I'm not a researcher on the subject, but I've done a lot of thinking (and reading) about gender identity. Think of gender as a spectrum. At one end is "pure femininity" and the other "pure masculinity" (just as the sexuality scale they taught in school is "heterosexual" to "homosexual"). Try to separate out biology (sex; male/female), gender identity (masculine/feminine), and sexuality (hetero/gay) to some extent. For example, there are the stereotypes of effeminate men ("flaming" gay men), and masculine women ("butch" lesbians). These stereotypes are generally recognized in our society... even if they usually don't hold true.
Society tends to accept more of the stereotype of an ultra-feminine genetic female or ultra-masculine genetic male. However, as with all stereotypes, they don't fit most people. Most people are, in fact, at least a little in from the poles... Not totally feminine or masculine; but mostly so. Graphically, you could represent gender, biology, and sexuality as something like:
Gender: X--------------------------------X--------------------------------X Feminine Both/Androgynous Masculine Biology (sex): X--------------------------------X--------------------------------X Female Hermaphrodite (Intersexed) Male Sexuality: X--------------------------------X--------------------------------X Heterosexual Bi/asexual Homosexual/Lesbian
You could probably place yourself somewhere on each of these scales. Well, TransGendered (TG) people-- Transvestites (TV's) or CrossDressers (CD's), and Transsexuals (TS)-- are typically people who are on one end of the biology scale (e.g. male), but have gender characteristics, to some degree, of the "opposite" gender (e.g. feminine). Thus they are Trans-Gendered. Crossing the gender line is usually defined in relation to a particular biology, male or female. In addition, most people don't distinguish between Masculine and Male, and Feminine and Female. In other words, most people don't distinguish between sex and gender; they're often used synonymously.
As an example of a strong gender difference, a "Male-To-Female" (MTF) TS is someone who is "a woman trapped in a man's body". They are biologically male, but identify their gender as female... and often have Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) to change the appearance of their biology to match their gender. They may be anywhere on the sexuality scale... heterosexual (a hetero MTF TS would thus like men) to homosexual (a homosexual MTF TS is a lesbian). The same goes for Female-To-Male TS's. Confused yet?
Well, the confusion of terms grows a little from here...
I like the definitions found on the Transgender Nation T-Primer page, and I've repeated them here.
Anyway, some people define "TransGenderists" as people who live full-time in a gender opposite their birth sex, with no desire to pursue surgery (in fact, Dr. Virginia Prince, coined the term). However, I'd prefer to categorize these people as non-operative TS's. The problem is in vocabulary having never been all that precise. After all, TS's don't actually change their biological sex (now that would be a neat trick ;-); but do change their apparent sex-- they change, through surgery, outward sexual characteristics such as genitalia and the like. Thus TS's are more precisely, IMHO, TransGendered individuals who are full-time and may go through SRS at some point. However, it's much shorter to say "TS" than "Full-time, post-operative (or pre-operative) TG" for example... and we humans do like efficiency. ;-)
Anyway, a TV or CD, on the other hand, is typically (or at least stereotypically) a heterosexual male, who enjoys expressing feminine traits (or just wearing feminine clothing). Most Transvestites prefer the term Crossdresser (CD). CD's may crossdress for gender expression, sexual pleasure, as a fetish, or whatever. A CD may simply have a fetish for some one article of clothing (e.g. high heels), or may try to look and act totally feminine... wig, makeup, breast prosthetics, etc. and go out in public this way. You'll note I generally refer to CD's as male. CD's are, in fact, mostly male. I believe this is primarily because women both have won the right to wear men's (or menswear inspired) clothes in public, and have more freedom of gender expression in society; and thus don't generally have the desire to crossdress.
Most people use CD and TV interchangeably (the literal meanings are the same; to wear clothes of the opposite sex/biology). I used to define CD to mean more feminine expression than feminine appearance, but I'm reconsidering my definition-- particularly in light of CD being the preferred label for TV's. However, this leaves me w/out a good word to describe what I consider to be some key differences among TV's/CD's. Some MTF CD's tend to focus on looking female, but not necessarily matching the emotional or behavioral aspects of femininity. So there are CD's somewhere between a CD who may look female but doesn't act female, and how MTF TS's embrace a full expression of their femininity. Of course, some MTF TS's can be "butch" (masculine-acting); but most are as feminine as the majority of born women.
Soooo... That brings us to me. Where do I fit on these scales or in these descriptions? I consider myself a CD. I have both masculine and feminine gender characteristics; so I'm sort of near the middle on gender. I have some characteristics of secondary TS's; but I won't go into that hair-splitting discussion here. Most of the time my outward appearance is masculine: I work as a man, I see most of my friends as a man, etc. However, my personality includes "feminine" traits. I'm very empathetic, emotional, and communicative. I have a somewhat feminine style of speech (but not generally in pitch or musicality unless I try; I still get called 'sir' on the phone). I will sometimes say I'm a woman choosing to be in a man's body. So, anyway, who I am is a mixture of both masculine and feminine.
The Oriental concept of "Yin" and "Yang," masculine and feminine, being integrated in the whole person is a model I like (though I honestly don't know alot about it). It's why I combined the common TG symbol out there with the Yin and Yang symbols (which you see at the beginning of this paragraph)... So I'm a balance, or blending, of Yin and Yang. As I said on my main page, though, I think I'm pretty much the same person regardless of what gender (male or female) I'm presenting...
Now that I've gone through definitions, and where I am at within those definitions, I must point out that I don't really think it's adequate. After all, how does one explain the subtleties of human expression? I hope I've explained things in a way for you to begin to understand if you didn't already: The separation between gender, biological sex, and sexuality. I could explain further how being TransGendered forces one to move through, or beyond, societal stereotypes of gender. To challenge the binary system our society holds of what's female or male, hetero or gay, masculine or feminine... and how it doesn't apply to everyone. I think, though, at some level these are all ways to describe the transitory spirit we all have. Life does not, and people do not, fit nicely into little boxes. How nice that is! :)
If you're still confused by all this talk of TransGenderism, or discovering that there's a whole, wide, wonderful community of us out here, then I encourage you to visit My links to useful sites
If you want to read a great book about a spouse's thoughts on crossdressing (and gender), please visit the website for My Husband Betty (opens a new window) and buy the book from Helen Boyd, the (nome de plume of the) author.
Well, you may be interested in Kim's Thoughts on Sexuality now, or you may simply wish to return to My Home Page.
This page last updated on 11 May, 2002.
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