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26 September 2011

TG, word and concepts: Part 5: The Backlash

Part 1: Introduction: the meanings of Transgender
Part 2: The early years: up to 1990.
Part 3:
The full-blown usage after 1990
Part 4: The Myth that Transgender is a Princian Concept
Part 5: The Backlash    Part 6: Conclusions.

Antagonism between transvestites and transsexuals dates at least back to the 1960s. Harry Benjamin commented with regret: “Too many individuals are that way; what they do not like must be forbidden and punished. Then they are satisfied. I have even met transvestites who dislike (or pretend to dislike) transsexualism so much that they are against estrogen treatment and operation (for reasons of self protection?). There are also transsexuals who dislike transvestites as well as homosexuals. Intolerance can be found in strange quarters. (1966:114-5)”.


Whilst Virginia Prince and Kymberleigh Richards attempted to seize the word ‘transgender’ and narrow it down to match their own agenda, the other separatist camp, a small subset of transsexuals, has come to reject vehemently the term ‘transgender’.

Transsexual separatists who do not associate transgender with Prince:

The earliest such rejection that I have found is by Margaret O’Hartigan: 1993 “Every application of the term transgender to me is an attempt to mask what I’ve done and as such co-opts my life , denies my experience, violates my very soul. ('Changing sex is not changing gender', Sound Out, May 1993:20.)”. O’Hartigan is also the first writer that I have found who uses the term ‘transgender borg’. However in the quotations from her paper in both Califia and Namaste ( I have not been able to obtain the original) there is no mention of Prince.

Karen Gurney’s seminal “Harry Benjamin Syndrome is a neurobiological condition”, 2007, while being very emphatic that HBS is not transgender has no mention of Prince.

Joanne Proctor on her site, 2011, argues that transgender and gender identity is a new way of being human and did not exist before John Money’s work. She has no mention of Prince.

The HBS Wikipedia page, 2009, has has been removed but one version has been archived here, has no mention of Prince

Charlotte Goiar’s Knol, 2009, on ‘Harry Benjamin Syndrome’ has no mention of Prince.

Those who do:

Diane Kearny “I have no idea why it is that the FTM transsexuals continually link themselves with transgender. Transgender is a term coined by and for a male transvestite, Charles “Virginia” Prince, who made it quite clear that he was not a transsexual and actually thought those of us who opted for surgery were delusional.” Here, 2006

Suzan Cooke. “Good-Bye to Transgender and All That”. TS-SI. 07 May 2007. “The coiner of the term transgender was Virginia Prince, a heterosexual crossdresser who held those of us who had sex reassignment surgery in contempt. Virginia was particularly vicious in her opinion regarding WBTs who were lesbian after sex reassignment surgery. She called us freaks and mistakes.” This was a seminal paper for separatists.  Suzan, like Margaret uses ‘transgender borg’ to group together an extremely disparate group of people.

Lisa Jain Thompson. TS-SI, 30 December 2007. “Virginia Prince, a male crossdresser and a staunch promoter of heterosexual transvestism since the late 1950s, invented the term "transgender" in the 1990s to distinguish male crossdressers from men and women born with HBS.”

JustJennifer, July 22,2011. “the term "transgender," or more specifically, "transgenderist" originated with Arnold Lowman, better known as Charles "Virginia" Prince.  Yes, Prince came up with the term to describe those who crossdress full time.”

Purple Speaks, May 8, 2011. [Prince]”invented the term “transgender” out of elitism and hate.”

Tracie O'Keefe. “Transgender: Another Ghettoised Label and the Lost Sex and Gender Diverse Community”. World Association for Sexual Health, 2007. “The term 'transgender' was first made popular by Virginia Prince (1978), who used it to describe people whom she said were like her.” "Don't call me transgender".The Scavenger. 21 Nov 2010. O’Keefe gets her citation wrong: she claims that Prince used ‘transgenderist’ in ‘Transsexuals and Pseudotranssexuals’, 1978. O’Keefe’s preferred term is ‘sex and gender diverse people’ which would be fine with me if it were to catch on, except for its cumbersomeness (would it become SGD?), but I suspect that most separatists would not like it, because it regroups gays and trans together, undoing the separation that ‘transgender’ enabled. Of course O’Keefe is not a separatist. Her books are quite inclusive, but she talks at times like a separatist.

RadicalBitch. Riding the Second Wave, Aug 18, 2011. “Prince went on to organized Tri Ess, or the Society for the Second Self. These people became today’s transgenders. Women born transsexed mostly avoided these people although, sometimes early in dealing with their transsexuality, they crossed paths.”

Dana Lane Taylor. TS/IS Liberation. May 21, 2011. “First of all, the term transgender was coined by a transsexual-hating crossdressing male  named Charles Prince who wanted to separate himself from transsexuals. That fact alone sends shivers up our spines.”.

Things to note:
  • With the exception of O’Keefe (who is pursuing a different goal) all the Prince-coined-tg rants are in the US. Prince is just not that important in other countries. Note than in the UK, prominent transvestites Charlotte Bach, Yvonne Sinclair, Vernon Coleman write as if she never existed.
  • The earliest Prince-coined-tg claim that I found from a separatist is Kearny’s in 2006. I am actually surprised that the date is this late. If you do know of any earlier ones please tell us. 
  • Kearny and Cooke seem to be the major promoters of the separatist Prince-coined-tg claim, the others following their example.
  • Kearny and Cooke end up in de-facto collusion with Prince, Kimberleigh and Cook-Riley in giving Prince credit where she has no real claim.

The Parallelism of the Two Separatisms

I have previously posted Did Virginia Prince have Harry Benjamin Syndrome? Here I would like to simply iterate that both separatisms, Tri-Ess and HBS/CT/not-TG have the following in common:
  1. They dislike the gender non-conforming, and especially those who are blatant about it, and thus they are reasonably described as transgenderphobic
  2. Many, although not all, in both camps are uncomfortable with open homosexuality, and choose to ignore where gays, lesbians and trans have worked together, e.g for the Gender Recognition Acts.
  3. Both camps have a standard solution, and are critical of those who make different decisions. ‘Do it may way or not at all!’.
  4. Both camps credit Prince with coining ‘transgender’ when she did no such thing. 
  5. Prince maintained that transvestite and transsexual are two separate conditions, and are not on a continuum.  Many not-TG persons strongly agree with her. 
  6. Ekins, TG Prenomenon: 20 writes:  " too firmly rooted in an acceptance of the binary gender divide, and, in particular, often a very stereotypical and dated view of that divide".  He is writing of Prince, but could all too easily be writing of the not-TGs.
Certainly some of the not-TG people come across as continuing the work of Virginia Prince with only the very slight twist of being pro-surgery instead of anti-surgery.

What if the word ‘transgender’ is abolished?

Let us concentrate on meaning 1, which Benjamin called ‘non-surgical transsexual’. Plenty of trans persons do not mention whether they have in fact had surgery. Unless you see them naked, or are their doctor, you don’t know. What is the term for a trans person who may or may not have had surgery? If we are not to call them ‘transgender’ the word ‘transsexual’ will spread back to Benjamin’s usage, and surgery will be optional for transsexuals. Some people already use the word in this fashion.

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