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an argument against sub-categorisation

I mentioned here the other day I don't much care for the term "crossdresser" and I could pick on other terms but this one will do to illustrate my point.

When I was younger there was much more internet material dealing with curing crosdressing desires than we see today. This is because it was treated, even by many of us, like a mental addiction instead of as a way of honoring a transgender identity. Many people suffered under the notion that they were depraved or mentally ill and I was certainly one of them.

I have come to do a complete about face which is why I don’t like the use of too many blanket terms as they are far too general and cannot adequately describe what constitutes an entire person.

You are who you are and part of the time (or even all of it) may be spent wearing the clothes traditionally associated with the opposite gender. This does not mandate that you label yourself in any way. You may do this for fun or because it is helpful in treating your dysphoric feelings. Your reason need only be relevant to you.

People who advocate “healing from crossdressing” imply that it is somehow inherently wrong and, if it causes you mental distress, then perhaps it is best to stop. Conversely if it makes you happy and brings you balance why would you choose to do so?

Very few millennials use the term “crossdresser” but there are a few odd exceptions here and there. Baby boomers are far more likely to have fallen prey to this moniker perhaps as a way to ensure no one confused them with transsexuals and because this was part of our language at the time so they stuck with it. But please remember that these terms are born in the 20th century and every era and culture has had a different terminology for transgender people over the span of human history.

The preference today for an umbrella term like transgender ensures we capture all forms of gender non-conformity related to identity which includes people who choose to transition and live as the opposite gender; many transitioned women today proudly call themselves transgender. What I like about this is that it helps avoid overuse of definitions which confuse the public and only serve to open rifts within a community that has enough problems with the general population as it is.

Transgender people have existed for millennia, are never going to disappear and, for the vast majority of human history, transitions were only a pipe dream. Hence, the less the amount of terms we use, the better will be the self-acceptance for those of us who form part of this small but not insignificant segment of the population.

Besides, people who identified as one thing for a time sometimes found out that they had been wrong all along. All the more reason to avoid sub-categorisation.

Here is one such example where a baby boomer is accustomed to self-identifying as a crossdresser and who I think is much closer to a Benjamin type IV transsexual who is living full time. Labels can mean what you want them to I suppose.


Comments

  1. Good point and attitude. Yes, language about us has evolved over time. In recently re-perfoming "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," Laverne Cox questioned whether to continue using lyrics with the word "transvestite" in them because that term has fallen out of favor. (She kept it to honor the intent of the original production.)

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    1. Laverne Cox of all people would be sensitive to transgender terminology and to make sure she is being respectful. But you can't revise a bit of camp for political correctness.

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  2. Agreed, Joanna. "Transgender" itself has several definitions in professional and public usage although I prefer it as an umbrella term.

    I also don't care for crossdresser. It's marginally better than transvestite but both terms are used negatively to my ear.

    I've also not felt comfortable with Harry Benjamin's classifications although I acknowledge how helpful he was for all of us. His classifications are like Schroedinger's Equation: as you look closer to see where you are you find you're not fitting in neatly as the scale suggests you should.

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  3. I completely agree regarding the scale but it made sense during his time to make sense of the variation he was seeing with his patients. Today we would just call that intensity of dysphoria

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    1. Excellent point, I never thought of using that scale to measure dysphoria intensity but it makes sense.

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  4. Not sue I agree that self acceptance is inversely proportionate to the number of terms we employ. Words are one of the best tools lie species has at its disposal to understand the world, communicate that understanding, and prevent violence.

    To me, labels are like clothes. Try them on. If they don't fit, don't wear them. Or have them tailored. The mistake, to my mind, is in believing they are fixed, and to be imposed from on high, and used to box you in.

    First and foremost I am me, whatever that means, and it need not fit anyone's preconceptions. But distilling and communicating "me" for others to understand is facilitated by my mastery of language.

    In sum, I don't shun subcategorization, personally, as long as I am on the team writing the dictionary.

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