentally correct when you state “so much as having some kind of ‘cooling off’ period, so people don’t make decisions either in haste, or while undergoing some other kind of life crisis.” – that’s a big part of it. (I’ve seen more than a few transfolk start RLE and then back away after a few months – I can appreciate the caution flags that such cases send up for the treatment community)

        I’ve spent a lot of time studying both the DSM and SOC, and I do disagree that they push the “sex-gender” connection. That might have been true under the DSM II and DSM III, but the GID diagnosis the DSM IV, along with the most recent versions of the SOC are quite broad, and ultimately do not require full transition.

        Consider the following from the SOC:

        The Overarching Treatment Goal. The general goal of psychotherapeutic, endocrine, or surgical therapy for persons with gender identity disorders is lasting personal comfort with the gendered self in order to maximize overall psychological well-being and self-fulfillment.
        The Standards of Care Are Clinical Guidelines. The SOC are intended to provide flexible directions for the treatment of persons with gender identity disorders.

        The point here is that the guidelines today acknowledge the reality that cross-gender identities occur in a spectrum, and result in quite a broad range of varying needs. Some will need to transition both socially and physically, others may find that living part time, and possibly hormone treatments are adequate.

        My own experience has been that it has been me that has been “in control” of the direction that my path has taken at every step. My therapist has acted appropriately as a combination of counsellor, and facilitator when required. He has never applied any pressure to take steps of any sort, instead it has always been at my request that various steps are undertaken.

        That said, I have also been very deliberate in my own journey – taking steps and then reflecting upon my own state with each one. So, I don’t believe he has ever had any fear that I would take actions rashly, or in the heat of some kind of crisis.

        In short, I have experienced little that I would call “gate keeping” per se, although I can understand how others would interpret aspects of the SOC guidelines as such – especially if they are implemented by their practitioners as rules rather than more flexibly as guidelines.

        Lastly, I appreciate the objections that some have to the “medicalization” of the transsexual experience. However, it is a unique condition that in its most severe cases requires significant medical participation to deal with effectively. I think the comparison of GRS with breast augmentation is a bit of a red herring on this note. First of all, breast augmentation does not fundamentally change anything about the body’s function. HRT and GRS do – and if not carefully managed can have serious and undesired consequences (e.g. reproductive sterility – obviously GRS has this effect, and HRT does after a couple of years as well).

      • polly said,

        Hi Michelle.

        Firstly – I’m not directly comparing GRS with breast augmentation, what I was doing with the analogy (in a place where we have a health service funded from taxation which is mostly ‘free’ at the point of delivery) addressing how a public policy maker may approach making certain treatments available with limited resources.

        For instance I do know a trans woman who had breast augmentation on the NHS, yet electrolysis to remove facial hair (which may be considered to be equally important for both trans women and some born women) is not available routinely. The problem is that there are no limits to the procedures people may wish to access on the NHS, and there must be some kind of consistent framework for assessing effectiveness in publicly funded treatments.

        Re the practical implementation of how transition is managed – I know from people who’ve gone through the process that all too frequently they feel pressured into very stereotypically gendered behaviour simply to access treatment. This is information from the NHS on gender dysphoria, so this currently is the official position in the UK.

        The symptoms of gender dysphoria usually appear at a very young age. Children may refuse to wear typical boys’ or girls’ clothes, or dislike taking part in typical boys’ or girls’ games and activities. In most cases, this kind of behaviour is just a normal part of growing up, but in cases of gender dysphoria, it persists into later childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
        The exact cause of gender dysphoria is unknown. It is currently classed as a psychiatric condition (relating to the mind), but many recent studies have suggested that it is more to do with biological development (relating to the body). There is ongoing research into what causes it.

        Treatment for gender dysphoria helps people become content with their gender identity. For some people, this means dressing and living as their preferred gender. For others, it may involve taking hormones that change their physical appearance. For most transsexuals, it means having surgery to permanently alter their anatomical gender.

        I think this is problematic to say the least, not least because it conflates ‘transgender’ and ‘transsexual’ as being equivalent.

        http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gender-dysphoria/Pages/Introduction.aspx

      • Michelle said,

        Hi Polly,

        To me, that excerpt looks like the NHS has taken its cues more from the language in the older DSM III, and not from the DSM IV.

        In fact the use of the term ‘gender dysphoria’ surprises me a little. Although I find the term highly descriptive of my own experience, I haven’t seen it in active use in research literature for a very long time.

        It seems that the NHS has failed to keep itself abreast of the current state of affairs with respect to the treatment and management of transsexuals.

      • Cheryl said,

        Then we always have the ultimate question to answer, which is, why does a transsexual have to transition socially at all in order to obtain hormones and/or surgery?

        It is not completely unknown for transsexuals to modify their bodies according to the officially accepted protocols and then revert to their former gender roles without bothering to revert their bodies.

        According to commonly accepted medical practice, this would be officially classified as ‘regret’ regardless of why the person reverted or how he/she felt about it.

        If there is one thing that transgender people have taught us, it is the fluidity of gender. Some change back and forth and back and forth over and over, as if they get bored being the same person.

        Some do it every year. Some do it every day, otherwise known as performing drag queens. Some present ambivalent gender presentation, like me, according to my whim, or according to the nature of the occasion, which incidentally agrees fairly well with the liberated woman’s natural gender flexibility these days, now that women have taken over manufacturing jobs during at least two world wars while their men were off fighting.

        Some present themselves asexually all the time. The variety is infinite, as is the continuum.

        Is it such a stretch for a person to obtain surgery, without having the genital configuration anchored to some stereotypical gender presentation by official edict of WPATH? If so, then what exactly is the point of the real life test in the first place, if not simply to impose the will of the majority?

        This just points out the core issue here, which is that conditioning a transperson’s access to genital surgery on compliance with an externally imposed, ‘medically acceptable’ gender role and presentation in an attempt to eradicate ‘regret’ is just another form of oppression — the oppression of the cis-gender on the trans-gender.

        It is completely possible for a person to express any gender presentation from vanilla to gender bonk to transgender as a natural state for that person. If a genitally male person has to undergo hormones and surgery without any social transition whatsoever in order to express her innate non-op straight transman identity, whose business is it of the doctor’s to question his life choice?

        Moreover, if that path is a safer route to transition through toward straight femme post-op transwoman, or one of two end points on that continuum that the person may spend the rest of his/her life gliding between, if the true need is to have the body match the internal wiring and let the gender presentation flow where the mood takes it, is that to be considered so far outside the mainstream as to be not only sick but also forbidden?

        The WPATH was created at a time when boys were boys and girls were girls, and if there was a boy who felt like a girl she was expected to dress and behave like one too, or the answer was no.

        Have we become so blinded by tradition that we have lost sight of everything else?

        That paradigm is out of date. It never was a valid representation of reality in the first place. It was always just the world view of the majority, imposed on the minority in order to comfort the majority with feelings of emotional security.

        Now we have a whole generation of (typically older, late transitioning) transsexuals who run around self-policing the rest of us like self-appointed mothers, warning us of the perils of regret.

        Meanwhile, feminists, who want to break the chains of bondage that have oppressed them for millennia, sit around the campfire agreeing that transsexuals should be subjected to the very same oppression that feminists are trying to break free from.

        The irony is excruciating.

        When transsexuals can obtain hormones and surgery without any ‘Real Life Test’ we will finally know that feminists have won.

      • Michelle said,

        Cheryl,

        Since both hormones and surgery are medical interventions, I think that the practitioners involved will continue to insist on some kind of cross-checks.

        It’s changed a lot since the 1970s, and continues to change.

        I’m sorry to see you so dismissive of the efforts of WPATH and its membership. While no organization is a monolith in its membership, on the members of WPATH I have interacted with have been sincere in their desire to improve things for transfolk – whether that is from the perspective of meeting treatment needs and goals or working to make public policy more flexible where transfolk are concerned. (I may have developed a very different opinion if my interactions were primarily with followers of Blanchard – but he is not a dominant figure in that world)

        However, you are entitled to your opinion in that regard – I can only hope that you are open to considering that there’s more to the picture.

      • polly said,

        Hi Michelle

        The term gender dysphoria is still current and legally recognised in the UK. A person is required to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to have legal gender reassignment.

        http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2004/ukpga_20040007_en_1

        (see section 2).

      • Cheryl said,

        polly said,

        December 31, 2009 at 6:37 am

        But I think the chief problem is still that the ‘medical model’ pushes the sex/gender connection. If we are legally being told that exhibiting non gender conforming behaviour is ‘gender dypshoria’ then I’ve got gender dysphoria and so have a large number of people I know.

        Actually that is not quite how it works. There is a great discussion that follows from this but I have to clear up this one point first.

        As currently written, the diagnostic criteria have their own break with reality that arises partly from personal bias of the committee that wrote the book, partly from the inadequacy of language, and partly from conflation of the three variables that were previously identified, namely physical sex (encompassing at least 6 known variables or traits), gender identity (as defined by the individual on a continuum that may involve potentially an infinite number of traits that are not necessarily in alignment with each other), and gender presentation (this one is completely up for grabs because the possibilities are endless).

        Sexual orientation was at one time considered to be the main or even the only part of gender identity, and Blanchard, Zucker, and their followers are trying to re-establish that link despite truckloads of evidence that they are full of crap, with their single motivation being an attempt to deny credibility to transsexuality based on identity, and eliminating access to reassignment treatment for any transsexual whose target genital configuration would not result in straight intercourse. Essentially they want to universally apply the same standard that exists in Iran.

        Only transsexuals experience true ‘gender dysphoria’. The transsexual diagnostic criteria includes persistent feeling of being in the wrong body and/or gender role, and feeling distress over it that substantially interferes with normal, unrelated function, such as work, activities of daily living, etc for example I began having a really hard time getting dressed in the morning because I just could not stand my clothes any more, but going to work as I needed to without formal support for my medical treatment from Human Resources would result in immediate scrutiny and probably dismissal. The end result was I spent hours laying on the bed naked and crying in the morning, and averting my eyes when I passed by any mirror, because I could not stand to wear the wrong clothes or even look at myself any more. Eventually I could not stand the feel of a ‘thing’ between my legs either.

        (There was one girl I knew who used a bathroom/locker room in a remote corridor at Wells Fargo to change for lunch, then changed back after lunch, who found one day a ‘closed for maintenance’ sign on the door when she returned. Lacking any recourse she returned to her desk in drag, a classic ‘Mrs, Doubtfire’ moment. Next day Human Resources came by and reassured her that no administrative action would be taken, but asked her to follow normal protocols. Wells Fargo is very trans-inclusive. That was the last time she came to work as a guy.)

        Additionally I had behaved in a docile fashion since birth and obsessed about altering my body since puberty. I was frequently targeted for abuse too because I would not fight and had poor muscle development even after months of weightlifting due to very low testosterone level.

        Bathrooms were murder. I was afraid to stand at a urinal and often left the bathroom without peeing because I could not let it out with guys standing around me and it just felt somehow wrong. Eventually I just started using the stalls instead, but in grade school those were usually unsanitary and it led to rumors about me being gay. I stopped going during break times and went during class instead, when the bathrooms were empty.

        Eventually I was rejected outright by the knuckle-draggers and spent the rest of my life avoiding them, because to do otherwise left me at risk of daily physical assault such as rock-throwing and beatings. I got the message quickly. It only took one rock and one punch in the eye and one knife wound to convince me I had nothing in common with them.

        Oh yes, one other thing was that I lactated from puberty until I started estrogen at age 40. Now if this is not conclusive evidence that my condition is an as-yet-unrecognized form of intersexuality, I do not know what is.

        If this sort of thing is happening to you, such as compulsively using a plastic cup and hose device adapted for transmen so that you can urinate standing up, and being disgusted with your own sexual characteristics, and wanting to ejaculate fertile semen when you orgasm (whether you take advantage of that capability or not), then yes, you have ‘gender dysphoria’ as it is defined in the standards and elaborated by me. If you simply want to fool around with other women and wear guy’s clothes, but feel completely comfortable in your own body, then no, you do not have ‘gender dysphoria’, all you have is noncomforming gender presentation and homosexual orientation.

        This points out the inconsistency of the DSM. It conflates socially constructed gender with sexual anatomy. This results in confusion at all stages of treatment and provokes many transsexuals into fabricating an entire dialog replete with an invented history to meet the standard.

        The other problem is in making hormones and surgery contingent on a specific gender presentation and ‘Real Life Test’.

        The disillusionment of transwomen who expected men to go around ‘opening doors for them’ and suing for medical malpractice over it sounds to me like the same old transphobic baloney I see all over the Internet, because that is such a small aspect of life and not what transsexuals really care about anyway, and not even reality in my own personal experience.

        As a feminist myself I do not want men to open doors for me, not even now in a wheel chair, yet I found men doing it all the time when I began my own ‘Real Life Test’ even here in California, the feminist/queer enlightenment capital of the USA if not the world, because I passed well without anything but a wig, even in casual guy clothes, even before electrolysis, even now that I usually dress completely asexually and have not even had facial surgery to reduce what little brow bump I possess.

        I did not even want help doing heavy physical labor such as working on my car and house until my waning musculature necessitated help, and then I was just as glad to get it from a stronger woman.

        I did appreciate it when men I dated treated me like a lady, but that was different, and I was just as willing to return the favor if they would let me.

        Maybe if I was walking around in gender bonk with my male-pattern-baldness on display, ugly, too lazy to practice my voice and diction, potty-mouthed, or built like a linebacker and getting ‘read’ all over the place, that might have interfered with being treated like a lady, and in that case well I am sorry but it just sounds like whining to me because I would certainly expect those sort of social graces to apply only intermittently to me if I were like that. Plenty of FAB’s have the same problem, especially those with untreated hirsutism, and using that as evidence of ‘regret’ seems like transphobic hysteria. But getting back to the main point…

        I would prefer that transsexuality be classified by itself as a separate condition because the experiences and goals of transsexuals are not in agreement with plain old transgender people. Most transgender people are straight crossdressers who need their adrenaline fix to get sexually stimulated and are defined as having a paraphilia in the DSM. The older DSM had transsexual as a subclass of its own and that is where it needs to be, in my opinion. Transgenders do not go insane for want of appropriate medical treatment.

        Some transgenders take hormones to ‘pass’ better or to participate in the sex trade or performance arts, muddying the water, but I never heard of any crossdresser or prostitute or drag queen / drab king going insane for want of hormonal reassignment.

        There is a joke I once heard.

        Q: What is the difference between a crossdresser and a transsexual?

        A: Two years.

        This is true of transsexuals who are in deep denial, as I was, those of us who have buried it to avoid attack. It is not true of transgenders in general since the continuum that transgenders exist on, while it may apply equally to transsexuals, it usually does not include profound disgust with one’s own sexual characteristics to the point of obsessive need for medical reassignment, the ‘change or die’ inner monologue.

        But getting back to the whole falsifiability and privilege/oppression question, I still have to hammer on the root of the matter.

        Historically, it is the cis-gendered expectation that everyone must be ‘straight’ in order to be socially acceptable, as defined in the bible/koran/torah i.e. ‘created them male and female’ and its variations (implying nothing in between), that underlies all sexist oppression, so it is not even based on sex at all, it is an artifact of religion in Western and Middle Eastern countries, and has spread throughout the world in the past ten thousand years.

        Even the ‘divine right of Kings’ extends to the Queen if the king dies, and lacking a male heir to the throne, I never heard of a country abolishing or subsuming its monarchy to a foreign country, but I never once heard of a royal family composed of a same-sex couple.

        Our pre-history, with the pagan Goddess and the Native American two-spirit and the Amazon all pointing to a world that was relatively free of sexism before the Abrahamic religions came into being, also illustrates that sexism is not even necessarily a male creation. Prehistoric cultures and Native American cultures were matriarchal in many respects as far as family and inheritance were concerned (or more precisely, matrilineal in many cases) and also somewhat more egalitarian as far as we can determine.

        Once people finally realized that sexual reproduction sprang forth not from women’s womb exclusively, but rather was a cooperative effort, the matrilineal and matriarchal religions and cultures came under attack. They were eventually replaced with patriarchy, reducing women from Goddesses to mere ribs. OK so patriarchy is fueled with testosterone and more repressive than matriarchy, I will give you that, but in no culture has cis privilege ever vanished. The same cannot be said of male or female privilege. The dominant sex has vacillated from hole to pole with the tides of history.

        Marriage was the primary method of inheritance, and property lines as well as family names historically have been sex-linked to both females and males, when viewed throughout history, but the cis-based lines of procreation are the single constant trait when viewed over the historical/prehistorical long run. When viewed in that context it becomes very difficult indeed to rationalize sexist oppression as benefiting males exclusively, and even more difficult to deny the cis-based privilege inherent in sexual reproduction.

        I find it difficult to rationalize such sexism as being entirely due to males exclusively, given that it arose not with sexual differentiation but rather primarily got its foothold with religion.
        Cis-gendered males and females alike engage in it and benefit from it and distort the entire world to their preference.

        Even in the Catholic Church, a queer bastion due to its ban on marriage, its asexual dress code, and the relief those bring queer people, the official dogma has resulted in cis privilege. Queer catholic priests, nuns, and laity regularly condemn themselves in public and adopt the chaste life on the path to God in order to help them repress themselves, leaving their wealth to the church when they die and leaving the straight flock to do all the breeding and inheriting.

        Modern male privilege is a separate issue that rides atop all other contemporary sexist oppression but it is not the be-all and end-all of sexist oppression; it is simply the top of the contemporary pecking order.

        The more subtle distinctions under debate here, i.e. homosexuality vs. bisexuality vs. trans vs. intersex vs. asexual…, and the overlap between them, are irrelevant to the majority ‘straight’ population, who tend to see us all as a monolithic block of ‘queer’ or ‘bent’ people with severe disabilities due to our conditions, something to be pitied, enabled, or spat upon, but largely irrelevant to public discourse, with a couple of notable exceptions such as Boy George, Elton John, David Bowie, Barney Frank, or anyone else who can deliver something that is in demand consistently enough to find legitimacy and obtain fame, fortune, and power. Note that gay Republicans do not generally qualify.

        All of the public discourse on religious sexism centers on personal narrative and ignores science, because it originates in the faith-based community. So when we talk about falsifiability, we always get back to the impossibility of looking inside someone else’s mind with a special computer port and gathering statistical data. We are left with crude frozen sections and MRI scans that tell precious little about the test subject and have no public credibility.

        This leaves us all vulnerable to the shortcomings of the ‘personal narrative’, one notable shortcoming being the narrative of alleged ‘ex gay’ people who have spectacularly regressed, disproving their own stories. All personal narrative that does not agree with the majority opinion of the cis population is automatically suspect.

        ‘Straight’ people all take their own personal narrative for granted since the majority shares and validates it without question. If there is no cis privilege, then we would have to conclude that all sexism that oppresses ‘queer’ or ‘bent’ people as a class is illusory.

        Even the gay male or the pre-transition M2F that ‘passes’ and might be perceived by gender non-conforming lesbians as ‘benefiting’ from male sexism must be evaluated from the perspective of their own personal narratives. That means either acknowledging that they too are oppressed by cis women, experiencing drastic psychological, financial, and legal oppression, or simply ignoring their personal narrative en masse because they are all men, in order to make the data fit the diagnosis and invalidate cis privilege as an overarching system of oppression.

        My own sense of personal honor cannot abide by such a sweeping, and non-falsifiable, claim of nonexistence of an oppression that me and so many of my acquaintances have fought and in at least one case died under. OK so maybe testosterone gives advantages, but it is not an absolute.

        One last thing that has not even been mentioned here, that bears discussion, is the oppressive effects of male privilege on men themselves. Male privilege is based on an inherently narrow definition of masculinity in order to exclude anything tainted with femininity. Men are so tightly constrained in their gender expression that they often get into fights and spend time in hospitals and prison (or dead) defending themselves from taunts and power challenges to their authority.

        Black males in particular, with their hip hop rap ultra-testosterone expression of ghetto blasting gang wars, and the loss of nearly and entire generation of black fathers to the penal system (or assassination) in the United States, is the most spectacular example of the way that male sexist oppression damages the oppressor. Even in my own family my father developed severe emotional instability every time his dominance in the family was challenged, even though the challenge was usually illusory, and as a result he is now wasting away in a nursing home without a single one of his four children willing to provide safe housing and nursing care for him (actually I would gladly help regardless but I am disowned, disinherited, and disabled myself…)

        In world politics we see cultural, racist, and religious warfare, even long after nuclear weapons stabilized relations between nuclear nations we still see widespread war, often with one non-nuclear party directly involved and often with multiple nuclear parties foisting proxy armies on foreign soil as well. The economic drain, environmental damage, and psychological damage done to all parties may result from an inevitable human trait of arrogance but it still points out the fallacy of the claim that only the oppressor benefits and only the oppressed is damaged.

        We also see continual exploitation of natural resources to the point of damaging the planet irreversibly and potentially fatally. This exploitation arises nearly exclusively from cis gendered people having too many offspring and needing a continuous stream of new natural resources to feed, clothe, and house their children. Our expansionist economic models that depend on credit and exploit workers for the gain of the landed and moneyed class arise directly from cis-gendered expansionist families that always have too many mouths to feed. Everyone suffers under this economic model as it chews up and spits out the planet.

        The universally damaging effect of oppression is a classic tenet of social discourse and I am quite honestly amazed that lesbian blogs gloss over this effect without even mentioning it.

        It weaves through racism, sexism, classism, every system of oppression exacts a price from everyone. To portray oppression as being exclusively beneficial to one primary group denies not only the hierarchy of the pecking order but also denies the damage that oppressors do to themselves.

        I fear that if this tendency to oversimplify the issues and focus exclusively on male privilege runs through most lesbian discourse, it may lead to a roadblock and stymie the debate.

        Am I misinterpreting things? I did read the info page that describes what this blog is about and I am confused by it. It does not agree with my perception of reality.

      • maggieclark said,

        Hi Cheryl,

        Thanks for responding with such a thorough accounting of your own perception of oppression discourse: It helps tremendously to know where someone else is coming from when they make the arguments they do. You mention reading the info page — have you read my post on gender normativity here, and its follow-up here? Not advising you to — just asking!

        And before I forget (I’m catching up on a lot of posts here), noumenological is a philosophical term springing from Kant’s division of the knowable into two domains: the phenomena and the noumena. If you know the external phenomena, through experimental data, of something, you cannot also know its noumena, or inner reality; because the latter cannot be pursued through empirical means. He used this argument to demonstrate that religion had absolutely nothing to do with the realm of science, because of its non-falsifiability: I use it to point out that if I know the external manifestation of someone, I can never know that person’s noumena. Only they can. And vice versa: Everyone else can only know the phenomena of my existence, not the inner perception of it.

        That said, I’d like the thrust of this comment to be a discussion of your defining of oppression, but something else in your comment also struck me, and I’d like to request more clarification there. You wrote:

        I would prefer that transsexuality be classified by itself as a separate condition because the experiences and goals of transsexuals are not in agreement with plain old transgender people. Most transgender people are straight crossdressers who need their adrenaline fix to get sexually stimulated and are defined as having a paraphilia in the DSM. The older DSM had transsexual as a subclass of its own and that is where it needs to be, in my opinion. Transgenders do not go insane for want of appropriate medical treatment.

        And… so much of this shocked me I’m not even sure where to begin. “Plain old transgender people” in particular. Are transsexual activists and transgender activists really so much at odds with one another that such derisive terminology emerges commonly in discourse? Do you really feel that the majority of transgender people are just people who get their sexual kicks from playing dress-up? I would greatly appreciate a better understanding of how you see the current intersections between transgendered and transsexual activism — where you feel they’re mutually supportive, and where you feel they aren’t. Also a clarification on your feelings towards the needs of “plain old transgender people,” on the basis of the statement you made above.

        That said, your oppression argument:

        Historically, it is the cis-gendered expectation that everyone must be ’straight’ in order to be socially acceptable, as defined in the bible/koran/torah i.e. ‘created them male and female’ and its variations (implying nothing in between), that underlies all sexist oppression, so it is not even based on sex at all, it is an artifact of religion in Western and Middle Eastern countries, and has spread throughout the world in the past ten thousand years.

        I find this opening premise fascinating, inasmuch as it asserts cis-privilege as the first privilege, and the one from whence all others spring — something I’ve never seen anyone do before. I strongly disagree with this argument in its broadest sense, placing as I do gender normativity (again, you can read my earlier posts to that end) as the source of all gender oppression. I also strongly disagree with this argument in its concrete example above, because it’s based on an illogical misstep:

        A) If the cis-gendered expectation is that you have to be straight, then it follows that people would be straight unless they weren’t cis (i.e. trans).

        B) Therefore, if it’s a cis concept, then all queer persons are trans.

        Now try on your same statement with gender normativity instead:

        “Historically, it is the gender normative expectation that everyone must be ’straight’ in order to be socially acceptable, as defined in the bible/koran/torah i.e. ‘created them male and female’ and its variations (implying nothing in between), that underlies all sexist oppression.”

        Let’s see how this holds up logically:

        A) A) If the gender-normative expectation is that you have to be straight, then it follows that people would be straight unless they weren’t gender normative.

        B) Therefore, if it’s a gender-normativity concept, then all queer persons are non-gender-normative.

        Do you see the difference?

        Even the ‘divine right of Kings’ extends to the Queen if the king dies, and lacking a male heir to the throne, I never heard of a country abolishing or subsuming its monarchy to a foreign country, but I never once heard of a royal family composed of a same-sex couple.

        This is an argument of omissions.

        1) Monarchies stemmed from the belief in a lineage derived from god, therefore placing procreation at the centre of all expectations for a royal family.

        2) To this day, no medical intervention exists that would allow a royal couple to ensure that solely the royal genes of either both females or both males in said partnership would be passed on to the offspring.

        Make 2 a thing of the past, rejuvenate monarchical presence in society as anything but ornamentation, wait a few hundred years, and see what happens. But with our present history of self-preservation in royal classes, as with self-preservation arguments for small cultures verging on extinction, that social pressure to procreate supersedes all else. That’s gender-normativity in action, and it threatens ALL non-gender-normative persons alike.

        Our pre-history, with the pagan Goddess and the Native American two-spirit and the Amazon all pointing to a world that was relatively free of sexism before the Abrahamic religions came into being, also illustrates that sexism is not even necessarily a male creation. Prehistoric cultures and Native American cultures were matriarchal in many respects as far as family and inheritance were concerned (or more precisely, matrilineal in many cases) and also somewhat more egalitarian as far as we can determine.

        You’ve nested an argument into this paragraph that you don’t justify with either the evidence before or after its use. You say “sexism is not even necessarily a male creation,” and to this end you cite that earlier cultures had very clear gender roles that were culturally prioritized as more equal and worthy than the gender roles we see today. This latter does not argue for the former: The ONLY way you could say “sexism is not even necessarily a male creation” is if you could demonstrate that males were not the driving force around the creation of Abrahamic faiths.

        And you can’t. Further, there’s a terrible chicken-and-the-egg omission in the implication that Abrahamic faiths sprung from nothing: Their gradual ascendence actually speaks to the necessary consequence of shifting from small, nomadic, hunter/gatherer societies (which to this day have equally respected, albeit very clear gender roles: see, Papua New Guinea) to settled agrarian and specialist cultures. When there is enough communal food-gathering to allow some people to perform tasks above a survival level, what emerges are social strata that preference males (who are not impeded by child birth and rearing) in education, community leadership, and thus power. So there’s no way to argue, with the full breadth of history, that males weren’t the natural inheritors of social power, and thus the driving force behind further entrenching their claim to that power, through religion and otherwise.

        Once people finally realized that sexual reproduction sprang forth not from women’s womb exclusively, but rather was a cooperative effort, the matrilineal and matriarchal religions and cultures came under attack. They were eventually replaced with patriarchy, reducing women from Goddesses to mere ribs. OK so patriarchy is fueled with testosterone and more repressive than matriarchy, I will give you that, but in no culture has cis privilege ever vanished. The same cannot be said of male or female privilege. The dominant sex has vacillated from hole to pole with the tides of history.

        I disagree with your closing assertion here: Never never never has male privilege vanished. In hunter/gatherer societies, as I demonstrated above, you saw two very clear gendered expectation sets, treated with more respect but no less being afforded that respect on the good will of the sex with a stronger threat of force. You can see the derision of women’s work as lesser work even in societies such as these when you look to the few hunter/gatherer societies still in existence today: One Papua New Guinea tribe, for instance, characterizes as “women’s work,” and therefore less laudable work for men, the in fact much harder physical labour of mulching trees for sustenance. Hunting, meanwhile, is men’s work, and requires the skill only a man can provide. The lesson here is not that women haven’t borne the purse-strings or ownership of household domains in many hunter/gatherer and even some early settled cultures (i.e. Greece): The lesson is that being given these things doesn’t mean they can’t ever be taken away — and they can be, always, by men. Greek culture is a decidedly perfect example of just this: Though Lysistra evidences that women did control household finances in the culture, men made all the “important” decisions that determined whether or not the society would be at war. Furthermore, we know that women’s control of the household did not guarantee them any respect whatsoever: A woman alone while her husband and sons were at war was not safe from advances in the community; and even a woman whose husband was around had no capacity to demand his fidelity to her. My point being: Cherry-picking history limits its use in these discussions. Men always had the stronger claim to a threat of violence, and as we developed from survival-based society to groupings that could sustain more specialized labours, male power accumulated readily, at a clear detriment to women.

        Marriage was the primary method of inheritance, and property lines as well as family names historically have been sex-linked to both females and males, when viewed throughout history, but the cis-based lines of procreation are the single constant trait when viewed over the historical/prehistorical long run. When viewed in that context it becomes very difficult indeed to rationalize sexist oppression as benefiting males exclusively, and even more difficult to deny the cis-based privilege inherent in sexual reproduction.

        I would agree with most of this paragraph if it weren’t for your terming of the privilege as cis, because again, to do so infers that all queer persons — who similarly suffer an inability to procreate in social models throughout history — are trans. This is not the case, and since it’s not the case, it becomes quite clear that you’re using the wrong term to describe such privilege sets: They’re gender-normative privilege sets, and as such, they favour everyone who prescribes to gender-normativity.

        This becomes exceptionally clear when we recognize that the majority of transsexuals were not infertile prior to transition. A trans woman or trans man, up until the point they engage in bottom surgery, almost always has the capacity to procreate. And many do, leading to such news items as that ridiculously stupid media sensation about the “trans man who gave birth!!!”

        Now, I anticipate your argument would then be, “Yes, but trans persons don’t have the ability to procreate the way we want to — i.e. trans men delivering fertile sperm, and trans women having functional wombs.”

        But this leads me right back to my frustration with the fetishization of female fertility: Women also don’t have the ability to procreate the way we want to. On a very basic, physical level, do you think we enjoy the nausea, the back pain, the swelling of joints, the extreme emotional duress, the complications, the labour, the sleeplessness, the nine month gestation period? Not quite the same as jerking off into a woman’s body in the throes of pleasure, is it! And in a fuller contextual level, do you think we enjoy having society constantly bicker about our rights to do with our bodies as we will; to have males take ownership over our fertility; to bear with us in all social encounters, all threats of assault, the fear of rape for the pregnancy it might incur; to have our periods used against us as a sign of female mental inferiority; to have our social value plummet at menopause; to be blamed by others for not making the most of it, for society’s benefit, while we could; to be taught that sex is something we have a special responsibility to protect against for years because our fertility is a problem we’ll be blamed for, and punished, if we get pregnant; to be prescribed the task of primary caregiver, even in societies that have “emancipated” enough that we’re also expected to be primary breadwinners a lot of the time too; and most of all to have women the world over oppressed because this fact of female fertility makes us less worthy than men?

        I have to reply to Lisa after this comment: She’s inferred that I don’t want trans women to be able to become pregnant. That’s the not what my issue is, and not what I said: My issue is that when we talk about fertility, we again find both sides of the issue pointedly ignoring the articulated experiences of the other party. So when trans women say they want my privilege of fertility, what I hear is them saying they want my “privilege” of being oppressed. Trans women should not want female fertility as it exists in the world today: Trans women should want better, and in doing so, trans activists and feminists should be far stronger allies than they presently are in fighting all female oppressions stemming from the social appropriation of individual fertility. Why they aren’t should mystify me, but it doesn’t: Trans activists don’t want to give up the notion that fertility is a privilege, for fear that means they’ll lose the right to pursue fertility; and feminists don’t want to give up the fact that fertility is the number one source of female oppression, because hey! It is, and billions of women the world over suffer for it in different ways. We, as a gender activist collective, need to do better.

        I find it difficult to rationalize such sexism as being entirely due to males exclusively, given that it arose not with sexual differentiation but rather primarily got its foothold with religion.

        Like I said above and before: Even if we were to put aside the socio-cultural human developments that first created the room for Abrahamic faiths, who were the driving forces behind those religions? In the answer, you find the oppressor.

        Cis-gendered males and females alike engage in it and benefit from it and distort the entire world to their preference.

        You’ve defined female benefit above as the capacity to procreate. I countered by pointing out non-trans groups that have no such capacity to procreate in the way you’ve outlined (queer persons), and that female fertility is the source of gendered oppression against women. Are there other benefits you’d like to argue exist for “cis” women, or does it become clear that the real culprit here is gender normativity, which affects everyone who does not pass as gender normative?

        Even in the Catholic Church, a queer bastion due to its ban on marriage, its asexual dress code, and the relief those bring queer people, the official dogma has resulted in cis privilege. Queer catholic priests, nuns, and laity regularly condemn themselves in public and adopt the chaste life on the path to God in order to help them repress themselves, leaving their wealth to the church when they die and leaving the straight flock to do all the breeding and inheriting.

        Again, I agree with everything here except your conflating of “cis” with something that must necessarily regard queer persons as trans. Gender normativity privilege is the far stronger logical argument here.

        Modern male privilege is a separate issue that rides atop all other contemporary sexist oppression but it is not the be-all and end-all of sexist oppression; it is simply the top of the contemporary pecking order.

        I’ve fully deconstructed this argument by now. I hope you understand that when males give anything to women over the course of history, the very fact that it has been given, and can be just as easily taken away, due to the stronger claim to the threat of force men as a population have over women, this does not make women the power-brokers in any such exchange. Further, your cis argument reclassifies queer persons in general in a way that does not hold up to reality: Gender normativity is the primary oppressive agent for all gender activist spheres. To suggest the primacy of “cis” instead negates queer experience and the full breadth of human history alike.

        The more subtle distinctions under debate here, i.e. homosexuality vs. bisexuality vs. trans vs. intersex vs. asexual…, and the overlap between them, are irrelevant to the majority ’straight’ population, who tend to see us all as a monolithic block of ‘queer’ or ‘bent’ people with severe disabilities due to our conditions, something to be pitied, enabled, or spat upon, but largely irrelevant to public discourse, with a couple of notable exceptions such as Boy George, Elton John, David Bowie, Barney Frank, or anyone else who can deliver something that is in demand consistently enough to find legitimacy and obtain fame, fortune, and power. Note that gay Republicans do not generally qualify.

        I agree completely! Gender normativity strikes again!

        All of the public discourse on religious sexism centers on personal narrative and ignores science, because it originates in the faith-based community. So when we talk about falsifiability, we always get back to the impossibility of looking inside someone else’s mind with a special computer port and gathering statistical data. We are left with crude frozen sections and MRI scans that tell precious little about the test subject and have no public credibility.

        This leaves us all vulnerable to the shortcomings of the ‘personal narrative’, one notable shortcoming being the narrative of alleged ‘ex gay’ people who have spectacularly regressed, disproving their own stories. All personal narrative that does not agree with the majority opinion of the cis population is automatically suspect.

        Wholeheartedly agree with everything, again, except “cis” — I hope by now the distinction is clear? “Cis” does not mean “not queer,” so when you term anything by “cis” as the standard you negate queer experience. When you use “gender normative” instead, however, no such histories are negated or subordinated.

        ‘Straight’ people all take their own personal narrative for granted since the majority shares and validates it without question. If there is no cis privilege, then we would have to conclude that all sexism that oppresses ‘queer’ or ‘bent’ people as a class is illusory.

        Again: By trans definitions of cis, cisgenderedness has nothing to do with being queer: that’s the entire reason trans activists argue it needs its own terminology! Ergo the state of queerness can — and DOES! — have a majority membership of people termed by the trans community as “cis”. Thus the privilege being espoused here is always gender normativity privilege, as determined by male normative society, since they always have had the stronger claim to a threat of violence.

        Even the gay male or the pre-transition M2F that ‘passes’ and might be perceived by gender non-conforming lesbians as ‘benefiting’ from male sexism must be evaluated from the perspective of their own personal narratives. That means either acknowledging that they too are oppressed by cis women, experiencing drastic psychological, financial, and legal oppression, or simply ignoring their personal narrative en masse because they are all men, in order to make the data fit the diagnosis and invalidate cis privilege as an overarching system of oppression.

        I have to say I can’t understand the OR argument you’re making here. Let me put it this way: The suffering of a gay male for being gay, or of a trans woman for her journey towards transition, are legitimate, and deserve to be talked about. BUT. They are not automatic passes for avoiding a conversation about how they benefit from systems that oppress others. That is, after all, the entire thrust of the argument used by trans activists towards born-sex-female women: that despite our own oppression, we should still stop and think about whether or not we are oppressing others in turn. So where’s the reciprocation?

        My own sense of personal honor cannot abide by such a sweeping, and non-falsifiable, claim of nonexistence of an oppression that me and so many of my acquaintances have fought and in at least one case died under. OK so maybe testosterone gives advantages, but it is not an absolute.

        I’m sorry for your loss. But you bet, testosterone gives huge advantages. Passing as a male in our society gives exceptionally huge advantages. And gay men also have a long history of oppressing gay women, because being gay doesn’t mean magically erasing the male privilege they grew up with. That’s the whole point. Now, you say that this male privilege is just contemporary: I definitely deconstructed and refuted that claim above, but just in case you’re not convinced of the perils of framing any oppression discourse in that light, let’s look at some intersectional oppression discourse.

        I’m white. Whites are, presently, the top of the racial pyramid in cultural perspective. By your argument, this could be termed a “contemporary” condition: Before white conquest, there were other oppressors, other groups that were deemed to have the purest skin; or else everyone was equally distrustful of people who were different. But even if that were true, and to some extent it is, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with relevant, productive racial discourse today. I am white. I am of the oppressor class in contemporary society, and it has been this way for eons. The question is, what do I do with that information: how do I go forward? The exact same is true of male privilege: People born male were born into the top rung of gender-normative society. They had the capacity to fall from that rung for being “womanly,” but NOT necessarily for being gay — since gay doesn’t always mean manifesting in an effeminate character set. (See: Homosexuality between monks and warriors in China, Ancient Greece and Rome, Tokugawa-era Japanese officials, contemporary day corporate firms.) Male privilege is real, it informs contemporary expectations, and therefore needs to be considered by those who have it, or who have had it, or who intend to have it (once they pass as trans men) if the discourse is ever to progress.

        One last thing that has not even been mentioned here, that bears discussion, is the oppressive effects of male privilege on men themselves. Male privilege is based on an inherently narrow definition of masculinity in order to exclude anything tainted with femininity. Men are so tightly constrained in their gender expression that they often get into fights and spend time in hospitals and prison (or dead) defending themselves from taunts and power challenges to their authority.

        These are arguments feminists are EXCEEDINGLY familiar with. The fact that women get “benefits” in a system that prioritizes males, and therefore shafts women from some dangerous work; and which is predicated on a male hormone set that leads many males to intense power plays on the basis of these biochemical imperatives, in no way changes the fact the power to change the social definition of masculinity lies with men, and men alone.

        Believe me, when women try to enact that change, by raising more genderqueer children or even just softening a little male expression patterns, they are blamed and oppressed for it. You need look no further than widely held and disseminated opinions that feminism has “ruined” at least two generations of men. Being aware of who has the power in this exchange is crucial to understanding gender activism as a whole.

        Black males in particular, with their hip hop rap ultra-testosterone expression of ghetto blasting gang wars, and the loss of nearly and entire generation of black fathers to the penal system (or assassination) in the United States, is the most spectacular example of the way that male sexist oppression damages the oppressor.

        … You do realize you’ve just appropriated the long-term effects of racism to support your argument for sexism against men, right?

        Even in my own family my father developed severe emotional instability every time his dominance in the family was challenged, even though the challenge was usually illusory, and as a result he is now wasting away in a nursing home without a single one of his four children willing to provide safe housing and nursing care for him (actually I would gladly help regardless but I am disowned, disinherited, and disabled myself…)

        I am so sorry for your situation. I can relate. My father has been suicidal for years because he’s crippled by a gender expectation set that makes him believe himself to be failure because he didn’t get ahead financially or career-wise. Though he started out very happy to be the primary caregiver of his four children while we were growing up, he came very quickly to blame that role for keeping him from his PhD and success, and about halfway through my childhood started introducing language in his regular verbal rants about how he shouldn’t be stuck doing “women’s work” at home. He couldn’t really stop himself from doing said work, though, in large part because he wanted to be involved that way: but ultimately he doesn’t see his four children (mostly adults) as successes in his life, not the least of which he’s informed me is because a) he doesn’t have enough sons, and b) his daughters aren’t procreating enough. In short, the loss of male signifiers of success (both in work and at home) have brought him to suicidal ideation on a regular basis. So I know full well the pressures men deal with in male-dominant gender-normative society. It still doesn’t preclude him from the abuses he in turn heaped upon women in his life due to his frustration therein.

        In world politics we see cultural, racist, and religious warfare, even long after nuclear weapons stabilized relations between nuclear nations we still see widespread war, often with one non-nuclear party directly involved and often with multiple nuclear parties foisting proxy armies on foreign soil as well. The economic drain, environmental damage, and psychological damage done to all parties may result from an inevitable human trait of arrogance but it still points out the fallacy of the claim that only the oppressor benefits and only the oppressed is damaged.

        Again, all true, but it is the oppressor who has ultimate power to change things. This makes all the difference to activist discourse of any stripe.

        We also see continual exploitation of natural resources to the point of damaging the planet irreversibly and potentially fatally. This exploitation arises nearly exclusively from cis gendered people having too many offspring and needing a continuous stream of new natural resources to feed, clothe, and house their children. Our expansionist economic models that depend on credit and exploit workers for the gain of the landed and moneyed class arise directly from cis-gendered expansionist families that always have too many mouths to feed. Everyone suffers under this economic model as it chews up and spits out the planet.

        Wow. That’s some pretty extreme extending of “cis” privilege there — the privilege to gum up the planet and bring it to the brink of destruction with overpopulation! Would be grand, too, if it weren’t for the fact that women aren’t even close to empowered agents in these big old family structures, or these corporate giants that care more about profit than environmental outcomes. These models were created by male dominance, and the power to change these models lies in the actions of male-dominant gender normative society. No other argument flows logically from human history and the diversity of human gender expression.

        The universally damaging effect of oppression is a classic tenet of social discourse and I am quite honestly amazed that lesbian blogs gloss over this effect without even mentioning it.

        Wouldn’t know a thing about that, but if it’s because you ignore the consequences of male oppression, putting up a logically untenable argument for “cis” being the dominant oppression of our culture (untenable because it negates queer and born-sex-female lived experience throughout history entirely), I wouldn’t be surprised.

        It weaves through racism, sexism, classism, every system of oppression exacts a price from everyone. To portray oppression as being exclusively beneficial to one primary group denies not only the hierarchy of the pecking order but also denies the damage that oppressors do to themselves.

        Again, and ultimately: Who has the power to change this system? Ultimately, it’s those who have had the power to maintain this system in the first place. That’s why we talk about primary groups — because they’re the ones we have to beg and plead and protest and fight and constantly challenge until they make the system a little bit nicer for us all.

        I fear that if this tendency to oversimplify the issues and focus exclusively on male privilege runs through most lesbian discourse, it may lead to a roadblock and stymie the debate.

        Am I misinterpreting things? I did read the info page that describes what this blog is about and I am confused by it. It does not agree with my perception of reality.

        Again, I thank you very much for articulating your perception of reality. I hope my arguments (repeated ad infinitum above, I know) illustrate to you the problems with your discursive model — both from an historical perspective, a lived experience perspective (for queer and born-sex-female women alike), an intersectionality perspective (specifically, racism), and an activist perspective (i.e. how we can go about creating change).

        I have no doubt this refutation of male privilege — which I see often in transsexuals — stems from a lived experience of being accused of still having it now, of being men in women’s clothing, or women masquerading as men just to get the social benefits therein, of exerting “male anger” in conversation. I can imagine what it must feel like to be told that one’s argument is invalid because of one’s sex, because being born-sex-female, that has happened to me a disgusting number of times — and even in play, such as when friends jokingly use that line on me, it cuts to the quick because it emulates a social truth.

        But as I hope I’ve been conveying better and better over the course of these discussions, the real work of gender activism can only occur if we recognize ALL persons’ lived experience, instead of solely forwarding our own side’s suffering in debate. So I wholeheartedly respect the fears espoused by trans women, that acknowledging the male privilege they were born into will be used against them when they seek social recognition of their noumenological identity. But good faith is required from both sides herein: Sex male persons who deny the central tenet of born-sex-female’s lived experience, even as said sex males transition into bodies that better represent their inner gender identities, necessarily create an equal and opposite fear among born-sex-females that their own identities are going to be challenged or refuted in subsequent discourse.

        This really, really needs to change — but I hope we’re starting that work here!

        Thanks again, so much, for commenting.

        All the best,

        Maggie

      • Cheryl said,

        maggieclark said,

        December 30, 2009 at 4:30 pm

        On the basis of that study, yes — but its results are made distinct by the high drop-out rate from other studies. Thus reverting me to other work, like the body of research Michelle posts, many studies therein which demonstrate a low regret rate — most notably for people going through a longer transitional process.

        polly said,

        December 31, 2009 at 6:37 am

        To clarify Maggie, the Birmingham study was a review of over 100 studies, looking critically at the research methods used. It was not a study on its own, it was a critical examination of the research methods used and hence the validity of the conclusions of other studies. The overall conclusion was the the research was poorly designed, with a bias “which skewed the results to suggest that sex change operations are beneficial. ”

        My personal opinion is that nobody really gives a fart about transsexual research. There are so many studies that need to be done and are not, and so many transsexuals that need help who are not getting it, and so much transphobia in the general population, that even when research is done, there are axes grinding everywhere and statistics being bent and the result is a cacaphony of lies.

        This again goes to the heart of falsifiability. When I hear the same personal histories over and over that agree with my own (at least up until the point where WPATH decided to run rogue on me) and what my heart tells me, and see the actual physical research (what little of it there is) pointing to clearly biological causes of transsexuality, I have to make the leap of faith and put my trust in the inevitability of transition as the only path to freedom.

        One thing I would wholeheartedly support is the NHS passing an edict that mandates long-term follow-up on all sexual reassignment with yearly reviews on the results obtained by specific providers, with licensing contingent on performance. In fact I would support that tracking of all patients to evaluate the results obtained by all physicians. Computers are highly sophisticated these days and all it would take is some software, some storage, and a few extra steps added to the yearly physical.

        Of course, until we have universal health care in the United States, there will be no such tracking and it will still be ‘get an attorney’ (if you can find one willing to take your case) any time something goes wrong. Here the primary emphasis is on filtering out sick people from the health care system, suppressing lawsuits and denying insurance payment, as in all good extremist capitalist countries.

      • polly said,

        I don’t think simply hearing similar stories again and again has a bearing on proof for the purposes of public policy making though Cheryl. For example many people will tell remarkably similar stories of being abducted by aliens, does that mean they have been?

        http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200305/alien-abductions-the-real-deal

        I’m being slightly facetious, but only slightly. We tend to frame our personal stories in terms and narrative structures that are already available in our culture, for obvious reasons.

      • Cheryl said,

        Have not seen any malpractice for true regret in the United States. Have only heard of one case that resulted from one transsexual who cynically cashed in on the fact that her therapist had no license. This from a reliable source.

        The defendant was, however, well-known in the medical profession and her referral letters for surgery were accepted by nearly every surgeon. She also wrote a landmark book that nearly every transsexual has read.

        As the predator flew off on her ill-gotten vacation, the plane exploded. We called it poetic justice for dragging her therapist out of retirement to recoup the lost retirement nest egg.

        There was one other I heard of where there was no malpractice suit but rather a request for reversal of surgery. The story was secondhand, related by a surgeon. As such I am suspicious of this story.

        After the way doctors have treated me, I never believe anything they tell me without independent confirmation. I have heard so many lies from the mouths of doctors… it could fill a book.

        This same doctor censored my comments on his web site when I attempted to relate instances of medical malpractice that I personally endured. He gave no justification for doing so, yet he allowed regular participants to wage scorched-earth political flame wars replete with racist, sexist, and classist comments and personal attacks that could melt titanium.

        In other words we were free to trash just about anybody we wanted to on his site, just as long as we dispensed nothing but praise for a doctor.

        As far as ‘recklessness’ is concerned, well, I have been subjected to incredible, indefensible, unbearable recklessness by the medical profession, whereas I followed all the rules of the SOC and RLT to the letter. My reward for doing so was that my doctors ruined my life and then they walked away without paying me a cent in damages.

        This was not just one doctor. This was a long string of (mostly) highly respected physicians in WPATH with excellent reputations who made a mess of things.

        They sold me on SOC and RLT as if I was a danger to myself and then they threw me under a bus.

        I no longer put any stock in what doctors say. I think of them as used car salesmen. When they tell me they want me to wait a year and put my financial health in dire jeopardy for my own good, I immediately assume that they are lying.

        They lied to me about everything else.

      • Zoe Brain said,

        Polly wrote:

        Someone taking oestrogen for sex reassignment purposes can take up to 8 mg, which is 4-8 times the dose prescribed as HRT for females. This carries a high breast cancer risk.

        There’s no evidence of this. Seriously. All the studies on HRT have been using estrogenic analogs, not estrogen.

        See Hormone-related tumors in transsexuals receiving treatment with cross-sex hormones : A. Mueller, L. Gooren : European Journal of Endocrinology, Vol 159, Issue 3, 197-202 :

        The 8mg figure is for 17B estrodiol, and estrodiol valerate (which immediately decomposes to 17B estrodiol plus H2O in the bloodstream), neither of which have been studied, in either a transsexual or cissexual context. 17B estrodiol is a :bio-identical” molecule, present in the human body in varying amounts.

        There is extensive evidence that the estrogenic chemical, ethinyl estradiol, molecularly quite different, with breakdown products not normally found in the human body, is a definite cancer risk in cissexual women. It is assumed that the same risk is present in transsexual women, but as the study above shows, there’s been insufficient work done in that area.

    • Michelle said,

      Polly,

      In terms of long term outcomes for GRS, the definitive survey paper that most people reference is the Pfaefflin/Junge paper written in 1992. It surveyed follow-up studies done on transsexuals from the early 1960s through to the early 1990s – approximately 30 years. It was re-released in the late 1990s after being translated into English. (the original paper was in German)

      I had to go digging through web.archive.org to find it – Symposion has restructured their website and deleted a lot of older material.

      It’s lengthy (some 300+ pages), but here’s a link to the start of it Sex Reassignment. Thirty Years of International Follow-up Studies After Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Comprehensive Review, 1961-1991(Translated from German into American English by Roberta B. Jacobson and Alf B. Meier)

      I don’t know if this is the study you are thinking of or not. As far as I know, it has not been the subject of a great deal of controversy or criticism. (although it is VERY critical of the methodological problems in the Reiner/Meyer study that Paul McHugh sponsored/cited in justifying his decision to shut down the Gender Identity Clinic program at Johns Hopkins. )

  5. polly said,

    The traditional feminist movement used it to highlight that gender is externally enforced, though not deterministic

    Ok, so again I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying that the traditional feminist viewpoint is that “I personally have no inner sense of gender, so therefore gender is externally constructed”?

    Because personally that isn’t what I base my analysis of gender on. My personal viewpoint is that people can feel that they strongly want an opposite sexed body to the one they have. People can feel that they strongly wish to inhabit a certain ‘social’ gender role (ie they wish to behave in a more masculine or feminine way than is socially approved of for their sex). People can feel that they wish to be perceived as male or female, but not want to change their body.

    But none of these are how society as a whole constructs gendered classes. We find that out by observing how societies work and how they treat people. The problem is not that the “traditional” feminist view and the view that gender is an internal quality are incompatible so much as that they are describing two entirely different phenomena.

    • maggieclark said,

      There’s a brilliant fem blogger whose name I can’t recall, who very astutely pointed out that “gender” used to be “gender roles”, and that somewhere in the discourse we’ve conveniently lost that brilliant other word. That’s what I was referring to when I described gender as the feminist community (especially radical feminism) does: a gender set externally imposed, but not deterministic (ergo mitigated by inner identity, and especially the places where our understand of self does not mesh with external expectations therein).

      In short, when you write:

      But none of these are how society as a whole constructs gendered classes. We find that out by observing how societies work and how they treat people.

      We’re in complete agreement. I’ll keep the confusion you had in mind in the future — clearly my language wasn’t precise enough.

      Best,

      Maggie

      • polly said,

        Yes – I think we need to clearly distinguish between “sexed” gender – ie whether one is deemed to be man or woman (which isn’t exactly the same as biological sex as it can include intersex people), gender identity (an internal sense of what sex one and/or gender one is) and gender roles – socially acceptable gendered behaviour. Otherwise you’re comparing apples with oranges.

      • Zoe Brain said,

        Concur. The terminology is confusing and inconsistent.
        “Gender Identity” in particular is a misnomer – it should be “Sex Identity”, with “Gender Identity” a very loosely related concept to do with Gender Role, and thus differing from time to time and place to place to a great extent.

        Many of our problems, to do with falsifiability etc are semantic. We have no hard lines which define “male” and “female” with no ambiguity and no gaps, as such a strict binary model matches reality only approximately.

        The binary model is useful, but limited. Many of our issues arise from attempting to coerce a fuzzy, messy, diverse set of facts into fitting into a neat, unambiguous model – as espoused by most legal and most religious systems. The diversity is not so extreme that the problems arise all the time, or even most of the time, and many minor ones can be ignored. But neither are the problems so rare that they are insignificant.

      • Nicky said,

        I hate to say this Zoe, you never claimed any privilege. You’ve been claiming every privilege in the book from womanhood, to intersex to transsexual. So what is it Zoe, you can’t claim all of them because you you can’t claim intersex as a privilege because your not intersex to being with and your not a born intersex or Intersex at Birth.. You can’t claim womanhood as a privilege because your not a biological woman and a female at birth (FAB). The only privilege Zoe can claim is Transsexual because that’s the only thing left that Zoe is eligible to claim.

        See for Zoe and the likes, they are all to happy to claim any type of privilege without being born into it. Much like Zoe who likes to go around online claiming to be intersex and claiming intersex privilege They are all to trigger happy to pull the cis card much like Zoe and his transgender gang for for pulling the HBS card.

        That’s why I don’t believe in cis privilege because they don’t have any to begin with and all their so called privilege extends from their male upbringing, male experience and male power, which they try to extend into women’s groups, feminist groups and intersex groups..

  6. polly said,

    Another popular item on the transsexual Santa Claus wish list is to abolish gender markers on birth certificates and by extension abolish gender restrictions on marriage so that those who are capable of and comfortable with leaving their gonads alone can marry an appropriate partner.

    Ok I really have to ask here why marriage can’t simply be extended to same sex couples?

    • maggieclark said,

      Ridiculously good point. I’m assuming it’s in reference to Iran’s absurd laws on the subject, but successful queer activism itself would be enough to fix the problem.

      • polly said,

        I just wrote about Iran….

      • maggieclark said,

        Here? Sorry, I must have missed it.

    • Cheryl said,

      polly said,

      Ok I really have to ask here why marriage can’t simply be extended to same sex couples?

      =

      OK so who can an intersex person marry if marriage is only allowed between members of the opposite sex or members of the same sex?

      Even worse, how do you define sex? Last time I checked, doctors were arguing about at least six different traits, as well as what weight to assign to each one. Is an androgen-insensitive xy female, who is currently given all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of a natal female under US law (at least as long as nobody did a chromosome check before filling out the birth certificate), really a woman? What if she is only partially androgen insensitive?

      If we add intersex to the list of allowed marriages, then what about someone who has the appearance of intersex, but no gonads at all? Is that person intersexual or asexual?

      If we add asexual, what about…

      The only way to remove marriage privilege is to make marriage open to everyone. The only way to make marriage open to everyone is to remove sex from it completely.

      But why stop there? Marriage is not the only place where sex-based privilege exists. How about the military draft? Why should men be forced into slavery simply because they are men, whereas women get off?

      Why should private clubs be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex? Are we going to allow wealthy people who can afford buildings and staff to discriminate any way they feel like it, while people of modest or no means are fully integrated in public spaces? How does that in any way address female oppression, knowing that the good ol’ boy’s club can slam the door in our faces and laugh behind their cigars any time they feel like it, simply because they have leveraged their male privilege for so long it has become an impenetrable private fortress?

      The only way to remove sex privilege is to remove sex classifications from birth certificates. Any time there is a distinction made somewhere on a birth certificate, someone is going to exploit it for personal gain.

      At least, that is how the argument goes… to the best of my understanding.

      I know this raises a hornet’s nest of practical problems and does not even achieve its aims, but it strikes at the heart of the matter, which is the plain fact that only the creative force behind the universe knows what sex anyone is. Once we start attempting to interpret and exploit that for personal gain, all of the oppressions that are being so loquaciously and ornately assailed here raise their ugly heads.

      Sexual distinctions arose for biological reasons to aid in natural selection by allowing genes to mix between bloodlines. Immediately afterward, the oppression started.

      Transgender people think about these issues. We have no choice. For most of us, we get the worst of both worlds, plus we likely end up infertile too.

      That is where this cis-gender privilege arises. Only someone who has not spent most of life fighting off the madness of gender dysphoria and scavenging resources for uninsured medical treatment while enduring the rocks thrown from all sides could possibly understand it, but eventually there comes a point where one wants to flush the whole system down the toilet and start over.

  7. polly said,

    The Guardian study as far as I can see did a similar review of over 100 follow up studies, but taking different factors into account – particularly the high drop out rate. However a fascinating point that is raised in the study you cite is that legal change of gender is sometimes only available after SRS. Therefore it is not possible to determine whether it is the SRS alone that has beneficial effects, or the associated social factors.

    Therefore obviously we cannot discount the possibility that the ‘beneficial’ effects of SRS are not directly related to the surgery itself at all. I don’t think this is an argument against SRS, it IS an argument for dissassociating sex and gender socially though. The problem with the current situation in the UK is that the social connection between biological sex and ‘acceptable’ gendered behaviour is immensely strengthened by legal acceptance of the concept of ‘gender dysphoria’.

    • polly said,

      Ok weird comment nesting. My comment above was meant to be addressed to Michelle’s comment.

    • polly said,

      I also think this would be a much simpler discussion, in terms of medical ethics if SRS had ONLY beneficial outcomes. But not only is there a non beneficial outcome if the person who undergoes SRS regrets the surgery, even if they don’t there are negative health effects.

      In public policy terms, I don’t think these are factors that can be ignored. Yes I still think ultimately the decision must rest with the individual, but the question in public policy terms is how to ensure that individual gives fully informed consent.

      • maggieclark said,

        In public policy terms, I don’t think these are factors that can be ignored. Yes I still think ultimately the decision must rest with the individual, but the question in public policy terms is how to ensure that individual gives fully informed consent.

        I think this last bit here is really crucial, especially when one considers how many people do say they feel they weren’t given enough information about what life would be like in this new social gender — the old “I want people to open doors for me” argument some trans persons oddly prop up, for instance.

        I’d be curious to know how many individuals seeking transition also seek out women’s centres / born-sex-female women for comment on what living as a socially gendered woman is really like — or is the assumption that it’s intuitive, and will come naturally when everything else falls into place? Can this really ever be a private process if the outcome is as much about changing social perception as about feeling comfortable in one’s own skin?

    • Zoe Brain said,

      However a fascinating point that is raised in the study you cite is that legal change of gender is sometimes only available after SRS. Therefore it is not possible to determine whether it is the SRS alone that has beneficial effects, or the associated social factors.

      A further concern is whether this legal requirement is putting undue pressure on people to have surgery.

      I can easily imagine that in borderline cases, where surgery is desired, but not absolutely necessary, that it may make all the difference.

      The data from FtoMs, where the surgery is both more expensive and has nowhere near as good a result, shows that they have the highest rates of satisfaction. This would tend to support your hypothesis, as the greatest benefit from surgery (as opposed to mere hormonal change) might be legal. The trouble is that the narratives of FtoMs consistently say that while having a normal sized external genitalia would be better than a rather small one, a small one is infinitely better than none at all.

      We don’t know enough. All we have is anecdotal evidence from trans people who have lost contact with their psychs, simply because they didn’t have a medical problem, but a physical one, in their view. Once that was dealt with, there was no reason not to exit the system.

      I’ve been trying to persuade post-ops to at least have some contact with mental health professionals years afterwards, in order to do follow-ups. But their apathy is only equalled by that of the mental health professionals themselves, who seem to want to let sleeping dogs lie. Perhaps they’re afraid of what they may find.

      Data from GPs may be more reliable, as they will have a greater contact over a 5 year or longer follow-up period. The data we have from comprehensive nationalised health care systems such as that of the Netherlands, where no-one “exits the system” completely unless they emigrate or die, seems to show that the overwhelming majority of those who lose contact with their shrinks do so because they’re cured, rather than still having problems. Those who still have problems are still within the medical system, usually for sequelae such as substance abuse, PTSD etc.

  8. polly said,

    Is it easier to experience the horrific threat of violence for being “queer” until one passes for a specific gender again,

    Sorry, I can’t leave this uncommented on Maggie. I know what you’re saying, but all people who experience violence for being gender non conforming ‘pass’ for a specific (sexed) gender -which usually coincides with their assigned birth sex. The point is that the gender they “pass” as is perceived as opposite to their expressed gender, or gendered behaviour whether that is ‘feminine’ male or a ‘butch’ female.

    This is why cis gender/cis-sexual privilege is such a nonsensical concept. I am female and do not identify as anything but female, but don’t express acceptable female gendered behaviour in the way I dress, which leads people to assume (correctly as it happens) that I am a lesbian. It’s true that if I accidentally ‘pass’, as I sometimes do, as male this isn’t a problem. But I don’t WANT to appear male, and such passing is in any way impossible the minute anyone looks at my face, which has obviously female features. The threat of violence comes the minute I am identified as a non gender conforming, and thus probably lesbian female.

  9. Michelle said,

    Cheryl,

    But the one who is essentially coasting has never once had to even think about the wind, because she cannot even feel wind on her face let alone pressing back on her pedals. She moves effortlessly with it, and yells backward over her shoulder, “Stop fetishizing my womb!” – er, I mean, “What tailwind??”

    This is one of the times when the notion of ‘privilege’ comes to the surface. From the transsexual’s perspective, she is being oppressed/critiqued based on her perception that the natal female is judging her negatively.

    Ironically, the natal female in your example could just as easily argue that from her perspective that she is seeing a different kind of privilege being exercised. From her perspective, she could easily argue that a form of ‘trans privilege’ is being exercised – namely that the transsexual has co-opted part of her gender, but does not bear the same responsibilities (specifically with respect to procreation)

    Herein lies, in part, the crux of some of what Maggie has been trying to address with her questions on this blog.

    Obviously, neither is exclusively “correct” – their perspectives each carry a unique truth value to them. The question is how do we construct a dialogue which unifies those perspectives constructively?

    You make reference to those who ‘give up their fertility’ as a result of transition having chosen or committed an act of evil. I’m not sure I agree that it is “an evil”, so much as an unhappy reality.

    I transitioned later in life myself – but without children. It’s as well, upon further reflection, that this has been the case. Not that I couldn’t be an adequate parent today, but in my past, I could not have been a parent to my children at all – I would have been utterly destructive to them – purely because of the burden of my own unresolved issues at the time. To me, that is a far greater wrongdoing in life than to have failed to bring another life into the world.

    Will I forever wonder about the experience of bearing a baby? Yes – of course I will. But so do women all through the world who never bear children for one reason or another – whether it is infertility, a lack of a suitable partner or whatever.

    • Cheryl said,

      Michelle,

      What you left out is that transwomen as a class cannot bear children. This whole blog is about privilege and oppression, and this topic is about how to address the problem of falsifiability.

      When a transwoman finds herself dumped by her (prospective, or perhaps realized) life partner so that he can go find a fertile woman to bear his children (as happened to me) then the obvious fact of the matter is that this is a cis-gendered privilege.

      I respectfully submit that this single example falsifies the entire argument that transwomen are expressing womb envy.

      On the other side of the fence, that of transwomen misappropriating female privilege, I personally find that argument ridiculous.

      I know of so many late transitioners who took that step simply because they could no longer live with themselves that I feel my blood boil. Transsexuality is a potentially lethal birth defect. Accusing such persons of stealing something that is not their right is outrageous.

      When it is a matter of life or death no one has the right to criticize much less withhold treatment.

      • maggieclark said,

        I am really heartened that Michelle was able to articulate far better than I the aims of this particular discourse — namely, to point out how the language we use often ignores the realities of both gender activist groups. You write:

        When a transwoman finds herself dumped by her (prospective, or perhaps realized) life partner so that he can go find a fertile woman to bear his children (as happened to me) then the obvious fact of the matter is that this is a cis-gendered privilege.

        I respectfully submit that this single example falsifies the entire argument that transwomen are expressing womb envy.

        I equally respectfully disagree, because it not the lived experience of a born-sex-female always to be fertile: some of us are infertile from birth, some are made infertile by disease or assault during our development, and all of us become infertile a scant halfway through our lives. The expectation of fertility, with the relatively short operating window it operates in, therefore amounts to a precious resource to which male normative persons regularly feel entitled to use to their own ends, or control through legislation, thus creating female oppression. It is the UNIVERSAL female experience to dread menopause for this reason, knowing full well that when we are no longer able to bear children our social value in the gender binary plummets, leading many of us to lose our life partners to younger, fertile partners who then take our place. Fertility envy is therefore a part of the natural, lived experience of all women, because once we lose it — as we all do — those of us in heterosexual relationships also often lose the fidelity of male partners.

        Like I said to… gosh, I can’t even remember, it was so long ago.. above, this is precisely the problem we face in furthering productive discourse: The experiences derived from your lived experience, and those lived experiences of your community, are absolutely legitimate. So too are the lived experiences derived from my life, and those in my own communities. But in these discussions, in order to further personal arguments, we so often state our own community’s suffering at the pointed omission of the other community’s suffering. And that leads to utter discursive stand-still.

        In this case, the fear of losing someone due to infertility plagues both born-sex-females and trans women alike. So why on earth are we drawing lines in the sand? Why aren’t we both, equally, fighting a culture that so condemns alternative parenting arrangements and dismisses as unworthy those persons who cannot themselves procreate?

        This is what really mystifies me, and what Michelle encapsulated so much better than I in her first comment. Does this make sense to you, or is my fever still talking ahead of the rest of me? (I’m postponing all further commentary until the morning, just to be sure!)

        All the best,

        Maggie

  10. Lisa Harney said,

    Just a clarification:

    When I said calling a trans woman out for misogyny, I meant as you would call out any other woman for misogyny. I did not mean that trans women are exceptionally misogynist.

    I also reiterate that I don’t think that trans-exclusive radical feminists are exceptionally transphobic and trans misogynist – they’re reifying the cultural expectations surrounding discourse about trans people’s lives and bodies, and just as willing to be held accountable.

    • Cheryl said,

      I found a patently offensive depiction of transwomen on AROOO plus a diatribe claiming that transsexuality does not even exist. Do these sexist ravings count as transphobia, or am I just being hypersensitive?

      I also once read a long lesbian tome that cursed my very existence, written by one of the founders of radical lesbianism. I have never seen such anti-trans venom anywhere, not even on Free Republic.

      Somehow I am having difficulty seeing this your way.

      • Nicky said,

        @Cheryl,
        Transphobia dose not exist because all it is are a collection of words and syllables that have no meaning whatsoever. It’s basically an empty charge when in actually you are shooting yourselves in the foot. You over use that word so much to silence people that it becomes a meaningless joke to the feminist like AROO.

  11. maggieclark said,

    Hello everyone!

    Thank you for a very vibrant, altogether respectful and productive conversation in the past few days. I apologize for my absence from said conversation: I’ve been so sick as of late with the flu that any activity involving intense concentration — reading a book or a computer screen, or watching a movie or TV, has been immensely exhausting. I just waited out the fever in bed instead. I very much intend to respond to the great body of wonderful responses here — some terse, some less so, but all very much thoughtful and sincere — starting tomorrow. Please forgive the delay — and Happy New Year’s, to all for whom the season is of any social relevance!

    All the best,

    Maggie

    • Michelle said,

      Hi Maggie –

      Sorry to hear you’re not feeling so great – I hope you’re feeling better soon.

  12. Michelle said,

    Returning to Maggie’s original post, she poses the following question at the end:

    What do you think we need to ensure our activism helps all people oppressed by their gender or sex?

    I have been thinking about this in light of the conversation that has gone one here, as well as in the context of the debate over religious liberties that has been raging in both Canada and the United States. (Sorry, but I really don’t have a feel for whether this same vitriol-filled debate is taking place in the UK or not – I presume it is to some degree, but hopefully in a more civilized manner than here)

    Whether I consider the Butler-inspired radical feminist denial of the transsexual experience, or the christianist (as opposed to Christian) uproar over sexuality – GLB, or the ongoing attempts to regulate female sexual activity as a control mechanism, both come down to the same root thing – using language and beliefs to limit the validity and lives of others.

    It is not just a matter of inclusive language, nor for that matter choosing language that attempts to entirely abolish concepts that inform much of the broader public understanding of the world.

    As long as we fail to adopt descriptive models that are flexible enough to describe reality – and acknowledge the validity of other’s lived realities as well – we will constantly encounter intellectual difficulties that will seem to be insurmountable walls between factions which in fact share much in common with each other.

    It is important to converse with each other to understand our respective experiences; but that conversation must also be thoughtful – for it takes intellectual energy to read someone else’s lived narrative and understand from it how that narrative can be read as intersecting with our own individual narratives and experiences.

    Each of us – whether Trans, born-Female or Intersex – has experienced a combination of pain, suffering and difficulties in our lives. Some of that is of our own making; other aspects of it are at the hands of others beyond our ability to touch directly.

    • maggieclark said,

      There you are, missing comment!

      Hi Michelle! Thanks for the well-wishing, and I hope your New Year’s got off to a great start.

      I think you really summarize the issue perfectly here:

      As long as we fail to adopt descriptive models that are flexible enough to describe reality – and acknowledge the validity of other’s lived realities as well – we will constantly encounter intellectual difficulties that will seem to be insurmountable walls between factions which in fact share much in common with each other.

      In the last few days, I’ve been reading up on the discourse surrounding proposals for DSM-V, and one in particular truly makes me think our fixation on labelling human behaviour (instigated by social institutions and adopted by organizations seeking to benefit within them) is a serious detriment to our ability to treat people as, well, people.

      I’m referring, of course, to “absexual,” a name for a purported disease in which a person’s sexuality is derived solely from condemning other people’s. When I saw something this ludicrous being considered for inclusion, that’s when I really lost a sense of what on earth the point of the DSM is anymore.

      On New Year’s, sick and bedridden, I watched a Canadian film called Manufactured Landscapes, a gorgeous documentary sharing pictures of the world as humankind as reworked it — namely, all the landscapes of our industry. In viewing the ship graveyards of Bangledesh, or the e-waste cities of rural China, I was brought sharply back to the realization of how utterly privileged our whole discussion really is. So many benefits, so many tools lay at our disposal online. But what do we do with them, these utter luxuries with which we could ostensibly be effecting change?

      Not enough, clearly. And certainly to some extent we thrive on the argument. I’d like to turn this blog in a more proactive direction, if I can. I’m not entirely sure what that is yet, though.

      I doubt there will ever be an end to the kind of argumentation the internet presently sees — the kind that never seeks any compromise and attempt at collective understanding — but surely we’re far enough along in this discourse that we can start mitigating its effects, if we want to.

      Each of us – whether Trans, born-Female or Intersex – has experienced a combination of pain, suffering and difficulties in our lives. Some of that is of our own making; other aspects of it are at the hands of others beyond our ability to touch directly.

      This last is perfectly apt. It regularly astounds me how little those with the power to change things have to do to keep trans, born-sex-female, or intersex persons so much at odds with one another that no forward momentum can be built between us. I know it’s always a case of “Well, THEY started it, get THEM to fix it,” but as a discourse I think there’s been more than enough time to evaluate our priorities to date. How we go about such an evaluation… well, I guess that’s the next step.

      Unless you have other ideas already, about how such momentum could be achieved?

      Thanks for your patience!

      All the best,

      Maggie

  13. polly said,

    Hi Maggie I’ve just come back to this late.

    Re Cheryl’s comment…

    Marriage was the primary method of inheritance, and property lines as well as family names historically have been sex-linked to both females and males, when viewed throughout history, but the cis-based lines of procreation are the single constant trait when viewed over the historical/prehistorical long run. When viewed in that context it becomes very difficult indeed to rationalize sexist oppression as benefiting males exclusively, and even more difficult to deny the cis-based privilege inherent in sexual reproduction.

    Well first of all this is historically inaccurate, as the majority of human beings were neither owners of substantial property, and marriage was a largely bourgeois habit except for a brief period in the twentieth century AD. So we are talking about a very small subset of humanity being represented here, not all ‘cis’ people at all.

    Secondly the fact that such a system of property inheritance existed was posited by Engels to be a means of controlling not only patrilineal inheritance, but the foundation of patriarchy. So it’s hard to see how it benefits females at all. A matrinlineal system of property inheritance would benefit females a lot more directly. And even 100% heterosexual females may not want to be stuck in such a social structure.

    • Cheryl said,

      Polly said:

      …Well first of all this is historically inaccurate, as the majority of human beings were neither owners of substantial property, and marriage was a largely bourgeois habit except for a brief period in the twentieth century AD….

      and much other non sequitor.

      I suppose if one were to view history as belonging exclusively to modern english-speaking races one might possibly make this point, unfortunately it completely neglects both the native american experience as well as the vast majority of pagan experience pre-judaism.

      But then again, most people refuse to acknowledge that such other social forms of organization exist at all, so maybe I am asking too much when I insist on objectivity that includes early history back to the point where it fades into pre-history, since most human experience was in fact pre-historic and the best measure we have of what went on then was documented in the most early, pagan, matrilineal, goddess-based history from the dawn of human collective memoirs.

      On the other matter,,,

      Whether the property is an estate with five mansions, five chariots and two thousand head of cattle or just a shack in the woods or even simply a stash of farming tools, does this really matter to the basic question of who inherits it? Only if one values a society in purely material terms which I find to be a total sham if that is one’s basis for assigning historical and more importantly sociological worth.

      I am finding it tiring bashing into this blind wall of belief in male-bad female-good primitive thinking. The fact of the matter is that people who are cis-gendered enjoy a plethora of advantages over those who are other-gendered regardless of whether or not a group of man-hating lesbians want to re-write history to serve their own twisted purposes in some unfathomable attempt to blame every evil in the world today on testosterone. I was born under the influence of testosterone and for the period of time I managed to hide the fact that there was a substantial feminine undercurrent running around in the background, I enjoyed phenomenal privileges that all evaporated the instant I came out and left me in far worse straits than any woman, any gay man, any lesbian woman, sometimes it seemed like dogs or even child molesters had it better than me.

      I find these attempts to deny facts that I run into face-first on a daily basis to be not only ridiculous but also infuriating, degrading, and unkind in the extreme.

      It is easy for you to talk but really, when was the last time you stuck your head outside to take the temperature? A single woman has no trouble adopting an orphan provided she can supply proof of financial responsibility and sanity. A single transsexual woman could spend the rest of her life winning nobel peace prizes and never be considered fit to change a diaper.

      Really, this is just silly.

  14. polly said,

    Similarly, when cis people spend so much energy focusing on the ways in which they think trans women fail as women and are really men, it encourages a culture where some think that trans women should be killed.

    I believe that male people are not physically female and cannot become physically female. How does this encourage killing those people?

    Answer. It doesn’t.

    Trans women by and large, are not killed because they ‘fail as women’, but because they are seen as non gender normative males, and as has already been pointed out elsewhere, usually because they are assumed to be gay males. Gay men are killed for the same reason. Lesbians are killed for the same reason, being non gender normative.

    To believe that the fact that trans women are not female is a reason for killing them, you have to be a person who believes that it is reasonable to kill a person who acts in a gender non normative way. Which also includes MAB gay men. Which also includes FAB lesbians.

    A lot of women are killed in gender based violence, by intimate partners mostly. But the group that is most often the victim of homicide, in western societies, in numbers terms, is males assigned at birth.

    Do I believe transwomen are ‘really men’? If you are asking do I think people born male are biologically male, and remain biologically male, then yes I do. If your definition of ‘man’ is adult male human being, then yes I think a trans woman is really a man. In the sense for example, that I wouldn’t want to have a trans woman provide me with a medical service where I had asked for a woman practitioner for example.

    How you get from not wanting to have a cervical smear performed by a trans woman to thinking it is ok to murder that person is a mystery to me however. I wouldn’t want a cervical smear performed by a male nurse. It doesn’t mean I think it’s ok to murder him. It does mean I think he’s male.

    • Michelle said,

      Polly writes:

      A lot of women are killed in gender based violence, by intimate partners mostly. But the group that is most often the victim of homicide, in western societies, in numbers terms, is males assigned at birth.

      I have a little bit of a problem with the comparison you are making here.

      In Canadian and American law (and I presume it is similar in Western Europe), all murders are homicides, and domestic murders are a subset of that overall statistic. Therefore, the statement you are making is a truism since domestic murders are included in the overall homicide numbers.

      I think you will find that if you are looking at domestic violence related homicides, the majority of victims are in fact women, with male victims the exception not the rule.

      To believe that the fact that trans women are not female is a reason for killing them, you have to be a person who believes that it is reasonable to kill a person who acts in a gender non normative way. Which also includes MAB gay men. Which also includes FAB lesbians.

      Which is fundamentally the belief that underlies the ‘gay panic/trans panic’ defenses we see in the courts whenever some goon decides to murder someone who is GLBT.

      However, I do not necessarily agree that your interpretation of things is correct. I propose that it is just as valid to interpret the scenarios in question as being a result of the lower value placed on females in our societies who are unable to bear children for one reason or another. (This is a more subtle, but significant aspect of the social status of being female in general – as evidenced by the frequency with which the glitterati dump their aging wives and take up with much younger women)

      In the sense for example, that I wouldn’t want to have a trans woman provide me with a medical service where I had asked for a woman practitioner for example.

      Hmmm…interesting. On what grounds do you make this statement? Does the transwoman present some kind of perceived threat to you? If so, what is the nature of that threat?

      Lastly, how would you respond if the person in question was in fact intersex?

  15. Michelle said,

    Hi Maggie –

    Just following up on your response to my musings.

    (1) On the validity of the DSM

    I think this depends entirely upon how one looks upon the DSM. Perhaps my own therapist is unusually enlightened, but in our discussions of the DSM and its purpose, he has put it forth that it should be treated as descriptive, not prescriptive in nature. That is to say, it describes a wide array of factors that may well interact with each other and cause an individual the kind of distress that leads them to seek help.

    So, relatively little in the DSM is actually a “disease” per se. As an example, tobacco addiction is listed, but is not per se a disease but it can be an aggravating factor in combination with other conditions that may be part of the patient’s issues.

    A little like a lot of the more physical medical lexicon, much that it describes is fairly minor, and not as serious as either the formal name or its presence in the DSM would suggest to a layman outside of the profession.

    I do not wish to be dismissive of the concerns that many have expressed over the involvement of both Zucker and Blanchard in the DSM V working group on the Disorders of Sexual Development chapter – which currently includes GID.

    That said, I will note that neither of those individuals is directly involved in the GID working group, and that working group is headed by Peggy Cohen-Kettenis (sp?) – one of the better researchers in the field, and someone who has been a positive advocate for transfolk in general.

    I had the privilege of attending the WPATH conference this year, and some very interesting recommendations were table there regarding what should happen with GID in the DSM V. On the whole, most of the recommendations were very interesting and quite constructive. (Among the more interesting suggestions tabled: – move GID into its own chapter, apart from the DSD chapter; a change of terminology back to ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (a term I have always found aptly descriptive of my own experience); revisions to ensure that there are also ‘exit’ conditions – that is to say when the GID (or whatever it is called) is resolved, the diagnosis no longer applies at all)

    Anyways, I’m getting a little off-track here. In general, I agree that where mental health concerns are the focus, the ‘disease’ model is both limiting and problematic. Fortunately, the professionals I have worked with recognize the same issues, and only use the language of the DSM in the kind of professional communications where it is essential. Beyond that, they are far more involved in helping their clients become more complete, balanced human beings.

    In terms of the issue of gaining momentum for a coherent campaign to effect change in our society, that is very much a matter of time, patience and effort.

    To borrow from Asian wisdom, a rockslide begins with but a pebble. Conversations such as we are having here which endeavour to establish common ground are a key starting point. The internecine fighting that goes on in cyberspace is a fact of life, and something which we are going to have to learn to deal with. It is not as if such fighting hasn’t gone on before in other movements (feminism comes to mind as an example)

    Further, I think that where transfolk in particular are concerned, we have to recognize that the population is relatively newly recognized (really in the last half century – although some early work appears in the 19th century). This means that it will inevitably go through a period where it is seen as “abnormal” before the science and research reaches a point where it can begin to normalize in society’s mind.

    Where this has taken several millennia with women’s equality (and many would argue that the struggle has only begun), when we are talking about gender and sexual minorities, the process of normalization has only been ongoing in the last half century – it has a long ways to go indeed.

    The kinds of change that I think we are both talking about will take generations if not longer to effect in our society. Much of what is to be faced is anchored in the rubric of social mythology, and undoing a myth is harder than disproving a supposed fact. Just as it took centuries for a heliocentric model of the solar system to take root, it will take a long time indeed for society to move beyond the mythology of the gender binary and begin to understand that humanity is infinitely diverse in all of its expression.

    One simple observation from my own transition journey – it is not enough to simply say that something should be normal, it is far more important to make it real for the greater masses of society that have never experienced those realities. For example, my own gender transition seems to have enabled many of the men in my sphere to be much more expressive of their own gendered experiences.

    This is the kind of small changes that eventually create the kind of environment where the flexibility of life roles that we are both seeking can exist – even in a world where gendered behaviour will continue to be seen as “normal”.

    • Cheryl said,

      …Further, I think that where transfolk in particular are concerned, we have to recognize that the population is relatively newly recognized (really in the last half century – although some early work appears in the 19th century)…

      So the winkte never existed until Columbus stumbled upon them 50 years ago?

      The Hijra never existed until the British colonized India?

      What history books do you read?

  16. m Andrea said,

    On the whole, most of the recommendations were very interesting and quite constructive. (Among the more interesting suggestions tabled: – move GID into its own chapter, apart from the DSD chapter; a change of terminology back to ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (a term I have always found aptly descriptive of my own experience); revisions to ensure that there are also ‘exit’ conditions – that is to say when the GID (or whatever it is called) is resolved, the diagnosis no longer applies at all)

    So someone who was diagnosed with cancer, treated for cancer, and cured of cancer magically never had cancer at all? This is like magic never-never land over here, hello.

    How can y’all be sure you’re in reality, as opposed to the reality which you construct? Do you have any criteria for determining the difference? Because it seems like you need some quite badly.


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