Kelly Sans Culotte

Video Transcript

Neither Man, Nor Woman: Transgender
Lohana Berkins talks about the desire that goes beyond the physical. Video

AUGUST 8, 2003. Most of our focus at that time was overturning a police decree, a law that was directed against us. Since there were concrete possibilities that this law would be overturned, we asked ourselves what we would do next.

So a debate began within our group. Some said that we should focus on AIDS, and only AIDS. Others said that we should defend prostitution, and only that. And another group, that included me, said no, the most important thing is that we begin to deal with the issue of identity. We won't get anywhere if we ourselves don't accept that we have a transgender identity. Because otherwise, we're going to get stuck in the "what are we" trap. Are we men? Women? What?

The conclusion we reached was that a person born with one set of genitals can construct themselves as another gender. In this case, the female gender, or for many transgender people that were born female, as male, they can create a male identity.

Because if we don't [begin to identify as transgendered] then we're constantly torn by the "what are we" thing. Are we gays, lesbians, male, female? So we began to say no, we're not one thing or the other. I don't want to be a man. I'm not a man, even though I was born with a penis, but I'm also not a woman, even though I construct myself, or am constructed as female. What I am, in reality, is a transgendered person. So we began to occupy our own space, our own place.

Another thing, interestingly, is that we also began to talk about, and differentiate ourselves from gays and lesbians, because gays and lesbians are concerned with sexual orientation, but our focus is gender. My sexual orientation can be whatever. But what we're fighting for is gender identity, a desire that goes way beyond the physical.

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