Op-ed: Transgender Dinosaurs and the Rise of the Genderqueers

Why the traditional concept of transgender is slowly fading away.

BY Riki Wilchins

December 06 2012 4:00 AM ET

I'm reminded at this moment that the dinosaurs -- who once ruled all -- had no warning that their extinction was around the corner.

This begs yet an inapt analogy:  if every gay person could take a pill that would make him or her heterosexual, would they take it? That's an ancient homophobe hypothetical for gay people. But the question of blockers --- if you could take a pill that would stop you from being transgender, would you take it? That’s now a possibility for every young trans kid with understanding parents.

And here’s an even tougher hypothetical: Would you let your child take hormone blockers? Would she travel the road of visibility, ostracism, and harassment, along with all the positive benefits that has brought forth, like pearls from oysters, for at the luckier of us? Or would you opt for the permanent disappearing act and normalcy the blockers now offer?

Gay people never needed a pill. Most of them could disappear simply by refusing to “act gay,” by toning down particular gender displays and passing as straight, as gay people have done for thousands of years to survive in deeply homophobic and dangerous societies. Public and highly visible queerness was not a necessity for homosexuals in anything like the way has always been for male-to-female transsexuals.

But there has always been that foundational and private residue of gayness that remains: attraction to the same sex, which can be suppressed or hidden but not fully disappeared.

For the blocker babies, there is no residue. Their transgender-ness is there, and then – poof! -- it's gone.

If there were an anti-gay pill, perhaps today no one would take it because to be gay is no longer to suffer in anything like the same degree or dimension as just 30 years ago.

But will transgender ever be as accepted? And even supposing it is, will we have to wait another 30 years, or 40 or 50? Even then, will that ever be as good as simply being able to be a woman without a preposition, modifier, or asterisk?

What makes this question more remarkable is that the rise of the Blocker babies comes just as transgender is finding a new and stronger voice – with national and local organizations that are highly sophisticated, media savvy, and staffed with real professionals – and genderqueerness is enjoying its own resurgence among young people.

More youth are queering their hormoneless, surgery-free identities, doing versions of non-male and non-female and all sorts of gender drag in between that both mock binary genders and threaten to turn them inside out.

So perhaps the better question is not will transsexuality go the way of the dinos, but rather, are we entering a new age of “Born This Way” public genderqueerness that very much exists alongside it?

RIKI WILCHINS is an author and activist on gender issues.

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