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.
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 by a lack of technology and easily misunderstood. Trans people with different or even opposite issues were easily misunderstood.
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. She wrote such as How to Be a Woman Though Male (1987) and 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…” She also said, “Others took [transgenderism] and it is now used, erroneously I think, as a collective term for all the various degrees and kinds of cross-dressing. This leaves no simple term for describing those who have changed gender without a change of sex.” (Gender Blending, P. 469, 1997),
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 was largely not.
Through the late 20th and early 21st century, millions of (then) transgenderists wanted to open, but Virginia’s open and honest approach hadn’t worked well; a woman with a penis wasn’t seen as acceptable. So they changed tactics in the 21st century to improve acceptability and hide sexuality:
- dropped the “ist,”
- said it was offensive to mention the need to be a physical sex or sexual response,
- 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, phenomenologically, saying we’re the same except for a surgery.
thus grouping all trans persons under a gender name, saying it’s offensive to note the whole time opposite in need to be the opposite sex and have an opposite sexual response.
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, says we’re offensive.