There was a recent exchange on a web-site that I frequently read and where I occasionally post a comment:
The topic was a strenuous debate about using ‘transsexual’, ‘transgender’, and other terms.
The site’s Forum Administrator closed the discussion in the midst of me writing notes and planning to post to the topic.
I was on a roll and consider my effort worth posting somewhere.
Allow my opinions on terminology in this debate – having come from the ‘old days’.
‘Transsexual’ and ‘sex change’ were used at least during the 1970s and 1980s when I was in active transition. They were understood to be neutral to the individual and among society.
I first perceived my self as ‘transsexual’. It was years into my life, long after I took on the term ‘transsexual’, when doctors told me that I am inter-sexed. I am equally accepting of both situations and both terms because I am both.
In today’s jargon, I would of myself prefer ‘transsexual’ rather than ‘transgender’. My assigned ‘sex’ at birth, correctly or incorrectly, was ‘male’. That was how my family raised me during the 1950s and 1960s no matter how much I persisted with my ‘feminine protesting’ tantrums. I changed my assigned anatomic ‘sex’ through medical and surgical methods; I never changed from my female gender identity.
I learned the term ‘gender dysphoria’ during my early transition. Perhaps from society’s perspective, I carried the wrong ‘gender’ according to that assigned ‘sex’ that doctors gave to me at birth.
In those ‘old days’ at Stanford University’s ‘Gender Dysphoria Program’ (https://slimandme.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/stanfords-program/), candidates were assigned the entire track: evaluation, enrollment, physicians, counselling, hormones, RLE, and surgery in a year (or two, or three). There was as much an understanding that not all patients would complete each and every step of their process for whatever reasons were according to their own self-determination.
I have seen various statistics presenting that perhaps 25% to 30% of the transsexual population go as far as ‘bottom’ surgery (however and with whatever names or acronyms one applies). Not everyone can bear the financial, personal, social, legal costs of endless physician and counselling appointments, hormones, blood draws, an entirely new wardrobe, losing an old job and finding a new job, moving from place to place, losing family and ‘friends’, living through RLE and transition, family disintegration and divorce. The alphabet soup of transition procedures can be more than enough, let alone ‘bottom’ surgery.
Not all need or want all those various procedures. BA, VFS, FFS, etc., are not a pre-requisite to anything; they are personal to the one making that decision.
Some here asked how does one define ‘sex’. Chromosomes? Anatomy? Personally I also figure that my being inter-sex is the exception that proves the rule and proves that the mental identity is stronger than the physical attributes. My ‘sex’ clearly was not the ultimate decision made by the birthing room physician or my family who raised me as a ‘boy’.
I am not too fussy about terms, especially from people not within the ‘community’ and even from those within. As with words, as long as the people involved in the communication comprehend the meanings, then the importance is conveyed.
I also may not be easily swayed about what I have had done or not done. For me, so what if someone (family, friend, stranger on the street corner) asks politely. If they are honest about their enquiries, then I have no difficulty sharing my experiences no different than people share about their broken arm, fillings in their teeth, the eyeglasses they wear. It is a medical matter (though I do not ignore that it holds inference to many intrusive issues that a segment of American society would just as soon see me dead as alive).
Okay, we held no negative attitude when people asked in those ‘old days’. There was so little information in the public knowledge. Any trans person who went on the TV talk circuit was routinely asked and they provided a free answer. No one thought any harm by it.
Some see themselves as transsexual until they reach a point when they end that appellation. ‘Transsexual’ for me, in a strict sense, ended when I completed my surgeries and revisions (whether as GCS, SRS, or any other name or initials). My medical record documents at least since 1985 ‘transsexual’ as a past diagnosis, not a present condition. My physicians and I consider myself female, not because of any legal document but because I am.
One of the LGBT groups that I attend splits its meetings into trans persons, SOFFAs, and 3rd Space. I frequently attend the 3rd Space non-binary discussion to learn their non-binary perspectives from them though I consider myself flexibly binary. I agree with you, Dena, that the individual person is the one who uses whatever term they choose, or maybe make up their own.
There is plenty of room in this world for all opinions.