Has the term “transgender” become too broad in its usage?

12 Feb

The term transgender is tossed about quite a bit these days with few people really understanding what it means. Like many words, it once had a very specific meaning that over time grew to cover more and more ground, While it goes without saying that in it’s broadest sense it encompasses nearly everything, it raises the question as to whether or not the term has become too broad and therefore of little value as a term for identification.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines transgender as: Having personal characteristics (as transsexuality or transvestitism) that transcend traditional boundaries and corresponding sexual norms.

Basically that means anyone who identifies as transsexual or crossdresses would be transgender. While that doesn’t seem bad, the term transgender in it’s everyday use has grown to encompass so many people that in actuality share so little in common, that if someone where to identify them self as transgender you have a laundry list of options to choose from. The person may be transsexual, a transvestite, a crossdresser, drag king/queen, genderqueer, intersexual, or a person that identifies as one of these groups emotionally but not necessarily outwardly. That’s a whole lot of people.

The bone of contention with many people that belong to one of these groups is they often don’t want to be confused with one of the others. To someone outside the community this may seem silly, but for many people defined as transgender it is a very touchy subject. You will often find transsexuals and drag kings/queens (DQK) who are revolted by being lumped in with crossdressers (CD’s) and transvestites (TV’s). There are plenty of DQK that are disgusted by being mistaken as TV’s or CD’s. By the same token there are plenty of TV’s and CD’s who want nothing to do with being identified along with transsexuals. We’ve established that there are plenty of people that seem to want to be recognized as who and what they are.

That brings up the next question which is what are they all?

Under APA 94 transvestitism is a fetish. Transvestite people do not like hearing that, but that is what the medical community defines that behavior as. Transvestic fetishism is defined as:

A. Over a period of at least 6 months, in a heterosexual male, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving cross-dressing.

B. The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

* Specify if: With Gender Dysphoria: if the person has persistent discomfort with gender role or identity.

This defines a very specific type of behavior which as we discuss the other concerned groups will help identify the similarities if any and differences between each group by using this definition as a baseline. Note in particular point B in that this deals with sexual urges and fantasies as that is significant.

A crossdresser is often confused with a transvestite, however there is one glaring difference; crossdressers do not wear clothing of the opposite sex for any form of sexual gratification, but rather as a coping mechanism to deal with anxiety or stress related issues. While they may appear exactly the same on the outside, the motivations are very different.

Gnderqueer people see them self as a person that does not fit into the binary gender system. They may identify as both male and female or something altogether different which cannot be defined. Some of these people may pursue the physical characteristics of either sex in whole or part or none at all preferring to be altogether different more along the lines of genderless or agender. A genderqueer considers them self to be a member of the third sex.

Moving along Drag Kings and Queens will dress in clothing which is associated to the opposite gender, but their motivation is usually monetary. These people are performers, they only take on the opposite gender persona they develop for this purpose. It is not a part of their sexual or gender identity in any way.

Intresexed persons are those whom are born with both male and female anatomic characteristics to varying degrees or in which the appearance of the external genitalia is ambiguous or differs from that characteristic of the gonadal or genetic sex. This again is a very specific type of person, about 0.018% of all births, and they are generally only associated with the term transgender because the condition is so rare and society is so fond of labeling, this was the only category that seemed to make sense. Worth noting is that the term intersex is currently being phased out as was hermaphrodite, and replaced with DSD 9Disorders of Sex Development.).

Finally there is the transsexual community. The popular misconception here is that transsexuals are defined as people whom have undergone Gender reassignment surgery which is false. A Transsexual is a person with strong and clearly defined cross gender feelings and a revulsion of their own primary/secondary sexual characteristics and physically born gender role which causes clinically significant stress, impairment, or or decreased functioning. A transsexual person whether surgically altered or not has a clear definition of self and does not temporarily assume a cross gender persona as do crossdressers or transvestites.

With all of that having been laid out it is clear to see that the term transgender has grown unwieldy. It encompasses such an incredibly diverse group of people who in all honesty don’t have that much in common. While the term transgender is convenient to use, it is diluted beyond any truly specific meaning. Whether the term will ever be discarded and people will be identified as they identify them self is unknown, but it certainly can be justified. If you don’t believe that, walk into a room with people from each group currently under this umbrella term, ask the transgenders to raise their hand, and notice how few do. Transgender is a dying term.

DSM IV

http://www.transgender.org/gidr/kwawp96.html

http:/ /wiki.susans.org/index.php/Intersexed

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