Trans Diversity and Labels

A number of people will find this title upsetting because I am grouping people who see themselves as different. But I am grouping them based on shared discrimination. And it is only by putting them together that can I see how they are different and what labelling is appropriate. The following box throws together some labels that are commonly confused.

Invert, Queer, Pansy, Sissy-boy, Transsexual, Gender Identity Disorder, Psychotic, Transgender, Transvestite, Transgenderist, Drag Queen, Woman, Transgressor, t*, Trans People, Genetic Girl vs Transgirl, Gay, Cross-dresser, Fetishist, Freak, Self-Mutilator, Chicks with Dicks, Transsexual and Hung, Polysurgery Addict, Transgressivly Gendered, Male Femaler, Naturally Gendered, Un-gendered, Assexual, Polymorphic

In this discussion I am going to look at some different ways or doing or not doing gender by looking at some generalised biographies. I look at a number of social and personal factors that might impact on some of the alternative paths that are possible. I'm not claiming this list is exhaustive nor am I suggesting that I can define all the above labels in terms of a few parameters.

Some people claim that these are life-style choices whilst others suggest they are genetic. I feel that they are a combination of how an inbuilt personality reacts to their individual circumstances. Don't expect any deep answers. But I am hoping that the discussion will give an impression of the issues, show you that we are very much individuals and need to be treated as such and leave you with lots of questions.

Generalised Biographies




Infancy: do not know what gender is.

Expectations of parents restrict you.

Not restricting self yet.

Realisation that you are different.

Show difference: bullied Hide difference: self-loathing

Realism motivate you to build strategies.

Keeping Secrets. (The stronger the sex roles in a society the more likely to have t* people.)

Scared to be open with people. Can be stressful, unfullfilling. Prefer dreaming to living.

Safe from criticism.

May deny sissyness to others and to self.

Don’t have fun being sissy.

May keep you safe.



Onset of Puberty

Usually very traumatic. Feel your own body is traitorous by telling everyone you are male. Look for coping strategies.

Angry, depressed, self-abuse. Usually start to do badly at school.

Hope that adulthood may lead to independence from family and restrictions.



Denial Strategies

Pretend you are masculine but dream of being female.

Stressful, sprit suppressed, always acting.

Pretending to be normal can make one feel safe.

Deceive Self.

Takes you in unhappy direction. In adulthood may take you into macho jobs: military, shearers etc.

Self deception may protect you from extreme pain until you are ready to face it.

Hyper-denial, re-enforcing masculine roles.

Very stressful dangerous living.

Some people believe the act and don’t criticise you.

Some may deny they are erotically attracted to men until they change later.

Internalised homophobia may reduce sexuality.

Remain heterosexual as both a man and woman.



Transgression Strategies

Transgression of a broad range of gender rules. eg. Drag Queens, or boys wearing nail polish.

Are discriminated and vilified by straight, gay, lesbian. Are very low in the hierarchy of passing. Transgression takes a lot o energy and can often lead to getting nothing else done except transgressing. Usually unemployed.

Often leads to joy in feeling free to be oneself by embracing one’s own sprit.

Living in between genders. Acceptable in ghetto’s eg. clubs or in sex work.

Constant ridicule and danger outside of ghetto. Significant substance abuse.

Don’t starve.



Beyond Transgression – wanting to be inappropriately normal

Passing. Wanting to be normal. Belief that no one will discriminate against you if pass and are secretive.

Some feel that if they only passed they would find everlasting happiness. Some can become obsessed with the beauty myth others are happy to look like an ordinary woman.

Passing means you aren’t discriminated against, aren’t vilified.

Pressure to conform to new gender role.

A different set of restrictions. eg skinny and attractive. “The other person’s gender is always greener.”

Invisibility =? safety.

Embracing feminine stereotypes. May study fashion, deportment and feminine speach patterns.

Re-enforcing feminine stereotypes making it harder for other women and restricts own options. Pass less because trying too hard.

In some social groups being feminine can make you more acceptable.

“You’ve really made it Julie. He’s not discriminating against you because you’re transsexual but because you’re a woman.”


The invisible don’t have a voice.

There can be safety in invisibility.

“I’m not transsexual I’m a woman.”

May not get correct medical treatment. Angry when people don’t agree with them.

Don't’ have to feel bad about self for being unusual.




Some want to be suffering from a disease.

Medical treatment and diagnosis may limit some peoples’ options.

Imagine people will be nice to them if they have a recognised disease.

Cosmetic Surgery to improve self-esteem and passing.

Surgery may not improve esteem. You can never be beautiful enough to be perfect. Painful, dangerous, no going back.

May help with passing and give enough confidence to function socially.

Hormone treatment to help with passing.

A number of medical side effects including permanent sterility.

May help with passing and give enough confidence to function socially.

Cosmetic surgery of genitalia. Castration Envy?

Painful, dangerous, no going back. Can restrict some people who feel they have been mutilated and queer in a different way. Some expect to completely accepted as women by everyone after the operation. But this rarely happens.

For those, who have been adequate counselled and go ahead, the operation liberates them from social restrictions. Can give a feeling of oneness and comfort in own body.




Tranny Power

In some ways an awkward first step. It says it is OK to be a tranny but that implies that most people don’t believe that. Being publicly out or famous is very draining.

These people raise the issues with the public.

Behind the scenes letter writing etc.

Not seen as a lobby group. Not many votes behind you.

Many politicians and bureaucrat are comfortable with this approach.

Breaking down gender Stereotypes by obvious transgression.

It is hard work and demands a lot of energy to take on the whole of society. A bottomless pit draining your energy.

Living true to yourself shows others that the gender boundaries are not impregnable.



A Social Role?

Many cultures including the American Indians have special roles for us.

Limited by these roles. eg in many Latin countries are limited to sex work.

The role may suit you perfectly and give you a sense of purpose. eg Court Jester. The theatre of gender satire.



Transcending Gender

Transcending Gender: very rarely happens. Doesn’t depend on operation.

Not approved of in a highly gendered society.

Gender is a binary arbitrary class structure that prevents both classes from reaching their full potential. Transcending gender removes these restrictions.

Breaking down stereotypes by transcending gender.

Social pressure to conform.

Living as you feel comfortable in dress, work, self-expression.

Personal growth by meeting challenges.

“Not another ****ing growth opportunity.”

Seen the world from "both" sides. A journey that continues.

The existence of trans people shows gender is a social construct.

Some people feel "lost" without gender.

Most people would be freed to find their own level.



Beyond Trans Anything

The whole aim of this journey is to gain enough self-esteem to function well socially and the trans label becomes meaningless.

The possible loss of a political voice and mentor.

If you’ve truly transcended the limitations of gender then why not get on with it and stop living the stereotype of being “trans-something”

Find a balance between living a life not limited by gender and trying to help others.

Having thought of one yet.

Achieve what you can socially and still have a life.

The Radical Feminist Position

“Beyond the quest for the body and sex role and identity of the opposite sex is the quest for deeper selfhood ... the quest for transcendence.” Janice Raymond

“The role of the medical-psychiatric establishment in reinforcing sex-role stereotypes is significant ” Janice Raymond

The Personal

A look at my story, i dream therefore i am to illustrate how a life can easily take many paths.

Summing Up

There isn’t a transsexual community.

Martine Rothblatt, “There are as many genders as there are people”

Some Variables affecting Gender expression:

belief in gender,

social attitudes to gender, conformity

social consequences of transgression

personality, fear, wish to appear normal or stand out

erotic imprinting and sexuality (eg hetero, asexual, lesbian)

But these variables affecting gender expression affect everyone. So is there any value in the label "transgendered" or any of the others in the list at the start of this article. Labels limit people but without labels we have no language. People will continue to label us. I am happy to use a label if the person identifies with that label. But there is no trans-anything community.

Martine Rothblatt suggests there are as many genders as there are people. Janice Raymond says there are two genders. People are as they are because of a combination of their genotype and the environment, their biology and history.

Like Martine Rothblatt I believe that a society that truly believes in equality of the sexes should not list gender as that persons prime attribute on their birth certificates, passports etc. And the identification arguement is a furfy because finger printing is far more effective at that.

Now that I think about it I do not identify with any of the labels I've mentioned. I identify as Julie, the Julie with my ancestors and history. I know I live in a gendered society and I need to acknowledge and find a way with dealing with that in a way that is as true as possible to my spirit and doesn't get me into a lot of trouble in the society I live in. This means I end up with a context dependent identity.

Some Bibliography

Harry Benjamin (1966) THE TRANSSEXUAL PHENOMENON. The Julian Press

Walter Bocking and Eli Coleman (1992), GENDER DYSPHORIA, A comprehensive approach to the Treatment of Gender Dysphoria, Haworth Press

Kate Bornstein (1994), GENDER OUTLAW, Routledge.

Gabrielle Carey (1995) THE SUM OF US: Good Weekend, March 25, 1995

Kat Costigan (1994) LESBIANS ON THE LOOSE (NSW): August 94:

Roberta Cowell (1954), ROBERTA COWELL'S STORY, William Heineman.

Henry Finlay and William Walters (1988). SEX CHANGE - Medical and Legal Aspects of Sex Reassignment. (with forward by Justice Michael Kirby) Finlay and Walters.

Sheila Jeffreys (1990), ANTICLIMAX - a feminist perspective on the sexual revolution, The Women's Press

Jane Langley (1993) Submission to REVIEW OF THE EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ACT 1984, Parliament of Victoria

Jane Langley (1994a), TRANNY POWER: Melbourne Star Observer, February 1994.

Jane Langley (1994b) and Julie Peters, THE TRANSGENDERED IN THE QUEER COMMUNITY, Melb Inter-University Gay and Lesbian Studies Seminar Series.

Jan Morris (1974), CONUNDRUM, Penguin

Roberta Perkins et al (1994) TRANSGENDER LIFESTYLES AND HIV/AIDS RISK, School of Sociology. University of New South Wales.

Janice G. Raymond (1979), THE TRANSSEXUAL EMPIRE, The Women's Press.

Martine Rothblatt (1995), THE APARTHEID OF SEX, Crown.

Ed. W. Roscoe, LIVING THE SPIRIT, A Gay American Indian Anthology 1988: St Martins' Press

Ross, M.W.; Wallinder, J.; Lundstroms, B. and Thuwe, I: CROSS-CULTURAL APPROACHES TO TRANSSEXUALISM: A comparison between Sweden and Australia. (Acta psychiat. scand. (1981) 63, 75-82)

ED WOOD (1994), biographical screenplay by Scott Alexander, Touchstone Pictures.

For more of my ideas on this topic see my website.