|What About Non-op Transsexuals? A No-op Notion|
|Opinion - Looking Glass|
|Friday, 18 August 2006 20:00|
Washington, DC, USA. Can we at all agree and let transsexuals be transsexuals? Human language, while inherently imprecise, does convey rich meanings that frequently become the basis for action, inaction, or dismissal of real needs. Anyone up for a game of oxymoron?
Consider the odd joining of the terms “non-op” and “transsexual” into “non-op transsexual”. And what about pre-op transsexuals? Non-op?
Let’s talk about it.
A Little History
Here is the short form: the original meaning of “non-op” came from “no-op”, a term used in early computer languages. Basically, it referred to an instruction that does nothing (it was sometimes used by assembler-level programmers as filler for data areas).
Managers, of course, took things around a bad turn when they used the term to identify a person who contributes nothing to a project, or has nothing going on upstairs, or both (he or she is “no-op.").
The evolved term, “non-op”, did gain traction in other contexts.
For transsexuals, some now apply the term to a person who, for a variety of reasons, does not proceed with Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). Some are “pre-op” individuals in transition to eventual reassignment.
Others claim no desire to proceed with genital surgery. Virginia Prince originally used the term “transgendered” in the 1970s to clearly distinguish such people as pre-operative transsexuals with no desire to have surgery.
Prince constructed the term to avoid identification as a transsexual. In Prince’s view, a transgender is someone who believes they fall in "between" the genders. Such a person does not identify in part or full as either male or female. A “transgendered” person does not desire surgical intervention to change sex. That may be why transsexuals are sometimes referred to as “extreme” in their pursuit of surgery.
The term transgendered later became a catchword for all sorts of people, such as transvestites, female impersonators, drag queens, and so forth. Whatever the internal emotional makeup, presentation (as distinct from gender or sex) was decisive for the transgendered.
Later still, intersex individuals and others without a specific description came under the term. Transgenderists later evolved the term to a broad abstraction that included people born transsexual.
Medical issues may prevent surgery? Pre-op.
Some may have medical issues that pose surgery risks. The medical reasons may prevent immediate surgery, delay it for a time, or - in extreme cases – foreclose the possibility forever.
Medical state-of-practice does evolve over time and medical conditions that prevented surgery in the past may not do so today. For instance, certain forms of epilepsy and congenital heart conditions used to be insurmountable obstacles to SRS. That is far less true given today’s clinical practices.
Being placed on hold for SRS merely means that one is pre-op. Sometimes that can mean being pre-op for an extended period, perhaps forever (depending on finances and the medical state-of-practice).
We can only hope that medicine continues to advance and people born transsexual with current medical conditions will not be deterred from surgery in the future.
So, who else claims to be non-op these days?
There are other people that claim to be non-op transsexuals, based on lifestyle choices. They may identify themselves as transsexual, but do not believe surgery would enhance their lives. This can include those who
Some of those who state one or more of these reasons are early in transition. They are still working out whether they really are transsexual and committed to realignment of their gender and sex via SRS. Some may conclude they are not born transsexual after all and stop right where they are or even de-transition.
Others, though, say they are transsexual and view SRS as an option to be selected or not as they choose. This view redefines transsexual as a lifestyle choice, rather than a compelling birth condition with a medical solution.
However, saying someone is a non-op transsexual who chooses to be non-op presents us with an oxymoron. That is, a figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms (e.g. “almost pregnant” or "deafening silence").
So, the non-op oxymoron proclaims people who want to become the other sex yet don't want to become the other sex.
Worse, it does not define people by what they are, but tags them with a description of what they are not.
What makes the “non-op transsexual” oxymoron so arresting, and so different from a mere contradiction, is the intentional use of rhetoric to force an unnecessary distinction. In this case, a distinction pointed at transsexuals who really are pre-op, even if perpetually.
Gender, Sex, & Presentation
Many anthropologists reserve sex for references to outward biological categories and reserve gender for social or cultural categories. According to this rule, one would say side effects of a new medication vary with the sex (not gender) of a patient. Gender (not sex), in this view, is less likely have more clear definitions since it is sanctioned by the conventional wisdom of a cultural rule.
I am just one of many people born transsexual who reject the confusion, caused by a rejection of biology. I distinguish between gender, sex, and presentation. For me:
Non-op? Non-transsexual. Transgendered, maybe.
A person may live full time as, and simulate the presentation of, another gender. If the person has the time, place, health, and money to have SRS but chooses not to do so, they may be transgendered, but they are not transsexual. If an individual wants to have SRS, but lack one of the prerequisites (time, place, health, and/or money), and this lack prevents obtaining SRS, the individual is a pre-op transsexual.
Given the state-of-the-art, FtMs are a special case. If an FtM chooses not to have bottom SRS until such time as the surgical technique can actually provide functioning genitalia, they too are transsexual and, after breast reduction, should be considered a state-of-the-art Man Born Transsexual.
Changing your hair style, installing silicon breast implants, altering mode of dress, and so forth, are surface flash. This has nothing to do with whether you are transsexual. Even taking hormones may not be an indicator of transsexuality if the other steps remain unplanned.
You might just be a person who wants to grow breasts or get a testosterone sexual high.
A Matter Of Concern
Facts are stubborn things and words matter when trying to talk about the facts. We humans sometimes find ourselves gripped by a vocabulary not of our making. Occasionally, this vocabulary leads to destructive ends.
We must have a special concern about the behavior of non-transsexuals who pose as transsexuals and publicize themselves as non-op. A common assertion has it that GRS/SRS is merely an option selected by individuals at one extreme end of a gender spectrum.
Some prefer to base gender on externals, and accept the concept as a comforting socio-political or religious construct. Scientific evidence for the existence of a gender spectrum is wholly lacking because the assertion is non-scientific in the first place. Given that proponents view gender solely as a social construction, assertions about it have no predictive value.
Pseudoscience & Public Policy
Asserting that SRS is an option for a person born transsexual, even when all other factors are favorable, promotes pseudoscientific approaches to public policy. Denying the underlying medical reality of transsexuals has the consequent effect of characterizing SRS as elective surgery that is minimally cosmetic and not reconstructive.
This unscientific denial stymies initiatives to obtain research attention for transsexuals, improve medical practices, secure legal protection, and provide a variety of needed social services.
Let transsexuals be transsexuals.
Transgenders can be themselves and garner respect for their good will if they cease trying to co-opt the space needed by transsexuals to fix their birth condition.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 August 2011 16:48|