Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Great Journey Part 6

My Great Journey Part 6 (revised)

The Language of Trans

In this blog entry, I'm taking a different approach, and exploring the language of trans. I have not set this up as a Wiki, but I would like to make this interactive as much as possible, to keep it accurate and up to date.  So, if you see something that is out of date, or needs correction, or if you see something that should be here but isn't please comment below. 

The language surrounding the transgender world is a constantly shifting target.  In this post, I would like to address some of the common language found in the transgender world, and hope that this is a helpful resource. 
Gender Identity Terms
Gender Identity refers to the expressed, or true gender that a person lives.  This may be male, female, or somewhere on a spectrum from a-gender to gender fluid, Intersex, etc. Simply, this is who a PERSON IS.

A Transgender person is one whose Expressed, or true gender, does not match their birth gender.  This is the overarching term, and applies to anyone who expresses their gender differently than their birth gender. Some people may use the term transgendered, but this is not the normally preferred term. For more on this please see

A Trans-sexual is a person who has sought medical treatment to express their true gender. This can be medication, surgery or both.

A Cisgender person is one whose expressed gender DOES match their birth gender.

Intersex, previously called Hermaphrodite or Androgyne is a person who is born with some physical characteristics of both male and female genders. The possible combinations of genetic variations are too myriad to detail here.  Anyone with possible genetic variants should consult with their doctors for possible genetic testing, as appropriate.
There are various sub-categories of Intersex people. These can include people whose external genitalia at birth do not match their genetic markers. An example of this is women with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS). Women with CAIS are born with the 46 XY marker of males, but due to inability to respond to androgens, develop female, rather than male, sexual characteristics.

Genderqueer refers to someone whose gender expression does not fall on the binary state of male or female, but rather somewhere on the spectrum.  It can also refer to their sexual orientation. It is an umbrella term.

Non-binary any gender identity which does not fit the binary state of male OR female.

Gender-Fluid is an identity under the multigender, nonbinary, and transgender umbrellas. Genderfluid individuals have different gender identities at different times. A genderfluid individual's gender identity could be multiple genders at once, and then switch to none at all, or move between single gender identities.

Agender is also called genderblank, genderfree, genderless, gendervoid, non-gendered, or null gender. Agender is an identity under the nonbinary and transgender umbrella terms. Agender individuals find that they have no gender identity, although some define this more as having a gender identity that is neutral.

Gender Questioning refers to someone who is aware that they do not fit the cis-hetero mold but are not sure where they sit with regard to gender identity or sexual orientation.

Ally is a family member or close friend of someone who is LGBTQ. The term “ally” is used because allies support the right of their LGBTQ family member or friend to live an authentic life, rather than trying to fit someone else’s artificial mold.

Correct/preferred pronoun: Some people identify as male and want to be referred to as he/him/his. Some as female; thus she/her/hers.  Others still prefer they/them/theirs.  And others use many of the new pronouns that are being tried out.  If you do not know what a person’s preferred pronouns are, please ask.

Gender Confirming (or Confirmation) Surgery (GCS) also called various names such as Sexual Reassignment Surgery and Gender Reassignment Surgery. GCS is the umbrella term for the various operations transgender people may seek in order to express their gender.  Surgeries MAY include:

For Male to Female (also called transwomen): Vaginoplasty – the creation of the neo-vaginal vault.  Associated with this are orchiotomy (removal of the testicles) and penectomy (removal of the interior tissue of the penis).  In vaginoplasty, the outer skin of the penis, and the scrotum, are used in creating the neo-vaginal vault. If additional tissue is necessary a skin graft or colon section may be needed.  Along with vaginoplasty is labiaplasty, the forming of the outer labia of the neo-vagina.  These procedures may be done together or in one or more stages. 

Transwomen may also seek various procedures considered cosmetic, including hair removal (facial and body), facial feminizing surgery, breast implants, hip or buttock implants, trachea shave, etc. Some women may seek vocal feminizing surgery, but it is rarely effective.  Statistics show that less than 25% of all transwomen end up getting GCS.  There are many reasons for this, including financial, legal, health, and the choice by some to seek a non-binary end point.

For Female to Male (also called transmen): Bilateral radical Mastectomy and chest reconstruction (removal of breast tissue), hysterectomy (removal of uterus), oophorectomy (removal of ovaries), Metoidioplasty (a release of the clitoris to give a phallic form) and phalloplasty. Statistics show that less than 10% of transmen seek GCS. There are also various other plastic surgeries that transmen may choose to masculinize their appearance.

 Sexual Orientation Terms
Sexual Orientation is to whom a person is romantically or sexually attracted.  If the person is attracted to a person of the opposite sex, that is Heterosexual. If they are attracted to the same sex, that is gay or lesbian.  People may also be attracted to people who express a non-binary gender orientation.
It is important to note that sexual orientation and gender identity are unrelated.  A transgender person may be attracted to someone of the same gender(s) as they were before beginning transition, or their sexual orientation may change.  It is very difficult to apply orientation labels in cases like this.  As an example, I was attracted to women before I began transition, and I still am.  Does this mean I was heterosexual and now I’m a lesbian?  I prefer to skip these labels personally, but for many in the cis-hetero normative world especially, putting labels on people is the only way to make sense of things.

Gay is the overarching term for people who are attracted to others of the same or a non-binary opposite of their own gender.  While society tends to use this term for men who are attracted to other men, it can also refer to women attracted to women (lesbians) and to people who are non-binary attracted to other non-binary people. 

Asexual is a lack of sexual orientation.

Bisexual is someone attracted to people of two genders; this may mean men and women, or it may mean simply someone who is not their binary opposite.

Pansexual is someone who is attracted to any person, irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation.


There are a number of organizations that provide terms regarding gender identity and sexual orientation.  These may include (but are not limited to):

Many colleges and universities, media outlets, etc., also have their own glossaries.  This is a very personal issue, and different people in the LGBTQ+ community may choose to use differing language.  As a rule of thumb, if you are not sure, ask. If the person uses an unfamiliar term, it is okay to ask about it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Testimony against WA State SB 6548, seeking to block access to bathrooms for trans people

Background: There are a spate of bills in the WA State Legislature seeking to block access to bathrooms for transgender people who have not had gender confirming surgery, such that we'd have to use the facilities of our birth, rather than expressed, gender.  This is wrong on a whole host of fronts.

I was asked by the Jewish Federation of Washington to testify against one of these bills.  My testimony follows.  For more information, please contact

Esteemed Senators, thank you for hearing me today. I am Rabbi Rona Matlow, a community rabbi in Olympia, a disabled veteran, counselor and transwoman.
I served our country for 22 years to preserve our rights and liberties. This bill in front of you, SB 6548, to be enforced, would require substantial violations of those rights and liberties.
In Deuteronomy, is taught “Do not put a stumbling block before the blind.” This is commonly understood to mean that we should not put additional hurdles in front of those already facing many.  This bill does just that.
There has never been a case of a transwoman attacking a ciswoman in a women’s room. However there have been plenty of cases of transwomen BEING attacked in men’s rooms, when forced to use them.
Our rabbis taught that if one saves a life, it is as if they had saved the world. Conversely, if one takes a life, it is as if one had destroyed the world.
Senators, this bill before you will put many citizens at risk, and not improve the safety of any. It is mean-spirited, and it violates the very Biblical tenets the bill’s sponsors claim to uphold.
In Leviticus, as well as in several other places, is taught “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I ask you, would you like to be forced to show your genitals to use the bathroom? Because that is what this bill would require, to be enforced. That is not loving your neighbor.
I urge you to save the world, by defeating this bill.  Please don’t make my years of service and related disabilities meaningless by nullifying the very rights and liberties I served so long to protect.
Thank you.