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the next frontier

Many transgender people talk about an inner female identity that they can trace to their earliest memories to and, while I cannot argue with their sentiments at all, this may or may not be an accurate portrayal of what is truly going on.

Most of us learn to take cues from our parents, teachers and peers about which type of gender behaviour is acceptable or not for our birth sex. To what degree certain traits are genetically encoded and which can be attributed to socialization can be put into question because from an early age we learn to conform to expectation and many keep their secret desires to themselves once they experience disapproval.

There are masculine women and feminine men who are not only at ease with their gender expression but with their physical bodies and yet for the transgender person there seems to be something else going on. The argument for an innate female identity can be argued back and forth however, in the complete absence of genetic proof that would allow us to point to something that makes transgender and transsexual people markedly different; we are left without a definitive explanation.

The opposite argument for an innate female identity is the idea that this is an abnormality borne out of fetish, trauma or a combination of both. This explanation has resonated with some who have found it to be a plausible answer for the origins of their own gender variance. Indeed after the vacuum created following the work of Harry Benjamin, Ray Blanchard was only too happy to fill it with his own ideas which have yet to be fully accepted most especially by transgender people themselves who see the idea of a mental disorder as an anathema.

But regardless what you believe about the origins of gender dysphoria and the reason why some people choose to transition, the reality is that this is happening every day somewhere in the world. The almost carnival freak show novelty that was the Christine Jorgensen case back in the 1950’s has been morphed into a more common (if albeit small) occurrence that can no longer be ignored by society. Doctors, lawyers, business people are transitioning; some early in life and some later.

It is possible that as the stigma of a transition lessens, some who were previously on the fence may be tempted to go forward with one. The danger of course is that not everyone who considers one should necessarily go through with it and may in fact regret doing so at some point down the road.

The formal gates are there to prevent people from may be tempted to think it’s a viable solution to their depression; self image problems or childhood trauma. Walt Heyer, for example, who had a multiple personality disorder as well as substance abuse issues and now advocates against the transgender condition may be a good cautionary tale for people who should not transition. He rails against the charade of thinking you can change genders but the fact is that transitions do work for some people.

But what about the people who do not desire full surgery and only want hormones or to simply live as the opposite gender without altering their body? The issue then becomes one of legal protection and of tolerance. This tiny percentage of the population that was previously marginalised and even hidden from view is now requesting full-fledged recognition and protection under the law. Of course not everyone is comfortable with this and it has catapulted the discussion about bathrooms and classrooms and workplace transitions into our everyday lives as well as challenging some people’s religious beliefs about what is a man and what is a woman.

But at its roots, this is really about treating a small and little understood minority with some degree of dignity. Regardless of people’s opinions about something they cannot personally relate to, the transgender have a right to exist and live in relative happiness and without fear of persecution. This will greatly depend on the fortitude of those on the frontier lines as well as on the political bravery of those who hold the reins of power.


  1. While there are some societal events that move things along more quickly, such as the Jenner interview or Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars, most of the progress will take place on a smaller, one to one basis. As each civilian encounters a 'T' person that civilian will be able to form opinions about the person as an individual. It is important that they eventualy encounter several different T people so that they can try to get an appreciation that we are not all alike. Not all Canadians are the same, nor all Americans, nor all blacks, nor whites. People understand that. Time and exposure is needed for folks to grasp that not all T people are the same and that the concept of divergence that you and I can appreciate can, over time, be grasped by others and that all will be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

  2. you are completely correct Pat. Thanks for your valued input.


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