[This was an invited commentary for the 25th anniversary of Pink Triangle Serices, now simply PTS.]
Gender Identity is not yet a term with the universal recognition and understanding of sexual orientation.
Universally confused with sexual orientation, especially the belief among some that it is equally protected, this often intentional confusion merely marginalizes and subjugates those who are already forced from the mainstream by the majority’s response to their nature.
Our lives are governed by the interaction of our nature with the environments around us usually described with the misleading term nurture—for the response usually given to those whose lives cannot be described as stereotypical cannot be termed nurturing.
Even though it is now generally accepted that by a very early age one’s sexual orientation is determined—and cannot be changed—one’s early certain knowledge of oneself as male or female, both or neither, is currently controversial among some gay and lesbian people, some feminists, some religious people, some politicians, some physicians, some gym owners, some journalists, indeed those who refuse to accept claims of being mis-sexed—those who repudiate—are not limited to any political, social, philosophical or religious category.
Those who accept this claim are not limited to any category, either.
Regardless of any specific biological origins of core sex identity (what I believe Julia Serano would understand as subconscious sex)—no more important than that of sexual orientation—the self-identification flowing from this must be recognized and protected both in human rights and hate crimes legislation.
Core sex identity is not obvious when the doctor stands over us at birth and declares “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” This assigned sex becomes the path we stray from only at our peril.
When one’s internal certainly does not conform to external assignment dissonance in gender identity is the first danger. When one begins to live this certainly, no longer able to endure dissonance and affirms one’s inner knowledge, violence and death often lurk nearby. At the very least, one should expect to lose everything: family, friends, job, career, recognition and achievements. This happens, however, less and less as this aspect of human nature becomes more and more widely known and understood.
Sometimes the word “transsexual” is used to describe those whose certainly drives their path to the opposite sex, including hormonal replacement, surgery and the achievement of their affirmed sex. Sometimes surgery or hormones are not possible due to medical, financial or philosophical reasons—though this should not detract from the intention and achievement of an affirmed life.
Precisely as those who do not need to conform their external sex to their inner certainty—cissexual people—transsexual people can present their gender in either stereotypical or non-conforming ways. Many transsexual people do not choose to be gender non-conforming—though many, particularly early in transitioning from assigned to affirmed sex, appear non-conforming.
Precisely as cissexual people, transsexual people may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual because sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same and have no connection, other than that all people have them both.
The decision to live one’s inner certainty is not lightly taken.
For some it may lead to life in public; for others it may simply lead to family and private satisfaction. For some the cry is “blast the gender binary;” some may simply confirm it. Any advocacy around gender identity must be open enough to include both, otherwise this advocacy becomes the same marginalizing and subjugating convention that has destroyed the lives of far too many.