Montreal: Transsexual people versus Transgender people

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Something has been bugging me recently, and it also seems to be troubling a reader who writes to me once in a while. It’s the idea of transgender people – as opposed to transsexual people – not standing up for themselves.

I have to admit that even I get confused sometimes by all the labels associated with people who transgress gender norms. Trans people are making a lot of progress in some parts of the world. But which trans people, specifically? Answer: mostly, transsexual people, that is, those who transition and ultimately shed all trans labels. In other words, if you are swapping gender designations within the binary system, it’s getting somewhat easier in many places like Canada, where medicare in most of the country is footing the bills for sexual reassignment surgery. Canadian society is fairly accepting of people who transition, even if some of the religious fundamentalists doth protest – to mostly deaf ears (but I digress).

But what about transgender folks, the ones who don’t identify as “transsexuals” and don’t want to transition? And what exactly does it mean to be a transgender person, anyway?

I posed these questions in google, and almost every answer talked about blurring gender identity – and crossdressing.

I wonder, take away the crossdressing, and what then is transgenderism (I am not talking about transsexualism here)?

Regardless, while I am seeing more and more transsexualism in society, I am not seeing a lot of transgenderism, other than on the Internet. I mean, how many natal men in your workplace identify as transgender people (not transsexual people) and show up dressed en femme sometimes? I know that natal women can crossdress to the heart’s content, but it is not so easy for natal men, is it? Unless they announce that they are transsexuals who are transitioning, of course.

Thing is, transitioned people can only carry the proverbial ball so far for transgender folks. We can speak up for you, advocate for your rights. But ultimately, we ride off into the sunset and blend in with the binary system again. That’s the whole purpose of transitioning: we identified as the opposite of our birth sex, and we changed over.

Example: I am a female in my workplace now, not a transgender person. I think it would have been more complicated there if I had not fully transitioned, and just presented as a transgender person, ie. seen as a crossdressing employee. There might even have been a washroom issue. But since I swapped genders and became a legal female, anatomically speaking, I am treated as a woman – and have received the key to the non-executive lady’s washroom. Smiles . . .

Do you see what I am getting at here? Transitioning people are making a lot of progress. But transgender people still have a long way to go before they can even crossdress in the workplace. Maybe I should be a bit more specific: natal men have a long way to go before they can crossdress in the workplace. It’s OK for natal women to do it, though, because they stood up for and won that right a long time ago. And while natal men may have the right to do it, too – won for them by transitioning women – very few are exercising that right, and putting it to the test.

Is it because they don’t really want to, and that they are not so fully entrenched in transgenderism? Or is it that they are afraid?

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