Ask Phoenix

Phoenix B. Rishon

Q: Dear Phoenix, I was yelled at for calling a drag queen, “transgender.” What is the difference between someone who does drag and someone who is transgender?

Dear general public,

Terms describing gender identity abnormalities may be confusing to many people, homo and heterosexual alike. By abnormalities, I do not mean any negative connotation. I merely mean that they differ from the norm of society. Occasionally these terms have different definitions, depending on who is defining the term.

The majority of people are “cisgender,” meaning their gender identities and/or expressions match their biological sexes. “Transgender” is an umbrella term referring to anyone whose gender identity and/or expression does not match his or her biological sex. This describes many people, including a man who dresses in women’s clothing (crossdressing), a biological female who externally expresses and psychologically feels like a man, and a born female who goes through sex reassignment surgery to transition into a male.

Sex reassignment surgery is for a transgender person who wishes to match his or her gender identity with that biological sex. This process requires a lot of psychological treatment, hormone replacement and expensive surgery.

A general rule is to respectfully ask the individual how they refer to themselves. Never assume someone prefers a label or gender pronoun. Most, if not all, will be happy to answer you, and be glad you asked instead of assuming.

The reason drag queens do not always consider themselves transgender or crossdressers is the fact that being a drag queen is a job. We dress in drag for performance and job reasons, not as a lifestyle. This does not describe all drag queens and kings though. That is why it is respectful to ask what they prefer to be called.

Another important note is the difference between transgenderism and sexual orientation. These concepts are completely separate. While transgender refers to one’s gender identity/expression differing from their biological sex, sexual orientation refers to one’s emotional, physical and/or romantic attraction toward a certain gender.

Transgender individuals could be straight, gay, bisexual, etc. This idea can be mind-boggling. For example, a biological female who identifies and expresses as a man and is attracted to women may be considered a transgender straight man. On the other hand, a biological female who identifies and expresses as a woman and is attracted to women is a cisgender lesbian woman. These are mere labels, though. Please ask someone before you assume his or her preferred terms and labels. Do not put so much emphasis on biological organs. Pay more attention to how the individual identifies his or herself.

Transgenderism is still considered a psychological disorder under the term Gender Identity Disorder. This has become controversial because it classifies the diagnosis as a “disorder.” There has been movement to remove it from the list of disorder diagnoses as homosexuality was years ago, possibly with the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 2013.

To sum all this up: Do not be ignorant and disrespectful. If in question, ask the individual his or her preferred pronouns and terms. Never assume, because if you are wrong, it can be offensive.

Hope this helps.

Toodles for now