Do Transsexuals Hold a Social Moral Obligation to the LGBTQ Community?

June is Pride Month, and it is very often the case that members of both the LGBTQ community and its allies reflect on how far homosexuals and society have come in acknowledging and achieving basic human liberties and individual autonomy the heterosexual society so deeply takes for granted. It is a month to reflect on our struggle, our progress thus far, and our goals for recognition, liberty, and autonomy in the future – locally, nationally, and globally.

As I reflect on how much being what being gay means to me (and I love being gay), and my obligation, in terms of advocacy, to the LGBTQ community, I wonder whether or not certain transsexuals hold an obligation to the LGBTQ community as well. More specifically, do post-operative heterosexual transsexuals hold certain social moral obligations toward the LGBTQ community?

Transsexuals are “people who were identified at birth as one sex, but who identify themselves differently. They may seek or undergo one or more medical treatments to align their bodies with their internally felt identity, through such methods as hormone therapy, sex-reassignment surgery or other procedures.” Transsexuals are not to be confused with those who identify as transgender. These are two separate social identity categories. Individuals who identify as transgender are those “whose life experience includes existing in more than one gender. This may include people who identify as transsexual (pre-operatively), and people who describe themselves as being on a “gender spectrum” or as living out the categories of “man” or “woman” – which are terms that are socially constructed and the behaviours associated with those terms are learned through everyday social interactions. The last definition to consider is “trans”. Trans is “an umbrella term used to describe individuals who, to varying degrees, do not conform to what society usually defines as a man or woman.” For the purpose of this article, I will define transgender as pre-operative transsexual, and refer to a transsexual as post-operative transsexual.

A pre-operative transsexual could self-identify as “trans” through the roles in which they are portraying onto ‘his’ or ‘her’ current “pre” status. Take, for example, a male-to-female pre-operative trans individual. This is an individual whom is presently in the anatomical body of a male (penis, testicles, testosterone are some characteristics that identify a biological male), but who gender-identifies with women. Thus, this individual goes about ‘her’ daily life by taking on the role of what is considered to be a stereotypical woman – through acquiring certain characteristics society deems feminine. This individual isn’t gay, bisexual, or lesbian. This individual is heterosexual. However, in my opinion, this individual is body-displaced. What I mean by this is that, pre-operatively, this gender-identified woman, but anatomically-sexed male, is “trapped” in a male’s body – the mind (gendered woman) is incompatible with the anatomical body (sexed male) that ‘she’ was given at birth. Post-operatively, when the anatomical male body becomes transformed to that of a female body, the gender identity (that relating to a woman) has already been acquired. Now, this post-operative male-to-female transsexual is both sexed and gendered appropriately – female and woman, respectively. This self-identified heterosexual female is now able to pursue an “appropriate” heterosexual male partner. Thus, once a post-operative transsexual self-identifies as heterosexual, does this individual possess a social moral obligation to the LGBTQ community?

An obligation is a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal or moral. In the case of the self-identified heterosexual, post-operative transsexual previously mentioned, I will refer to his or her obligation as a social moral obligation. Do self-identified heterosexual post-operative transsexuals hold a social moral obligation as to remain committed to the ideologies of the LGBT community? Or, contrarily, as a result of their post-operative heterosexual status, do these specific transsexuals hold a social moral obligation to integrate, identity with, and assimilate into their ‘new’, but essentially natural, heterosexual community?

I am asking you because I, too, am deciding on whether or not there is an actual answer to such a question; I don’t mean for it to be rhetorical. Although the term “transsexual” is part of the acronym that identifies members of the LGBTQ community, a male-to-female transsexual is, inherently, a heterosexual. Heterosexuality is a social identity that is so obviously not part of the LGBTQ community. Thus, why should we categorize transsexuals as belonging to the LGBTQ community if they self-identify as heterosexual post-operatively? They’re straight. Correct me if I’m wrong (which I know some of you will feel obliged to do so), but isn’t the purpose of hormone therapy, of sexual reassignment surgery, for a pre-operative transsexual to “acquire” the sex of the gender he or she has always, initially, self-identified with? In the case of a male-to-female post-operative heterosexual transsexual, the sex acquired is that of female (vagina, breasts, estrogen are some of the characteristics that identify a biological female). After reconstructive surgery, a male-to-female post-operative heterosexual transsexual is, in my opinion, supposed to begin integrating (if integration has not already started) herself with the community in which she has always identified with: the heterosexual community. She isn’t gay, lesbian, or bisexual; she’s straight. Of course, this individual can always remain an ally to the LGBTQ community, but I don’t think she must remain obligated to “abide by” any LGBTQ ideologies anymore. This raises another question: Have any pre-operative transsexuals ever felt obliged to recognize and follow any ideologies the LGBTQ community claims?

Until this point, I have only focused on the heterosexual post-operative transsexual. This raises a potential problem with regards to non-heterosexual post-operative transsexuals. For example, there could be a case (and there are) in which a post-operative male-to-female transsexual acquires the identity (through reconstructive surgery) of an anatomically-sexed female and gendered-woman who, then, further self-identifies as lesbian. Furthermore, there could be a case (and there are) in which a post-operative female-to-male transsexual acquires the identity (through reconstructive surgery) of an anatomically-sexed male and gendered-mam who, then, further self-identifies as gay. I would contend that, in these specific cases, they, as self-identified lesbian and gay individuals, have a social moral obligation to the LGBTQ community. After all, they are the ‘L’ and ‘G’ in LGBTQ.

I pose some questions for you to reflect on:

1. Why, if any reason, should transsexuals be categorized or claimed to belong as members of the LGBTQ community?
2. Once post-operative, do heterosexual transsexuals hold any social moral obligation to remain members of the LGBTQ community? Furthermore, should LGBTQ Pride celebrate and include self-identified heterosexual transsexuals (male-to female; female-to-male)?

My point is to contend that:

1. Any post-operative heterosexual transsexual is not socially morally obligated to abide by any LGBTQ ideologies – although remaining an ally in and supporting the LGBTQ community is always welcomed and encouraged.

2. Heterosexual transsexuals should not be celebrated during Pride because they are not gay, lesbian, or bisexual; they are straight – although they are free to participate in such an event.

*Disclaimer: The views presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent in its entirety.

  • It’s late and I think I’m more confused now then before I read your post but I think I understand your pov.

    No one has an obligation to do anything period. People should do what makes them comfortable. That being said, what is seems like you’re asking is. “If a person becomes straight are they still part of the LGTBQ community?” They will always be part of the community and they can contribute their experience and support to those who are transitioning to where they are or are questioning if they should. They can also help increase understanding and acceptance for people such as us (you and me and your other readers) who need more education. Being gay doesn’t give anyone extra insight or understanding (as compared to straight people) to what it is to be transexual/transgender.

    And yes they should celebrate and be celebrated because they are family and because they have survived.

  • Graham

    Last time I checked, pride celebrates the LGBT community. And last time I checked, the “T” stands for “transsexual” (OR transgendered). When did we start making exceptions to people who are a part of those communities in terms of who we celebrate?

    By making this exception to celebration, would someone then be able to justify not celebrating a bisexual during pride if they like someone currently of the opposite sex? Might be a bit extreme, but once you open up pandoras box….

    Isn’t the whole message of pride to celebrate non-mainstream human love? A trans member of society who THEN identifies themselves as heterosexual is certainly a part of a small minority, I see no reason as to why they shouldn’t be celebrated. Their struggles to achieve acceptance acceptance is no different from our struggles.

    Just because they adopt a label of “straight” doesn’t mean that their support and celebration should end.

  • jay

    My dad underwent sexual reassignment a couple of years ago and is now undecernibly a heterosexual woman. (Side note, it is a little weird not to celebrate Father’s Day anymore, neither here nor there) When she first came out 5 years ago, she was quite active in the LGBT community. But since assimilating, she’s just more comfortable being “normal”. She’s a normal guy liking woman. She doesn’t want to draw attention to herself as to what she was… But then again who would?
    She feels an obligation to be politically and financially supportive of the LGBT community and to make it easier for anyone who’s “different”. My dad was fortunate, she’s successful, a Dr and her body complied with her treatment. But she’s obligated to help all of those less fortunate than her. She may just not do it with a pride flag in a parade… Although she’s quite proud of her gay son.

  • Dylan

    This piece reaches unparalleled levels of offensiveness.

  • JC

    I think the question is how do you understand your gay identity. I understand it as enabling me to sympathize with the outsider, those on the margins of society.

    Transgendered persons are outsiders in our heteronormative society. Even if as you write that some of them are “straight”, which is offensive because you are quick to label them without asking them how they would like to be described, they do not benefit from heterosexual privilege. In fact, they are still marginalized to some degree in both straight AND gay communities.

  • JC


    I think the question is how do you understand your gay identity. I understand it as enabling me to sympathize with the outsider, those on the margins of society.

    Transgendered persons are outsiders in our heteronormative society. Even if as you write that some of them are “straight”, which is offensive because you are quick to label them without asking them how they would like to be described, they do not benefit from heterosexual privilege. In fact, they are still marginalized to some degree in both straight AND gay communities.

    No one “owns” Pride, and I don’t see why allowing transgendered people to be full participants in the movement affects your own celebration.

  • Mod

    I’m sorry, I find this a bit saddening how trans people are considered a minority within minority.

    If anyone needs a reminder, then Stonewall should be remembered. It’s what ignited the revolution for LGBT rights in America. Transgendered people are part of the people who sparked the flame. Now you are saying that Trans people who are post-op are nothing more but allies?

    “Pride” is not an exclusive celebration. It is a day to commemorate a whole community that was once (and sometimes still is) oppressed by the so-called “heternormative” society.

  • justin

    im actually glad that the article does point out the different concept of sex and gender since so many people think they are the same thing when they are not. when american idol did the boys vs girls rounds someone wrote an article saying that they separated them by gender when in fact they were separated based on sex. since jda technically would have been put with the females if they separated them by gender.

    on to the article itself i think that transsexuals are in a different group themselves. i understand if transgendered people are part of pride since they are about gender expression. transsexuals do have one advantage over homosexuals is that they have medical support. gender dis-morphia i think is what they are considered to have so sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy and even psych evaluation are all necessary to undergo treatment for it.

    i do believe transsexuals are not part of pride since they are going on a complete different journey that they alone would know. i understand that they are a sexual minority and have to fight discrimination but there fight for equality would be a complete and different one from homosexuals. they would have the same leverage as fighting for equality for different ethnicity have since technically your are born with this gender dis-morphia while science has yet to prove that homosexuality is inherent from birth. i get what the article is technically saying but it should come from all the different angles.

    either way pride is pride its about celebrating. so lets celebrate.

  • JMC

    I have always had conflict over the LGBT grouping because transsexualism is a psychological and medical condition whereas we accept homosexuality is physiological. Trans people have a presence within the gay community owing to shared discrimination however I don’t believe gay men, lesbian women and trans people should be homogenized anymore than trans people and heterosexuals.