Tuesday, 27 May 2014

It’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it

Here are a few comments taken from here on the article in The Guardian entitled: Against Me's Laura Jane Grace slams Arcade Fire for transgender video that I already mentioned in an earlier post here.

This isn't a video about a transsexual girl, not to me. It's about a transvestite girl. Transvestites aren't welcome in the TG community by many transsexual girls, who resent the sexual aspect mudding up their waters. It's quite odd when you think we're their natural cheerleaders.

received the following response:

Transvestite is to transgender people what the N word is to black people. Please do not use it. I believe the term you were looking for was drag queen. Or transgender (which is a broad term that can refer to a host of types of people, from drag queens to cross dressers to transsexuals).

to which I replied:

Actually, I know many transgendered people that aren't at all offended by the term "transvestite".

to which another replied:

As a trans woman, I am deeply offended by anyone that tries to call me a "transvestite". The term is ONLY properly applied to cis folk that like to dress as the opposite sex for personally gratification, not as part of their actual identity.

I can understand that someone identifying themselves as a trans woman is offended by people referring to her as a transvestite.

I am, though, a bit saddened that a trans woman doesn’t realise that a person that identifies themselves as transvestite might feel offended by someone who refers to them as simply cis folk that like to dress as the opposite sex for personally gratification, not as part of their actual identity.

Maybe it depends a bit on exactly what the word gratification is intended to mean.

But many, many of the people that I know that identify with the term transvestite would also say that it is part of their actual identity. It isn’t just about some kind of gratification. It’s a means of self expression.

Maybe there’s a  difference in meaning of the word transvestite in the UK compared with the USA. Since The Guardian is a UK-based newspaper – as am I (UK based, that is, but not a newspaper) I’ve stuck with the UK meaning of the word.

Here are a few definitions from the Gender Dysphoria section of the National Health Service Web Site:

Gender terminology

Gender dysphoria is a complex condition that can be difficult to understand. Therefore, it helps to distinguish between the meanings of different gender-related terms:

  • gender dysphoria – discomfort or distress caused by a mismatch between a person’s gender identity and their biological sex assigned at birth
  • transsexualism – the desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to have treatment to make their physical appearance more consistent with their gender identity
  • transvestism – where a person occasionally wears clothes typically associated with the opposite gender (cross-dressing) for a variety of reasons
  • genderqueer - an umbrella term used to describe gender identities other than man and woman - for example, those who are both man and woman, or neither man nor woman, or moving between genders

I think the term for a variety of reasons is important here. Maybe many transvestites also fall into the genderqueer category as well.

Actually quite a lot of people don’t fall into such neat categories at all. 

People are often more complex than that.

Also, this article is interesting: Transvestites and cross-dressing at netdoctor.

To be honest, I can cope with people that use incorrect terminology through ignorance. I’m using the word ignorance in a non-stigmatic kind of way here. If a person has never been told something then how can they be expected to know all about it?

Quite often it’s not the actual words that people use that are hurtful and offensive. Always it’s the way that the words are used and the context that they are used in that makes all the difference.

I thought a lot before using the word “Always” in the sentence above. But I think it’s the right word.

I think that’s the reason I find it difficult to understand why some transgendered people have had such a big problem with the video, and even more difficult to understand the way in which some have expressed their dissatisfaction.

Whatever the video is, I’m sure in my own heart that the intension was good.

But if I had been involved in the production of it I could easily have felt quite offended at the following comment. It uses smooth words, but they have sharp edges:

Yet another attempt by segment s of the cisgender community to marginalize transgender folk. The band's spokesperson made matters worse by slapping whitewash on their video by trying to claim this was really about a gay boy and his father. Caught in a lie and no way out must be very uncomfortable for the band, right now.

Creative license is one thing. Outright lying to save ones "pride" is another. The trans community has every right to be outraged by this latest example of denigration and the subsequent attempt by the abusers to cover their tracks.

Maybe I’m being too picky/fussy in all of this.

What do you guys, girls and genderqueer folk think?

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