“… but transsexuality is NOT a sexual orientation…!”

OK. It was dumb of me to yelp that out at 60% volume into a silent and almost empty office, but I really was astonished and outraged. I was user-acceptance testing some on-line diversity training software and found the question:

“What is your sexual orientation:

(a) bisexual
(b) gay
(c) heterosexual
(d) lesbian
(e) transsexual?”

(Note the careful alphabetization of the options to avoid prejudgement and offence. *sigh*)

I don’t know where to start with this, to be honest.

The woman sitting opposite me was startled by my outburst as well she might be. We discussed transsexuality for a while (or I talked about it, while she listened and made the odd comment). She did ask if I was being overly politically correct, but she was shocked by the only discrimination story I told her. Like most people she thinks she can always tell when she sees a transsexual. I said “well, my transdar’s pretty good – and I went to Alton Towers with four transguys, and I would only have known with one of them”.

I wrote a fairly clear explanation of why transsexuality is not a sexual orientation in the feedback form, and pointed out that asexuality is, and suggested that they include it for the sake of inclusiveness. I also gave them the web-page and email address of one of the UK’s most respected legal specialists on gender issues and suggested they contact him to ask what the best way to word a question about transsexuality and transgender would be. I even offered to ask the question informally if they liked.

It remains to be seen what happens next. I am aware that I can get a little shrill on this subject, and it is quite clear that the training providers had no idea what they’d be unleashing on themselves when they asked me to test the software. I want to ring them tomorrow to put my point of view across, but I think it is probably better if I wait and see how they reply.

But honestly…..

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7 responses to ““… but transsexuality is NOT a sexual orientation…!”

  1. I’ll be interested to hear how this continues (if they deign to reply). It’s certainly a very, very peculiar thing for them to have written.

  2. I read the questionaire out to a Disinterested Bystander (not uninterested, disinterested. As in neutral. And as in straightest man I’ve ever met). He instantly said ‘since whan is transexuality a sexual orientation?’.

    Do let us know what they reply. I am boggled.

  3. Well, quite.

    Had a very sweet email today thanking me for my help – she almost gushed, bless her – and asking me to make discreet enquiries about the best way to ask the question.

    I will of course ask the young man, but presumably it would be “Gender: male / female / mtf / ftm”.

    But of course this brings us back to the fact that some transsexuals self-identify as trans and others self-identify as male or as female, depending.

    So maybe the question is “how do you identify your gender?”

    Anyway, I have access to good advice on that, I just need to ask what the question should be.

    I was rather touched to be honest. She seemed very eager to do the right thing, but not sure of the ettiquette, and I can really relate to that. I am sure I make people wince, myself, at times.

    Thanks for commenting, and I’ll let you know what the final recommendation is.

    AB

  4. It’s possibly showing how out of touch I am here, but why is there an option for ‘gay’ and a seperate option for ‘lesbian’? Well, I assume it’s because that’s how people self identify, but, really? Not ‘gay’ for women?

  5. I think it is one of the few cases where langauage makes men invisible.

    Gay men and lesbians have very different agendas and concerns – in fact a lesbian friend of mine once made an astonishingly prejudiced remark about gay men and I said “whoah – that was a tad homophobic, doncha think?” She thought about it and then told me that in her view gay men dislike and fear women. Her experience and her opinion.

    Bearing in mind that for decades most lesbians were highly politicised feminists, (and most highly politicised feminists desperately wanted to be lesbians, bless them), they were able to drive the language and they achieved a separation between the terms. Which of course leaves us with a respectable term if you want to stipulate homosexual women, and a bunch of derogotory terms if you want to stipulate homosexual men.

    All of which is just ice-cream for my inner-feminist’s soul. 🙂

    Is my guess.

    AB

  6. Me, I still like the word ‘queer’.

    (insert ‘bigeyes’ smiley)

  7. I dig the word queer as well myself. I think a lot more people are using it these days.

    I wonder though, in terms of ranking within the GBLT:

    Why does it usually get listed with the “G” first, then the “L” then the “B”, and as an afterthought…the “T”??

    Spending tons of time in the “queer” community, I’ve noticed how gay men tend to dominate the scene, politically and financially. I was watching “Logo” over at my gf’s and noticed how many of the advertisements and programs where oriented towards gay men than the other “BLT”s out there.

  8. Well, my inner feminist can give you a clear answer to that one.

    To be honest, I think it is a shame that fenimism has become so extreme and, well, ludicrous in the States. There are still feminist fights to be fought, but we lose so many points by being shrill.

    *Goes off to work, channelling Mary Wollenstoncroft*

    Thanks for posting, boyrevealed. 🙂

    AB

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