Understanding, Part 2
All too often within the trans community, efforts at distinction – which is a very necessary thing in the process of understanding – are read as efforts at competition, a seeking of superiority. Most of the time this is not the case. I will readily acknowledge that the position-seekers are out there. I’ve been grieved on many occasions to see some transwoman speak derisively of crossdressers in remarks than can serve no practical purpose other than to “get over” on someone. In so doing the transwoman commits exactly the same sort of condescension that the ciswoman would comment in criticizing her. You will never hear, or hear of, me saying anything purposely degrading or demeaning about the crossdresser.
That said, if we are to help the cis-world understand the spectrum of being trans, it does us no good to muddy the waters and be unclear about our distinctiveness. While it is true that there is a sort of “gender spectrum” which doesn’t feature bright bold lines of demarcation between one “sort” and another, we can nevertheless speak in some general terms, and should, in order to clear up misconceptions, allay ill-founded fears, and gain support.
Please read what follows in that context.
I’m sometimes troubled that so much over our equality activism is constructed on the foundation “transgender” when that is such a broad and nebulous term. I think we can all agree that as a general rule, there’s no place in our society for causing harm to another because they do not conform to cultural gender expectations. But that is only a matter of basic human dignity that ought to be at the root of any civilized society. On the other hand, there are things which are objectively true of the transsexual that are not true of the crossdresser, and vice-versa. It’s only right and proper that we note, and openly acknowledge, that distinctiveness when trying to promote acceptance in the ill-informed culture at large.
So let’s putt his in the most basic terms. A transsexual, no matter how they may at any given time be conducting their lives (for whatever reasons) are those who understand themselves to BE the opposite sex from that which they were identified as at birth. In the context of this site, an “apparent” male who is convinced that they are, despite that appearance, female – including both those who have modified their body already, and those who have not (or are somewhere along the path between those two extremes). It may well include those who have not yet realized fully the source of their mental distress, but we cannot practically identify them by that term until they resolve the doubt.
A crossdresser, on the other hand, is one who is perfectly happy with and comfortable in their male sexual identity and have no desire to physically alter their visible form to that of a female. For whatever reason, from profit (as in a professional drag queen ala RuPaul) to fetish to simple comfort, the explanations vary but the basic truth is, they like being a guy and their female behavior is a “persona” that they put on and take off as it suits them.
I, for one, object to the common practice of those who do feel they should be female (i.e. characteristic of transsexual) identifying themselves as crossdressers simply because their life circumstance prevents them from an actual transition. If I may, it is your heart and soul and mind that makes you who you are, not the circumstances of your immediate moment in life. I prefer that, for clarity sake, we be clear – at least among ourselves – about what we are and are not – no matter what our life situation. Because if we expect society at large to support us, we have to give them as much understanding of what our reality is as possible. It is our “otherness” that makes up problematic to them. Knowledge breeds familiarity which in turn brings compassion. Something to think about, no?
Image by: MC Quinn