Dare to Ask: Please translate transgender
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why would someone classified as transgender not be considered a gay or
lesbian, or am I misunderstanding the term?
Angela, 44, straight, Lexington, Ky.
A person who is transgender is happier behaving, dressing and acting as a
person of the opposite gender. A gay or lesbian person is happier behaving,
dressing and acting as a person of his or her own gender.
Gordon, Salt Lake City
An individual who is transgendered is born the "wrong" gender. Let's say that
someone is born in a male body but identifies as female. Let's say that they are
also attracted only to men. Whether or not they ever have gender reassignment
surgery to physically become a female, they are heterosexual because they've
always been female on the inside and have always been attracted to men.
Shelly, 49, bisexual, New Alexandria, Pa.
For a few poor souls, their outsides do not match their inside [gender]
self-perception, and they have a serious disconnect and experience a lot of
emotional stress. Some of these folks like guys, some like women, some like
both, some aren't interested in sex with anybody. The only real commonality
between gay folks and transgender folks is that they upset some other people's
ideas about the gender binary and about male vs. female conduct - and tend to be
feared, resented or hated by such folks.
Ann, 50, bisexual, Akron, Ohio
This isn't really a confusing he said/she said mystery; in fact, it can be
pretty straightforward, according to Jennifer Boylan, who had surgery to become
a woman in 2002 and has appeared on many TV shows, including Oprah and Larry
For transgender people, it's not about who you want to go to bed "with" but
about who you want to go to bed "as," said Boylan, who's written about her
experiences in such books as She's Not There and I'm Looking Through You.
"Some people get confused about this because they think it [transgender] has
to do with sexuality," she said. "It's also true that people who have a problem
with gays or lesbians generally have a problem with transgender. Really, the
main thing we have in common is we both get beaten up by the same group of
By the way, "transgender" can refer to, among others, transsexuals (those who
wish to physically change sex), cross-dressers and drag queens (gay men who
perform as women), Boylan told us.
At any rate, she noted, the question of gender identity - who you are - is
very different from the question of being gay or lesbian - who you love.
In her own experience, Boylan was attracted to women before her operation
(when she was James Boylan) and says she is now "bisexual in nature," though
still mostly attracted to women.
"I do see what attracts women to men . . . I have guy friends who I never
really looked at, and now I might think, 'he is cute.' Maybe I was blind to it
before, because my life has always revolved around women."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. email@example.com. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his