Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What's in a name?

Quite a lot, apparently.

(In response to some question about appearance or a missing experience) "I was born with a birth defect that made people think I was a boy."

"OMG, that's horrible! What was it?"

"Transsexualism."

"Oh."

A rose by any other name would certainly smell as sweet, but if it were called a turdblossom, would it be as popular? Clearly, Juliet did not work in marketing.

Every marketer knows the importance of a name. How appetizing does a Patagonian Toothfish sound? But as Chilean sea bass, it's so popular that it is now endangered. Does a Chinese gooseberry seem like just the thing for a fruit salad? How about a kiwifruit, the name it was given for export? Would you sauté using rapeseed oil? A hybridized version of this is the popular canola oil.

Transsexualism needs a new name. For one thing, that name is badly tainted. For another, it does not properly describe the congenital disorder. The term describes the solution—to change sex—and not the problem that necessitates the solution. The condition should have a name that conveys the concept of a sex mismatch between brain and body. Perhaps a Latin or Greek scholar could come up with something.

On the surface, Harry Benjamin Syndrome seems as good a term as any, even though it describes nothing. But it also has become tainted. Since few know about the taint (or the term at all), perhaps it could be relaunched, certainly more successfully than transsexualism could be. I have also seen the term neurological intersex. I think that term describes the condition rather well; intersex organizations, however, have quite a different opinion.

At any rate, for a term to have legitimacy, it probably needs to come from the medical establishment. So far, nothing useful is forthcoming. Instead, we get psychobabble like "gender identity disorder" and "gender incongruence."

Now if they used "sex incongruence," they might be onto something.

13 comments:

Arianwen said...

I would propose, polymorphism (from the Greek meaning "having multiple forms"). Your thoughts?

Sagebrush said...

Perhaps bimorphism? Or how about this -- neuro-somatic asymmetry?

Anne said...

I think 'polymorphism' is not an accurate descriptor. I propose "Neurologically Cross-sexed" Clumsy, but accurate.

BI-MORPHISM IS MORE DECRIPTIVE of Somatic Intersex, while Neuro-Crossexuality describes the actual PRE-TREATMENT STATE.

But again...Clumsy.

How about "Kiwi". I feel a bit 'kiwi'. today.

Deena said...

Actually I think you might want to concoct four new names. One each for MTF sexually attracted to men and women. One each for FTM attracted to women and men. Maybe six names if you include bi-sexualism. We could co-opt the word freak and have six categories. Freak 1 through 6. We could even have nine categories to include those who are or claim to be intersexed. And there is plenty of room for expanding it to 12, 15 or more if other combinations want in on the labeling.

So here you go.

F1 = born with ovaries but orients as a man and attracted to women sexually
F2 = born with ovaries but orients as a man attracted to men sexually.
F3 = born with ovaries but orients as a man attracted to both women and men sexually.
F4 = born with testicles but orients as a woman and attracted to men sexually.
F5 = born with testicles but orients as a woman and attracted to women sexually.
F6 = born with testicles but orients as a woman and attracted to both men and women sexually.
F7 = born with mixed genitals, hermaphrodite, strange genes or other intersex conditions and attracted to men sexually.
F8 = born with mixed genitals, hermaphrodite, strange genes or other intersex conditions and attracted to women sexually.
F9 = born with mixed genitals, hermaphrodite, strange genes or other intersex conditions and attracted to both sexes sexually.

Now if the purpose of the labeling is to communicate clearly where each of us fits into the universe of sex, gender and orientation doesn't it make sense to use the freak scale? In fact now that I reflect on it we could start with hetero-normative people and progress to gays and bi. Oh heck, lets just add them at the end as F10, 11 and 12 for people born with ovaries and F13, 14 and 15 for people born with testicles. They belong at the back of the bus for a while anyway don't they?

Deena said...

OK because I'm bored tonight I reflected on the freak scale and decided it needs refining. The notation would be clearer if we used matrix style notation where 1=female, 2 = male and 3 = intersex or indeterminate. Then we could have F(1,1,1) be a person born with ovaries who identifies as a woman and is attracted sexually to women. F(1,1,2) would be a person born with ovaries who identifies as a woman and is attracted to men. F(1,2,1) would be a person born with ovaries who identifies as a man and is attracted to women sexually. I think you can extend it from there. The first number represents the birth condition, the second number represents the identity and the third number represents the sexual attraction.

I think that is much clearer because all you have to remember is 1=female, 2=male and 3=intersex or "both". Oh and you need to know the titles of the columns which are born as, orients as and attracted sexually to. This methodology is even extensible because we can add "4" in the third column for attracted to sex toys and a 5 for attracted to children and a 6 for animals. Or maybe we should add a fourth column for flavors of what turns people on sexually besides a mate. Then we could have a Freak(2,2,1,4) for a person born with testicles who orients as a man, is attracted to women but is turned on by toys (such as alternate sex clothing). And a female furry would be a Freak(1,1,0,4) for a person who is born with ovaries, orients as a woman, is not attracted to either sex but is turned on by dressing as a cat.

Like I said, I was bored tonight.

Unknown said...

I fancy

Psycho-sexual inversion

Fionnuala said...

Polymorphism certainly doesn't capture it.

For people who were supposed to be born women: Müllerian apoptosis.

For those supposed to be born men: Wolffian apoptosis.

Google the individual words and let me know. I think they're good terms, in all seriousness.

Signed,
A Freak(2,1,2)

Sagebrush said...

@Anne

Not sea bass?

@Deena

Bored but thinking. :)

@Unknown

The link is broken, but it's not hard to correct. Interesting start there. As for the term, didn't Benjamin use that only for the most severe cases and not for everyone he considered transsexual? It might still be a useful term.

@Fionnuala

Those are good terms, but don't they describe only part of the condition? Perhaps they describe more by implication.

Unknown said...

He did, but I suspect that the only real difference between most true TS are the circumstances into which they are born, and raised.

As you said, some believe what their body and society tells them for a time and try to comply. I personally think that is not due to higher or lower "intensity" I think it is due to circumstances.

Most seem to suggest a type vi generally has a more feminie body type and balance of female traits. (I don't neccesarily agree, but will use that for the basis of this discussion) I think what that means is that typically, they are able to believe themselves more.

Those same people who think that also suggest it as a possible symptom of the condition.

I think that your genetics are what they are, if your TS and you happen to have been born physically more feminine you where simply genetically more fortunate than most (relative to your condition), but as such it was easier to believe in what you thought of yourself.

I think the condition is the same regardless of who suffers it, it's just the circumstances they face physically and socially that influence how they deal with it and how it appears to manifest itself.

JMO.

Anne said...

It seems obvious to me that the circumstances of one's birth will have an affect on HOW an individual is able to ameliorate their condition. Obviously someone born prior to the late 20th Century would nnot have the same medcal options that we do today.

If one is looking for ACCURATE descriptors, 'trans-SEX and trans-GENDER', ARE IMO, GOOD ones, IF and ONLY IF, the distinction between the two is maintained and NOT blurred or conflated as it has been so intentionally and effectively done by an Agenda Driven Media, and a PROFIT Motivated academic/"health" industry.

Sophie said...

If you want to market better then I rather think that it would be wise to consider what is actually being marketed.
If what's wanted is to sell the reality of the condition on the basis of our self knowledge as against normal anatomical typing, then I'd suggest it's always going to be difficult.
I like to use the word twiceborn. It places importance on the whole process of personal history rather than simply the initial condition. It makes it easier to talk about post-hormonal second-adolescence, a topic that truly convinces most cis women of our authenticity in terms of the earned components of womanhood. And I think it does equate with being a 'corrected' woman, however much opinions may diverge as to what the exact measure of that may be.
Additionally it avoids the problems of defining potentially too tightly. HBS is , for me, irretrievably tainted by being thought up by a self-aggrandizing scientologist who used it to 'disenfranchise' 99% of post ops as not fitting the right narrative. Any term that could support that sort of regrettable elitism should surely be avoided.

Sagebrush said...

@Unknown

I had not considered the idea of different circumstances. I don't think I felt the sex incongruity quite as intensely as some describe, but perhaps things like the era and place I was brought up, as well as the family I was part of, made a difference. As well, some people are more compliant than others, possibly due to insecure attachment and a need to be loved.

I agree with you about male-bodied children who are more physically feminine. For one thing, there are many physically feminine men who are not transsexual. But a transsexual girl/woman with a feminine body is indeed fortunate.

@Anne

I'm not sure if the distinction between transsexual and transgender will ever be made again, which is unfortunate.

@Sophie

I used the marketing analogy, but this is not really about marketing. It's more about an attempt at clarity. I don't think that "twiceborn" will help, and my experience of acceptance by non-transsexual women does not seem to have anything to do with a second adolescence.

I do not actually favor the HBS term.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for such a term myself, looked for matches to my ideas, and found this page. Anyway, I came up with neurosomatosexual mismatch. NSSM if you want.

Like you were saying, it seems that the core of it is a mismatch of what the brain feels it is compared to what the body morphology actually is. A person could have the mismatch but not necessarily feel awful about it -- feeling bad would be the "dysmorphia" commonly described. The whole "trans" terminology suggests changing something from one thing to another thing, but it gets muddled when mixing the realities of the physical, the psychological, and the social. If we hang it all onto the social, then there is the problem that many people are not successful at convincing others that there has been a change, and they just see in their own minds, for example, a weird guy in a dress, and thereby be a failed transwhathaveyou, which wouldn't be a nice descriptor.