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1984: Transgender Community = Modern Transgender Community March 8, 2012

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The TV-TS Tapestry, 1984

Consider the context with which the terms “transgender” and “transgender community” are used in this 1984 trans community article:

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The ‘Origins’ and ‘Cures’ for Transgender Behavior

by Roger E. Peo, PhD

Just about every transgendered person I have ever talked to or heard about had at some time or or another been very concerned about how s/he ‘got that way’. For some it is an obsession – to find out at all cost – why they feel the way they do. Others have an equally strong drive to ‘cure’ their behavior and stop the feelings of wanting, sometimes, to be the ‘other’ sex. The  reasons for these driven searches are many fold. In some cases it is to ‘please’ a partner who is unable to deal with a behavior that seems so at odds with what society considers ‘normal’. Others find the dichotomy between their physical being and their mental/emotional state is so painful that relief, in any form seems better than existing  in some never-never world. Most transgender situations where there is pain seem to be ones in which the person has not been able to resolve the ‘split’ in their existence.

Almost any book one chooses to read on the subject offers some explanation on the origin of transgender feelings. One theory says that prenatal hormonal effects sanitize the individual so that a later environmental situation will trigger the latent transgender feelings. Another theory says that early environmental and/or social situations ‘force’ the individual into the behavior. There is no evidence that any of there theories explain ALL the various types of transgender behavior that have been observed. It is not even clear whether transvestism and transsexualism are different aspects of the same phenomenon or completely different phenomena. A new book, Sex and the Brain by Durden-Smith and Desimone does not deal…

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… directly with transgender behaviors, but the authors do offer same interesting speculation on human sexuality. The main theme of the book is that male and female brains are structurally and functionally different. These differences seem broader and more deeply ingrained in humans than had been suspected. It is hypothesized that these dissimilarities were, and still are, necessary for the two different reproductive functions that males and females perform. If evolution and research are any indicators, these disparate functions have been enhanced as humans evolved to their present state of development. It can be shown (in lower mammals) that these different brain structures can be achieved by altering hormone levels in critical periods during gestation. As a result, genetic males can be given varying degrees of female brain structure and genetic females can be given varying degrees of male brain structure. Either will then function in a manner more like the other sex.

From there research results on could draw the conclusion that transgender feelings are a result of prenatal alteration of an individual’s brain toward the other sex’s structure even though the obvious biological characteristics of the individual do appear to be different from people who do not have transgender feelings rather than an environmental/social one.

Suppose all of the foregoing assumptions/theories are correct? – SO WHAT? How does that help the adult (or even teenage) transgender person? It is far too late to change (physically) the brain structures  that ‘cause’ the ‘problem’, even if we had the slightest idea of how to go about it. The real problem, as I see it,  is our society’s unwillingness to accept forms of behavior that fall outside of the stereotypical ‘normal’ male and female models. Not all societies on this earth are so rigid – but again, that doesn’t help the person with transgender feelings. To change our society requires broad and in-depth general education on human sexuality that begins with our children and teaches more than reproductive facts. Until this happens, the transgender person will still be ostracized and misunderstood. They will perceive themselves as misfits and heap upon themselves much guilt and rejection. Is there a realistic solution given the the above situations? Yes! Most of what has to be done has to be done by the transgendered person with help from others in the transgender community. First, such a person has to stop looking for a scapegoat – whether that scapegoat is a biological structure or a societal structure. If her/his biology really causes the ‘problem’, short of reassignment surgery, there is not much that can be done. If society is the issue, then choices are few and most will opt to stay in the society they know, even if it rejects them. As a result, one has to ‘pick themselves up by their bootstraps’ and see themselves as worthy, responsible and lovable human beings. This can not be accomplished alone and that is where the community comes in. Through organizations such as the Tiffany Club and concerned professionals, the person who is struggling with transgender feelings can begin to put aside the guilt and fear, then go on to find the unique solution for their own life that provides them relief from the pain while not hurting those around them.

The above sounds simplistic – but it isn’t. Coming to terms with yourself and seeing yourself as a person of worth is probably the most difficult ‘birth’ that any human being ever makes. In the end, it is the cure that is truly possible, for the only person we can really change is ourself.

Questions:

  • Note the way in which the author assumes that the reader understands the term; is it significant that in 1984 the author assumes that the definition of “transgender’” is already fully formed the the reader’s mind?
  • How do the ideas of this 1984 article mirror ideas found within the “transgender community” today?
  • In what way does this historical record fit the historical narratives favored by some in the TS separatist movement?
  • Might one consider this article representative of one branch in the term’s evolutionary process?

Note the variant uses of the term:

    • Transgender community
    • Transgender  feelings
    • Transgendered person
    • Transgender behavior

Note that the author seems to be using the term in a way that is generally thought to exist only in the post-1990s era:

There is no evidence that any of there theories explain ALL the various types of transgender behavior that have been observed. It is not even clear whether transvestism and transsexualism are different aspects of the same phenomenon or completely different phenomena.

The author seems to be using the term “transgender” to refer to all the constituent groupings captured under the “transvestism and transsexualism” taxonomy. Is this particular context from 1984 represented in the way the term is generally used today?



  1. […] that she means the term as a community identifier in the same way the term was used years before (1984). Share this:RedditSharePrintEmailDiggFacebookStumbleUpon var addedComment = […]

  2. […] 53.) “Almost any book one chooses to read on the subject offers some explanation on the origin of transgender feelings. One theory says that prenatal hormonal effects sanitize the individual so that a later environmental situation will trigger the latent transgender feelings. Another theory says that early environmental and/or social situations ‘force’ the individual into the behavior. There is no evidence that any of there theories explain ALL the various types of transgender behavior that have been observed. It is not even clear whether transvestism and transsexualism are different aspects of the same phenomenon or completely different phenomena.” – The TV-TS Tapestry, 1984 [Link] […]

  3. […] First used as an umbrella term in print and during a trans conference in1974, a decade later the term was being commonly used as an umbrella […]

  4. […] First used as an umbrella term in print and during a trans conference in1974, a decade later the term was being commonly used as an umbrella […]

  5. […] [13]: Williams, C. L. (2012). 1984: Transgender Community = Modern Transgender Community. Retrieved April 21, 2012 http://research.cristanwilliams.com/2012/03/08/1984-transgender-community-modern-transgender-communi… […]

  6. […] 1984: Transgender = Umbrella Term  […]

  7. […] founded the first Transgender Literature Archive at Ulster University. Also at least a year after this 1984 article by sexologist Roger E Peo. 3)Virginia (Charles) Prince didn’t invent the word, but she did […]

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