Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Great Journey, Part 11 – What’s in a Name?

As I have noted in earlier posts, the language of the transgender community is a constantly moving target.  While I refer to genital surgery as Gender Confirming Surgery (G.C.S.) for example, others are now calling it Gender Affirming Surgery (G.A.S.).  As you can see that acronym isn’t too nice – “have you had GAS yet?”

One of the shifting targets surrounds the language of sexuality for transgender people.  Common thought is that gender identity and sexuality are not linked, but that isn’t necessarily so.  A National Institutes of Health[1] study from a few years ago suggested that of those transgender women who were attracted to women prior to transitioning, about 60% remained attracted to women after transitioning.  Now, is this a change in sexuality or maintaining one’s sexuality?

I would suggest that the 60% have maintained their sexuality.  But common language does not support that.  By common usage these people went from “living as” cis-hetero males to lesbians.  I fall into that category.

I maintain that my sexuality did NOT change with transitioning, because I was and still am attracted to women.  So, a queer rabbinic colleague challenged me to come up with something better. I did what any geek would do, and hit Google.  This is what I found: Click here for a great list, including alternative sexuality terms.

In this page, the author suggests that I am a gynesexual. GYN is the Greek root for woman (It has nothing to do with vagina – VGN is the root for sheath {e.g. of a sword}).  I have taken that usage on – I was a gynesexual prior to transitioning and I still am. Others in the community disagree with me and maintain that they are, in fact, lesbians.  That is certainly their prerogative.

I should also note that my sexuality is about a person’s gender identity, not their assigned sex.  I am attracted to women, not people with vaginas, and I am not attracted to men, irrespective of what is in their shorts.

While this language is a starting point, it is hardly complete.  It does not include people who identify as, or are attracted to, non-binary people (commonly called enbies). One might say that Pansexual works (pansexual means being attracted to all people, not as some have suggested, anything...)

What happens if someone is into exclusively enbies? Or if an enbie is attracted to women and enbies, but not men? The language needs more work.  

Will this catch on? I doubt it. I am not enough of a trendsetter to cause this to catch.  But I will continue to use this language, because it is the most accurate description for my sexuality.