Column: Putting the T in LGBT

By Eric Naing

Chicks with dicks, she-males, klingers, ladyboys and even tranny-saurus-rex are all terms that have been used to describe a large and diverse group of people. From Greek and Chinese mythology to modern-day television shows, transgender people have left a huge mark on our society. Unfortunately instead of celebrating them, we choose to ridicule and attack those that are different.

Today, students are bringing LGBT issues to the forefront by participating in Day of Silence. While many gay and lesbian issues have made it to the mainstream, transgender issues have often been left on the backburner. Hatred against transgender people hit home recently when a chalk drawing of a woman with a penis with the words “Tranny Surprise” was found at the entrance of Allen Hall. This is a classic example of what we all have to stand against at this University.

Much of the hatred that follows this issue stems from the ignorance many people, including myself, have of the transgender population. The idea of being transgender conjures up a specific stereotype that simply is not appropriate or true at all. The key to understanding this issue is to have a proper grasp of the terminology, something that even I didn’t fully appreciate. I never used to differentiate between, say, a cross-dresser and a transsexual, which unfortunately led to my own ignorance on transgender issues.

The word transgender has become an umbrella term meant to represent anyone that does not fit the feminine or masculine stereotype and can include anyone from a cross-dresser to a hermaphrodite. This is unfortunate because all the people that are placed under the transgender banner are certainly not the same.

A transvestite or cross-dresser is someone who enjoys dressing up as the opposite gender. This is different from a drag king/queen who dresses up as the opposite gender for fun in an exaggerated manner. Being a cross-dresser can be a lifestyle, which is why many of them take offense from being lumped together with drag kings/queens.

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    A transsexual is someone who either wishes to or has altered his or her anatomy to live as another gender. Many of these people choose not to use the term transsexual and simply consider themselves either male or female. Different from a transsexual is a hermaphrodite who is born with the anatomical features of both males and females.

    The term transgender is actually a misnomer and the problem lies in the fact that we have confused the ideas of sex and gender. Sex is what we do with our bodies – it’s physical. Gender on the other hand is an identity – what our bodies actually are. It’s what we consider ourselves to be. Sex defines my actions and desires, gender defines who I am. So when we talk about transgender people, we often think of sex when we should actually be thinking of gender.

    Transgender defined by its Latin roots essentially means a cross between genders. Considering the diverse spectrum of people that have been stuck with that label, it becomes apparent that the word transgender is woefully inadequate.

    Now I hope you got all that because I’ll be testing you on it next week.

    While I’m positive that someone out there would be offended by even my definitions, the point I want to make is that cross-dressers and hermaphrodites are different just as men and women or gays and lesbians are different. The term transgender should imply a diverse set of people and not just one stereotype.

    One of the best parts about going to a university as large as this one is that you get the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Everyone, especially those considered to be transgender, have something to add to the community. The graffiti at Allen Hall is deeply unfortunate and has no place at this university. At the risk of sounding like an after-school special, everybody’s different in some way and we should appreciate that.