Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Addendum: "Out" is third-sex

With increasing visibility of people born transsexual (as well as gender-variant people) in the media, people probably think they know who and what people born transsexual are. In fact, they don't. Or rather, they know only about those born transsexual who are willing to "out" themselves, to be public, and to discuss their lives.

People, we live among you, and you don't even know it.

One of the fundamental divisions is not between those born transsexual and those who characterize themselves as transgender or some variant of that label, but rather between those who are "in" and those who are "out." Never shall the twain see eye to eye. And never shall the general public know any more about people born transsexual than they can learn from the "out" segment of the population.

I don't know if those who are "out" are a minority or a majority. I suspect the former, but how can anyone tell when the rest of us are virtually invisible, except for a few blogs written under pseudonyms? Those blogs, read by few and unlikely to be read by the general public, are the only way we can show what our lives are like, lives in which we simply live as the women and men we are. There is no "trans" in our lives. We do not go on television to tell people our former name, to show old pictures, and to discuss what our transition was like. Our stories are never told in articles in the Huffington Post. The only stories that are told are of people who are "out." And that means the picture is fundamentally skewed, or at least incomplete.

Take a look at that section in HuffPo, which falls under "Gay Voices" (a red flag right there). If it seems fine to you, then you have no idea who and what we are.

And yet most of us will not compromise our privacy. Because as soon as someone knows you were born transsexual, even the most enlightened person will see you just a little bit differently. They will, in fact, see you as different in that particular way, even if it really has nothing to do with your current life. They will always know that you were assigned a different sex at birth and brought up as a child of that sex. Even most of those who are reasonably enlightened have no idea that we have had to deal with a congenital disorder.

As for the unenlightened, the majority of people, forget it. They will show no mercy. Most of the comments about Miss Universe Canada contestant Jenna Talackova, a strikingly beautiful young woman, were disgusting and ignorant. And those are only the ones that the online sites allowed to be published.

People born transsexual who are public about their birth defect seem to think that being visible helps understanding. So far, that seems not to be true. I imagine it might change a few minds, but for the most part, anyone who is public is seen as a freak. The beautiful ones are called fake. The not-so-beautiful are "men in dresses." People born transsexual who are "out" might have correct sex markers on all their documentation, but by being open, they basically "third sex" themselves. Any understanding this engenders is fundamentally flawed.

That means that the people who watch documentaries and interviews and read articles will never know what the lives of most (I think it's most) people born transsexual are like. They know only about the "third sex" types. I'm guessing most people would be surprised to know how normal our lives are. We wouldn't make good TV or compelling reading. We're just not that unusual.


Anne said...

This is a comment that was posted by a well read TG activist in response to a brief 'bio' that I posted on T-Central after having quietly lived, loved and prospered within the mainstream for nearly 40years.

I chose to make my voice heard in an effort to bring some sanity and realism to the whacky fantasies engendered by those "out" TG's formerly known as TV's...

"I too thoroughly enjoyed this, though I don't see much to discuss here. It's a simple story of success that needs to be out there sans the drama of the usual transition story."

Anonymous said...

The truth is they have no clue.

Absolutely none. How could they? They are men trying go live a fantasy. Truth be told, I pity them.

Sagebrush said...

Keep in mind that in this blog, I write about people (and mostly women, really) born transsexual. I mention people such as those who are gender-variant only in passing. They are not the subject of this blog.

As well, the title is intended to be more provocative than literal. I don't think those who are "out" think of themselves as a third sex. But I think others think of them that way -- at least those who don't think of them simply as men forever. Most of the world really has no understanding of this condition, and hoping that being open will improve that situation is, I think, mistaken.

Miz Know-It-All said...

O' Sage One!
I fear you are being too too kind with your conjecture of it being viewed as a third sex! Alas those whom are "out" have done a really bang up job in tying all things "trans" into just a meaningless subset of homosexual.

The irony of which is that in trying to expand what it means to be a transative woman/man they have created in the public's eye an insurmoutable wall. " Heck we don't care if'n you're queer, but if'n God made ya a boy, then ain't no op'eration gonna change that!"

Which means that I've somehow morphed from a straight woman to a gay dude, if I marry the fella I'm seeing, he becomes a gay dude! Jenna T is a gay dude! Why even the most Sage of Oracles is a gay dude!

Oh well! As they say, "The road to hell is paved with great intentions"

Anonymous said...

A fallacy of thinking happens to some who either don't know where to turn for proper help and end up connecting with the TG Machine as a source of vindication and validation; or simply believe that they can alter common perceptions by exposure - I presume a bit of narcissism within.

Either way, one who makes the decision to live 'out', calculates incorrectly that social change will occur in relation to normative awareness and acceptance for this medical condition with common people. Most public perception of these people will be seen as outrageous. The binary sexual reality is and will always be that of there being simply and only, two sexes.

More learned minds of course can and do understand this condition of transsexualism. Thus aiding in correcting where nature faulted. Those capable of making corrections for us don't do it because we are some "third" gender, or sex. They do it because there needs to be only male or female in order to attempt normalcy. They do it because we know who we are, what is wrong, and what needs to be put right.

The reality about this condition though is; you don't have to, or need to make a joke out of yourself to be cured and live that normal type of life most sensible people desire.


Anonymous said...

The problem is that all it takes is to get mugged at random in a McDonald's, and the machine will have made a joke out of you without your consent by the time you're out of hospital.

That "machine" is always on the prowl looking for someone to gleefully "out" you know - "Out" first, pretend not to have known it was wrong, then present their "slate card" so the victim can "use it for good" is the M.O. It's their poster-child recruitment strategy, never mind the suicide rate of their conscripted recruits or why that is. They've been doing it since the mid-late 1990s, and been ignoring repeated demands to stop it for just as long, under the ruse of "internalized transphobia," and they've known that's BS all along too. They don't care and they won't stop, you just have to scrupulously avoid them, like your life depends on it. Because it does.

-- A.R.

Anonymous said...

If I ever get mugged, murdered, or even invited to be a contestant on Dancing With The Stars, advance warning is hereby given: I am NOT TRANSGENDER! Never was, never will be!

I hereby decree that the TG's have no claim to my success, failure, recovery, or death! =)


Fionnuala said...

My main fear when it comes to crime isn't the crime itself, it's the likelihood that I'd be involuntarily outed should something happen, whether by the media or by the TG "community" looking for another poster child. I remember seeing one of the Transexual Menace people talking about what a wonderful opportunity the McDonalds thing last year was. It pissed me off, and I commented to that effect, and was of course vilified.

I don't understand why anyone born transsexual would go anywhere near being on TV.

Kelly said...

I absolutely agreed that transwomen are never seen as women unless their trans status is not known. This shows that the cissexual public don't believe that people who have surgically created vaginas qualify as women.

The only way to be a woman is to be born a woman, for 99% of the cissexual public. 'Sex changes' are urban fiction. Wake up to this reality.

Which is why, if we don't want transwomen in the future to continue to have to choose between going stealth or going without womanhood, we need to educate the public that transwomen are born women despite their birth anatomy. Which is what a lot of us are doing. Yet trans-separatists undermine this very progress, thus condemning future generations of transwomen to either stealth or non-womanhood.

Anonymous said...


I used to think and feel the same as you on these points. However, what you might come to realize as I did, is that having a medical condition which offers a cure is not something to be used as a political football. It is rather, something to seek out a treatment and cure from. Once cured, get on with your life!

There is enough information and access toward treatment and a cure today - which was not the case thirty odd years ago - that someone who is suffering from transsexualism does not need to be 'activist' and 'out' to get what is needed. That is, unless you just like to get in peoples faces about such things. And, that is where trouble starts.

The very term "transwoman" implies that you/we are a 'thing', an object rather than what we really are, a woman. The very self use of the term infers to others that you are not real. That you are somehow in flux. How is any common person going to be able to comprehend something that is so inhuman, non traditional, and out of place with normative society?

There are many issues at play in this debate. Some of them have to do with people who still have transsexualism and those who have been cured, not feeling it necessary nor right to be a part of the "Transwoman" scene. That such forced inclusion only serves to undermine where they are in their lives; seen as women, or that they are women already. And, this is where the real trouble starts, lumping people born with transsexualism in with the transgender machine/borg.

In a binary society - which like it or not, that's where you, I and everyone else live - there are only men and women. At the insistence of inclusion and the self identification as a transgender, transwoman, gender questioning etc. type person; the effort turns to forcing others to accept something that is unacceptable. Putting people who have no will or desire to be a part of the binary society into places of expected gender specific privacy.

In so doing, you are placing others who do not share your desire for 'openness' and being 'out and proud', at risk physically, emotionally, financially, and even in their personal relationships because of a medical condition they have long sought to put behind them, or have done so. I ask you, is that fair?

The short answer is, unequivocally, NO!


Sagebrush said...


You won't see me use the term "transwomen" (or "transmen"). Most people are either women or men, with a few who either can't figure it out or feel like both or neither.

And there is no such thing as a "trans-separatist." There are women who were born transsexual, deal with the condition, and make a normal lives for themselves. How do these women undermine anything? We can't do anything about activists or their agendas. We simply live our lives.

Sagebrush said...


Sorry, not meaning to pile on. I welcome your comments.

I just wanted to add that this blog was established to do the very education of which you wrote. It's only one little blog in an obscure corner of the blogosphere, but its message has been consistent: transsexualism is a congenital disorder, a medical one, and people who are born with it require medical treatment. That's the message that needs to reach the general public.

Who among activists is spreading that message? Are not most activists spreading quite a different message about gender and the acceptance of differences?

Josie said...

Isn't the real question not whether the public will ever accept us...but rather how can we ensure that the public accpets us without subjecting ourselves to a literal hell in the process? The general public will claim that they cannot take a person that goes to such great lengths to hide their true identity (For someone that insists on stealth) seriously, and yet if we out ourselves we will never be able to remove ourselves from being the subject of scorn and ridicule that will most assuredly follow. Once your out your out. The Genie can never be put back into the bottle. All of that being said I truly do think that more transitioning people need the courage to go mainstream. This is a condition that the public needs to be desensitized to. Until it is, the public will never see us as we do.

Fionnuala said...


I hate that word. It's not really even a word. My thoughts on that word...

flow said...

i outed myself through stupidity, after relocating to a small town where i really didn't need the hassle.

its true. A large number of people (mostly young males) insist on referencing my birth anatomy, despite the fact i look and act nothing like a man. Its a pain in the arse, and can quite spoil an evening. Some women, in particular, will call me 'he' when they are being bitches.

At the same time, a larger number of people treat me normally. they use the correct pronouns and appear to have no problems accepting me as i am.

i do wonder, though, how much easier life could have been if i'd just kept my mouth shut and come up with a plausible lie when first asked.

still. i get emails and messages occasionally from people thanking me for opening their eyes and minds, telling me how good it has been to know me and to get over the prejudice around women born TS.

It is for that small amount of goodness seeded into the world that i've stayed put, and dealt with the consequences of my stupidity. I'm strong enough to deal with the negative aspects, most of the time, and perhaps simply being out and being normal in a small community will have a longer term effect on the fate of future women born TS who are not as physically fortunate as i am.

It is human nature to look for weakness, and once found, to use it as a weapon. It happens to everyone. For me, that weakness is my birth. For others it is a lisp, or a birthmark, or hair colour or race. we can chose to build it up into something huge and insurmountable, or we can learn to deal with it in as positive a fashion as possible. if we take the second option, then we change patterns...

at the same time, i feel for Jenna. she's so beautiful and yet there is so much hatred thrown at her. It is going to take a lot of local pattern changes to fix that particular defect in humanity.

a-friend said...

@ Josie

I have to ask:

The general public will claim that they cannot take a person that goes to such great lengths to hide their true identity

you've lost me a little?.... who exactly is your "true" identity and why/how do you hide it?

I hid who I am once, I don't anymore and I'd advise others not to iether (didn't work out so great!)

most people I know take me pretty seriously and believe it or not, I don't really have to subject myself to literal hell (as you put it) just not say anything about myself that doesn't need to be said.

Sorry for the slight derail Sagebrush, nice post.

Kathryn Dumke said...

"People born transsexual who are public about their birth defect seem to think that being visible helps understanding. So far, that seems not to be true. I imagine it might change a few minds, but for the most part, anyone who is public is seen as a freak. The beautiful ones are called fake. The not-so-beautiful are "men in dresses." People born transsexual who are "out" might have correct sex markers on all their documentation, but by being open, they basically "third sex" themselves. Any understanding this engenders is fundamentally flawed."

The fall out from the lack of useable data on women born with a congenital birth defect in the sense you have described is palpable when it comes down to obtaining rights and healthcare for those who have been born with this defect.

I am involved in a legal action with a view to obtaining SRS coverage in my Province (yes I am from Canada). There are two hurdles that must be overcome in presenting such a case, firstly proving the distinction between transsexuals and gender variant persons with a view to prove that SRS is "medically necessary" that is not cosmetic. It requires a medically sound reasoning, that health care needs for gender variant persons are distinct and discreet from those that are transsexual for policy development reasons.

Secondly, actual, true prevalence data (to assess the reasonableness threshold under the Canadian Charter s. 15) and personal evidence of transsexuals relating to their condition, health care needs and legal policy needs.

This evidence cannot be found in ways that makes it presentable, i.e. personal testimony, affidavits and the like. Moreover, the refusal to participate in surveys that would lead to academic articles for fear of disclosure of ones historical status makes it impossible to obtain such data and such evidence.

I agree with all you say here and am grateful you are saying it. But if there is a need to create conditions that actually support transsexual health care needs and therefore laws and policy then there has to be a way to obtain such data in each state, province and regional area.

What do you suggest?

Brenda Fernández said...

I have always thought that going stealth was the most selfish thing a trans person could do. But then again, I'd probably end up doing it myself if my physical appearance allowed.

If the majority of those who can just go stealth to ease things for them, and those who are out tend to be those who couldn't be stealth even if they tried to, it's not surprising that the general population equates being transsexual with being a freak or with other "gender conditions". They also get a very biased idea of the prevalence of this condition, as well as "what a transsexual looks like". If most of the transsexuals they know looked just like themselves, then it might be easier for them to accept us as their equals (and stop third-gendering us and discriminating against us in the ways they do). Writing an obscure blog under a pseudonym doesn't really help with that.

I don't know if I would forgive myself going stealth (if that was a possibility for me, that is).

Sagebrush said...


I don't have an answer. I understand that until proper health care is available to all people born transsexual, someone has to lobby for it. But in doing so, a person's life can be dreadfully compromised. I can't blame anyone for avoiding that.


So if you thought you could, you would do something you consider to be the most selfish thing you could do? Frankly, if your photograph is anything to go by, you wouldn't have a problem simply living life as a woman without disclosure. Of course, there is more involved than how a person looks.

But since a woman born transsexual ought to have been born female, why would she not want as much of that life as possible? Why should that not be acceptable?

If someone wants to sacrifice their privacy after all they went through to repair their birth defect, that's their choice. But I wouldn't *expect* that of anyone.

Reality Check said...

Buenos Aires is a huge mega-city.
Once you graduate, it should be easy to rebuild your life discreetly, as the woman that you clearly appear to be.

Brenda Fernández said...

@Sagebrush: I don't know what I would do if I could. Right now I can't for several reasons. Like keeping employment, not losing housing, etc. I still can't even safely go full-time, much less consider going stealth.
I do know that I intend to do everything to go full-time as soon as possible.
However I think going stealth is a selfish act. I probably shouldn't blame those who do it, probably they absolutely needed to do it. But by making ourselves invisible we're helping to perpetuate people's biases. Probably if people got used that some women are of transsexual history and that it's not as rare a thing as they think, many misconceptions about us would go away. By making ourselves invisible to "get the most real female experience", those who are visible tend to be the ones that don't (yet) pass and are visibly seen as "different". So people get used to the idea that being transsexual is being Other, is being "not like they themselves are". And that is part of the reason why then we're not able to experience "the most real female experience" while being out as transsexual people/people of transsexual history. I don't *expect* people to sacrifice their privacy either, but I think that not "sacrificing" is a selfish act in this situation and it plays against those of us who can't have that privacy because they don't pass or for whatever other reason. I hope that even given the chance I won't end up taking or having to take the selfish path.

@Reality Check: Hi Maria! Yes, my city is a pretty big and anonymous place. :) At least if I were to take that path of going stealth I wouldn't have to move. However as you see, I still think that I'll try everything not to have to hide my history.

Sagebrush said...


I don't think that those who live discreetly perpetuate prejudices. I think they simply acknowledge that those prejudices exist and that being "out and proud" will not, in most cases, change attitudes. Mainly, it makes one a spectacle. As gorgeous as Jenna Talackova is, by being "out" she helped no one and hurt herself. She will be tagged as "transgender" forever, and there will always be people who think she is a man or an "it." Cruel but true.

Brenda Fernández said...

@Sagebrush: Well, yes, you're probably right. I'm a bit too naive to think that by being out one can change society's prejudice.