This is the first of a multiple part series about the term gender. Conservative religious organizations and ex-gay organizations use the term gender — and variants on the term gender — to group together GLB & T people in a manner that GLB & T people don’t group themselves together. This series will explore groupings around gender, and the term’s variants. –Autumn
Ex-gay, formerly identified as gay, formerly identified as homosexual — we know what these statements mean when we read them.
Here is some ex-gay terminology you may not have heard or heard often:
– former __________ (Where one can fill in the blank with transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, etc).
These terms have been used by ministries and groups promoting freedom from homosexuality and/or the healing of sexual brokenness. Reality Resources (an Exodus International affiliated ministry), Pure Passion, Another Way Out, Stonewall Revisited, Leadership U, and Mastering Life Ministries. Exodus International covers cross-dressing here.
To define ex-transgender terms, one has to define the transgender terms from which ex-transgender terms are derived. So, below is a glossary of some terms my XGW peers and I may be using on XGW in the future that we may not have used much previously. I’ve added some supplemental comments in itallics that hopefully will give some additional clarification of the defined terms.
transgender: The most bare bones of definition of a transgender would be in its use as an “umbrella term” — it describes people who don’t fit into a binary of just male and female. For example, the term can encompass the non-binary identities of drag queens, cross-dressers, transsexuals, genderqueers, and intersexed people. However, transgender is in large part a self-definition term, just as gay is a self-definition term — everyone who may fit a definition of gay doesn’t identify as gay (such as a person may instead identify as queer instead of gay), everyone who may fit into this definition of transgender doesn’t identify as transgender.
drag queen: A male who presents as female, exaggerating certain characteristics for comic, dramatic or satirical effect. The term usually refers to people who dress in drag for the purpose of performing, whether it’s singing, lip-syncing, or dancing.
cross-dresser (or crossdresser): Men who occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. The term cross-dresser should NOT be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex, or who intends to do so in the future. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not necessarily tied to erotic activity, but sometimes is. Importantly, cross-dressing is not indicative of sexual orientation.
It’s often difficult to distinguish a cross-dresser from a drag-queen, but the difference is often found in their presentation and “goal.” Drag queens often aim for over-the-top imitations entertainment icons or feminity in general; cross-dressers often aim for emulation of females, or an emulation of their idealized vision of females. In other words, drag queens will more often dress to look like a diva ( i.e. Celine Dion or Diana Ross) or perform in a “camp” way (i.e. Nuclia Waste or Lady Bunny), where a cross-dresser will wear clothing one would expect to see on a high school girl or a librarian.
Drag queens and cross-dressers are by definition “part-timers.” A part-timer’s core gender identity is within the parameters of what society has determined his/her gender to be. Part-timers do not wish to totally or permanently change their full-time gender presentation. Rather, they are more comfortable living within a wider range of variance. In other words, they are gender variant. (reference #101 here)
transsexual: An individual whose natal sex (what’s “between the legs” at birth) and gender (what’s “between the ears”) don’t match; he or she identifies as a member acquires the physical characteristics of the opposite sex through various means (i.e. hormones, surgery, etc.).
A transsexual can be of any sexual orientation found in society as a whole, and transsexuals identify their sexuality in terms of their “target sex.” For example, there are some male-to-female (abbreviated F2M or FTM) transsexals who identify as heterosexual, others who identify as bisexual, still others who identify as lesbian, and still others who identify as asexual.
genderqueer: A person who identifies their gender as neither male nor female, both male or female, or somewhere on a continuum between male and female.
intersex: A person whose biological sex is ambiguous (i.e. a child has ambiguous genitalia at birth; a person doesn’t have the common XX or XY chromosomal pattern, etc.). There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations which make a person’s sex ambiguous (i.e., Klinefelter Syndrome, Adrenal Hyperplasia, etc.).
For children born with ambiguous genitalia, parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant’s body to that assignment. This practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults are speaking out against the practice, accusing doctors of genital mutilation.
gender identity: An individual’s emotional and psychological sense of gender. A gender identity usually is the same as an individual’s natal sex, but this isn’t necessarily the case when discussing transsexual, intersexed, genderqueer, or other gender variant people.
How and where gender identity becomes significant to ministries and groups promoting freedom from homosexuality or the healing of sexual brokenness is summarized fairly well in the Exodus International’s Gender Identity; What Does This Have To Do With Homosexuality? Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
Transgenderism’s roots have many parallels with homosexuality, but it is not entirely the same. Both are defensive responses which people develop — quite unconsciously — to shield themselves from pain and rejection. Where it differs goes back to a person’s perception of what’s true and the beliefs they develop about themselves, others, and the world around them.
Next Sunday: Part 2.
Trans And Gay: The GID Diagnoses And “Gender Confusion”