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Myths and facts

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Recently, there has been more attention to the issues faced by transgendered people. Occasionally, some sources of the mainstream media have begun to address these issues in a more constructive fashion[22] but myths and misinformation persist and only serve to reinforce stereotypes.

Myths about transgendered people include:

  • Transsexualism is unnatural: Human sexuality exists on a spectrum of physiological and psychological characteristics. Research indicates that throughout history there have been people whose gender identity was different from their birth assigned sex.
  • Transsexuals deceive people when they do not disclose themselves as transsexual: Individuals who present themselves in their felt gender should have the right to decide whether to disclose their gender identity except in circumstances where there are bona fide and reasonable requirements.
  • Male to female transsexuals are men until they have had a sex change. Female to male transsexuals are women until they have had a sex change. For the most part, most transsexuals do not identify with their birth assigned sex, although they may present as that sex during some part of their lives.
  • Transgendered people are part of the gay and lesbian community. Historically, transgendered people were identified based on their perceived sexual orientation and subsequently were associated with gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Although transgendered people are sometimes politically associated with the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, their experiences with discrimination are not necessarily the same. This was noted in the consultations and is addressed in the popular literature as well.[23]

Some other ‘gender myths’ were set out in an information flyer distributed by transsexual women who were protesting at a women’s music festival that excluded male to female transsexuals. The flyer highlights the fact that there are also diverse views amongst women, some of which are exclusionary.

  • Transsexuals have surgery so they can have sex the way they want to. How or with whom a person wants to have sex is usually not a significant factor in the desire for sex reassignment. Usually, people undergo sex reassignment - a difficult and painful process - in order to make their bodies conform more closely to the way they feel about their gender. Whether a transsexual is attracted to men or to women normally does not change with surgery.
  • Male to female transsexuals have been raised as boys, have never been oppressed as women, and cannot understand women’s oppression. Some male to female transsexuals were raised as girls for portions of their lives, appeared to the world as girls and were treated like girls. Some were beaten and raped both by their own family members and others because of their belief that they were girls or their desire to become girls. For most, the difference in the way they were treated when they appeared as men and after they began appearing as women brought sexism into sharp focus.
  • Women’s space is not “safe” space if male to female transsexuals are allowed. Women’s space - and anyone's space for that matter - is not safe when behaviour is disrespectful or threatening. Transsexuals are no more likely to behave this way than others are. Individuals who behave inappropriately should be excluded rather than excluding an entire group because some of its members act in offensive ways.
  • Non- transsexual women have the right to decide whether transsexuals should be included in the women’s community. Each individual has a right to claim her own identity. While claiming this right for themselves, some members of the women’s community would deny it to others. Transsexuals can and do include themselves in the women’s community and the lesbian community without permission from non-transsexuals.[24]

[22] See for example Raphael, “The Cruellest Cut” The National Post, Wednesday (25 November 1998) B1; See also the October 1998 issue of Utne Reader that was dedicated to Gender Issues, LENS PUBLISHING CO., Minneapolis, Minnesota U.S.; see also Over the last twenty years, there has been growing visibility of transgendered issues appearing in mainstream culture. For example, R. Richards (with John Ames), The Renée Richards Story: Second Serve (New York: Stein and Day, 1983) which was also made into a television movie. The U.K. television dramatic series Coronation Street has a transgendered character named Hayley Patterson who first appeared in January 1998.
[23] See note 21
[24] See Gender Myths, distributed at Michigan Womyn’s [sic] Music Festival (undated).

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