By Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH first published in 1997. Reprinted in Sex, Gender & Sexuality: 21st Century Transformations by the same author, 1999.
I am Tracie O’Keefe, a clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist at the London Medical Centre, London, England. Not only am I a clinician who treats transsexuals but I am also a transsexual myself. I have blossomed as a person and a professional after having started to undergo treatment for gender dysphoria some 30 years ago. My considerations here are not only from a clinical point of view but also a consensus of opinions I have noted having had thirty years of living in and out of the transsexual community.
The use of language is as an important way of treating Gender Dysphoria and the Ex-Gender Dysphoric, as is the scalpel, hormones or cosmetic surgery. How we relate to others verbally, is not only through the descriptive pronoun or personal naming but also a public declaration of what that person’s status is in society at large.
My name is Tracie, therefore my value as a human being equals what ver the user of my name sees, hears, and feels about me. When I say Tracie I am placing my own value upon myself. When others say my name Tracie, they are placing their value upon me. If I am called “she” then I am identified within our society as female but if I am called “he” then my whole value as a human being changes regardless of my culture of origin.
In the area of gender re-affirment treatment, it can be a minefield when someone misuses another person’s pronoun, saying “she” when perhaps the client prefers “he” or vice versa. Indeed male and female are two distinctive ends of the reproductive sex continuum.
However, none of us as clinicians, surgeons or social workers can actually change the sex of our clients, so to lead them to believe this on our part is total dishonesty. We cannot change biological males to females, or women to men. What our clients want, when they ask for a sex change, is for the clinician to help them re-affirm their believed sex.
The dictionary defines sex as reproductive process and at present we cannot change the reproductive process of our clients, so therefore it is incorrect for us to label our clients as sex changes. There is no such thing as a sex change in the human equation.
Using the term sex change is offensive to many transsexuals, since it bestows biological expectations upon the patient that they cannot perform. It disempowers the ex-Gender Dysphoric because they feel they were never their original biological sex and do not want to have to live up to the biological expectations of their cosmetic sex.
The Terms M-F and F-M do not describe the transsexual experience for the majority of the transsexual population. We propose to offer you some logical linguistic extensions to the transsexual experience that can help you have greater choice in communicating with and describing your clients.
The linguistic surface structure of the phrases sex-change, the terms M-F and F-M, when examined closely reveal that such phrases are misnomers when applied to the transsexual experience.
They are falsehoods that do not leave any of the users with the full satisfaction of descriptive language. Their deep root structure is in fact found to be a contradiction in terms. In order to allow the users of language describing the transsexual experience to feel more comfortable there needs to be new words, specific and special to that experience and not borrowed form the heterosexual bipolar model.
We are our language, and we become our descriptions just as new descriptions are sometimes needed to relate to new experiences.
To take into account the whole span across the sexes, genders, and sexualities.
A transsexual who is crossing the gender barriers from male to female, but has not yet undergone genital surgery.
A transsexual who crosses the gender barriers from male to female, having completed genital surgery.
A transsexual who is crossing the gender barriers from female to male, but has not yet undergone genital surgery.
A transsexual who has crossed the gender barriers from female to male, having had genital surgery.
Complisexual(transsexual) – either mascusexual or femisexual
One who has undergone the transsexual experience, now living in their desired gender role, having had genital surgery.
One who knows from a very early age that they are the opposite gender to the body they have. These individuals find it impossible to live as their biological sex and begin to live as members of their believed gender from their teenage years.
One who discovers later in life that they are transsexual. These people may have known from an early age that they were not the gender that they outwardly appeared to be, but fought against the issue, often marrying and having children. In other words they manage to live and survive, although not necessarily happily so, as members of their biological sex
these are common language terms that have been used to describe those who live across the bipolar gender barrier to their original biological sex.
TO LABEL OR NOT TO LABEL?
Here I am not presenting a fait accompli to say, “This is the way you should label your clients”. I am not even saying for all clients this is right. I am simply offering a way out of the dilemma of having to associate clients with what might have been an offensive self image.
Being a femisexual myself, I know that I become very disturbed when the medical profession describes me as having once been male, for I plainly never have been. I like all transsexuals were born somewhere in limbo land and spent a lifetime defining my own existence in the most comfortable way I could.
It is extremely insulting to me when someone describes me as once having been male, and I have nothing against males, I just never was one. The majority of transsexuals I have met feel the same as I do. If they had ever believed they were the ir original biological sex then they would have been unlikely to be in a position where they felt they had to claim their true identity.
Some people believe that more labels will only lead to a greater division in an already divided subculture. Others believe we should all be under the same banner to enforce the rights of all human beings, and so do I in a way. I believe we should allow our clients to express their experiences in using the fullness of language which they can define and claim the beneficial entitlements of those descriptions.
The emergence of a Trans-Fluid culture demonstrates that the old bipolar system of male and female simply cannot be applied to all of us. I hope you will consider seriously, in future, the way you are able to refer to your clients. Only by empowering the transsexual experience with extended logistic diagnosis are you able to empower those individuals to claim their right to be themselves. That is themselves not purely in relation to the exclusively rigid bipolar reprod uctive male and female experience.
Viva transfluidity, and learn from the gender adventurers who have a great deal to teach. Do not use language to categorise your clients into a diagnostic criteria. Do not use language to secure your own understanding of your client’s experience. Use language to empower, motivate, enrich, validate and appreciate the uniqueness of your clients’ sense of well being.
I am Tracie, which equals a femisexual woman (female) and a complisexual. I thank you.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist. Counsellor, PACFA registered Mental Health Professional and Naturopath In Sydney. You can get help by booking an appointment with her at Australian Health & Education Centre.