Politics and Diagnosis

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #98, Summer 2002.

by Tabbas

Transsexual people experience clash between subjective and objective conditions on a personal level. Specifically, their spiritual I occupies a body which materially impedes I?s goals. True?by scientific application, the body can be changed in accordance to I?s need. But science is seldom generous. Scientists are people, and people are political.

The political condition of transsexual people is distinguished by their need to appeal to one person in order to be physically changed by another. And while often, several people are involved at each step, almost never is the person approving of giving treatment to a transsexual person. This level of alienation from self-identification and self-actualization, on top of the discrimination we face, certainly makes transsexual people one of the most oppressed minority groups in the world today.

Liberation of transsexual people pivots on the question of self-diagnosis. To be transsexual, a person must have reached a decision. And while there is some marginal control, in no way is this a free choice. It?s like birth (rebirth). Or, like Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar, you can see it coming, accelerating to the point of crisis. You can deal with it, or it will deal with you.

As the penalty for transsexualism is high, too often prospective transsexual people will approach their first interview in a crisis or near-crisis situation. And they expect the service provider to recognize their problem, understand their level of need, and begin treatment. More than likely, what they receive is their first taste of politics.

Service providers, who are accustomed to dealing with the crazy and noncompetent, are horrified by a sane, articulate individual who challenges their accepted relationship between (biological) sex and (social) gender. And where passion might ordinarily be taken as a measure of commitment, a transsexual man or woman who insists on treatment generally intensifies the provider?s sense of horror.

The prize in this fight between the transsexual person and the service providers is the locus of control: who establishes the criteria by which one is called transsexual; who qualifies for surgery. The fight works for personal satisfaction for service providers, who realize that locus of control is a prime index of (political) maturity. This is a matter of pride. Locus of control is a vital concern. Let?s take some examples.

For years, especially during the sixties and seventies, providers screened transsexual people according to how they compared to the so-called ?classic case.? Apologists for this view held that sexual identity was clearly established between the ages of three and five. Therefore, if a client did not crossdress and completely identify cross-gender by age five, the client was not transsexual. Tell someone the truth, and, baby, you were gone. It didn?t matter if you grew up in a hostile environment and were resourceful enough to deflect your crisis into puberty, or even beyond. Theory said you weren?t conflicted.

Today, the principal shibboleth used to separate transsexual people from crossdressers is whether one has masturbated while cross-dressed. Say yes, and you can kiss your surgery goodbye. And don?t expect anybody to ask what you were thinking about while you were masturbating (like how will it be when this same tissue is turned around), or suggest that maybe, just maybe, sexual stress also has a biological component.

This next one probably won?t get you thrown out, but if you?re male-to-female, it will put your whole story in jeopardy: look like Marilyn Monroe and tell the provider you are satisfied with your new appearance. Even if you went from a frail, homely boy to the prettiest girl on the block, most girls/women would like to look better. Why don?t you? (But then, most genetic females never had to look like a guy). But since statistics can kill you, you had better learn some beauty flaws fast.

The clown theory of competence teaches that if bozos like those above can diagnose transsexualism, then damn sure I can. Learn to lie first, and take care of business. But the day is at hand when the analyzed shall analyze the analyzers. And payback is hell.