Gender Identity Disorder? Gender dysphoria? What is all of that about?
sex (def. 1); see also gender identity and gender role.
gender identity disorder a disturbance of gender identification in which the affected person has an overwhelming desire to change their anatomic sex or insists that they are of the opposite sex, with persistent discomfort about their assigned sex or about filling its usual gender role; the disorder may become apparent in childhood or not appear until adolescence or adulthood. Individuals may attempt to live as members of the opposite sex and may seek hormonal and surgical treatment to bring their anatomy into conformity with their belief (see transsexualism). It is not the same as transvestismgender dysphoria gender dysphoria [jen´der] [dis-for´e-ah] (Gr.) unhappiness with one’s biological sex or its usual gender role, with the desire for the body and role of the opposite sex.
“Imagine waking up in the morning and discovering that you had a penis… and testicles. How would that make you feel?” That is how I typically describe gender dysphoria to a cisgender woman who doesn’t seem to “get it” in any other way. Similarly, “Imagine waking up in the morning and discovering that your penis is gone,” is how I generally describe it to clueless cisgender men. Granted, this is an over-simplified explanation of gender dysphoria and not strictly accurate, but it comes close and is better understood by cisgender people who don’t seem to “get it” any other way. I really don’t like reducing people to genitals—it just adds to incorrect stereotypes that already abound about TG/TS people, but it’s a good place to start. Furthermore, describing the experience of being a woman as “lacking” a penis is quite sexist, not only in its androcentrism but in its phallocentrism. But, again, for people lacking in the ability to think abstractly, it works.
In case you’ve noticed, my blog is biased somewhat in favor of trans women. I try to give equal time to trans men, as I know that trans men, having often been mistaken for “butch” lesbians have historically been “invisible,” hence the erroneous almost universal belief that that most trans* people are MTF (male to female). Most of my interaction and experience has been with trans women and to be honest, I don’t really “get” some trans men. For the most part, my interactions with trans people have been “up close and personal:” The very experience of being TG/TS is very emotional and personal… the way women tend to interact with each other. Trans men are, well… men… and their communication style (in my thus far limited experience) seems to mirror the patterns of (most) cisgender men, and while I get along with a lot of cis men on a certain level, I find that many of them are quite limited in their communication skills, particularly surrounding emotional issues. I am not claiming to know for a fact whether this is nature or nurture, but I suspect that it is a combination of both, with emphasis on nurture. When you think about it, trans men having communication styles mirroring that of cisgender men is pretty amazing, considering that they were socialized as girls.
Then there is the issue of male privilege. I don’t know how they manage it, having been socialized as girls, but some of the trans men I’ve run into have mastered the arrogance and condescending derision towards women (unconscious though it may be) that goes along with male privilege. Some act as though they are the authority on every subject, interrupting and talking over women. Granted, they may have always acted this way, but that air of “male superiority” that most women recognize when they encounter it is part of some trans men’s behavior and I don’t like being around men like that, whether trans or cis.
As a clinical social worker and a longtime observer of people, it would be fascinating for me to watch a group of cis and trans women and cis and trans men interact, both with and without everyone knowing the gender status (i.e., cisgender or trans*) of the other participants. I wonder whether male privilege is so engrained that the trans men, having spent years socialized as girls, would defer to the cis men. I do believe that the trans men would dominate the cis (and trans) women, but this might depend upon whether or not everyone is aware of each other’s gender status. Of course, no absolute conclusions could be drawn from a single observational study and it would be unlikely that adequate sample sizes could be obtained to replicate the results to determine reliability, but it certainly would be fun to watch!
One instance of the arrogance of male privilege came up on a TV documentary series about trans people. There was a trans man who applied to, was accepted and admitted to Smith College, a small, private liberal arts college for women and one of the Seven Sisters while he was living as a girl and had not yet come out. During his time at Smith, he came out and began his transition. Having graduated from Bryn Mawr College, also a small, private liberal arts college for women and another of the Seven Sisters, I felt resentful that this person—a man—had the arrogance and audacity to believe that he should be permitted to remain at Smith despite his identity as a man (Smith did let him stay, perhaps fearful of a lawsuit.) I know that if this happened at Bryn Mawr, I would be outraged, while I would fight for the right of a trans woman to attend and would adamantly protest against anyone who challenged her right to use the bathrooms (after all, men were permitted to use bathrooms, even in the women-only dormitories.) A woman’s college is a woman’s college–why should a man have the right to attend? Women’s colleges exist for a reason–to provide education for women. I think that a trans man expecting the right to attend a woman’s college smacks of male entitlement and constitutes the expectation of “special rights.”—NOT transphobia. Any thoughts on this?
I get it when trans women talk about boobs—breasts seem to symbolize womanhood in our culture and talking about them is a normal part of adolescence, which is what hormone therapy essentially creates in trans women. Vaginas, labia, clitorises… I “get” them. But getting excited about hair growing on the face and other weird places on the body, guidelines for choosing a binder (a garment worn under a shirt, used to “bind” the breasts tightly to the chest in order to conceal them, and the benefits of various types of packers (prosthetic penises and testicles worn inside the underwear to create a bulge in the pants; different types have, uh… additional functions—functions that are accomplished by a penis in a cisgender man… oh, FFS, use your imagination or google it, I am NOT going to draw you a picture!) are things I just cannot relate to, no matter how hard I try. And I certainly cannot relate to the desire for a real penis!