Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I recently got a comment from a frequent reader who told me that he would want to know more about Transgender, Transsexuals, Transvestite, Gender Queer-all those terms that may be confusing. So here goes.

This is an umbrella term for:

  1. Transsexuals
  2. Transvestites
  3. Cross dressers
  4. Gender Queers
  5. Gender Benders, Gender Non-conforming

The main problem with most of humanity is that culture has taught us that there are only two traditional gender models; also known as binary roles.

  1. Sex (body has) Male (penis) Female (vagina)
  2. Gender Role (behaves stereotypically) Masculine Feminine
  3. Gender Identity (identify as) Man Woman
  4. Sexual Orientation (gets attracted to) Woman Man

Definitely, a huge number of people do not fit into these models. We must recognize gender complexities; that its vast, explosive and non-rigid.
Before talking about transgender, we need to begin by breaking down 'gender'. Its the critical piece in the word. I will use the above to break down.

  1. Sex – Its the physical, biological or anatomical sexual markers. Strongly related to genitalia.
  2. Gender Role – Its the social understanding of how we are in a gendered sense in the world. Its the public, social and perceived expectations of gendered acts or expressions. Something we do or something other people see in us.
  3. Gender Identity – Simply the self conception/perception of one's gender.

So back to the terms.

  1. Transgender – A person who doesn't conform or identify with the gender expectations associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  2. Transsexual - A transgender person who has changed or is in the process of changing their physical sex/characteristics by undergoing medical/hormonal treatment such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and/or sex reassignment surgery (SRS).
  3. Transvestite – A person who sometimes wears clothes traditionally worn by and associated with the opposite sex. Confused sometimes for Drag Queens/Kings.
  4. Gender queer, gender non-conforming – A person who does not identify as a man or a woman. (Eg. There was this person on a documentary who was born female but felt that they identified more as a gay man)

Trans Man or transgender man – a person who was assigned female at birth but who lives and/or identifies as a man.
Trans Woman or transgender woman – a person who was assigned male at birth but who lives and/or identifies as a woman.

Stereotypically, most transgender people consider themselves as straight. That means, if its a trans man, then he is attracted to women and considers himself as a straight man. If its a trans woman, then she is attracted to men and considers herself as a straight woman.
Most of the time, transgender people are confused for being either gay men who dress as women full time or lesbians who dress as men full time. This is not so as gender identity ans sexual orientation are two very different things. In a nutshell, trans people can be gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, name it. It begins with them describing themselves as whatever gender they feel best then goes to identifying what sexual orientation they fit in.
Almost all transgendered people 'suffer' from gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria. This is a psychological 'disease' that describes what these people go through. Some people in the world are beginning to push for transgender people not to be categorized as 'psychologically challenged' persons. Others, especially in places where the Transgender movement is still very young, feel that that would make it far more difficult for them to gain rights and access to medical processes.

I could go on, but indeed this (in my view) covers much of the basics. In Kenya, the Trans Movement is very young. There are few trans people out there fighting for rights but it is growing. One of the founders of the only trans organization has made tremendous leaps in fighting for hers and her fellows rights through engaging with the media (Being interviewed my media houses about being transgendered and in Kenya), being actively involved with mainstream human rights organizations such as the KHRC, writing and publishing articles in mainstream news networks such as Pambazuka News, engaging with the medical fraternity like the societies dealing with psychology in Kenya, the Kenyan medical board, the big heads in the largest Kenyan hospital, enganement with legal professionals who could assist in providing frameworks for legal aid to trans and intersex persons regarding name change in legal identification documents and much much more.
She is a person that makes me want to do more for the Kenyan community in terms of advocacy and sensitization.

I really hope that this long long post has and will continue to be of great help to all that come across it and I also hope that people learn from it.

“Vivre et Laisser Vivre”


Amy K. said...

Very well written. Good job! :)

Lindsay said...

Thanks Amy.

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