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30 September 2011

TG, word and concepts: Part 6: Conclusion

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.
  1. Like transvestite, transgender is a word that was never coined by any one individual.
  2. I identified five distinct meanings of transgender in Part 1. On the one hand, this gives the term much depth and richness, and it is a valuable addition to the language. On the other it behoves a writer to clarify which usage she is using, and not to equivocate.
  3. Those who are uncomfortable with the genderqueer or with those who do not pass, and then attempt to justify this attitude with a hatred of Virginia Prince, are of course equivocating. They are expressing an attitude that Prince shared, and this surely puts them and her on the same side.
  4. Meaning 1: non surgical. This is an ancient practice that has had many names across the centuries. If we are to pick one person who applied ‘transgender’ to this practice, that one is Leslie Feinberg.
  5. Meaning 1: subtype ‘transgenderist’. This was an attempted narrowing or hijacking of ‘transgender’ to meaning a heterosexual transvestite who goes full time. The first person to apply ‘transgenderist’ to this meaning seems to have been Ariadne Kane. Prince picked it up briefly and then forgot about it, and then it was revived by Yvonne Cook-Riley and Kimberleigh Richards who chose to falsely credit Prince with the term.
  6. Meaning 2: TS=TG. Kim Stuart and Christine Jorgensen were among the first to use ‘transgender’ in this way, but the expression ‘transgender surgery’ was in use even earlier.
  7. The sentence ‘a transsexual strives for and often achieves transgender surgery’ is historically and logically coherent.
  8. Meaning 4: TG as an umbrella. Magnus Hirschfeld and Harry Benjamin constructed early versions of the TG umbrella. The pioneers in applying ‘transgender’ as an umbrella term are Richard Ekins and Leslie Feinberg.
  9. It is ironical that it is in the use of the term ‘transgender’ that the separation from homosexuality reached its apotheosis. And yet it is those most unwilling to be associated with gays who are also those antagonistic to the term.
  10. It seem obvious to many that all transsexuals are initially transgender in that their gender that does not match their gender identity. It is the essence of transgender to change one’s gender and to keep one’s gender identity.
  11. Those who dislike the term ‘transgender’ have put a lot of work into fudging the distinction between gender and gender identity.
  12. I encounter persons who reject ‘transgender’ but are quite happy to use ‘gender dysphoria’. ‘Gender dysphoria syndrome’ was introduced by Norman Fisk in 1973 because ‘transsexualism’ had lost its medical connotations. It was initially intended as an umbrella term for all gender disorders, but over time has been reduced to the disorder of wanting a sex change. Hence ‘gender dysphoria’ = pathologized transgender.
  13. Tracie O’Keefe dislikes the term ‘transgender’ as an Americanism, but it seem that it took off in the UK in the 1980s before becoming common in the US. See especially Ekins’ Trans-Gender Archives, 1986.
  14. O’Keefe would replace ‘transgender’ with ‘sex and gender diverse’. I am seeing this term more in Australian sources. I have no problem with it. It brings together gay, lesbian, trans and intersex. It is a wider umbrella than ‘transgender’.
  15.   In fact ‘sex and gender diverse’ gets us back to the original meaning of ‘gay’, before it was fractured.


  • ‘transgenderal’, despite being a malformation, was used again, mainly in David F. Greenberg. The Construction of Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. In Greenberg's usage it is a relationship between two persons of the same sex but different genders, the most discussed being one including the third gender aboriginals of North America. Obviously this usage has no connection to Virginia Prince. Greenberg contrasts transgenderal homosexuality to others types such as transgenerational.
  • I should have said more about Phaedra Kelly and Gender Transients.
  • I should have said something about Judith Halberstam and Female masculinity.
I started this paper some months ago, and then put it aside finding it rather difficult. The series of posting by Cristan Williams in June and July this year re-encouraged me, gave me more material and gave me the jolt to finish the project.

Inevitably this account, which I believe is the most detailed at this point in time, becomes a first draft for future discussion. There must be other books and articles that I have not found. Please bring them to my attention. Will any of these unmentioned book and articles change the narrative that I have constructed here? That is a challenge for others to bring up. I look forward to the discussion.

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