A lot of false impressions are given in the media about trans people, most of which are our own trans politics being sold as truths. The reasons are different goals, different approaches to acceptance, and also—as you may guess—fear of rejection: A lot of us hide what we’re really about.
How and why?
A little history clarifies:
Throughout most of history, in one way or another, people have tended to conflate sex and gender, treat the two concepts as one. When there were trans people of some kind, expressions were limited and easy misunderstood. Trans people with different or even opposite issues were easily confused.
In the 20th century—with such as Lili Elbe, Christine Jorgensen, Nancy Hunt, Canary Conn, Renée Richards, Jan Morris, and me—transsexuals were, for the first time in human history, able to make it clear: The goal of transsexualism was not to change clothes or gender, but to change actual biological sex. It is not possible, yet, to fully do, but when it is, you’ll note transsexuals who have our chromosomes and reproductive systems changed to match.
Also in the 2nd half of the 20th century, Virginia Prince, Ph.D was able to make the goal of transgenderism clear. Much more closeted as a phenomenon, at the time, she popularized “transgenderist” to mean
“…people like myself who have breasts and live full time as a woman, but who have no intention of having genital surgery…” (Gender Blending, P. 469, 1997),
—a different phenomenon from transsexualism which has an opposite sex identity (“I am female”), sex expression (genitalia) and sexual response (meaning as female or male—not orientation as in who you’re into).
From living and working through those times as transsexual, speaking in universities, knowing us in other settings, and as a clinical social worker, it was clear that transsexualism was being somewhat accepted in society, transgenderism not so much, and transvestites mostly hid in shame.
Through the late 20th and early 21st century, millions of transgenderists wanted to open, but Virginia’s open and honest approach hadn’t worked well, socially, at the time.
“Transgenderist” was loudly decried because it’d come to mean changing gender not sex—keeping the penis—a cause for social rejection. So they changed tactics:
- dropped the “ist,”
- said it was offensive to mention genitalia,
- popularized their own new term “transgender” as also an umbrella for anyone changing gender role (including transsexuals as a subset),
- then began to use “transgender” not as an umbrella but as the phenomenon of gender shifting, de facto incorporating transsexualism as a version of transgenderism.
thus grouping all trans persons under their name, making it vague who has SRS or not, which is the point.
Transgenderism is a much larger phenomenon than transsexualism and dominates the rhetoric with its tenets that people, organizations and reporters are supposed to
- focus on gender not physical sex,
- downplay genitalia as private,
- re-direct “sexuality” from all it encompasses to orientation only
which, in effect, obfuscates the physical sex, genitalia, and sexual response issues of transsexualism.