I had a little chat with ContraPoints on Twitter about this stuff and it was really interesting actually. A lot of good points were made but with Twitter being Twitter, I feel like this discussion needs to be opened up a lot wider for everyone who calls themselves trans to weigh in on. I’ll get things ‘started’, here’s my fully fleshed out perspective on what counts as trans and what I think trenders are.
Lets start with trenders as I think that is probably the simplest to explain from my point of view. By trenders I mean transtrenders, to me that means someone who suffers no dysphoria yet adopts the language and often ‘gender blends’ their gender expression. Usually they do this as a sociopolitical statement of gender non-conformity. Gender in this context meaning the social constructionist view, ie stereotypes and expectations of binary sex.
They tend to be of the feminist or social justice persuasion and, in essence, they’re just trying to smash the patriarchy in their own way. The idea being that by not conforming to the traditional gender roles and expressions, they have thwarted the evil system of oppression that is patriarchal gender. Its from this central conflict that they create new pronouns, new identities, new whatever.
I think this can create a lot of problems for non-trender trans people who suffer dysphoria and a legitimate medical condition. It’s kinda like referring to all non-whites as PoC – it strips them of their individuality and their diversity, despite the people who use it claiming that they want to do the opposite of that. It’s pretty dumb, especially when there’s a lot of nuance between all of the groups that should really be respected.
Yet instead we’ve forced this perception that they’re all the same thing and so if a group of trender types try to campaign against freedom of speech then it looks bad on everyone else. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal for me if the trender types had to remain visibly trans. At least then they would be causing shit for themselves, but in essence, their trans is just a costume they can take off any time they want to. There are no such consequences for their actions, where as people like me will likely have to live with them for a long time.
Trenderism has also been pushing for the depathologisation of trans. To make being trans not a medical condition. Problem is that ‘being trans’, if you include trenders, isn’t a medical condition. You could transition tomorrow and you wouldn’t be officially pathologised anywhere, that’s because gender dysphoria is the pathology behind trans. To depathologise gender dysphoria would threaten the medical support of thousands of transsexual people. Suffice to say its a very thoughtless idea that could really put people like me at risk.
And my final point on why I dislike trenders is that its a choice for them. They have chosen to identify the way they identify based on their sociopolitical stance on gender. The idea that you can just “be who you want to be” and just decide that kinda fundamentally goes against transsexuals claims. That gender identity is innate, that it can’t be changed, that we are who we say we are. Things like gender-fluidity spit in the face of that. They make gender into an outfit and claim a new identity for each look they put on.
Transsexuals on the other hand are people who suffer gender dysphoria and have taken some kind of step to alleviate it. I know, that sounds super wishy-washy, and there’s a lot of nuance even in that attempt to sum up my perspective, but bear with me!
I believe that gender dysphoria happens on a scale of severity. Not everyone who has gender dysphoria will take any steps to transition and there’s probably a fair but uncomfortable argument to be made that some of the more feminine gay guys likely experience gender dysphoria. Just at a level where they don’t need to transition. That’s all fine, people can deal with their shizz however they like. So I think that it would be a good idea to remember not everyone with GD is transsexual, however everyone who is transsexual has GD.
This does seem kinda crappy, a lot of people can’t transition because of bad situations or whatever and so it seems a little unfair to be like “well you’re not trans then”. But I also think that not doing this kinda makes the word “trans” arbitrary. Words don’t have meaning they have function and from my knowledge the function of “trans” in a sentence is to describe a type of person. A trans woman. If you haven’t taken the steps to transition and instead live your life as a dude with dysphoria – much like the feminine gay guys above – does it make sense to still call you trans at all? I don’t think so.
That being said I do have friends online who can’t transition because of their situation and well, out of kindness I do call these people trans and such. But I think if you want to get into the nitty gritty details of it all, I don’t think I would class them as trans though I do respect their struggles with GD all the same. That can’t be easy.
I don’t think either group should cease to exist, I just think that both groups need to be respected as different entities rather than the same thing. This is partly why I use the word transsexual – because its somewhat separated from the more ideological “transgender”. Though I’m often told that transsexual is offensive and stuff, whereas I really disagree. Its far more accurate than transgender is at describing the way I experience my medical condition. My med condition is very much about my body being the wrong sex for who my brain says I am, its nothing to do with this socially constructed view of gender that is paraded around all the time.
Sorry for all the waffle, but that’s what I think anyway. Always happy to hear what you guys think too, I really want to get this conversation rolling so please start talking about it – respectfully of course! Its a problem that has been around for a while now and I think its about time we put it to rest, don’t you?