Why are transgenders so evident in Asia?

Why are transgenders so evident in Asia? IMG_1388
A transgirl performing a traditional Sinulog dance in the Philippines. Pic: Rod Fleming

Almost all credible authorities, according to GIRES in the UK, now agree that the baseline minimum for gender non-conformity as ‘at least 1%’ and this has been borne out, again according to GIRES, by recent studies in New Zealand, The Netherlands and Belgium.

Now ‘gender non-conformity’ is a broad church and by no means all of these would identify as transgender. However, research carried out by Professor Lynn Conway and also by the Williams Institute for Law, part of the UCLA, suggests about half of these are, for a prevalence of around 1:200. This is supported by census results from Malaysia, which put the incidence there — a country that is officially very hostile towards transgender — at 1:170 of male-born individuals.

This should tell us two things: transgender is innate and appears in all populations at roughly the same rate; and that as such it is a part of normal human variation.

Of these transgender populations, the vast majority are what is called by science ‘Blanchard HSTS’, ‘Early Onset Androphile’ or ‘transkids.’ These are almost always, uniquely, attracted to men. They appear as transgender very young and frequently begin dressing as girls, wearing their hair long and, in recent decades, taking feminising hormones, in their early teens. They should not be confused with another, much less frequent type of MtF transgender, known as ‘autogynephiles’. These latter are fetishistic transvestite men, for whom dressing and pretending to be a woman is a sexual thrill: think Bruce ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner. (We will deal with these elsewhere; they are almost entirely restricted to white, middle-class Western men and globally are a tiny population.)

But why are MtF transgenders so obvious, and so open, outside the West?

While we were researching ‘Why Men Made God’ I spent much time in the Philippines and was lucky enough to be invited into the company of Filipino families. I was fascinated to observe the ‘two-group’ social model, which we described in the book, in full operation, and indeed I incorporated some of those observations. This model was particularly obvious at large family gatherings. Here, the men would congregate around one or more tables — often drinking heavily — while the women and children socialised completely separately. There were never any women or children at the men’s tables. Because I am obviously a man, I was directed to the men’s group and watched from there, as the rising tide of alcohol — in the form of ‘Empi’ or Emperador brandy — rose to my gills.

This separation of two groups, however, was not to do with alcohol. As a foreigner and a guest — a person of important status in a Filipina household — I was also invited to join women’s drinking parties on several occasions and I can attest that Filipina women party just as hard as the men do.

One of the things that I did notice, in the large, mixed parties as well as in the women-only ones, was that while the men’s group was made up exclusively of adult men presenting as straight, the other group was of women, children and gays. When women socialised independently of men, there were always a number of gays or transgenders there too; they never, ever appeared in the ‘men’ group activities.

(The term ‘gay’ in Filipino culture does not mean quite what it purports to mean in the West. There, it signifies a person born male who identifies internally as a woman and who desires men romantically and sexually. The notion of the ‘egalitarian gay’ where manly manly men lust after other manly manly men, is regarded as risible throughout Asia and while there are some implantations of this Western model, they are reviled by the vast majority of gays there.)

So this leads us back to ‘what makes a woman?’ The simple answer ‘chromosomes’ will not work, since a small minority of women, who have a condition called Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or CAIS, are actually XY karotype. Similarly, he argument ‘possession of a female reproductive system’ would cause a problem with CAIS women, who have vaginas, but none of the female reproductive system. In any case, this explanation does not satisfactorily answer why it is that women and men are so markedly different in so many non-physical ways, such as how they behave socially.

At the same time, a purely essentialist approach — it’s down to chromosomes or genitalia at birth — does not allow for what we now know to be between half to one percent of the born-male population, who are to all intents and purposes, women. These are the HSTS transgenders I referred to earlier, the transkids.

Gender itself is a construct of behaviours and expectations, almost none of which are fixed. Other than motherhood and the necessity to nurse and care for children, there is nothing that we associate with the gender construct ‘woman’ that is innately so. Other cultures, where there are more than two genders, demonstrate this too. Gender is fluid because, unlike being fair skinned or blue eyed, it is a social, not a biological construct. It is a function of sexuality.

So ‘what makes a woman’ must be more than the possession of a vagina or XX chromosomes. Since gender is constructed and not innate, then it follows that it must be learned. And where and when is it learned? In childhood, through socialisation.

This is where the observation of social interaction in Asia becomes so important. Remember, one group contains only adult men; the other, everyone else. So there is a group of ‘men’ and a group of ‘not-men’. Gays fall into the latter group. They are never part of the ‘men’ group, because they are ‘not-men’. This is not just a function of orientation as a somewhat skewed Western perspective has it. Rather, a gay’s gender is a function of her desire for men– so she is, no matter what she looks like, always ‘not man’.

Blanchard demonstrated that HSTS transgenders are on a scale of variation with gay men (as they are called in the West; in Asia that would be an oxymoron). This close association, within the Asian model, means that all gays, whether transgender or not, are related and are part of the ‘not-men’ group: in other words, in terms of socialisation, they are women. These individuals grow up socialising with girls and woman and adopt the gender expressions that are naturally found within this group as their own.

That is why HSTS are so feminine: their childhood socialisation was within the ‘not-men’ group, within which the authority figures are all women. When the women, children and gays congregate together, separately from the ‘men’ group, at the centre of the group is the matriarch, usually a grandmother or great-grandmother, but perhaps the eldest sister or some other woman identified by a mysterious ranking system that exists within the matriarchy. Gays and transgenders grow up within this group and learn, and maintain throughout their lives, the gender construct that is their badge of membership.

Why are transgenders so evident in Asia? IMG_1388
‘Lola’ surveys her domain.

What Westerners may not realise, because of the vicious misogyny of the Western patriarchy, is that to remain part of the ‘not-men’ group is an honour. Boyish boys are excluded from it when they become adult, because men are inferior to women. Why are they inferior? Because they are brutish and violent and they cannot make babies. They lack the most important power of all. They can kill, but they cannot create.

While they may be sexually desired by those in the ‘not-men’ group, they are not part of it. The ‘men’ group is made up of outsiders looking in. The real action takes place in the ‘not-men’ group, presided over by the matriarch, who disposes her beneficence in the form of loving smiles and words and, frequently, gifts. She is ‘Mother Christmas’ and indeed, is an incarnation of the Goddess herself.

Gays, which group includes transgenders, have an honorary right to remain in the privileged ‘not-men’ group, because they have learned how to be women. They behave like women and this gives them the gender ‘woman’; they are tolerated within the group even though they lack the power to make life, because they do not offend those who do.

Following on from this they may adopt other behaviours consistent with being a woman: growing their hair long, wearing make-up, adopting ‘feminine’ body-language and so on. This gives them the right to remain a part of the ‘not-men’ group as they get older, and not to have to become part of the ‘men’ group. These actions symbolise a desire: to remain a ‘not-man’. This reinforces their adoption of gender roles and behaviours that they associate positively, in their culture, with women. This is why they are often so feminine and strive to be as beautiful as they can be — it is only in part to attract male partners: it is also a badge of affirmation, a sign of their membership of the honoured group, of being ‘not-men’ themselves.

When Western feminists point to socialisation as how it is that a ‘woman’ can be, they are right. What they fail to recognise is that, especially outwith the white, Anglo-Saxon, Western patriarchy, gays and transgenders share exactly the same socialisation patterns as women. Furthermore, once outside the protection of the ‘not-men’ group, gays and transgenders become targets for aggressive men. The patriarchy is very strong in Asian culture, but its compass is limited in one crucial regard; its authority does not obtain within the home or the family. So, while within that home, and the ‘not-men’ group that dominates it, gays and transgenders are generally safe, as soon as they step outside they are at risk from men who resent their very existence.

This resentment is because, by choosing not to be part of the ‘men’ group, gays and transgenders question its foundation. They are saying ‘what’s great about being a part of the ‘men’ group? I’d rather be a girl with my sisters in the ‘not-men’ group.’ That, of course, is an existential menace and the male patriarchy reacts, as it always does to such challenges, with a narcissistic rage response.

This male resentment is very similar to the resentment that natal women feel everywhere. Asian gays are told in no uncertain manner that unless they join the ‘men’ group — which would mean undoing all their socialisation and changing their sexual orientation — then men will make their lives as miserable as they can — as men do to women. They are denied jobs, discriminated against and, if they can get work, obliged to accept worse terms and conditions than men would be expected to. They are insulted in the street. However it is not possible to unlearn one’s social conditioning, even if one might want to.

In the end, women, transgenders and gays are hated by the patriarchy for the very simple reason that women refuse to let men socialise with them, because they regard them as inferior.

This is the crux and it is outwith men’s power to control, something which men of course, utterly hate. That hatred is the foundation of the patriarchy, which is like a spiteful little boy’s response to being told he can’t play with the girls because he’s too rough. It is an entire social system founded on petulance, on men’s hurt feelings at being told that, no matter how much their mothers and sisters love them, they’re just not part of the club.

The ‘not-men’ group self-selects for inclusion. One is not part of the ‘men’ group by choice, but because one is put there by the ‘not-men’ group, essentially the women. This is a real power that women in these cultures — and it is seen all over the world — have over men. Gays and transgenders, in this model, are actually privileged. They have no desire to be part of the ‘men’ group. They want to remain outside it and within the group of women, children and gays. They reject manhood, masculinity and being part of the ‘men’ group. This is what men find offensive; and this offence may, when the power of women to suppress it is diminished, result in violence, even deadly violence.

Thus, in many senses, albeit not including motherhood, Asian HSTS MtF transgenders have a very strong claim to be called a ‘second type of woman’ which is what they usually do refer to themselves as. They often look extremely feminine, they act like women and sound like them; but perhaps most of all, they are hated by the patriarchy in a very similar way to the way that women are hated. Gays and transgenders — they are essentially the same, with only detail differences of dress and hairstyle being different — are indeed women in terms of their gender, a social construct which they have learned from birth and through childhood.

Unfortunately, in the Western patriarchy, HSTS transgender women, who were until recently called ‘True’ transsexuals, have found their identity parasitised, colonised and erased by another group who claim to be transgender women but who are in fact simply cross-dressing, sexually fetishistic men with a severe paraphilia: autogynephiles.

We shall discuss those in a future piece.

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Copyright 2015 Rod Fleming’s World

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