Newspapers started to report stories of individuals who changed their gender identities and concealed their birth sex approximately since the middle of the 19th century. According to McCauley (2016), those stories were primarily about women who tried to “pass” as men rather than about men who assumed female identities. At that time, there was no precise term to describe transgender people, and reporters created such definitions as “male girl,” “female husband,” “girl-boy,” or “man-woman” (McCauley, 2016). As a result, readers could often confuse transgenders with lesbians and gays.
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The term “transgender” became commonly used only by the end of the 20th century. As McCauley (2016) states, the word was “popularized by transgender activist Leslie Feinberg in her popular 1993 novel ‘Stone Butch Blues’” (para. 4). Nevertheless, not all transgenders commenced using this term right away and preferred to pass as a different gender (mainly as males) in order to receive various social privileges (McCauley, 2016).
Even today, the label “transgender” is not accepted by all transgender people since it is “too binary of a definition” and does not capture all distinct variations on the sexual identity spectrum (McCauley, 2016, para. 8). Overall, transgenders and people with nonbinary gender identities often utilize those terms, including transgender and queer, that they deem applicable to their personal situation. Some people also still prefer to pass as men or women after changing their gender identities.
The difficulty in choosing the right definitions and pronouns seems to be by far the least significant issue that transgenders are currently facing. Other more serious problems include the lack of legal protection, increased risk of unemployment and poverty, barriers to healthcare, harassment, stigma, and violence (“Understanding the transgender community,” n.d.). Besides that, many transgender people lack access to documentation that would accurately reflect their identity. This issue may adversely affect their social and legal functioning (“Understanding the transgender community,” n.d.). One of the ways to eliminate these disparities is by increasing transgender representation in the mainstream culture and mass media.
McCauley, E. (2016). The language of transgender history and visibility. Back Story. Web.
Understanding the transgender community. (n.d.). Web.