Our Social Status, 1999

Information you need to know
Recommendations for survival

In the course of creating this site, I have endeavored to present a basic overview of what transsexuality is, how it occurs, what it means to be transsexual, what it feels like, and some basis for a feeling of contentment and personal value in the world. It is also important to understand how the world relates to us, we transsexuals, in order to better our survival, and happiness. This article is an observation of the social and legal status of transsexuals in the America of 1999.

The Positive

Over the past 17 years since my own transition, there have been marked improvements in the lot of the life of the American transsexual. Information, thanks in great part to the internet, is easily come across, and for better AND for worse, the very idea that transsexuals exist has been popularized. Very few transsexuals alive now, near the end of this century, are likely to be ignorant for long of a name for their condition, the option of treatment, or the possibilities of success that now exist.

Among the young, there has been an increase in tolerance overall for diversity, at least when compared to 1982. Among adults too, can be seen a greater toleration of the transsexual as well. However these increases in toleration should not be seen as actual acceptance by any means.

Some high-tech companies now actually have limited provisions for the transsexual to be treated as a human being.

The Negative

The increased profile of transsexuals has also made greater targets of us, and hate crimes against transsexuals are greater in number, or at least greater in reported number, than before. It is dangerous to be a fully 'Out' transsexual.

In 1982, no real legal status existed for the transsexual, and so the transsexual existed in a kind of legal limbo. This is not so in 1999. Several legal precedents, all very bad, now exist, created at the state level. Based on the outdated, and now scientifically insupportable theory that chromosomal sex absolutely determines biological sex, the majority of court decisions render the post-operative transsexual -despite all surgical effort, all correction of documents including birth certificate, the sworn testimony of doctors and professionals of all kinds- defined as their original birth sex for all legal purposes. This means that in America, transsexuals may not legally marry, inherit property by marriage, enjoy full spousal benefits or protections, or in any way be treated otherwise than would a homosexual individual. Under current precedents, the post operative transsexual is simply a  cosmetically altered individual, defined by their recorded birth sex, regardless of any changes to any documents afterwards.

Worse, the fact of the alteration of documentation is itself recorded and documented, making the transsexual easily identified through the search of records.

Our Greatest Threats

The three greatest threats to the survival of the transsexual in the years to come are hereby listed.

Number 3: Overall discrimination in housing and work by individuals

Laws that protect other groups of people, for reasons of race or even sexual preference, are not merely being challenged, they do not apply -in almost all cases, with but a handful of exceptions- to transsexuals. Though transsexuals are considered to be Queer, they are considered also to be subhuman even to that. There are essentially, for most Americans, NO protections or civil rights for the transsexual whatsoever. Thus, the transsexual can be denied services, housing, and work, for being transsexual, with no legal recourse, even if such could be afforded. An individual landlord, business owner, or other, may deny the transsexual essentially with total impunity. Transsexuals currently have fewer civil protections than any division of humanity in America.

Number 2: Hate crimes against Queer people

All manner of violence, including murder and torture, have long been perpetrated against Queer folk. It is important for the transsexual to remember and understand that they are legally, actually, and definably Queer themselves. Although sexual preference is separate from gender identity, being genderqueer, is still queer. Subtle definitions mean nothing to the violent individual bent on slaughter.

Number 1: The increase in political activism by fundamentalist religious groups

Fundamentalist groups, which in America means fanatical Christian groups, have made homosexuality and transsexuality a scapegoat around which fervor and hate may be used to gain power. Just as Hitler used the Jews as a focus for hate and fear, in order to unite German politics, so the political Christian groups use the Queer, and especially the transsexual. The transsexual has been openly targeted for destruction, for elimination, for murder, as an ultimate sign of the evil in society. Christian mythology is the singular, solitary basis for hate crimes against Queer people. Without religious prohibition, there is no reason to harm Queer people, including the genderqueer. It is important to understand how strongly established this prohibition is. Christian politics is well served by a focus for a unifying hatred, by a type of person whom the majority of people can agree is unsavory at best. As Christians increasingly destroy the separation of church and state provided by the constitution, laws, such as those preventing same sex marriage or other civil rights of Queer people, now are commonplace, even at the federal level. Government has ultimate power to persecute, and the threat of a complete breach of the barrier between church and state is the single greatest threat we transsexuals now face.


With the current legal status of transsexuals being equivalent to that that of a gay person who has been surgically mutilated, yet devoid of any the same protection that is afforded gay people on occasion, the transsexual is in an unenviable place in society. Targeted especially by certain politically powerful groups, and being few in number, the transsexual is tactically in a bad position as well.

There is a reasonable danger that the government of the United States could, over the next decade, become increasingly dominated by religious, conservative power. A theocratic government would be a most dangerous place for the Queer individual to attempt to survive in. Thus some consideration of this probability must be taken.

There are three primary directions that the transsexual might take in the next decade.

One is activism, one is secrecy, and the last is living on the fringe


Any hope for change in the reasonable future would needs come about through serious, unified activism. The transsexual is in a definably worse situation than that of the American black in the early part of the century. Adding to this problem is the fact that transsexuals are rare, and being so very few in number can only hope to gain any benefit from activism if they are taken as a cause by another, larger group. Some effort by homosexual activists to include the 'transgendered' has resulted in benefits, and some cause for hope. Ultimately, only by the graces of the larger, wealthier number of gay activists can the transsexual hope for any change. There may be some slight hope that still other marginalized social divisions may yet unite in cause with gay folk, and in that unity, great power could be achieved to benefit all. Time will tell.

What you might do:

Join up and participate in gay activism as a 'transgendered' person. The more money, people and effort a group has, provided there is unity and intelligent direction, the greater the power to change society. Resist your oppressors in every possible way.


Just as homosexual people had to do, and still often are compelled to do, hiding, blending in, and otherwise becoming silent and invisible is a functional survival technique. Secrecy is how most -by far- of the entire earth's population of queer and genderqueer people live and survive. However this survival comes at the cost of personal freedom, constant fear, great limitation, great isolation, and sometimes even requires open betrayal of one's own kind. Worse, if one is found out, there is no one to help, no support, no hope. The survival is that of an animal herd: overall the population may survive, but the individual life means nothing.

What you might do:

Hide. After your transition, never tell anyone. Obscure your past, invent effective and logically consistent lies, and hope you are never caught. Never, ever do anything that might in any way call yourself into question. Keep to yourself. Avoid social involvement because of the real possibility of accidental discovery. Do nothing out of the ordinary. Blend in. Become your oppressors.


Stepping away from society, living in the margins, the fringes of civilization, essentially combines the first two options. One hides, becomes as invisible as desirable, while at the same time having strong limits to the amount of limitation one will accept. One may, for instance, be carefully 'Out' to a selected audience, taking some risks consciously, for the sake of helping the world to be better. However, in daily life, the conventions of dominant society are not followed, and interaction with dominant society is generally minimal. Income must be gained through independent means, such as owning one's own business, or having unique skills that are in very great demand. Friends must be chosen very carefully, and cautiously, but can become of greater value than the associations of most people. Some care is taken to avoid the interest of others, or the government, and one is judicious about circumstance and situation. However, neither does one live in fear, and activism may still be pursued, with some discretion.

What you might do:

Start your own business, work for financial independence. Hide what you must, but not from fear, only from calculated practicality. Adjust to situations dynamically, and choose friends carefully. Avoid most common social involvement, and cultivate unusual interests and hobbies, especially those shared by equally eccentric or fringe individuals. Do what you can to better the world, but protect your privacy. Win over your oppressors gradually, and cautiously.

My opinion

I despise gender politics. Transsexuality is a medical condition and not a struggle for power. I cannot abide making gender or sex, or sexual preference, into a battleground. However, there is no way to avoid the fact that we are under attack, and that others, for reasons of power and fanatical religious mythology, are endangering our very survival. Our attackers are bending the political system to their will, and we are a convenient scapegoat. If I were them, and I were without compassion or tolerance, I would choose us too....transsexuals are the perfect 'subhuman' to rally unified hate around.

For this reason, I salute the open activist, the transie martyr, the gay martyr, the public figure. They are heroic. But that course of existence is not what I recommend to any but the most ironclad of individuals. It is a tough, often short life, to be an effective activist. Martyrs often end up....martyred.

I personally despair for the utterly secret, for they not only live in a prison of fear, they are helpless to assist others, or to free anyone. The condition of the transsexual is akin to that of the Jew in Nazi Germany, the Japanese American in WW2, the Black in 1960, the Pagan during the 500 years of the Catholic Inquisition. Genocide and mass oppression occur when people live in such fear of authority that they are immobile. Good people can be frozen by fear. Fear can permit atrocity.

I personally recommend moderation. Some activism in the world is required for things to get any better, but one must also survive. I submit that being on the fringe, becoming a careful, pragmatic survivor is the best option. Do what you can, but also do what you must to keep safe. In any event, my best recommendation is to become as financially independant as it is possible for your skill and talent and willpower to make you. Help each other, and be good to each other. Endeavor to show those who would oppress you that you are a good person, if you can.

But above all, insure your survival, think your own thoughts, and own your life.

I think that things will ultimately get better, within 20 years, possibly sooner. Fanaticism tends to burn out if it is too extreme, and I think there is a decent chance that the majority of Americans will not accept bigotry if it gets too blatant. Hang in there, and create your own life: don't bother with trying to be 'normal'...they will not permit it. Live by your own rules. Just be consistant, and compassionate.

Jennifer Diane Reitz