The transcendent bissu


PHOTO/Medscape/Duck Duck Go

Transgender issues seem particularly modern in the West. Perhaps this is because of how highly structured Western societies are: every form that needs filling in and every public WC available demands choosing between being a woman or a man. Or maybe it seems modern because transgender is associated with surgery, and surgeons have been able to change someone’s sex only since the early 1930s. Current debates about same-sex marriage, gender and sexual anti-discrimination laws are also recent advances. Indeed, the very word ‘transgender’ came into common usage only in the past 20 years or so, and even the word ‘gender’ itself was popularised only in the 1970s. So we couldn’t even talk about transgender in a sophisticated way until practically yesterday.

The term transgender is now used to denote someone who was assigned a particular gender at birth (eg, a boy) based on an assumed sex (thought to be incontrovertibly visible by genitalia, eg, male). This child, thus assigned, must then act in ways thought appropriate to that gender; boys should act only in ways that will enable them to grow into heterosexual, masculine men. People who feel no conflict between their assigned sex and their gender are said to be cis gender. Others, who do feel a conflict, might transition from one gender (woman) to another (man), and can then frame themselves as transgender.

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