Self-Identification Comes First

It's Day 2 of the Creating Change Conference and I attended another wonderful workshop called "Not Another Trans 101" which presented the National Transgender Education Project's youth curriculum. It was exciting to go through the curriculum and I am sure that I will use it in my classroom this semester. The collection of activities were both engaging and informative. We reviewed and learned appropriate terminology for gender variations.

The binder had a quote — "If you ask 100 different trans people for any given definition, you will get 100 different answers." It was good starting point for a valuable discussion on how self-identification is the bottom line. The best way to understand someone's identity and preference is to ask them directly!

Many people, queer-identified or not, assume that transgender refers only to specific individuals who have sexual reassignment surgery, but that is not the case. Many individuals choose to identify as transgender which can be understood as "an umbrella term for anyone whose gender identity(s) and/or gender expression(s) don't match social ideas and norms of gender, which can include transsexuals, crossdressers, genderqueer people, and other gender nonconforming individuals." The transgender community may even include SOFFAs (significant others, family, friends and allies) in the application of the term, but, again, most importantly, is self-identification.

Today, I also met my housekeeper, who, like the rest of the staff at the Marriott, was so welcoming! I appreciate the fact that the hotel is so GLBT-friendly.

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  • invalid-0

    Many, if not most of those who have genital surgery do not necessarily identify as “transgender.” That is a misconception pushed by transgender activists, most of whom have no desire for such surgery, and many of whom actively oppose the idea.

    An increasing group of those who have, or who are seeking, genital surgery prefer the newer term, “Harry Benjamin Syndrome,” over transsexual, and rather specifically reject the term “transgender.” This is for several reasons. We do not feel the term applies (we change our sex, not our gender), the term was originally meant to specifically exclude transsexuals, we do not agree with a lot of the meanings that transgender is taking on, and we do not share common ground with those who are included under the banner.

    As you say, “self-identification” comes first, so please do not impose “transgender” on people automatically, even if you assume we are part of that community.

    Also, it should be noted that many, if not most, transsexuals simply wish to be accepted as members of the sex that matches their gender. They have no desire to “not match” society’s expectations for that sex. They simply wish to live quiet, normal lives.

  • harry834

    on Harry Benjamin Syndrome:

    I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on the link's info. I'm just learning this term today, thanks to Jennifer.

  • invalid-0

    Much of what is on the webpage you cited can be backed up by scientific studies. The key one is the peer reviewed journal Psychoneuroendocrinology V30 N7 Aug2005 PP657-664, the abstract of which I am including here:

    Transsexualism is characterised by lifelong discomfort with the assigned sex and a strong identification with the opposite sex. The cause of transsexualism is unknown, but it has been suggested that an aberration in the early sexual differentiation of various brain structures may be involved. Animal experiments have revealed that the sexual differentiation of the brain is mainly due to an influence of testosterone, acting both via androgen receptors (ARs) and—after aromatase-catalyzed conversion to estradiol—via estrogen receptors (ERs). The present study examined the possible importance of three polymorphisms and their pairwise interactions for the development of male-to-female transsexualism: a CAG repeat sequence in the first exon of the AR gene, a tetra nucleotide repeat polymorphism in intron 4 of the aromatase gene, and a CA repeat polymorphism in intron 5 of the ERβ gene. Subjects were 29 Caucasian male-to-female transsexuals and 229 healthy male controls. Transsexuals differed from controls with respect to the mean length of the ERβ repeat polymorphism, but not with respect to the length of the other two studied polymorphisms. However, binary logistic regression analysis revealed significant partial effects for all three polymorphisms, as well as for the interaction between the AR and aromatase gene polymorphisms, on the risk of developing transsexualism. Given the small number of transsexuals in the study, the results should be interpreted with the utmost caution. Further study of the putative role of these and other sex steroid-related genes for the development of transsexualism may, however, be worthwhile.

    Another one of interest that is specifically related to FTM HBS is

  • invalid-0
  • harry834

    A lot ot digest, but I'll take it in doses!

    I think I should have taken high school biology on this site. I learn so much more :)

  • invalid-0

    Thanks so much to everyone who has commented thus far! Again, the emphasis should be on self-identification. Noone else but yourself can tell you what your identification is nor what it should be. Noone else but yourself can define your identity for you. It is nearly impossible to find an “umbrella” term under which everyone would agree to a definition.

    Furthermore, thank you Jennifer for bringing up the fact that many individuals who go through a process to change themselves are changing their sex and not their gender. For this reason, some may not claim nor appreciate the term transgender. The best thing to do in order to recognize someone’s identity is to let them tell you who they are or ask them how they identify. Or, just let them be who they are, no labels, no judgments.

  • invalid-0

    After reading the HBS website, what it sounds like to me is trans people trying to de-identify from trans people. In other words, We’re not those trans people who think of gender as a social construct and want to defy social gender norms. We were born this way; it’s biological, so it must be legitimate!

    Why else would so much of the website be devoted to distinguishing HBS (by their definition, a person born with female genitalia and a male brain, or vice versa) from transgender/transsexuals?