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The Great Divide

| Feb 20, 2008
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charcoal1.jpgWe always speak of community. It’s a great word as it conveys a comforting idea of people living and working together in harmony with one another. I mean, after all we share the common bond of a desire to express a gender identity contrary to our biological sex. But just as in all communities, harmony in the transgendered community is sometimes more imagined and desired than real. It seems to me that the great dividing line, the continental divide, the fault line in our world is the act of transitioning.

Transitioning poses an inherent dilemma, both for the person in transition and those around her who aren’t. The transsexual and the transgendered (in the original sense of the word, those who desire to live as the opposite gender full time) are on one side and the “part-timers” (the crossdressers or transvestites as we were once known) on the other. Though often allies, transitioning creates a tenuous relationship with one another as both groups have a need—and it is legitimate and understandable—to distinquish themselves from those on the other.

The M2F transsexual needs to prove that she really is a woman with an unfortunate physical birth defect and the transitioning transgendered M2F is similar in needing to distinquish her feminine identity as her natural full-time default mode. They genuinely must prove that they aren’t “just” some part-time crossdresser who is dabbling at being feminine. The problem is that this distinction is perhaps most easily expressed by blatantly insulting the ambigendered in a “trannier than thou” sort of attitude. It is a delicate balance between the legitimate need of the transitioner and polite respect for those who aren’t transitioning. And frankly, introspection, tact, finesse, diplomacy and literary nimbleness are uncommon traits both in our community and the human race at large. This is not to say that my tribe, the ambigendered, is blameless here, too. We part-timers have the need to prove to ourselves and others (particularly significant others and spouses) that while we may occasionally cross over the great gender divide, we are only doing so temporarily (hence my preference for the term ambigendered). We often find it necessary to establish our identity as distinct from the transsexual or the permanently transitioning transgendered individual and the simplest way to do that is often crude and offensive to those on the other side of the fault line.

There really isn’t an easy answer to all this, but there is a simple one. It involves behaving towards one another with toleration and respect. That shouldn’t be so hard, since that seems to be what we all crave from the rest of society. Toleration, like charity, begins at home; if you can’t give it to those in our own community who are different, don’t expect to receive it from those in the general society who aren’t like us.


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Category: Transgender Body & Soul, Transgender Opinion

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Comments (6)

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  1. says:

    Lynda, Maybe the “Nation” could be called “US” for United Sisters.

  2. says:

    “Trish…and there is a part of the middle ground that I occupy by self-identifying as ambigendered. It’s not just about male and female.”

    Which is a whole other subject and one that I pretty much stay away from. More power to you.

  3. says:

    Trish…and there is a part of the middle ground that I occupy by self-identifying as ambigendered. It’s not just about male and female.

  4. besweet besweet says:

    “I think that instead of calling our group a “community” maybe it would be better to call it a “nation”. A nation with communities within, all a little different but understanding of all.”

    That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a very long time. It says so much more about us than “community”. I am going to start using that term in all my communications. After all, the USA is a nation of communities, each different yet united.

    A tip of my wig to you, Carolyn Kay!

    LYNDA

  5. says:

    There is a another “dividing line”: Those who self-identify as women, and those who self-identify as men.

  6. says:

    Stephanie, I think that instead of calling our group a “community” maybe it would be better to call it a “nation”. A nation with communities within, all a little different but understanding of all. These communities do overlap each other depending on the needs, tolerances, and understanding. If each of us would just put forth a little more effort to talk, smile, or listen with someone in our nation but maybe not in your community something great could get started.

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