“Trans Bodies, Trans Selves”
is a website and a book published this past spring by Oxford University Press. It is also, from my point of view, a great starting point for looking at “gender” and people who identify as gender non conforming from a healthy affirming, and validating model, rather than society’s traditional model of pathology. This is most likely the definitive book on this subject and covers all aspects, including health and well being, which I aim to discuss in another post.
We tend to assume that the word “transgender” covers a lot of definitions, but interestingly there are individuals who don’t like the term. The term “transgender” can be both affirming and useful to some and not to others in this community. The interesting thing is that over the years the need to define oneself though it has mostly arisen from being treated abusively or marginalized; luckily it has also resulted in a diversity of terms and self identity.
Now at least all of society can start to understand the people who inhabit “trans bodies” and “trans selves”.
The beginning point for this book is to explain certain terms and give definitions and portray the variety of terms that have become choices for self definition. Even the need for self definition through gender is up for question. Why do we need it at all? What would the world be like now if humans had never come up with binary gender at all? This post just touches on some of these points to introduce the topic.
Most people are used to the terms MTF (male to female) and (FTM/F2M) female to male describing a transgendered individual in terms of assigned gender versus affirmed gender. There is assigned female or male at birth, ASFB or ASMB, as well as transgender and “trans”, however over the years many more varied descriptors have arisen often in direct response to people being misunderstood.
The term cisgender used a lot in this book refers to people whose sex and gender match, via meaning “in the same side” while “trans” means on the opposite side (p6) also trans is connected to words like transformation… And I believe it comes from a root meaning of “crossing over” , used in common words like transport and transition. The idea of transitioning is actually important for part of the trams gender community. Some people want to include Gender Affirming Surgery in their transition and others do not. The term Gender Affirming Surgery was new to me and a welcome replacement to the old phrase “Gender Reassignment Surgery”.
I am still confused by the term Transexual versus a Trans gendered individual, as well as use of the word “sex” as indistinguishable from “gender”, as sex in this context seems to be an older more antiquated term. I believe there used to be a distinction between a “transvestite”, a male or female who presents him or herself as the opposite gender through makeup , clothing and other means, often but not always connected to performance and not for the purpose of expressing their Affirmed gender. The term transsexual used to refer to someone who is not a transvestite, someone whose assigned gender at birth does not match their gender identity, which is the main aspect of the concept of transgender versus cisgender.
There are, however, many subsets of people who identify as gender non conforming but are not transitioning through hormones and surgery. For example, some ASFBs who are not heterosexual do not like the term lesbian because it defines that person as female. There is a growing acceptance of people who don’t like labels, whether binary gender or as a definition of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately mainstream society is miles behind; there is a growing understanding of homosexuality, but less of bisexuality and asexuality, much less transgender and non gender.
Some of those who refuse to identify as GLor B use the term “queer” to refer to their sexual orientation and/or gender. Queer is a term that has been reappropriated and transformed from something insulting to an affirming way to define oneself.
What of others who challenge the terms under the GLBTQ umbrella, who engage with none of these terms to define themselves or use different terms, new to mainstream society?
Younger populations sometimes use the terms trans boys or trans girls.
Most have rejected the term hermaphrodite instead using “intersex” to define being born with bodies that don’t “fit” as male or female.
There are many who reject all these classifications and identifications as too narrow, even insulting, and prefer to be male or female or affirmed male affirmed female.
The term Boi is an interesting term as it is used by a diverse group of people to identify as “young carefree and sexually explorative”.
Neutrois means having a gender neutral identity, a non binary gender, neither strictly male or female.
Gender fluid and non gender conforming tend to express someone who sees themselves as having qualities of different maybe not defined genders and/or sees gender binary as limiting and.
An interesting aside: I believe that the concept and activity of interpreting dreams or even tarot cards is one way that people loosen their view of only seeing gender as binary gender. When you are everyone in your dream, you can easily see visually that there are parts of you that are not your birth assigned gender, as well as non genderd parts of you that come in all forms, animals, alien creatures, objects and settings. When people are able to identify with these parts of their dreams, they are engaging in what I would call gender opening, not just “gender bending”. When you read tarot cards, it’s the same thing. A man could get the Empress card in some important place where she embodies some part of himself just as anyone could get the Hanged Man card, a major arcana card that has multiple meanings about spirituality, and so the images on the cards, especially the classic Rider deck, may be gendered and the “querent” the person asking the cards something, will learn about different types of energies within him or herself that are stuck, need attending to, or are helping in some way. These energies within us may be represented by a gendered image but go beyond gender, and this is the relm of the Self. I guess I am suggesting that we all have “Trans selves” within us. This is this a book for everybody to learn from and find enlightenment about what it is to be human and a being…