Sensuous in Satin

Reflections on Transgender life

Transgender Transitioning vs Transexual Transition

Posted by Adrian • Wednesday, July 23. 2014 • Category: Gender Diversity

I was revisiting some old bookmarks today and came across again the web pages by Lynn Conway titled "Basic TG/TS/IS Information"

I'm not sure how much these articles have been updated since they were written, nor how much they need updating, but I was interested to read her views on Transitioning.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about the need to understand transitioning in a broader context. I re-read Lynn's take on this - where she in fact proposes there are two types of transitioning.

Over the past few decades many transsexual women have undergone transsexual transition, including both a social change of gender and a surgical "sex change" of the genitalia, and have then gone on to live successful lives in their new gender. Many media stories about these cases have helped society gradually become more aware of, tolerant of and accepting of the notion of transsexual transition. Most states now have well-established procedures for changing public records of name and gender for those who complete a transsexual transition. Many employers now even have procedures in place to accommodate people going through transsexual transitions.

More recently, many transgender people who do not have intensely transsexual feelings, have begun to openly undergo transgender transition. Some are crossdressers finally overcome by TG feelings and the need to take on a female social identity. Others are drag queens who've long enjoyed participating in drag shows, but then who finally recognize the strength of their mixed-gender feelings. Most of these transitioners begin transition by taking modest doses of female hormones (enough to produce some degree of feminization) and by undergoing electrolysis to remove facial hair. When feminized to some degree, they shift their full-time social gender by dressing to some degree as women, modifying their voice and mannerisms to varying degrees, taking on a female name, and obtaining some forms of formal identification in the female gender. Thus they achieve varying degrees of social gender transition WITHOUT transsexual SRS surgery.

As transgender people have become more aware of the opportunities for social transition, the number of these TG transitions has risen dramatically. Many gender counselors now see far more transgender transitioners than transsexual transitioners, especially among their older clients. Acknowledgement of the validity of transgender transition in an important new trend, since there clearly are many more transgender people than transsexual people in the wider gender continuum.

Some TG transitioners migrate into a "transgender" social role instead of trying to pass as women. These transitioners may actually feel uncomfortable about becoming "fully female" in presentation and mannerisms, and they are especially uncomfortable about modifying their genitalia. They instead feel a need to take on a transgender or androgynous social role that better matches their mixed-gender identity. Such transitioners often remain visibly transgender and are comfortable in that identity, and their social lives outside work usually involve people in the transgender community. Many TG activists, support group moderators, speakers on TG issues, etc., are people having such openly transgender identities.

Whilst I can relate to much of what Lynn describes, I don't feel that she makes a compelling distinction between transgender and transexual transitioning. It seems to me to just depend on whether you have or have need to modify your genitalia.

Lynn goes on to say in the article: the casual use of the term "transition" sometimes leads to confusion

I certainly have experience of this confusion, in conversations with those who in their mind are puzzled that my transitioning has no need of a surgeon's knife. Embracing the concept of two types of transition would I feel only make this confusion more widespread.