Yesterday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted an announcement that the military would not allow transgender soldiers in its ranks. The move was praised by many Republicans and decried by Democrats.
The Media, who are rarely (if ever!) on the side of the Republicans, went to work to find anything and everything they think will discredit Trump in some way. The Washington Post decided the best way to go about it was to “explain” to Trump about all the transgender soldiers that served in the Civil War.
Cross-dressing has roiled the ranks of armies at least as far back as Joan of Arc, the 15th century military genius who was burned at the stake for heresies that included wearing a man’s uniforms. Leonard’s own expertise is the Civil War, a time when the ranks were filled with hundreds of women who cut their hair, put on pants and took up arms on both sides of the War Between the States.
Researchers at the National Archives have found evidence that at least 250 women dressed as men to fight in the 1860s, some motivated by ideology, some by a taste for adventure and some by the need for a job. Most of those who survived presumably returned to their lives as women. But others continued to live as men after the war.
Okay, so, let’s have a chat about “transgender” and “cross-dressing,” because it’s pretty clear that the Washington Post doesn’t have a damn clue.
See, if you are a cross-dresser, you aren’t necessarily transgender. Likewise, if you’re transgender, you’re not necessarily a cross-dresser. There is a difference, and one that is notable enough to have even been a distinction at Wikipedia.
The term cross-dresser is not exactly defined in the relevant literature. Michael A. Gilbert, professor at the Department of Philosophy, York University, Toronto, offers this definition: “[A cross-dresser] is a person who has an apparent gender identification with one sex, and who has and certainly has been birth-designated as belonging to [that] sex, but who wears the clothing of the opposite sex because it is that of the opposite sex.” This definition excludes people “who wear opposite sex clothing for other reasons,” such as “those female impersonators who look upon dressing as solely connected to their livelihood, actors undertaking roles, individual males and females enjoying a masquerade, and so on. These individuals are cross dressing but are not cross dressers.” Cross-dressers may not identify with, want to be, or adopt the behaviors or practices of the opposite gender and generally do not want to change their bodies medically. The majority of cross-dressers identify as heterosexual. People who cross-dress in public sometimes may have a desire to pass as the opposite gender, so as not to be detected as a cross-dresser.
Now, before you judge me for using Wikipedia, don’t worry. I checked the references. Here’s one of them:
The focus of this essay is not on the entire range of transgendered individuals, but on one subset, my subset, the committed cross dresser, so this is a term I must define. The question of just where this sub-set lives within the larger transgender tribe will become clear as I go on, but it must be clear from the outset that not everyone who is transgendered is a cross dresser.
Oh? Do go on.
There are transsexuals who internally identify as cross-gendered but who never in their lives act on it and never wear cross-gender clothing. There are also many transsexuals who only wear cross-gender clothing because it is not in fact, for them, cross-gendered at all. They are not cross dressers. I might also add that while I will be talking about the cross dresser as a birth-designated male, I do believe that there are female cross dressers and I do not mean to exclude them. Much of what I say does, I am sure, pertain to them, but my expertise is not there, so I plead indulgence.
Now, to go back to the Washington Post’s rather silly claim.
Evidence would indicate that these women did so out of a sense of familial or patriotic duty. If not that, they wanted a better lot in life. Sucks, but yeah, women weren’t exactly treated so well back then. The very idea behind transgenderism is that the person who identifies as transgender feels a compulsion – biological, mental, whatever you want to call it – to live an act as the opposite sex because they feel as though they were born in the wrong body.
You therefore cheapen the experiences of those who truly feel that they are transgender by applying the condition to anyone and everyone who dressed as the opposite sex at some point. By that logic, there are millions of people who as little boys accidentally got into mom’s makeup who are actually transgender and are just living a lie.
No, that’s not how this works. There is no evidence that the women in the WaPo article ever felt they were really meant to be men. There is evidence that they felt they had to go fight in a war and that dressing as a man was the only way to do that.
But, by all means, co-opt those who are transgender to make a political point. That’s way better, right?