by Allyson Hamblett
Over the last 6 weeks or so I’ve been involved in a debate around terminology within the transsexual community over separating ourselves from under the transgender umbrella. The debate been intense and has opened my eyes to the importance of the issue. There’s a feeling of being marginalised for those of us under the “transgender umbrella” because we’re not transgender, we’re transsexual.
To be honest I don’t really like any of the labels that begin with trans. I’m just me. But as an advocate for social change I have to be aware of what’s going on. This debate is not a new one. There is a sense that transsexuals are being marginalised, because the umbrella term doesn’t really cover transsexuals. One blog I read stated this very clearly, saying that transgender people don’t have sex reassignment surgery, http://www.diffen.com/difference/Transgender_vs_Transsexual .
I tried to relate this to disability politics. Imagine using cerebral palsy, blind, or deaf or any other impairment as the umbrella term – each term would be loaded, and one would quickly feel marginalised, isolated and totally ignored being included under the umbrella – they wouldn’t be included at all. I believe the same sort of thing is happening for transsexuals being forced under an umbrella term that does not relate to our existence.
The transgender term started being used during the 1990’s in New Zealand. It was used as an umbrella term in the Human Rights Transgender Inquiry – To Be Who I Am was published in 2008. What this has done has made the transgender term widely used by government, and within government departments. If I had known more about this issue I would have tried to have advocated for a more neutral term.
The term transgender developed in America; possibly coined by a cross dresser Virginia Prince who resisted the word transsexual because she didn’t want to change sex. She argued against sex change surgery.
I’d like to see organisations recognising “transsexual and transgender” so that the label doesn’t keep being hidden. Agender NZ has taken steps to do this. And we would like government departments and parliament start using the term transsexual.