A No-Nonsense TS/TG 101 For Pagans

So!

This year’s brouhaha courtesy of Pantheacon (or, as I call it: Dianics vs Transies1 2: Electric Boogaloo) reminded me exactly how ignorant a lot of pagans and polytheists are about TS/TG issues, even though we’re E~V~E~Y~W~H~E~R~E!!!! O~o~O~oO~o~h!!!!

No, serious. Trans people? Yeah, we’re pretty much everywhere. Even in the pagan community. Can’t escape us, so do yourself a favour and try to learn something.

Ruadhán, first off: What are all these WORDS? I’m confused by new words! What does it all mean!?!?

Sex: For the purposes of this article, I’m sticking with the biological definition of “sex”, which is simply how one’s reproductive potential is described. There are two primary sexes, male and female, and than there are various Intersex (IS) conditions which often result in the person being reproductively sterile, but the latest science suggests that being IS and being reproductively sterile do not go hand-in-hand 100% of the time.

Gender: For the purposes of this article, “gender” will relate purely to the social concept. Amongst human beings, there are two primary gender categories, “male” (man, boy, sage, guy, gentleman, bro, fag, etc…) and “female” (woman, girl, crone, gal, lady, chick, dyke, etc…), but historically there has been, in some cultures there still is, and in Western culture there emerges a reclaiming of “third sex” gender identities.

Transgender: generally accepted as an umbrella term more than an identity; can encompass transsexuals, “two spirit” or “third sex” identities, lifestyle transvestite or cross-dressers, fem men, butch women, gender-queer identities, and so on, and (though rarely) drag royalty

Transsexual: typically, one who makes medical (often including surgical) and legal steps toward living as a gender “opposite” what they were assigned as birth

Cisgender: the Latin prefix “cis-” means “on the same side of” with trans meaning “on the opposite side o”, such as Cisalpine and Transylvania, and this has been adopted into chemistry. Basically, if you’re a big enough nerd, you already have figured out what this means. If you’re a pagan of the branch and leaf rather than the library and museum, basically cisgender means men who were assigned a male gender at birth, and women who were assigned a female gender at birth. A related term (likely coined by Julia Serrano, author of Whipping Girl) is “cissexual”; cissexual basically means “not transsexual”, and can be useful to transsexual (or non-TS) individuals who may also fall under the “transgender” umbrella for reasons unrelated to a medical gender transition. In practise, “cisgender” and its derivatives is really no more offensive than “heterosexual” when used as a comparative term to “bisexual” or “homosexual”. The reason for “cisgender” in relation to “transgender” is to signify that all are “normal” and “real” variants of human existence.

DFAB / DMAB: acronyms for “designated female at birth” and “designated male at birth”, respectively. Mix-and-match with “women” or “men” as nifty synonyms for “cis-” and “trans-”. [2012-08-19; 03.01: I changed this from AFAB/AMAB/"assigned..." because of the nuanced differenced between "assigned" and "designated". "Billy was assigned homework by his English teacher." "There are eight designated holidays in the wheel of the year." A designation is something indicated by observation; something that is assigned is given out by another. Trans people who lack an IS history are thus typically designated to be female or male.]

AMAB/ AFAB: “assigned…”, similar to DFAB/DMAB, but more specific of many IS personal histories.

Genderqueer: One of the latest and most-used monikers for a “third sex” identity. Mostly used by DFAB persons, in the experience of the author (who is going to leave his personal opinions about this fact out of this article). Third sex identities exist throughout history and even the modern world, though some modern TS individuals believe that a third sex identity was often a concession to the lacking medical technology that could allow one to live more-completely as a woman or man, there are some Roman accounts of DFAB men who seemed to be living as men rather than as an DFAB equivalent to the Gallae. India’s hijra caste is sometimes described as a “third sex” gender identity. In short, genderqueer and any other third sex (or similar) identity may be best described as saying that neither “male” nor “female” genders suit these people adequately.

Bigender, pangender, androgyne, etc…: These terms are often-enough considered distinct from “third gender” in that they’re usually less along the lines of: “Are you a boy or a girl?” and them saying “neither” and more like “Are you a boy or a girl?” and them saying “both (and then some)”. A lot of these words have distinct nuances, though, so it’s best to inform oneself about how these vary; for example: “Androgyne” is a compound word from the ancient Greek for “man” (andros) and “woman” (gynos), and as a gender identity tends to imply a constant blending of masculine and feminine traits; “bigender”, on the other hand, usually implies a fluid, sort of yo-yoing relationship between “man” and “woman” (or perhaps even a non-binary gender).

Intersex: Basically, this is the currently accepted medical and sociological term for people, though for centuries in English “hermaphrodite” was considered perfectly acceptable. There are over a dozen different IS conditions that I can think of off the top of my head. Throughout the 20th Century, it was common practise to surgically “correct” infants with apparent IS conditions, including the vague non-condition of “ambiguous genitalia”, which doesn’t always accompany an established syndrome, and may simply be a result of the external genitalia not completely forming in utero. Because it was a simpler procedure, an overwhelming majority of IS children were “corrected” into a female appearance, even if the child’s chromosomes were more-typical of males, and often children would not find out that these procedures were performed on them until they were adults and attempted to conceive children, if they were ever told at all. A common IS condition for those with a physiology typical of females is Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, which typically is not apparent until failure to menstruate is apparent, and you would likely never guess that a woman with AIS has it. The most-common IS condition is Kleinfelter’s syndrome, commonly known as “XXY males”, persons with Kleinfelter’s have a typically “male” physiology at birth, and like AIS women, tend to develop normally until puberty; like with AIS women, you’d probably never guess a person with Kleinfelter’s had it, to look at them. Some IS persons transition to the gender opposite what they were assigned at birth, while many are relatively content with their assigned genders; some IS persons also identify with a Third Sex gender, but it’s presumptuous and inaccurate to assume that all do.

Other good phrases to know:

Gender roles: these are roles, sometimes historical, sometimes modern, that are considered to be largely only appropriate for one gender or another —like women as home-makers and men as soldiers. Gender roles can change with time, and what is and is not considered “appropriate” for one gender or another may vary between culture and class; most societies maintain an “ideal” for men and (especially) for women that is placed firmly in that society’s middle class.

Gender expression: Historically, this has been in accordance to one’s gendered role, but in modern Western societies, how one expresses one’s gender through clothes, hair cut and style, make-up, mannerisms, and so forth, is becoming more and more independent of one’s gender role. Expression is often described with the terms “fem” or “effeminate”, “butch” or “masculine”, and “androgynous”, but other terms may exist or be better suited for one person or another.

Sexual orientation: These are words like “heterosexual”, “bisexual”, “pansexual”, “homosexual” and “asexual”. In layman’s terms, think of sexual orientation as the clinical side of sexual attraction and what kinds of people set off one’s neural bits to makes one’s naughty bits all a-tingly. “Pansexual” is a term similar to bisexual, but which denotes that one is openly attracted to persons both in and outside traditional gender binaries. Other terms like “androphillia” and “gynaephillia”, “phallophillia” and “kolpophillia” are apparently more-recent and may denote one who is attracted to men or women, regardless of genitals, or one who is primarily sexually interested in a person’s particular apparent genitals ragardless of gender, respectively.

Sexual identity: Sexual identity is how one chooses to identify their sex life, regardless of whether or not they may technically count as (as is often the case) “heterosexual”, or to describe a certain nuance or preference to their sexual orientation. A lot of gay men and Sapphic women may technically have bisexual orientation, but may choose to identify with terms that imply homosexuality for various reasons, including a strong preference toward their own gender or simply finding it easier to get along in a society that often denies bisexuality exists. Please Note: The sexual identity of “straight” is a homophobic term borrowed from early 20th Century drug and criminal sub-cultures that easily permeated queer society, as such was a time when homosexuality was typically criminalised in Western society. For decades before it earned its seemingly now-ubiquitous implications of “heterosexual”, “going straight” meant to give up a self-destructive lifestyle of drugs/alcohol addiction or petty crime. Some of evidence of this crime-and-drug culture usage still exists, such as “scared straight” programs (where the goal is not to convince inner-city youth to be heterosexual) and the “straight edge” punk subculture (which is not celebrated amongst its adherents as offering kids a queer-free alternative to enjoying concerts). During some points of the 20th Century, and in some places still, the term “bent” was common slang for “gay”, as it’s “the opposite of straight”, and in the 1997 Belgian film, Ma vie en Rose, a TG child and their family are tormented by neighbours with the term “bent”, and at one point, the child’s father demonstrates (through anger and frustration) the homophobia of “bent” as opposed to “straight” by breaking a ruler and shouting “THAT’s bent“. To identify one’s sexuality as “straight” is to basically say “my sexuality is normal, yours is criminal”, and it is an act of homophobia.

A note on potentially offensive terms:

Shemale: The term was coined in the 19th century as a word for any-one who crossed gender lines, including butch lesbians and fem gays. In the 1920s, “she-male” was common slang for feminists and other non-conforming women. For some reason, though, when an apparent “industry” for trans women in porn became apparent in the early 1980s, possibly even earlier, the word “shemale” caught on with that industry, and transphobe extraordinaire, Janice Raymond, used “She-Male” in the title of her thesis (advised by Mary Daly), later published as a book, The Transexual Empire: The making of the She-Male. Due largely to its associations with the porn industry and other sex work, and in no small part helped by its use by Raymond, trans women overwhelmingly hate this word.

Tranny (or “Transie”, I guess): Again, this seems to be one disliked due to its proliferation in the porn industry. Also, on websites like Awful Plastic Surgery, it’s used as a slur against ostensibly cisgender women to imply that they look like “fake women” or even “like men”, so the connotation when used regarding trans women seems to carry the same notes.

“MtFs” and “FtMs”, as if that’s a gender: To many trans women and trans men, respectively, this is othering, meaning we are “notwomen” and “notmen”. Though there are contextually appropriate usages of “FtM” or “MtF” —such as talk of spectra that includes transsexual and A(M/F)AB-Third Sex folk who express themselves similarly, or when speaking of medical procedures, including surgeries— it’s generally considered ungendering to refer to a person’s gender by these acronyms.

Hermaphrodite: In general, this is no longer widely used in reference to people. It should be noted, though, that the author of this article has personally met some IS and 3rdS individuals who have reclaimed the “hermaphrodite” identity as a sacred archetype of polytheistic/pagan religion. This generally seems to be a more-acceptable word in the pagan community, where it’s acknowledged as a word derived from the god Hermaphroditos, and not necessarily a pejorative term for IS persons.

“Women-born women”: This is a term coined by second-wave feminists as a sneaky way of basically telling trans women that their entire lived experience is not that of a woman, no matter how much a trans woman has internalised every single societal message designed “for women”, and ho matter how much empirical scientific evidence can be produced in a trans woman’s favour. The statement of this term is “I was born a woman, you only know a cheap imitation of what womanhood is really like.” As with the sexual identity of “straight”, I’m sure there are many people who use this term and intend no malice with it simply because it never occurs to them that it’s a malicious term —that says more about the inherent transphobia of the society than it says about well-meaning people who just don’t know any better. That said, now that I’ve explained it, I hope you stop saying it (if you ever did).

“Genetic women/men” and “biological women/men”: This is considered “offensive” by many TS/TG and especially IS people for the simple fact that the latest science suggests that biological sex is actually a complex series of traits and what biologists thought was understood about it is revealed to be more and more complex, the more studies are done. As stated above, “biological sex” is simply one’s reproductive potential; while this is often assumed mere seconds after a child is born, there are plenty of conditions that don’t become apparent until later in life, and that’s assuming a person gains knowledge of that condition at all. There are people with Kleinfelter’s syndrome who are biological fathers (I’ve personally met one such person) and a small number of women with Turner’s syndrome have managed to conceive, in spite of the fact that by chromosomal analysis alone, such people may be categorised for purely clinical purposes as neither “male” nor “female” in the strictest definitions devised over a century ago. The current science now agrees that there are variances in chromosomes, physiology, and other factors that have no adverse effect on a person’s reproductive potential. The latest science also suggests that in spite of apparent genetics, TS people do, in fact, have a brain more-typical of the genders we say we do (please note: article is not without language that might seem problematic to some-one unfamiliar with scientific jargon); again, to say that this is even the ultimate defining factor in a person’s gender (though it is probably the most persuasive one) is essentialist and problematic, but it’s still empirical evidence that TS women and men are, on some concrete biological level, women and men, and if our genes didn’t do this, then what did?

Several of the above “potentially offensive” terms are things I’ve seen on rare occasion “reclaimed” or simply used as identities for individuals. If an individual person tells you to call them “shemale” or “FTM”, that’s generally OK, as long as you keep it to that individual. As a rule, though, when they’re not in the room and you’re relaying a story or something to people who do not or may not know this person, it’s best to anonymise the story and refer to them by the general terms.

A note on drag royalty:
Drag Kings and Drag Queens are generally not TS/TG toward the genders they portray, though some may be “widest-net TG” in day-to-day life, meaning they live as effete men and butch women and probably don’t consider themselves TG. While there has been a handful of trans women throughout the 20th Century and early 21st who performed as drag queens prior to transitioning, some who may still do so (like Sonique Love, from season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race), this is not the standard. I guarantee you, at least 99/100 drag queens do not live in women’s clothes, nor do 99/100 drag kings identify as men. Think of drag as “character acting” or “performance art”, if that makes it easier for you to grasp; even that one drag queen in a hundred who you later learn is a trans woman has a different “on stage” persona from her off-stage life.

A note on tranny-chasers:
I can never get a straight story on exactly how this term came about, but long story short, it gained popularity in the trans women’s community as a warning to others that some-one, usually a cis man, was a creeper who was only interested in “women with penises”, didn’t care about their partner’s needs and stability, and was probably emotionally abusive, to boot. Trans men are using this term more and more to refer to women who typically self-identify as lesbians, but are simply gaga for us “vag boys”, maybe will even humour us with male pronouns and gender descriptive, but ultimately want to parade us around as some “New and Improved Butch+ 3000″ trophy partner, and not give a damn about actual identity. The tranny chaser tends to get off on transphobic tropes, is obsessed with how a trans person dresses, and so on. In other words, you really don’t want to be a tranny chaser.

That said, sometimes people are simply oriented toward certain genital configurations on an attractive person, or just doesn’t care if their partner is trans. At that point, it’s all about how you carry that, which is harder to describe, and is in my best interest (as a man of TS history) not to describe, as it could make it easier for chasers to mimic. Basically, if you’re clearly interested in the person, and not fetishising the genitals, that will become evident.


Things it is generally OK to assume:
* Knowledge of this person’s TS/TG history and/or status does not put you at liberty to tell others.
* If some-one tells you they are a trans woman, then female pronouns are best; if some-one tells you they are a trans men, then male pronouns are best; is some-one tells you they are of a GQ/3rdS identity, ask what pronouns they prefer, because in spite of the fact that English already had “A / au” as gender-neutral pronouns, and “singular they” has been acceptable since Shakespeare, there are maybe half a dozen gender-neutral pronoun combinations duking it out.
* If some one tells you they are a trans woman and same-sex oriented, they are interested in other women (likely both cis and trans); if some-one tells you they are a trans man and same-sex oriented, they are interested in other men (likely both cis and trans).
* Saying you’re a “tranny chaser” is creepy. No, really, most trans people don’t care who does it, it’s creepy.
* Being cisgender is a state of privilege; being transgender is a state of being marginalised.

Things you probably shouldn’t assume, because they’re rarely true:
“Trans men know what it’s like to be an oppressed wombynne, firsthand! They are kinder, gentler, feminist men who don’t say busted and sexist things!”
—er, no. I’m brain-farting on his name, but there’s even a case of a trans man who’s a rapist (though, if memory serves me, he fled the United $tates to avoid trial, and it was thrown out of court shortly after). The reason a lot of trans men turn out to be sexist pigs, or just plain ignorant of the societal messages women typically internalise is because we don’t process anything about “what women are supposed to do / think / say / etc…” as messages for us, and instead we internalise some variation of what society expects of men, and how men are supposed to think, act, play, etc….

“Trans women experience male privilege.”
—if she assimilates into society as a woman well, then people tend to assume she’s a woman, and so have no reason to extend her male privilege; if her gender is still often read as “old man in dress and wig”, she’s going to be treated like a freak, ostracised, and systematically denied the privileges afforded to those accepted by the society as gender-conforming males. Similar to how trans men typically don’t internalise social programming intended “for women”, yadda yadda yadda, trans women tend to internalise some form of what society expects of women, and generally ignore what society expects of men as something for other people, even from a very young age. Also, in all seriousness, if you find yourself in a convo with a trans woman asserting herself, ask yourself: “if she were cis, would I think she’s simply being ‘cool and B.I.T.C.H.2-y’, or would I accuse her of ‘acting on male entitlement’?” Because, really, it’s overwhelmingly common for cis women to applaud the same kind of pointed assertive B.I.T.C.H.-iness in cis women that will get trans women accused of “displaying clear male privilege”.

Things you should never ask a transsexual (if you want to remain in kind regard):
“What’s your old / birth / real name?” — especially that last one. As many pagans know, do to either path, teaching, or just something they read along the way, words, especially names, have power. If a TS person voluntarily offers to let you know, thank them, but DO NOT, under ANY circumstances assume it is okie-kosher to tell other people. If you were told, explicitly in confidence or not, then you are probably assumed to be trustworthy. DO NOT assume that because you know that others know, then this means so-and-so trans person doesn’t care who knows what their name used to be.

“Have you had ‘the surgery’?” — Contextually, this might be appropriate if you and said trans person are moments away from jumping into bed for naked fun times, if that’s the case, then it seems fair as you may just want to know what you’ll be dealing with “down there”, but chances are good that if you’re in that position to begin with, then you probably knew before then. On the other hand, if you just learned this person is TS (as is often the case when this question gets asked), what makes you think it’s any of your business what their genitals look like? If you are a man and the trans person is a woman, you may be assumed to be a tranny chaser. In every other case, you’ll probably be thought of as obnoxious.


1: Normally, I would not use this or similar, but a) for the sake of brevity, when compared to the extra syllable and pause of “trans women”, and b) for the reference hilarity. If you go back up to where you left off to read this footnote, you’ll eventually stumble upon an explanation on WHY such words as this are typically inappropriate.
2: B.I.T.C.H. = Babe In Total Control of Herself; Thank you, Latrice Royale.


Last edited on 6 March 2012 @13.10 (added: “Other Good Phrases to Know” and “Offensive terminology > women-born women”) —I will continue to edit and add stuff as either it occurs to me, or people suggest it.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for almost a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros most of that time. He also paints, makes music, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival subculture of the early 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.
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39 Responses to A No-Nonsense TS/TG 101 For Pagans

  1. Several years ago when I first started seeing cis- words in this context I took offense because they seemed 1) othering 2) overly PC and 3) just plain clumsy and ugly. Then I bothered to do a bit of research and discovered that they were perfectly valid Latin with a long history and my attitude completely changed. Everything is better in Latin. 

    This is a great post, by the way, and something a lot of folks should familiarize themselves with. (Even folks in the Hellenic community – I can think off the top of my head of at least five prominent members who are trans- and that’s just off the top of my head. You can’t really be certain of anything these days, especially when so much of our interactions are carried out online.)

    • Hell, I wasn’t that fond of it at first, but then I always take a while to warm up to neologisms, if they don’t seem to have an apparent purpose. And yes, everything is better in Latin. :-D

      And thanks. :-)

      •  Am not fond of “cis” as an antonym for “trans,” in this application, but I recognize too that all of the available alternatives are in some way worse, or at least are less useful.  So I swallow my discomfort, because being able to communicate is more important.

        •  Yerah, really the best alternatives to “cis-” and “trans-” are “AFAB woman / AMAB men” and “AMAB women and AFAB men”, but not only is that a bit clunky in speech, but it can place undue attention on a TS person’s old assignment of gender in a way that “trans”, comparitively, just kind of glosses over.  “Bio-” or “natal women / men” ignores potential IS conditions that even the person themself may not be out about, if they’re aware of –like, if some-one with CAIS, raised completely as female by their parents, later transitioned to male, they’re still AFAB and TS, but you technically can’t say that they were ever “biologically female”, when considering the biological field’s definition of sex, even though (for the most part) they have an apparently-female physiology.

          And as I pointed out in TWH’s comments, I’m sure at the introduction of the word “heterosexual” to the English-speaking word around 1900-ish, there were people all aghast like, “I’m not this new-fangled ‘heterosexual’, I’m perfectly normal, and there doesn’t need to be a word for that!” —but, alas, their whinging cannot be sourced on the Internet (though I’m sure it would be useful, if I could —or at least get a time machine to document it).  And that really does seem to be the reason why a lot of people in these “debates” are insisting that “cisgender” and its related terms are “offensive”:  They want to keep the comfort and convenience of believing that they’re “normal” and therefore it’s everybody else who’s deviant, rather than accepting that “normal” isn’t always an absolute condition, but more like a spectrum or colour-wheel, where there’s a whole range of relative normality.

          You’d think pagans would have an easier time accepting that there’s more than one way to be “normal” and acceptable, but goddamn, if this doesn’t prove how painfully average the pagan community is.

          •  You’d think pagans would have an easier time accepting that there’s more
            than one way to be “normal” and acceptable, but goddamn, if this
            doesn’t prove how painfully average the pagan community is.

            Oh yeah, tell me about that one.  I was a soldier for 22 years, and for years I’ve been counseling young pagans who are going into the military that people don’t automatically take off their prejudices when they put on a uniform.  I am gravely disappointed to see so much transphobia (and assorted other issues) in the pagan community.  But, unfortunately, I’m not really surprised, because pagans as a group of people aren’t really better or more enlightened than the average collection of people you’ll find at a bus stop on any given working day.  (One of the nice things about being a misanthrope is that when one expects the worst of people, one is so seldom disappointed.)

            The older I get, the more convinced I am that “normal” is not a single something that one can point to, but rather a continuum that cannot be adequately described in fewer than two dimensions.  And for questions of gender and sexual identity I suspect that a mere two dimensions are entirely inadequate.  The nice thing about this is that pretty much everybody qualifies as normal under this system, so there’s no need to waste time and energy worrying about stuff like that, and the only thing left to fret over is whether the person making the pass at you will take a polite “thank you, but no” for an answer.

          • The older I get, the more convinced I am that “normal” is not a single something that one can point to, but rather a continuum that cannot be adequately described in fewer than two dimensions.  And for questions of gender and sexual identity I suspect that a mere two dimensions are entirely inadequate.  The nice thing about this is that pretty much everybody qualifies as normal under this system, so there’s no need to waste time and energy worrying about stuff like that, and the only thing left to fret over is whether the person making the pass at you will take a polite “thank you, but no” for an answer.

            Yes, to all of this here.

    •  Also:  Just edited to include the term “hermaphrodite” and how, in my personal experience this seems more acceptable amongst pagans than amongst the overculture.

  2. Blake Kirk says:

    Thank you for this.  I’m acquainted with two trans women, and your explanations will make it easier for me to deal with them in appropriate and respectful way.

  3. Mam Adar says:

    Chiming in to say thank you for explaining these issues to me more clearly than anything I’ve come across before.

    •  Glad you found it helpful and appreciated it. :-)  As I’ve said before, if you have any ideas on how to improve things a little or a lot, any questions I might be able to answer, feel free to ask and / or suggest.

  4. elfin says:

    You said:
    > trans women tend to internalise some form of what society expects of women,
    > and generally ignore what society expects of men as something for other people,
    > even from a very young age.

    Oh. My. Ghod. YES.

    I’ve been trying to explain that to folks for a while.

  5. Pingback: Sex and Gender Identity: Part 1, Sex | Weaving Wyrd

  6. crow says:

    A bigender person isn’t necessarily someone who is a boy and a girl. There are other genders (gender identities and in some cultures social genders) than a woman or a man. A bigender may be e.g. a girl and some less known gender, like a cat. (I have no idea what kind of gender a cat is, but it is possible to be cat-gendered. I am genderqueer, and my gender is a crow. At least, the idea of crow describes my gender very well.)

    I understand bigender, pangender, and androgyne as types of genderqueer. Not all of them identify as genderqueer, though. There is also a newer word, non-binary. Terminology for lesser known genders isn’t fully developed, yet.

    • Are you serious? Cos you really have to understand that I live in the human world, have spent an absurd amount of time and patience (though, thankfully, absurdly little money) to have my gender taken as seriously as it is today —which, as a whole, isn’t very seriously, considering how often I’m still misgendered, or at least considering that even when it is read properly, I’m effete and very short and so what I have to say is less valuable than my apparently more-conforming and considerably taller house-mate, and not to mention the obnoxious Internet trolls who take South Park too seriously and ask me when I’m going to upgrade to the fictional “dolphinoplasty”.

      I really don’t need people who lack the ability to discern being TS from “otherkin”.

      • crow says:

        I use the word crow metaphorically. The otherkins don’t. I am fully human. My soul isn’t a crow soul. I don’t want to have a bird body. However, I started to have gender dysphoria when my breasts started to grow. I hate to be seen as a woman. I am sure that I am something else. I also describe my gender as a boy. However, it is a kind of boy which is far from people’s ideas of boy-ness. My crow-ness describes this strangeness. Crow-ness is something organic, and in my case, I also view it as something masculine.

        I have spent years finding words for my gender experience, and getting courage to explain it to others. I have suffered and still  regularly suffer from gender dysphoria. I have been in gender identity discussion therapy for more than 1.5 years. The therapist knows that I am serious, and has worked with many trans people before me. I am seeking a transgender diagnosis, which I need for practical reasons. In my home country, word transgender means about the same thing as non-binary or genderqueer.

    •  And no, “bigender”, in common use, means what I said it means:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigender

      • Crow says:

        The Wikipedia article is badly written. It refers to a PDF by APA. According to the footnotes in the article, the bigender definition is from the APA file. However, the APA text doesn’t contain word bigender, only word multigender, and it doesn’t define the word.

        Still, the article says something useful: Because bigender is still a self-applied label, it is not possible to
        give a definitive outline of the typical bigendered person. Any
        description of a bigendered person is just an example of what someone
        who identifies as bigender might be like. Although there are patterns,
        the only firm characteristic is the sense of dual gender.

        Here is an usage example from a forum with bigender members. Notice the explicit explanation at the end of the thread.

        • Your conflation of “common use” with “extreme use” has been noted.

          • Crow says:

            More usage examples: 1, a. Wiktionary implies that bigender can be some less known gender combination. (Don’t you love the situation, when Wikipedia and Wiktionary disagree, and neither article has good sources?)

            There are also many bigender definitions on the web, which speak of two genders, but don’t say what genders they are. Just because you are not familiar with some definition of a word, doesn’t make it extreme.

            And yet I agree with you. Man+Woman is the most common meaning of the term. Use a search engine or listen how maany bigender folks describe their genders. I did neither. I used the definition which I am most familiar with, from a circle of blogs that I read.

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  8. ginandjack says:

    I actually didn’t realize FTM and MTF were a faux pax, since a co-worker of mine describes himself as such. Thank you for the clarification. I’m sure you’ve dealt with a lot of misinformation, yourself.

    • A lot of people don’t, which is why I thought to include it. Like I said, if thats what some-one chooses to identify themself as, that’s fair enough, and there are certainly contextually-appropriate general uses. I could also go on about how it’s very likely that some trans men and women simply identify themselves as “FTMs” and “MTFs” coercivly, because they’ve had it drilled into them to believe they are “notmen” and “notwomen” and thus should identify themselves as such, but what I suspect and what reality may very well be may, in fact, be two different things. As a general rule, though, I always say it’s best for people outside the TS/TG community to err on the side of caution, and be aware that many trans women and men will not appreciate being called “MTFs” and “FTMs” because those terms are often used as a coercive means of erasing one’s gendered experience and the more those terms are used outside of appropriate contexts, the more we get people assuming it’s OK to explicitly tell trans people we’re not the genders we say we are.

  9. Valiel says:

    WOw ! This is awesome ! I first began to think on what sex and gender
    identity is through paganism, and mostly because of the PantheaCon event
    I wanted to understand. That’s how I saw the world brand new, and
    realised how complex those questions are ! I’ve done some research to
    try to get it, those terms, their problems… it’s long and huge. So,
    out of any position in this conflict or anything, thank you for this
    encyclopedia page ! It will help me a lot to understand our society, and
    the people who live in it. Thank’s for my culture.

  10. I am going to preface this with the statement that nothing I am saying here is purposefully confrontational, accusatory, or ignorant. I am seriously frustrated, but that is because I am a learning human being.

    I have a runaway face, and chronic foot-in-mouth disease, which has lead to my first handful of experiences with openly TS/Genderqueer people to be unfortunately upsetting and negative…but I am trying to learn, and so I am asking for a bit of patience. Fair? I hope so. So let’s get on to my point.I really (read: reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaallly) appreciate how level-headed and realistic this article is. You did a beautiful job making it informative without becoming emotional or ham-fisted, but I have to ask you why you included one thing:”Being cisgender is a state of privilege; being transgender is a state of being marginalised.”I obviously understand the -literal- truth of the statement, but I can’t help but feel a certain reaction when reading that. I think it is the curt way that it is stated in an otherwise welcoming article. It shames people for something they have no control over. I have recently been shamed, repeatedly, for being white, male, Canadian, not-poor, and on and on and oooon. And while I understand the need for awareness of others; while I understand the gross lack of sympathy in many people, I don’t think shaming people is the route to understanding. I recognize in myself the fact that my hackles rise when I read things like that because they question who I am as a person, and my negative reaction is an emotional one, but that is a natural reaction to embarrassment or shame. Statements that so glibly say “you are inherently guilty” don’t foster a feeling of sympathy, they call up feelings of mistrust and retaliation. In fighting for equal rights/importance/acceptance it is obviously necessary to point out the uncomfortable truth of privilege, but I cannot help but feel that most of this ‘pointing-out’ is done tactlessly and, in the end, harms the cause.I am getting a bit rambly here, so I am going to link you to a Tumblr blog I wrote earlier about my feelings on White Privilege/White Shame. While it isn’t applicable word-for-word, I think you’ll understand how it relates to how I am currently feeling about Cis- Privilege/Cis- Shame.I hope you can understand what it is I am getting at, because I too am just trying to understand a world that is changing.Thank you.TUMBLR: http://achangingaltar.tumblr.com/post/18376743692/white-privilege-can-suck-my-dick

    • While I understand your preface and, at this point, have no reason to believe it is anything but something you genuinely believe, I see statements like this in your response:

      In fighting for equal rights/importance/acceptance it is obviously
      necessary to point out the uncomfortable truth of privilege, but I
      cannot help but feel that most of this ‘pointing-out’ is done tactlessly
      and, in the end, harms the cause.

      …and I can’t help but have a gut reaction to label this concern trolling.  Acknowledging that you may genuinely be supportive, I’ll play Devil’s Advocate for a mo’ and point to this waste of net.space, which claims some people just unintentionally troll cos they’re poor damaged subhuman dears who simply cannot help it; while I normally wouldn’t recommend reading that dehumanising piece of crap, if using that broadest-brush definition of “trolling”, then it should follow that even people who genuinely believe in a cause can be “concern trolls”.

      Now, clearly I disagree with watering-down the definition of “trolling” to the point where pretty much everybody is “trolling” at some point or another, but the fact is, as an ostensibly cisgender person, you really don’t have as much say as to what “harms the cause” or not as some-one of TS/TG status may have; you can genuinely be the greatest ally in the world, and you still wouldn’t have as much say in these things as a trans person would have.  That’s just how these things work.  Furthermore, at risk of committing an Appeal to Popularity fallacy, I am compelled to point out that you’re apparently the only person out of presumably hundreds who’ve read this article (why less than a dozen felt the need to comment is always a mystery to me, but c’est la vie) who felt strongly enough about that line to respond to it the way you did —wherein you even admit that this may very well be one of those “uncomfortable truths” that needs to be pointed out.  From where I sit, you clearly seem to be admitting a personal failing that needs to be worked on before you can begin to progress as an ally to trans people.

      I mean, really, if you found the rest of the post so “welcoming” and “level-headed”, as you yourself put it, then what is it about that one line that you find so apparently “tactless” to be “shaming”?  If this is not something that you can easily explain, then I urge you to think about it long and hard until either you can explain it, or you can admit that perhaps you interpreted as “shaming” nothing more than the fact that this was one of those uncomfortable truths —after all, don’t we call them “uncomfortable truths” for a reason? 

      • I apologize for this late reply; I didn’t realize that you had approved my comment, let alone replied to it. Thanks for that.
        You’ve given me plenty to think on.
        I’m just going to leave it at that.

        Again, thanks.

  11. Lauren Elizabeth says:

    please pardon any ignorance that may come through in this post I’m still learning and going through my own journey.  First awesome article! ^_^ Secondly, I must say first that I have realized I was and identified as bisexual for almost 7 years now.  Until I started hanging out at my tranfer college’s lgbt space a year ago I was very ignorant of anything beyond, some people like boys, some girls, some both, and some people want to be a boy or girl. Really simple stuff.  When I started hanging out there I got to learn about trans* things and terms, one being genderqueer, which led to many more realizations about myself and began my own journey of gender.  During all this time I never saw bisexuality as simply only being able to love two binary sexes, so when I starting asking myself questions about my gender my bisexuality was never in conflict with that. The more I hung out at the lgbt space and learned about trans* things the more the term pansexual popped up. I did my research thing on the internet and found several places with slightly different definitions of pansexuality, and they all felt like they fit with my own feelings, but they always felt really similar to the definitions of bisexuality.

    One thing I notice with pansexuality’s definition is, I think every time I have seen it, has been worded in such as way that is inclusive to all gender identities, whereas still sometimes I come across binary definitions of bisexuality, but more often that not the two words definitions look almost identical to me and I identify with both.  Now at the same time, when I see these two sexualities defined together to show their differences, (I want to avoid saying every time, but it feels that way, maybe once or twice this wasn’t the case) whenever it is a pansexual blog or blogger they almost always define bisexuality in binary terms, when more often then not bisexual groups and bloggers do not define themselves this way.  Whenever I see bisexual bloggers define bisexuality they usually use the more inclusive definitions, and when they define pansexuality, it is generally the same inclusive definitions I’ve seen for pansexuality from other pan posts/blog by pan people.At this point, until I can figure out what the clear differences are between being pan and bi I apply them both to myself, because so far the only clear differences I can tell from pan vs bi commentary on their own sexualities is that the discussion of pansexuality tends to be geared towards gender identities and politics, whereas discussions of bisexuality tend to be geared towards sexual identities and politics. I do believe the two are different, or else I don’t think people would feel the need to have two words.  I also, believe that yes there are bisexuals who are only attracted to binary genders and some that feel more like they are attracted to their own gender and to genders not their own (like myself), but I can’t make any sort of statement about pansexuality because I simply don’t know and I want to know.  Preferably without having to wade through willfully ignorant rubbish from both fronts.

    sigh… I kinda felt like all was a rant now…I really do want to understand.

    • To be perfectly honest, I’m not completely sure what you’re asking me.

      Personally, yes I agree with you (I think?) in that “bisexual” and “pansexual” are *really* similar in usage, and my house-mate, who was an activist in the early 1990s, also co-managed Michigan State U’s Queer campus radio show at the time, and has identified as “bisexual” since 1989 —well, he feels “pansexual” as a sexual identity is just the new face of biphobia.

      If we take the less-common usage of “bigender” in a similar direction for “bisexual”, then yes, it’s completely possible for “bisexual” personal to be attracted to all sorts of gender identities; there’s a song by a band I like, Fosca, and the line in their song goes “now you’re swinging both ways, boys as well as men”. As a gender identity, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that “boys” and “men” are two distinct forms of male genders that need not be dependent on age, so would some-one who’s interested in both be bisexual and gay? Sure, works for me.

      On a personal note, I don’t have that much invested in either “bi-” or “pansexual” as sexual identities, as my sexual attractions would rate a Kinsey 5 (basically, on rare, circumstantial occasions, I might be attracted to a woman), so I identify as “gay” for convenience sake —it’s easier to be publicly gay than to deal with (ostensibly cis) lesbian tranny-chasers who think their vaginas absolve them from having to take a hint.

      It’s also been my experience that at least half of the people who identify as “pansexual” tend to describe it along the lines of “I’m into ALL genders, especially/ trans people! Mmmm! yummy dickgurls n vagbois!” Maybe not that gross, but that 50%+ always has a really apparent chaser vibe. Like I said, that’s just my experience, but it’s really coloured the way I think of people who identify as “pansexual” that makes it so “the good ones”, who I know intellectually “are out there” have to make some sort of an effort to de-sully the term before I can really view it favourably. My experiences with people who self-identify with the term is that it’s such a uselessly open term that it’s really easy to self-define it as something like “I’m attracted to women and notwomen” or “I’m attracted to women and notmen” (interestingly, I seldom see it used in such ways in the gay community, just people who are really perversely invested in an identity that implies an overwhelming predominance in being sexually attracted to women) or any other way that basically ungenders TS people. To a much lesser degree, I see “queer”, as a sexual identity, used in a similar way, but due to the political and activist implications of “queer”, I don’t see that sort of implied cissexism as much.

      • Lauren Elizabeth says:

        yeah… I’m sorry all of that just exploded everywhere, but I didn’t want to take it down in case you had any thoughts on the matter.  And now it feels like my comment was really irrelevant to the post. I just…. want to believe that pansexuality is it’s own distinct thing and not a product of biphobia, and if it is it’s own thing how it is distinct. I guess I want the slight pressure I felt to identify as pan instead of bi at the lgbt space at my college to have been people trying to help me find a more descriptive term for myself rather than a product of biphobia.  But I suppose I can be nieve. 

        • Just to hazard a guess as the Ambien is kicking in:  It could be a little of both?  Like, perhaps they thought you genuinely needed a better word to describe your sexual identity, and yeah, maybe some biphobia came into play, be it conscious or subconsciously guided.  Personally, I never really thought that “bisexual” was a “binary-restricted” sexuality, and that there are naturally going to be many ways to be bisexual.  I’ve never run into a good argument for why there *needs* to be both terms (though I included it in my article because at this point it’s hard to deny that “pansexual is the new bi-”); for my housemate, he describes his bisexuality with “the binary as the starting point, but not limited to that by any means”.  Some bisexuals I know are rather… “butchsexual” and are attracted to scruffier men and women (and open to any-one in-between), but not fems of any gender; my best friend P is a formerly-bisexual and early-onset Late-in-Life-Lesbian who has always been rather “femsexual”, and both her ex husbands are pretty effete (though one clearly more than the other).  I know some people into butch women and fem men, and others into strictly vice-versa.  Then there are people who may consider themselves bi- because, while their sexuality is clearly toward a single gender or gender spectrum, they’re using the term to imply that they don’t care what your genitals look like (even most IS people, even the never-corrected group, have something that looks more like one set or the other) –a lot of trans people don’t appreciate that kind of [i]seeming[/i] genital fixation, if it’s mentioned upfront, but as I noted in the article, if you’re clearly into some-one and not actually fixating on what’s in their pants, then that will show.

          It just goes to logic that if there are non-binary gender-fluid people identifying as “bigender”, then there is plenty of room for “bisexual” to include sexuality beyond the binary.

          I really feel like I’m painting an unfair picture of “pansexual” for you now, cos I really don’t think it’s a very useful term —I have a personal experience that gives me a bias against it, considering its adoption by tranny chasers who think it’s a “get out of being creepy free” card, and yeah, in a way, it simply reinforces bisexual erasure and other staples of biphobia.  Pansexual *can be* a good word, if used right (at least I hope it can), but I’ve seen little evidence of this in practise.  I’ve never seen any-one but the oldest and most rigid bisexuals insist that there were absolutely only “two genders” and state transphobic things, but I’ve seen plenty of people identifying as “pansexual” putting those things in the mouth of the bisexual community.  In the last twenty years, I’ve also noticed that the bi and TS/TG communities seem to just be natural allies in the face of bourgeoisie cis-normative gays and lesbians seeking acceptance over tolerance and being willing to (at times) through would-be allies in the B&T communities under the bus.

          • Lauren Elizabeth says:

            it might have been both… but I think it is kind of telling at least with that group that not a lot of bisexuals hang out there for long.  Also, I noticed that with that group of people a lot of the people that identified as pan usually were trans* identified, and more specifically genderqueer identified.  but, no I don’t think you’ve painted a bad picture of pansexuality for me.  on the note of creepers adopting the word pansexual, there are certainly people that have taken up the words bisexual, polyamorous, or kinky to feed their creeperness.

            other than that I’ll try to keep researching pansexuality to figure it out how it is unique. hope its not some weird biphobia/erasure. *fingerscrossed*

          • Well, that’s good.  And I really hope that my own elaboration on my experiences with the term “bisexual” doesn’t make GQ people feel like I’m trying to erase their experiences.  As I’ve already noted, I only really fit the broadest definitions of “bisexual”, but at the same time, it’s been really popular for decades (at the very least), even in the GBLT community, to hate on bisexuality, which is kind of repugnant, if you know enough of the history of the GBLT rights movement to know a lot of the people who were integral to a lot of the good that’s happened in the last forty years?  Yep, bisexual.  Why even the queer community is so hell-bent on hating bisexuality just mystifies me; it’s probably coming from the same sort of place that leads so many trans women to just hate on drag queens and sex workers.

            Personally, I think I makes sense to be GQ (or any other third sex identity) and bi- —it can mean that you’re attracted to people with a traditional gender, and those without a traditional gender.

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  13. Erin says:

    I want to say, first off, great article.  I’m a transwoman myself, and I learned a few things from this.

    Just a comment, but I use MtF a lot when describing myself to others at this juncture, since I”m still going through transition at this point.  I wouldn’t use it later in life when I feel my transition is complete because it does “other” me.  At that point, I am a woman, not a half-girl or trannie or anything like that.  But right now, while the process is continuing (hormones to grow breasts, pre-electrolosys for my face, so on) I feel it is a perfectly valid and non-insulting means of describing myself.  

    I wouldn’t be upset at all if someone used it to describe me, once again, while I’m undergoing the process of transition.  

    But other than that, I like this post a lot.  Thank you.

    • Hey, that’s your prerogative, and I’m pretty sure I noted that there will be exceptions who self-identify with certain terms that would normally be considered bad manners —I’m personally interacted with two people who identified with the term “shemale”, one a “radical” uni student who thinks it’s a stand in solidarity with sex-workers, and one who describes himself as a “gender-bent gay man” who got breast implants “for fun and profit” (as a drag queen and as a personal fetish).

      I will note, though, that I see sentiments similar to your more from trans women than I do from trans men, if only because trans men have pretty crap-tacular genital reconstruction options, so a lot of trans men simply opt out of genital surgery on the logic of “why spend all that money and risk the loss of sexual sensitivity on something that will barely do half of what it’s supposed to?” Even a metadioplasty isn’t without its problems, and I’ve never heard a single good thing about urination with a meta cock w/ urethral extension. Basically, trans men will always have to out ourselves in bed, and so the only logical options are to either begrudgingly accept that one will always “look in-between” and adopt an identity that reflects that, no matter how ill-fitting it feels, *or* defiantly define ourselves as men, no matter how we look with our clothes off and the lights on. Don’t get me wrong, I know that MTF genital surgeries for trans women aren’t “ideal” in several ways, and Hedwig-like complications and botchings are more common than some may think, but, I can also see how the expectations of one’s available surgical options may colour how they see themselves.

  14. ErynneRose says:

    I just read this over for the second time and understand it much better.  (I was getting hung up the difference between transgender and transsexual).  Thank you for the thorough explanation, including the section about potentially offensive comments. 

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