Saturday, 31 March 2012

What is Your Definition of Transgender?

The other night, some friends and i were in the pub and having a chat about trans labels.

This is normally the sort of conversation that can produce quite strong views and opinions.

Certainly if it were a discussion on a web forum then it would probably descend into chaos pretty swiftly, But as we are all friends we managed to have quite a good natured, healthy debate over a few drinks and a bowl of cheesy chips.

This conversation came about after we had all been to a Q&A session at Nottingham University. This session featured a couple of Trans people from Channel 4's My Transsexual Summer. The Q&A was focussed on Trans awareness and there were a lot of questions and opinions in the room. Some ranging from humoured and some borderline offensive. It was a successful event for the LGBT Student Union and everyone enjoyed it i believe.

So back to the pub, One of the girls mentioned that 'Transgendered' was not a term she liked. I think i must have looked a little quizzical because i honestly had not really got an opinion on the label 'Transgendered'.

A conversation ensued where the definition of 'Transgendered' was called into question.

I personally define 'Transgender' as the 'Umbrella term for anyone with gender issues' i.e. Transsexuals, Gender Neutral folks, Transvestites, People who identify as Gender Queer etc

A couple of the other girls defined 'Transgender' as a non-umbrella term, Offering the alternative viewpoint that 'Transgender' fits in-between 'Transvestite and Transsexual' on the 'trans spectrum', That one can either be a Transvestite, a Transsexual or a Transgender.

So we bounced our viewpoints back and forth a few times and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe neither of us were necessarily incorrect. Let me muse...

I have been raised in quite a politically correct age and i think/believe that the term 'Transgender' may be quite a new term.
I wonder if you were from a generation previous to mine you might have your own definition of 'Transgender'? 

Is this possibly an age related opinion? 
The other girls were a little older than me, So i wonder at what point in time this word came to being used in its present context?

I'm not focussing on who was correct or incorrect. In fact I'm far more intrigued by how our self-definitions might be inspired.

So if you have 2 minutes to reply in a comment, give me your definition of Transgender, I want to know.


  1. hmmm trans'gender'
    - wanting to become/transfer to the other gender either partially or fully by surgery.

    me... hmmmm a CrossDresser
    happy to dress and act as the other gender without the need surgery; no sexual fetish while dressed either; just happy being 'cd.

  2. I like this kind of discussion :) . Okay, I'm a bit older too (48), so here's my take on it:

    Firstly, I think the idea that "transgender" is in some way "in between" TV and TS is problematic, since it implies they're all greater or lesser variations of the same thing, which I don't think is necessarily true.

    I much prefer it as an umbrella term – sort of how you've stated it, but slightly differently. That is, rather than define what TG actually encompasses, I'd put it like this: that the TG umbrella encompasses everyone who feels they fit beneath it. In that way it's self-defined and we can accept it or not on an individual basis. (For instance, the sets TV and TS will overlap with TG, but they're not subsets of it; they don't fit within it entirely.)

    Personally I accept the term, partly to ally myself with everyone else who accepts it, and partly because I'm sort of in there – though more as genderqueer than in the sense that I'm "crossing" to any "other gender". (I actually rationalize my trans/TV expression now as a valid facet of male gender and hence not really trans at all.)

  3. i think its an umbrella term for those who have some degree of issue with their gender - i dont think transvestite would come under it really as by definition, transvestites dont feel anything other than guys; i identify as being transgender, in the sense dont really identify with being a guy - but i dont, at the moment, take hormones or am formally transitioning for a variety of reasons; i do kind of look like a girl though *apparently*

  4. I don't think that 'exclusion' is always a bad thing pér sé, I think that it can sometimes help define things more clearly if certain criteria were not met then an exclusion applied.

    Can i ask Jonathan, 'Genderqueer' although this is not really 'Trans' would you say it falls within the latter 'Gender' label so therefore as a minority you are happy to be included under the Transgender umbrella or would you prefer to stand out?

    Hanna - Me and a friend were actually chatting yesterday about Costumes vs Clothing and where the line is drawn.

    Again, i know we are walking a fine line of the dreaded 'Label Debates' but its not a taboo subject and i like a good debate! x

  5. Seeing as you asked... ;-)

    I think the word - transgender - is a fairly modern invention. In the same way that 'tranny' didn't exist either. I'm pretty sure that neither were not around around in the 80s: back then it was cross-dresser, transvestite or transsexual. The latter applied to people who had surgery - there didn't seem any middle ground. But not being part of the scene, so to speak, I can't say that's really how it was back then.

    When did it arrive? I started reading it on blogs and hearing it [transgender] in the media in the last five or six years. How long it took for it to be defined by our community (or not), is another question altogether :-)

    I would like to think that transgender is an umbrella term - if not, I'd like to suggest 'trans'. I think that to some folk, non-trans mainly, the term transgender means those who transition, but personally, I don't subscribe to that school of thought.

    To me, being transgender is a catch all word for anyone who feels that their gender is different to what would normally be linked to their birth sex... if that last line makes any sense. :-)

    Speaking personally, if we used the old school terms; I guess I'd be tagged as a cross-dresser. Yet, there are many times when I feel that label (yes, the L word again LOL), is not appropriate for me. I don't feel 100% male and certainly not 100% female. I feel that I've elements / characteristics of both and by that I don't mean I can open a jam jar and Ooo, I just love pretty clothes. What I mean is it - trangenderism (if that's a word!) - is as much what's going on in your head (or heart) as how you appear to the outside world. If I stopped dressing up tomorrow (Heaven for-fend), the feelings I have and the personality traits I have won't go away. To use an old joke, like the Force, it will be with you, always. ;-)

    PS: Sorry for the long reply. I found the question very interesting.

  6. Sam: I take "genderqueer" to mean that someone's gender is "queer" (i.e. non-normative) in some way. Therefore you might say that TG is more a subset of GQ than the other way round. In that "trans" is one way of someone's gender being "queer".

    But other people define GQ differently. And a lot of people who identify (or identified) as trans don't see their gender as being queer at all.

    Labels, labels ;)

    As for me: yes, more GQ than trans really. But also GQ in an MTF sort of way, and hence sort of trans (and MTF TV is my "immediate family" as it were). Whatever, I'm happy to be included under a TG umbrella.

    Though my own chosen label is "male femme".

  7. Hanna: "transvestites dont feel anything other than guys" – I don't think that's true, even in general.

    I wouldn't like to make any assumption as to how any individual TV felt about their gender, or what they thought their cross-dressing meant, without asking them personally.

    A lot of TVs certainly feel they're expressing something female, some inner femaleness, in some way, however that might be defined.

  8. Transgender is the umbrella term for anyone experiencing issues with their gender. That is how I understand it at least.

    The problem with labels though is that they can often be wrong. Take transexual for example. Technically I'm a Transsexual but what I am has nothing to do with sexuality. My sexuality plays no part in my gender and it's my gender that I have had problems with.

    1. ..and that is why 'my' take on the labels is that Transgender is a post-op person and Trans is best used as an umbrella term for all other 'identities', making no need for more detailed explanations.

  9. johnathan: i think thats pretty much the definition of what a 'transvestite' is - someone who dresses in the clothes of the opposite sex but has little or no desire to change their sex; its not my definition :)

  10. I'm vary wary of the term, Samantha, as it comes down to putting a label on people, many of whom define as men or women and have fought hard not to be labelled as trans-anything.

    I guess the broadest definition is quite close to that used to the European Parliament, which includes pre-operative and post-operative men and women (or those pre- or post- operative without those particular gender convictions), but also persons who do not choose to undergo - or do not have access to- operations and/or hormonal therapy. The definition also includes those often (mis)labeled as cross-dressers, transvestites and other people for whom the convictions "man" or "woman" make no sense.

    A broader label has the advantage of making more people aware that the subjet is not just a medical issue - but a political one, however, of course, some of those covered by a broad "trans" label really would not wish to be associated with the term.

  11. Emma - My personal opinion is that Post-Op TS's can choose whether they stay under the Transgender umbrella or they can use the 'Female' label.

    Im so pleased i've had so many responses to this subject. I think that it only enforces my point that 'Personal Definitions' are precisely that. It is up to each individual how they identify. It shouldn't matter what anyone else thinks.


  12. For me Transgender is for us all, All of us who like to dress part time , Full time or wish to become who we want to be.. Keep it as an umbrella term ..

    There is already too many names/words to describe our community.. Were all in this together no matter where you are on tracks. :)

  13. Now try defining the terms man and woman without error (keeping in mind that they are also indivisible legal entities)

  14. Well Sam you certainly have set a rabbit running.
    Can I just clarify (as I was one of the old biddies that Sam was talking to that evening)that my view of the word "transgender" means someone who has "full time" changed their GENDER not their SEX ie they are living their lives in the opposite gender to their previous gender existence.
    Sex being MALE or FEMALE. Gender being MAN or WOMAN.
    Anyone who changes gender part time is a transvestite/cross dresser.
    Therefore the only umbrella term I can except is "TRANS"
    Thank you for letting me clear that up.

  15. Lol Karen, i would never call you a 'biddy' ;)


  16. Very interesting topic, Sam

    My personal issue with the current vocabulary of words which we use are that they are still based around the initial form of binary gender, male / female. The trans word indicates that there is movement between one form and another, no matter what those forms are.

    I haven't really found where I am yet to give myself a distinct label. Personally I see myself as much more of a multi-gendered individual. More of a shifting meld between the two ends. So that's why I can't put my finger on a definitive term as yet.

    At the moment in conversations I'll tend to use just 'T' as a substitution when writing or thinking about it; 'trans' to describe a movement across forms; 'tranny' normally as a lightweight reference; 'transgendered' as an umbrella term; and finally when introducing the subject to someone, I'll use 'crossdresser' as a simple description for the muggles. So to me it depends on the location, situation and who is being addressed.

    It does cross my mind are we needing to find words to describe ourselves to others or, to use words with which others are comfortable to use for us. Are these words developed for our benefit or for the other party's benefit?

    I do like using the 'T' designation due to it's ambiguity and it has an ambivalence about it which suits me at the moment. On my blog I describe myself as a 'gender diversive' which again matches where I think I am now, although I have pondered with 'omni-gendered' as a way of opening up the implied point to point journey of 'trans'.

    Eek!! That's deeper and maybe more b0llix than I anticipated…. :-)

  17. I am 46 years old and since I started researching these issues about 10 years ago now, I have always considered "transgender" as an umbrella term for all those who are in some "conflict" with their designated gender. Transgender includes TV, TS, CD, gender queer,androgynous and gender neutral. Since each of these terms has their own distinct definition, some terms are less "demeaning" than others. I myself identify as TS. I am actively working to physically alter my body (yes, all of it when I am able to do so). TS is unfortunately a term that many do not like simply because it has "sex" which implies that this is some sort of sexual psychosis issue instead of the intended meaning where the person actually wanted the correct "sex" body parts of their respective genders. Most self-identified TV, CD, drag queens have no intention of permanently changing body parts or living as the "other" gender more than part-time. From my own experience, I can say that I have never felt that I was a CD. I have memories at very early ages where just dressing as a girl was not enough. I always had the internal thought that "I want to BE a girl" with or without the clothes.

  18. Having been in the 'Trans' world longer than any of you ( almost - 'put together' lol) I have seen many changes in my time. Historically 'TS' was accredited to be top-of-the-tree...and people aspired to it, as a badge of respectability/credability maybe. Transvestite was introduced by the US..but for reasons best known to themselves, they changed it to crossdresser ( more easily understood ??)
    I've read the posts and agree with some points in most of them..disagreeing with others. Lots of more recently introduced terminology has appeared - I'm imagining the ultimate will be....
    I am a - 'me'..because we are all unique!

    1. Sorry but I may be a longer witness to actual transsexuals since I had my surgery over 40 years ago and still find it offensive to be placed in the Charles Prince category of transgender which for him was an extension of transvestite.
      Transgender for the most part will not have surgery and most seem to only imagine in their dreams they would or could. Not the same at all.

  19. I like the umbrella term. Transvestite I feel has unwarranted connotations with sleaze and sexual excitement. I believe Transgenderist was coined many years ago by Virginia Prince who dressed full time as a woman but still had a male body. TG to me is a softer more acceptable term than say TV. Although we get into big debates about labels, it is important that many of us of not excluded from legislative protection which seems currently to only covers TS.

  20. Since when and with what surgeon can there be a trans of gender (brain) since that is inate. Trans of sex I can understand as can most people but to trans gender seems like a mood, urge, or maybe just a perception change. It has little to do with the actual change of SEX.