(WARNING: If you feel uncomfortable with the subject, please feel free to explore other pages and articles on this blog about Ciluba or other subject. There are plenty!)
This post was inspired by a very official email we received a few weeks back at work informing us that one of our co-workers was transitioning gender. This email triggered A LOT of reactions. We talked about it on several occasions and I realized people don’t generally know much about it, mostly because it is very foreign to them and when I say “them” I actually include myself.
I never got into a phase where I doubted my identity one bit. I know who I am. So it’s difficult for me to understand what it means to feel like living in the wrong body or having a thousand questions in your head about your sexuality or identity, sometimes to the point of depression, hating yourself, hurting yourself or even committing suicide. I don’t know this specific co-worker but I do know someone who has begun his transition to becoming a woman and I personally find it quite disturbing because I’ve known him as a man for a few years and out of the blue he said he was transitioning. I actually thought he was gay… I don’t have any hate or anything of the sort, it just made me somewhat uncomfortable, like many people, I believe. I just don’t understand it and I do want to understand this. I like to understand things.
When I started looking into it, I had basic knowledge about LGBT community and I’ve watched “Queer As Folk” (US version too) and “The L World” (yeah, I know, it’s very cliché but still… good shows). I have a few gay friends, went to clubs with them (they sure know how to party) so I know more or less what gay people are about but transgenderism, also known as gender dysphoria, is a different level for me. So I went digging to break things down a little bit, get more information and clarify things. It’s never too late to learn. The best thing in those situations is to get to the source so I went on YouTube where the LGBT community is quite active actually. I’ve also browsed a few blogs to read and see some testimonies. I actually found this very interesting.
Let’s start with the LGBT thing. “Googling”, I found out that I was missing letters!!! It’s actually LGBTQIA or even LGBTQ²I2SP²A². God, it’s complicated and confusing! LGBT is way simpler! Note that most of those communities have sub-groups with their own events, codes and culture. I discovered A LOT of vocab that I didn’t even know existed.
Lesbian – Often referred to as “lez” or “dyke” (mostly the lesbians themselves), a female-identified person who is attracted romantically, physically or emotionally to another female-identified person. They subdivide in several categories such as fem(me), lipstick, butch, stud, tomboy, stem, gold star, etc.
Gay – A male-identified person who is attracted romantically, physically or emotionally to another male-identified person. They also subdivide in several categories such as bear, daddy, wolf, chub, pup, bull, twink, etc. “Gay” is also often used as a generic term including both gay males and lesbians.
Bisexual – Often referred to as “bi”, a person who is attracted romantically, physically or emotionally to both men and women. Maybe two third or more of the bisexual population is female. Guess, what? There are also several categories such as hedonistic, circumstantial, emotional, exploratory bisexuals, etc.
Transgender – Often referred to as “trans”, a person who is a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex. Transgenderism is not a sexual orientation. Transgender people will be attracted to the opposite sex as well as the same sex regardless of their own identity. So you can have straight, bi or gay trans men and straight, bi or lesbian trans women (who knew?!?). Since the level of gender dysphoria (to be opposed to euphoria) depends on the person, transgender people include transsexuals, transvestites, cross-dressers, drag queens, gender blenders, gender benders, etc. A transsexual, if I understand correctly, is a transgender person who decide to transform with medical assistance in order to physically match with their own identity and live permanently as that “chosen” identity, which is called transitioning. The process is very long and take years of physical and psychological therapy. There are two categories of transsexuals, male to female (MTF) and female to male (FTM). Sometimes after a few years, “roll-backs” happen for a very few of them. A lot of transgender people feel comfortable enough with their body not to actually transition.
Queer – An umbrella term which embraces a variety of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of those who do not adhere to the heterosexual and cisgender majority (cisgender people represent the vast majority of people on the planet, their identity matching with their body). The term queer includes, but is not exclusive to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transpeople and intersex persons. Traditionally, this term is derogatory and hurtful, however, many people who do not adhere to sexual and/or gender norms use it to self-identify in a positive way.
Questioning – obviously a person who is still not sure how they identify themselves or explore the LGBT community. I think bi-curious people fall under this category as people who explore their interest toward same sex attraction, romance and sexuality while identifying themselves as straight. There are also ‘lesbian until graduation’ (LUG), ‘gay until graduation’ (GUG), and ‘bisexual until graduation’ (BUG), heteroflexible/mostly straight people or commonly called “spaghettis” (this one is funny! straight until hot!), etc.
Intersexed – Someone whose physical sex characteristics are not categorized as exclusively male or exclusively female. They are NOT hermaphrodite as this term refers to a person who is both, fully male and fully female, which is scientifically impossible.
2-Spirited – Term used by Native American people in many tribes referring to people having two spirits inside their body, one male and one female, also known as 3rd and 4th gender: feminine man and masculine woman. The people falling under this category were not excluded from the clan and had an important role in their community. They would dress with a mix of male and female accessories or would dress as a woman one day and as a man the next, as they wish. In modern culture, this umbrella term includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, gender queer, cross-dresser and all people who have multiple gender identities. Two-spirited can also include relationships that would be considered “poly” (see below).
Polysexual – a person who is attracted romantically, physically or emotionally to several genders, for example men and transmen or women and drags, etc. I think polysexuality can be place somewhere between bisexuality and pansexuality.
Pansexual – a person who is attracted romantically, physically or emotionally to anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. (Does it make your life simpler or more complicated?)
Asexual – A person who is not attracted to anyone, or a person who does not have a sexual orientation. From what I understand, asexual people will fall in love with someone but will not be sexually attracted to them. Often the physical features or personalities will be their focus rather than the sexual act. Of course, now you should have got the gist of it, asexuals can be gay, lesbian, transgender or anything else.
Ally – A person who does not identify as LGBTQIA, but supports the rights and safety of those who do.
There is one more notion that we can mention here that can apply to the LGBT community but definitely goes beyond. It’s polyamory. Often referred to as “poly”. It’s the practice, desire and acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive, with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships and with knowledge and consent of everyone involved. (To be differentiated from polygamy which is the practice of marrying, legally or not, more than one spouse, sometimes without the consent of the other spouses. Polygamy can be categorized into two: polygyny for a man marrying several women and polyandry for a woman marrying several men.)
There are also other acronysms referring to the LGBT community such as GLB (Gay, Lesbian and Bi), GSM (Gender & Sexual Minorities), GSRM (Gender, Sexual & Romantic Minorities) or GSD (Gender & Sexual Diversity). Regarding the demographics, if you cross various studies, I’d say around 3-5% of the global population (between 200 and 350 million people) is part of the LGBT community. For transgender people, the number drops drastically if you assume that 1 out of 1000 (some studies say 1 out of 2000) is born, then it’s about 7 million people in the world, maybe 10 millions but even then it’s not much compared to the global population. I tend to believe it’s more as a lot of people hide their true sexuality to protect themselves or maybe are not aware of it.
There are some things I want to add here. The LGBT community is fighting for their rights and the way they are perceived in general, which I totally understand, but they deal with thousands of years of mankind history here so changes are slow, just like for any other minorities. One thing I really don’t agree with and strongly disapprove is bashing as they do in Russia, in several countries in Africa and other parts of the world. What I want to say to them is you have the right to disagree/disapprove but what gives you the right to be the judge, the jury and the executioner? What gives you the right to put someone down just because they dress differently, speak differently or behave differently than what you are used to and what you expect from them? At the end of the day, we are people, we are human beings. We all are someone’s child. I understand why people wouldn’t approve certain views but please let’s remain human about it. Let’s not fall to a level lower than ground. Let’s be civilized.
I’ve added a few interesting videos that are quite informative. I had to chose, there are so many (got to love YouTube!). You can watch all or some of them. They each present different angles and different tones on the subject. I focused here on transgender people but you have hundreds and hundreds of videos in which LGBT people explain how they identify themselves and tell their experiences so feel free to explore some more. Some videos are actually quite funny… For more info, click on the description box on their YouTube page.
» » Transgender vs. Transexual vs. Drag
» » Steps of Transitioning
» » Transman problems
» » Some transgender people don’t transition
» » Kids & Transgenderism
» » Transgender parents
» » Transgender Pronouns
» » The Talko
» » ABC of LGBT
Those videos by Arielle are funny
» » Trans Guys
» » Trans Women
So what can we remember from all this? Well a lot of questions have been answered and more answers are needed but basically, what I withdraw from all this: One. Human beings are extremely complex, fascinating and amazing, puzzling, even. Two. There is some intolerance even within the LGBT community. I guess we’re all humans after all. Three. IDENTITY ≠ SEXUALITY. They are two very distinct elements of your psyche. One define how you perceive yourself and the other define what you are naturally drawn to. Repeating myself a little bit here but, for example, one can identify themselves as a male and be sexually attracted by both male and female. If that person is born in a woman body, the “wrong” body, and decides to undertake surgeries and treatment to physically become a man, there is a fairly good chance that, when all is done, this person will still be attracted by both male and female (it could change, though, partly because of the hormonal treatment… I know, soooo confusing!)
Finally, I think the best is to think about it (in order to digest this huge overload of information), question about it and talk about it. Nothing is better than communication to understand where each and everyone of us stands. Let’s agree to disagree if necessary but still try to understand things despite disagreement and/or uncomfort (and this is valid for a lot of things, actually).
To wrap this up, I submit to you an interesting Danish short film about transgenderism nicely executed:
» » Boy (2014)