Transgender 101

“Unlike the majority of transsexuals that “feel they were born that way” many of those identifying themselves as transgendered or gender-bending or gender-blending persons are attracted to the concept of a constructed gender and see themselves and their lives as evidence of it.

Eschewing any strict male-female dichotomy, transgendered persons instead reach for a wide range of mixtures of male and female restructured anatomies and manifest masculine and feminine life-styles…” — Prof. Milton Diamond, 2000

Transgender people feel they are not simply male or female. Most transgender people speak of being part of a continuum of gender. Transgender people also tend to situate themselves on a continuum between the male and female sexes and often refer to third, fourth or more genders. Hence the term trans-gender.

In the case of transgender people, the gender binary (the idea there are two opposite sexes – male/female) is not a useful concept. One of the most distinct aspects of being transgender is the abandonment of the binary sex/gender categories (man/male or woman/female). Transgender does not describe men (identified ‘female’ at birth) who have a fixed male gender comfortable within the gender binary. (compare Transsexualism 101)

Transgender people —

  • recognise multiple genders or a gender continuum;
  • some have the one gender their whole life, others change genders over time;
  • some identify as having multiple genders at the same time;
  • others prefer to express their gender in a fluid way, and avoid permanent changes;
  • some transgender people are naturally androgynous and find themselves able to live comfortably without any medical intervention at all; and
  • some transgender people use medical assistance to relieve their discomfort through a range of different strategies.

The term ‘transgender’

In the 1970s, the term ‘transgender’ was coined by a cross-dressing man, Virginia Prince, who wanted to live as a woman, without the use of any hormones or surgery. Prince coined the term to refer to transgender people separately and distinctly from transsexual people. Today it seems to have become commonly used as an umbrella term for a variety of identities and experiences.

Summary

Transgender men often feel uncomfortable identifying themselves simply as male or just a man. Transgender men usually prefer to acknowledge a complexity of gender for themselves and they use terms like trans, ftm, transman, genderqueer, third-sex, and many others when describing themselves.

Transgender is an increasingly widespread social expression which welcomes and celebrates a multiplicity of genders. Transgenderism also has a spectrum of self-expression, clothing and sometimes body modification procedures.

Thanks to Jim (Qld) for assistance in writing this document.

Further Reading