June 28, 2012 at 9:15 am EDT | by WBadmin
Why not ‘Legalize Transsexualism?’


The medical condition transsexualism is neither equivalent nor subservient to gay, lesbian or bisexual sexual orientations or to transgender identities such as gender queer, cross dresser, transvestite, drag queen/king or gender non-conforming, yet this appears to be the perception some in the LGBT establishment inadvertently communicate to mainstream society, the media and educational outlets.

This complicated matter of conflation, colonization and censorship of transsexual issues lies at the heart of MAGNET’s boycott of GLAAD and American Apparel’s Pride month T-shirts with model Isis King (America’s Next Top Model’s first contestant born with transsexualism) wearing shirts that read “Legalize Gay.”

Professor Joelle Ruby, Ph.D. headed two feminism panels at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference earlier this month. She recently stated on Facebook: “[GLAAD] hires TRANSSEXUAL model Isis King to model…t-shirts that say “Legalize Gay” and “Gay is OK”. They erase King’s transsexualism (AND TRANS RIGHTS in general) to forward their gay-centric agenda. And then they wonder why we critique Gay, Inc.???”

The slogans of the shirts, perhaps unintentionally, send misleading and non-affirming messages of the transsexual community. Isis, who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, is actually a heterosexual female, not “gay.” “Gay” isn’t an umbrella term or interchangeable with “transsexual.” The advertisements feed the misconception that all women like Isis are “gay” males, rather than who they truly are — women, period.

Chanel International, transsexual and transgender communities based counselor at New York City’s Anti-Violence Project, stands with the boycott. In her statement to MAGNET she says, “As my past and present experience working with the community has taught me, those of us who are straight don’t like to be considered anything other than a heterosexual woman. Just as damaging as physical violence could be mental violence, like erasing one’s accurate identity, such as misgendering, causing psychological abuse. I support equality for all; however, Isis should respectfully be recognized as a woman, not a commodity to be co-opted for a gay and lesbian only demographic.” Her remarks reflect her personal views; she was not speaking as a representative of AVP.

GLAAD frequently does good work benefiting the transsexual community. MAGNET has previously worked with GLAAD on successful campaigns. On a personal note, GLAAD played a role in inspiring me to choose to be more visible and to help people in my community tell their stories and harness the media to make change. Yet we won’t follow the transgender umbrella subsidiary of Gay, Inc. that remains silent or professionally profits when GLAAD makes mistakes and condones messaging that misrepresents and mocks us. The cost of voicing dissent may be censorship, character assassination and conniving cyber-bulling, but the cost of choosing silence is worse: A future that puts us into a third gender and sub-woman mold.

It’s unethical to enforce sociopolitical opinions onto another group’s legitimate medical condition, such as how transgender umbrella theorists started doing in the mid-1990s to transsexualism. Our patients’ rights are not a political bargaining chip for gender deconstructionism activists to appropriate.

In theory, the coalition known as LGBTTIQQ is different communities aligning themselves to accomplish a common goal. But what happens when that coalition’s top priority ranks the needs of a particular, more privileged group over the more discriminated against groups? An uprising is what happens. The “Transsexual Spring,” the widespread and growing resistance against misrepresentation, calls for major reform in education concerning our birth challenge. Our health care, medical-based narrative and social well being won’t be compromised or worked against by notions of pro-segregation, malpractice, history revisionism and the tolerance of sex discrimination. We hope our educational campaign will spark dialogue that leads to honesty, healing and harmony. Our much larger goal is promoting media depictions with messages that affirm, rather than misgender.

MAGNET asks supporters to buy tees with alternative slogans such as “Legalize Transsexualism,” “We Will Not Be Erased” or “‘Transsexual’ Will Not Be Censored.” Join the online discussion at the ‘Transsexual’ Will Not Be Censored Facebook page, facebook.com/#!/groups/242017769243699.

More than this boycott, we ask GLAAD to foster respect, democracy, responsibility and accuracy by reforming its practices and media guide section on transsexual-related representation.

Ashley Love is a transsexual and intersex advocate and an organizer of Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transsexual and Transgender People (MAGNET). Reach her at [email protected].

  • Very well said Ashley. It is about time that someone stood up for the rights of transsexuals and questioned the motives of transgender activists and some LGBT groups. They are trying to marginalise transsexuals and erase us from history.

    We have a recognised medical condition based on our need to change our physical sex therefore to suggest that the needs of someone, whose only requirement is to change their clothes, are even remotely similar is utter nonsense. Transgender individual have the right to express themselves in any way they want, they do not however have the right to demand they have the same medical condition as transsexuals. Its about time society woke up to their lies.

  • Wasn’t the term transsexualism erased in favour of gender identity disorder, and then again by gender dysphoria? I understand the issue that gender is very different from orientation, and that one requires interventions and the other does not. So why not use the current agreed diagnostic term? Personally, I find whenever one group battles another, all lose. Trans people just need to independently assert their presence and validity, which is difficult when many of us, as you say, just feel like normal people in a normal gender role, just not born that way. There is a time for LGBT(+) in terms of stopping sex and gender-base discrimination, but LGB doesn’t represent the problems of T(GD) which are quite different, and nothing at all can be assumed about orientation among T people.

    • Andie, I appreciate most of what you say, but I feel strongly that adopting the nomenclature in the DSM of a mental health disorder as an identity label is not the way to go. Transsexualism appeared in the DSM in 1980, was replaced by Gender Identity Disorder (largely in name only) in 1994, and GID may very well also be erased from the DSM in 2013 (or whenever the American Psychiatric Association releases DSM-5). Gender dysphoria is a term that has long been associated with transsexualism, though it is possible to have gender dysphoria without being transsexual, and to be transsexual without having gender dysphoria. Transsexual people have existed far longer than the DSM, and even though a mental health condition has been used to diagnose us and provide a pathway to needed medical treatment, many scientists and scholars do not believe that transsexualism is a mental disorder. Most transsexual people identify as women or men, as the case may be, but we must acknowledge that our bodies have some measure of difference from non-transsexual peoples’ (standard issue) bodies, so it is important to make the world safe for people like us, and to ensure that we can receive competent and supportive medical care. I believe that building alliances with other groups is crucial to achieving these ends. I also agree that it is wrong to subsume transsexual people under any particular label (not all transsexual people are heterosexual, not all transsexual people are women, and not all transsexual people are comfortable in LGB or even T space!). Yet there certainly ARE transsexual people who are gay or lesbian (or bisexual) identified, and they have the right to all aspects of their identities, too. Transsexual people must self-advocate from wherever they are. I only hope that we can all learn to cooperate and support each other in achieving our human and civil rights, health care, and social safety without belittling or castigating as the enemy those who are not *exactly* like us.

  • Ridiculous! A trans model freely modeling a shirt with a political message no more “erases” her identity than had she worn a shirt that said “legalize Native Americans.” What, as a trans person am I somehow barred from supporting my gay brothers and sisters? In doing so, does my transsexual history somehow disappear like magic?!? The foundational premise of Ashley’s claim of victimization is a puerile non-sequitur.

    Is Isis complaining? Nope. Ashley presumes to not only speak for Isis, but for all transsexuals. I can (and do) speak for myself, Ashley. And furthermore, the following is a falsehood that you’ve been repeatedly corrected on for months:

    [It’s unethical to enforce sociopolitical opinions onto another group’s legitimate medical condition, such as how transgender umbrella theorists started doing in the mid-1990s to transsexualism.]

    Transgender was being used in both American and the UK in its modern sense since 1974. So, not only do you presume to “enforce” your personal “sociopolitical opinions” upon Isis and the rest of all transsexuals, you feel somehow justified in making up history to suit your narrative. You’re entitled you your own opinions, Ashley, but not your own facts. Anyone with access to wikipedia can debunk your assertion within less than a minute.

    Why won’t you allow Isis to speak for herself? Why do you persist in making claims you know to be false? Why are you apparently blind to the double standard you enjoy: You claim a victim status for having others speak for you under the banner of trans, but you feel justified in speaking for all transsexuals under the banner of transsexualism?

    • Are you serious with your reference that a quick wikipedia search would disprove Ashley ? LOL any idiot can write a definition on wikipedia so using it as a sour is flawed reasoning.

      • Did you bother to check the citations of the wiki article? Transgender was in use as early as 1965 and was used in the modern sense in the both the UK and US in 1974. Either that’s true or it is not. If it’s not true, then make your reasoned argument explaining how those documented uses didn’t really happen.

  • Thank you for writing this Ashley. It’s time for people to stop trying to stamp out the truth of the birth condition known as “transsexualism”. There is enough science to distinguish this neurological/physiological issue from homosexuality that it is ignorant and tyrannical for people to interchange this established medical condition with either being gay, or being “transgender”.

    Transgender means people who dress up in clothes of the opposite sex. That’s all it is. Transsexual, though I wait for the day when they have a proper term for the birth syndrome, is a medical condition that requires treatment from doctors. If “transgender” does not require medical treatment, they can hardly be considered the same thing.

    “Transgender” and transsexual are mutually exclusive, and they must go their separate ways. There is no compromise there that will satisfy both groups. Everyone must be free to choose their political associations, or you simply have political thuggery disguised as “inclusionism”. For too long the strongarm tactics of would-be transgenderist leaders have gone unremarked, and this sociopathic bullying has become their trademark.

    I think transsexual people are quite simply done with their nonsense. Let the gay men and lesbian women take them into their fold, if they so choose. Transgenderists are not our problem, because we never invited them into our issues. The GLBT did.

  • Excellent article, Ashley! I completely agree. I want to emphasize that while I support the gay movement for equal rights, I have personal experience with the very issues addressed in this article (both being considered a gay male instead of a heterosexual woman and the confusing, broad definition of transgender), and it can be damaging.

    We need to educate people on our medical condition. That is what distinguishes transsexuals and intersexed individuals from the rest of the LGBT+ coalition. The issue is that there is a perception and misunderstanding among many in the general public that people in the LGBT community have the same issues. Specifically in regards to this article, transsexual women or women with transsexual experience who are heterosexual are still men and always will be men and, therefore, gay men who like to dress as women. In my experience, when people realize that this is a true medical condition that can be adequately treated, and I’m like any other woman they know, their perception of transsexuals had changed. This includes the most liberal people who have never had personal experience with a transsexual to the most conservative, religious people, regardless of their views on gay marriage or other equal rights.

    I believe that when we get to the point in society that transsexualism or gender dysphoria is generally accepted and understood among the public, not just organizations like AMA or APA, this potential message sent by ad would not be an issue. Until then, we must continue to protect our narrative.

  • Legitimate medical condition? There’s nothing “legitimate” about the pathologization and medicalization of trans people. . . . Trans people have existed throughout human history, in one form or another, in every culture on the planet. In fact, we were around long before the development of western medicine and its decision to subordinate our existence through pathologization. The fact that we can benefit from hormone therapies and surgeries does not necessitate the medicalization and pathologization of trans people’s very being. The underlying problem there is with our current healthcare system, but that’s a whole other argument. Besides, not all trans people even want medical intervention. Furthermore, the terms heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual themselves are based on the assumption of cissexuality. They are entrenched in compulsory cissexuality and are, thus, problematic in defining trans people’s sexual orientation. These terms were defined by cis people for cis people and they erase the specificity of trans lives and experiences. I’m not “straight” in the same way that a straight ciswoman is straight, nor do I have any desire to allow cis people to erase my specific experiences as a transwoman, nor am I “just a woman, just like any other woman.” I reject the lifting up of ciswomanhood and cismanhood as the end all and be all of legitimate gendered modes of being. And that’s not political, that’s sociological.

  • Interesting article and comments. I think the opening sentence of the article says it all: “The medical condition transsexualism is [not] equivalent to gay, lesbian or bisexual sexual orientations.” I agree with that statement and have always wondered how transsexuals got combined with gay/lesbian/bisexual people who merely have a different sexual orientation than the heterosexual majority. Transsexuals are a community unto themselves, with completely different issues than those of us who are GLB. The trans community should break from the GLB coalition so that each movement can pursue its own agenda without conflict.

  • I am a woman. I was born as a healthy male. I used to be transsexual when I was in transition between genders. I transitioned to be a woman, not to be a transsexual woman. Transsexual is not a gender identity within itself, unless you want it to be, and some do want to be known as transsexual, while others do not. I did not go through everything I did to be known as transsexual. I did all that to be a woman I felt I was on the inside.

    However, my sexual orientation is lesbian, the female equivalent of gay. Yes I am a gay woman now. That’s how I self-identify. A woman who was born as a healthy normal male who was in transition and hence was transsexual is now a gay woman.

    I am seeking a woman as my partner and I want to have my own genetic kids using the sperm I stored pre-transition. I will genetically be my kids’ father or dad, but they would probably call me mom or some variation of that name. In other words, a gay woman with her gay woman partner will have their own biological kids.

    Yes, you can look at this from another angle, but however you look at it, it’s right from that angle.

    Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with Isis being a gay ally. Perhaps she is gay, as a woman who now dates women (if she is lesbian) or as a woman who used to be a man who now dates men (if she is straight), whatever her orientation and your angle of looking at her.

    Enough with the labels! Greater acceptance of variations within the LGBT community will lead to greater acceptance outside our community.

    Let’s all cherish our unity in diversity, instead of creating more tiny categories of people.

  • In response to Cristan’s assertion that Transgender was being used in the UK since 1974, please quantify how many people were using Transgender in the UK back then.

    I can reassure you it was not even close to mainstream. In the late 1970’s/early 1980’s I was a memeber of the Beaumont Society and the Self Help Assocation for Transsexuals aka S.H.A.F.T., the two main national support groups in the UK. There was never any reference to transgender back then. In fact I would suggest that Transgender has only become mainstream in the UK since Mid – late 2000’s.

    The terms gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, in the UK, were only ever used to describe transsexuals and their medical condition. Transsexuality was being generally accepted, up to the mid 2000’s especially by the medical profession and Government bodies, as being caused in the womb during foetal development and transgender did not come into it. It was only in the mid-late 2000’s that the Transgender “Spectrum” appeared in the UK and they dragged transsexuality into this spectrum purely in an attempt to legitimise their transvestism and crossdressing. The reasoned that if transsexuals had a medical condition so must they however there is no proof of this whatsoever. The Transgender activists, aided and abetted by some LGBT group/charities, have ever since pushed heavily this spectrum nonsense because i) it legitimises their transvestism/cross-dressing,ii) LGBT groups/charities can then demand more charitable funding because they are seen to be “representing” a larger community. Once these LGBT charities get funding, for transsexuals, then they manipulate the funding so the money is used to keep them in jobs especially their LGB work. It is quite blatant when they never give the funding they receive for transsexual related work to transsexuals. Always to peope they control to force across their own agendas yet they know nothing about transsexuals or our issues.

    Well the world in general is waking up to what is going on around it. For Banks, Politicians and World Leaders their “chickens are coming home to roost” and the same is happening to the Transgender Activists and some LGBT charities/groups

  • Ashley please stop trying to represent us. Your doing it wrong.

    go away

  • ‘Trans’ folks are a phenotype, not an ‘orientation’ nor a ‘sickness’. Get with it folks.
    Sad part is having a Trans person taking on ‘gay legalizing politics’, and tacking on an added stigma of ‘gay’ on top of the already dangerous stigma of ‘trans’… now haters can ‘bash’ a ‘tranny’ for being a ‘faggot’ too.
    it doesn’t take long for ‘hate’ to snowball into more dangerous ‘double-stigma’ bashworthiness, less than 4 months later… here:

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