The history of individuals who identify as transgender goes back father than many people realize.
Let’s define transgender. It is “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth” (Allen, 2008). A person is assigned a sex when they are born. This is usually because of sexual organs that they posses naturally. In some instances, like in the case of David Reimer, certain circumstances force doctors to assign a different sex than the one that they were born as. David was “a Canadian man who was assigned as ‘Brenda’ by his doctor, Dr. John Money, at birth when his penis was destroyed during a circumcision in infancy” (CBC/Radio-Canada & MacDonald, 2013).
Gender is more about what society deems acceptable in regards to behavior, activities, and roles. “While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ” (CBC/Radio-Canada & MacDonald, 2013).
Many transsexual (trans for short although some people prefer the whole word as opposed to the shortened version-always ask if you are unsure if the individual is ‘out’) alter (or would like to alter) their body in order to reflect the gender that they feel like inside. This can be done with hormone therapy (taking estrogen or testosterone), gender reassignment surgery (more on this later), or for those that are unable to start hormones or get surgery (reasons could be that they are a minor and can’t, medical, financial, or any number of other reasons) they alter their clothing, hair, or even start to wear makeup.
Individuals that were assigned female at birth but are in fact male inside (it’s a feeling and trust me when I say it isn’t a decision that just comes out of the blue one day) are referred to as female-to-male or FTM. In the event of the opposite person, one born as male but are in fact female are referred to as male-to-female or MTF. There are many people living FTM that prefer being referred to as a man. Period. Others don’t mind the phrase transman. Likewise, MTF are the same. Most prefer to be referred to as a woman. Period. Others don’t mind the phrase transwoman. The most important thing to remember when talking to or about (not in a bad way) is to make sure you use their preferred name and gender pronouns. Obviously, I want to be called Chris or Christian, never my birth name, or dead name. I know a woman that was assigned male at birth but I would never disrespect her by calling her by her birth name. Notice I never once referred to her with he/him/his pronouns. Again, that is a form of disrespect as well.
There has been some debate about the fine line between being transgender and being a cross dresser. “Those who cross-dress are usually comfortable with their assigned sex and do not wish to change it” (CBC/Radio-Canada & MacDonald, 2013).
Like cross dressing, where the individual dresses like the opposite gender either in partial or full dress, there are also what is called drag queens. Drag queens can be any type of sexual orientation, gender, or anything that I may be forgetting. I know of one drag queen (one of my favorites actually) that is a transwoman (for argument sake I used that word but make no mistake, she is a woman). By this I mean that before, during and after she is all female. There are a couple that perform with her that are men before and after the show and only perform as female. Same goes with drag kings. Yes, there are drag kings also. Honestly, I didn’t know this until I was in my 30’s and I was fortunate enough to get to see some. These people put themselves out there for others enjoyment as well as to make a living. Please note that all of the people that I speak of are people. They are NEVER a fetish, EVER. You may find yourself attracted to one but know that you are attracted to that person, not their way of life.
Another type of ‘gender’ is genderqueer. These are the people that don’t fall into the typical male or female roles. These are the people that don’t wish to be referred to as he/him or her/hers. They would like to be referred to as they/them. It sounds difficult but it’s quite simple. Instead of saying, “She would like to use the phone now” you would say, “They would like to use the phone now”. Everyone that I’ve always met will tell you how they wish to be referred. There are websites that even make buttons that have the desired pronouns on them. I would really like to get one of these until I’m able to ‘pass’. By pass I mean, even though I’ve changed my hair and wear all male clothing now (I used to wear men’s clothing but not as much as I do after coming out as transgender) and legally changed my name to Christian I still have very feminine features (which I absolutely hate!). Not to mention that I have a chest the size of Russia (no offense to any Russians). Cis born (those that identify as the sex they were born into) don’t generally think about their chest size or penis size, it just is. I can’t speak for all people that are trans, and I won’t even try, but that is pretty much all I think about. I’ll have my back turned and someone will say, “Excuse me, Sir” then I turn around and they see my chest and automatically change to ma’am. I am so angry, hurt, annoyed, the list is endless but I know that they can’t help it. Seriously, how many FTM people are in Iowa, United States. I think I’m the only one (if you are FTM and in Iowa, please reach out to me!!).
Sorry about that little sidetrack. I am going to stop this here and pick up on it possibly tomorrow. As always, if you have any questions let me know and I will do my best to answer them or I’ll direct you to someone that can.
CBC/Radio-Canada, & MacDonald, A.-M. (2013, 4 10). Timeline: Transgender through history – doc zone – CBC-TV. Retrieved 12 3, 2016, from http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/features/timeline-transgender-through-history