My place to post research about trans culture & history

1907 Transsexual = Cross-Gender February 10, 2012

Prior to this post, it was asserted that the term “transsexual” was first used in 1949 (transexual and transsexualis) and the German version, (transsexualismus) was first used in 1923. Now, it seems that this term first appeared in print the 1907 edition of The Medial Times.

The Medical Times, Vol 35 No. 1, New York, January 1907

1907 “Transsexual”

 

THE GIRL WHO TRAVELS ALONE

In the Cosmopolitan of December 1906 Eleanor Gates begins a series of articles with the above title dealing largely with the insults to which decent women are subjected when unescorted. She describes at some length the species of male human beings we can scarcely call them men who annoy women; finding physical cowardice the only attribute in common; recounts various experiences to illustrate the text, especially with reference to the suspicion and indifference with which decent men and the representatives of the law are inclined to regard women receiving such insults; states that such occurrences are directly proportionate to the concentration of population hence of special frequency in the metropolis; and negatives the hypothesis that the insulting of women by men is due, directly or indirectly to the initiative of women themselves.

In reading her very interesting article any one who has made a study of the psychology of sex readily distinguishes two quite different though often coincident factors: 1. Mere mental degeneracy which takes pleasure in offering injury to the innocent or in indecency as such 2. The desire to make transsexual acquaintance of greater or less degree of impropriety without previous acquaintance.

For instance, the author states that foul language addressed to women is especially frequent in the mouths of teamsters not especially infrequent in the mouths of small boys, that elderly women are not spared, and she mentions numerous instances in which no attempt at following up the acquaintance is made or in which the persecution is persisted in, after it has become apparent that the woman would not reciprocate an attempt at acquaintance. In such instances it is plain that the sole pleasure in the insult is the fact that it transgresses plain rules of decency. A man engaged with his team naturally cannot expect that a well-dressed woman will join him on the seat, and, in the other instances mentioned of this general category, it is clear that we have to deal with a phase of abnormality entirely distinct from that manifested by the ordinary masher and it seems to us of a much lower order. Such perversion, followed out in one line brings us to the individual who finds delight in wanton cruelty to children and the lower animals, and, followed out along distinctly sexual lines brings us to the “ripper” as distinguished from the ordinary murderer, or the fetich-seeker as distinguished from the thief or robber.

Just where criminal responsibility ends and actual insane irresponsibility begins in such scales it is to decide. Practically, any such manifestation calls confinement of the offender, in the interests of society, and it makes little difference whether such is regarded as a punishment or as a necessary of an unfortunately abnormal individual.

The second phase of the subject is the problem of the masher, whom we find in various guises in all lands and in all times. Solomon’s warning against the “strange woman” is usually taken to refer to the harlot in an exclusive sense, but it seems questionable whether he did not have in mind the more general social problem of illegitimate acquaintance and that the word strange is used in a literal sense. The vice is certainly as old as Homer, for Nausicaa, in rescuing Ulysses, bids him drop behind when they near the city, lest the people insinuate that she has “picked up” a stranger a peculiarly modern expression.

It seems to us that the author has rather missed the force of her perfectly correct explanation of the fact that insulting overtures of acquaintance (she does not use the vulgar but conveniently brief term “mashing” etc.) increase in frequency according to density population. For instance, she emphasizes the rough but gallant treatment of women in the wild West, and states that although the making of clandestine acquaintances in small rural communities is practically unknown countrymen visiting the city are frequently arrested for making overtures to women. It seems to us there is no essential difference. The best of men are attracted to truly feminine women, and, the worst masher, unless an arrant fool does not expect to make an improper acquaintance at least at the beginning with a woman who is respectable. A woman, accosted in a courteous, though unconventional way by a man in the mining camp or in a small village will usually respond without thought of insult and will thereby and by her obvious purity at once place the acquaintance such as it is on its proper footing. The same intrusion in a city would obviously be an insult to a woman and the woman who would respond to it however good her intentions would thereby further insult. Yet, in many instances the masher especially the awkward one is simply lonesome yearns for woman’s society without ulterior motives We can scarcely agree with the author that a who accepts a seat in a street car, or other courtesy similar nature from a strange man, renders herself liable to intrusion by thanking him.

The subject of acquaintance without formal introduction is a very complicated one in which it is difficult to draw hard and fast lines. Most of our intimate friendships begin without an introduction, and, indeed mere compliance with the verbal formula of presentation does not necessarily launch a respectable acquaintance. It is a matter of common sense that travelers liable to be thrown together for a considerable time on ships at hotels or on long distance trains should dispense with the formality of introductions. It is obvious that one cannot ask in advance the exact mileage of a fellow traveler or the period of registration of a fellow guest. Generally speaking, men and women of good breeding do not usually desire or feel at liberty to make an acquaintance with a stranger met casually and yet no line of demarcation exists according as a boat sails in salt or fresh water, or as a train is labeled “through,” or “local,” and, in general, good sense good morals and good intentions are reasonably safe guides. It is a pity that a decent man should feel it necessary to hesitate about doing a woman a service in any place or at any time, because his motives might be questioned and yet such is the case and the well meant offer of protection against a sudden rain or other courtesy, often meets with a rebuff and is often withheld apparently selfishly, from women who would accept it in the proper spirit.

We differ very decidedly with the author’s belief that mashers are not encouraged by women themselves although granting that it is difficult for a decent woman to conceive otherwise. No allusion is made to streetwalkers who are a ubiquitous pest in nearly every city in the down town districts to any man of fairly good appearance not obviously busy. They are simply plying a trade as pitiable as it is degraded and must be regarded in the same light in this particular as beggars peddlers and other human nuisances.

Accosting of women even without frank indecency is a punishable offense in almost every city of the civilized world. It is perfectly true as the author points out that such offenders are protected by the reluctance of good women to prosecute them but it is self evident that only the most unsophisticated could mistake a respectable woman for a street walker except in the rarest instances and equally self evident that the practice would stop if there were not some prospect of success Unless men received encouragement from so called and self considered respectable women the masher would be as much of an absurdity as a man who made a practice of inquiring for stationery at hardware stores Disagreeable as it is to admit the fact the masher accosts strange women who resent his intrusion because a verv considerable though of course small percentage of women outwardly respectable in appearance and indeed of good morals so far as gross infractions of decency are concerned accept or eVen invite his advances.

For example two young men of good character (one personally known to the writer) actuated largely by motives of sociologic curiosity though not averse to a lark deliberately went to a section of the city occupied by a respectable working class to see how many girls would respond to overtures of strangers They met with many rebuffs some in a very complaisant spirit and on the other hand with not a few direct overtures.

Altogether, they “caught on” to twenty-eight women in an hour and a half, escorting each pair long enough to be able to say that an acquaintance been made. Not one of the girls acted or spoke in indecent way, or showed any indication of being a professional street walker. It is unnecessary to out the clinical plan adopted by the author of the articles under discussion. Suffice it to say that every of anything like attractive appearance however disinclined to clandestine acquaintance frequently overtures from women on the street in restaurants public conveyances etc. Men who make no secret seeking such acquaintances are unanimous in the opinion that the hunting is easy on account of the of game, in most cities and towns. To a extent women willing to make such acquaintances merely silly, and by no means immoral. Curiously enough, too, women who would not think of making accepting advances in their own habitat, will do so summer resorts in strange cities, or under the of conventions, expositions, etc. The writer has a patient who is a shrewd business woman a model mother and at heart perfectly modest and good who speaks frankly of the courtesies shown her by strange men trains at hotels etc and of the pleasant made in this way. Such women are by no means and it is perfectly obvious that they are the direct of “insults” offered to women traveling alone and which the author complains. In many instances probably no insult is intended but merely a camaraderie which it would be boorish for a man to fail to respond if offered by another man. In too many instances however men will push such acquaintances to the limit or, at least, will accept as a cue the subsequent demeanor and evident intentions of the woman accosted.


  1. […] 1907: Transsexual = Cross-sexed […]

  2. […] before heard the word “transsexual” – whether that was an 1800s Latin term or a 1907 English language medical term – and instead repurposed an existing term to suit their linguistic needs. 1898, cover-page […]

  3. jayla says:

    has no meaning in regard to the condition of transexuality itself. merely dissimilar in structure. the author was refering to men eluding to a -transient/ or passing by/ loose/ unattached- encounter of sex with cis women.

    • Cristan says:

      I’m not making the case that the context of this term exactly equals the context it now has 100+ years later. I’m tracking the etiology of the term. I tend to wonder why so many tend to make this assertion. Am I missing something? Are there people who are asserting that I’m arguing that English is a dead language which doesn’t evolve? It almost never fails; I find an early usage of what is a today a trans term, post the term’s original context and someone inevitably says something like, “But, that 100+ year old term don’t mean now what it meant then; your argument is fallacious!” Argument? (Sorry about blowing off steam in this reply, but your like the 25th person I’ve had to explain that variations of this argument is, in fact, a strawman)

      Okay, back to your point…

      What this usage does do, however, is prove that the men who were credited for coining the word “transsexual” didn’t, in fact, coin the term; the term already existed and was being used in the medical community. That’s about 20 years before Hirschfeld supposedly coined the term, about 40 years before Cauldwell supposedly coined the term and about 50 years before Benjamin supposedly coined the term. I mean, by 1915, the term “trans-sex” was being used to describe the experience of living full-time as the sex opposite to the sex assigned at birth.

      As to the interpretation of the term’s context, I initially thought that the author was talking about cross-sex sex. However, upon rereading the usage a few times, I concluded that the author is talking about culturally inappropriate cross sex interactions which are not appropriate because the man who seeks to interact with the women does so without “previous acquaintance.” My take on this was therefore the author is using the term in the context of men and women acting in a way that they should not act according to the cultural gender norms of the time. I based this conclusion on a sentence in the next paragraph which begins with ‘for instance': “In such instances it is plain that the sole pleasure in the insult is the fact that it transgresses plain rules of decency.”

      Compare the two:

      The desire to make transsexual acquaintance of greater or less degree of impropriety without previous acquaintance.

      In such instances it is plain that the sole pleasure in the insult is the fact that it transgresses plain rules of decency.

      Those rules of “decency” are the rules which govern cross-sex gender behavior. Additionally, the author states that there are 2 types of offences: type 1 (physical) and type 2 (offence caused by violating gender decorum). The term “transsexual” was used in reference to the “type 2″ offence. Hence, my title summation of the context, “Transsexual = Cross-gender.”

  4. […] While it is now known that this term was being used in print as early as 1907, that “transsex” (a term which seems to first show up in 1851) was used to refer to […]

  5. […] the coinage date back to 1915, what happens now that I found “transsexual” in print in 1907? But then again, maybe 1907 isn’t right either because I also found “trans-sex” […]

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