Transgender Warning: Transgender stuff to follow!

Transgender Warning: Transgender stuff to follow!
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Transpeople Who Need People

Transpeople Who Need People

Posted by PJ Tobia
(06.29.07, 9:22 AM)

DOSBLOGPIC (45k image)

A few hours after this week's Scene hit newsstands, I received a letter from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (posted in its entirety after the jump) regarding our cover story. The story is about El Dos de Oros, a South Nashville bar that caters to immigrant laborers and attracts women and transvestites who are paid for their companionship. The letter takes us to task for the use of the term "transvestite," saying that the word "is a perjorative [sic] term and is considered insulting."

They preferred that we use the term "cross dresser." At least one gender studies expert says that either term could apply to men who dress as women (or vice versa) and that the label "transvestite" is not an insult, per se.

The second part of the letter finds fault with the use of the pronouns "he" and "him" when we refer to Gracia and Ashley. "The Transwomen described in the article should have been referred to as "She" in every single instance," says the TTPC, even though the "transpersons" in question referred to each other with male pronouns and often used the masculine forms of Spanish words when talking about themselves and their friends.

It seems that this is an unsettled matter even among those who are experts in the field. We'd like to open the floor to you folks, and if there are any cross dresser/transvestite/transpeople out there, we'd especially like to hear your opinions.

What follows is the email (titled "Incorrect Use of Gender Terminology") that I recieved from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition:

It was with interest that I read the story in the June 28 issue about El Dos de Oros. It was with great dismay that I saw the totally incorrect use of terminology regarding the transgender customers of the club.

First, the term "transvestite" is a perjorative term and is considered insulting. If a male-to-female transgender person lives in their birth gender, then the proper term is Crossdresser.

Second, regardless of whether or not a transgender person has transitioned, that person should always be addressed by the gender pronoun appropriate to their gender presentation. The Transwomen described in the article should have been referred to as "She" in every single instance.

If Gracia and Ashley, and any other transgender patrons of the club, live full time as women, then they are women, not boys. And if they do not live full time as women, then they can be described as crossdressers. Either way, they should still have been described with female pronouns in every single reference.

We hope that you will attend our event tomorrow evening at Watkins College (listed on Page 34) to meet members of Nashville's Transgender community and to learn more about how we should be described and addressed.

Marisa Richmond, Ph.D.
Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition

Comments on "Transpeople Who Need People" (3)

If the subjects refer to themselves and each other with masculine pronouns, that should take precedent over whatever terminology is currently PC. They're people first and members of an identity politic second. If they'd wanted to be called "she," I have no doubt they'd have let you know.

Comment by mr. pink (06.29.2007, 10:11 AM)

Dear Ms(?) Richmond,
As someone who respects others' rights to exist and follow whatever path he/she(?) wishes to take, I submit to you that those of us who live boring straight old ordinary lives loving, nurturing, caring for and making sweet sweet love to a member of

Comment by tacostand (06.29.2007, 10:16 AM)

I'm transgendered myself. I'm also aware of, and respect, Dr. Richmond.

However, transvestite and crossdresser are exact synonyms--differing only in that one is formed from a latin root, and the other anglo-saxon. Transvestite isn't insulting, it merely sound more clinical to an English speaker. It's precise medical latin, but is no more insult than "vagina." "Crossdresser" merely sounds more casual to casual English-speaking crossdressers, so they prefer it.

Point #1: I doubt the latina subjects of your story would make this distinction because "transvestia" is simply the word for "crossdresser" in their latinate language. There is NO problem here other than that the TTPG (doubtless) consists of relatively priveledged Anglos who are imposing that bias on the discussion.

Point #2: He/She. Personally if I were at this club I would refer to anyone presenting female as she. But that is merely respect and civility in interpersonal interaction. If I was a journalist in the same situation, I would no more speak of a crossdresser out for a night's fun as "she" anymore than I'd refer to someone who enjoyed going out in a police uniform as "officer"!

Point #3: It appears that some or most of the subjects were in fact transsexual and should be referred to as "she" (this is standard journalistic practice these days, and you must have a style-book laying about your office somewhere). But, I veeeeery much understand that making that distinction perfectly requires more intrusive investigation of interviewees personal circumstance than is possible. Innocent mistakes will inevitably be made. Bummer, but shrug!

In short: The transsexual/transvestite distinction should be made by journalists--wherever possible. I'm in agreement with Dr. Richmond on that. Unfortunately she's flying her flag on the distinction between crossdresser/transvestite. That's an issue. But totally for those who personally or professionally deal with these issues. Outsiders are completely exempt from blame for not being 100% aware of this tempest in a teapot

Comment by Marisa (07.02.2007, 04:49 PM)

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