I think we can all recognize David Cauldwall’s “Psychopathia Transexualis” as a highly problematic piece. His argument is laden with contradictions, generalizations, and misgendered pronouns, and does little to provide accurate insight into the lived realities of trans experience.

Cauldwell introduces his weak argument with the broad assumption that: “one is mentally unhealthy and because of this the person desires to live as a member of the opposite sex” (The Transgender Studies Reader, 41). In order to support these kinds of sweeping generalizations Cauldwell spends most of the essay referring to one FTM, Earl. Cauldwell states: “I shall call the subject Earl. This is not her name this name, like her own, is frequently borne by members of both sexes” (41).

Cauldwell considers Earl, and presumably other transpeople, as “members of both sexes,” yet his application of feminine pronouns implies that he still sees Earl as female. Cauldwell even acknowledges how Earl “resented being referred to as ‘her and she’” (43), yet willfully continues to reference said terms.

Cauldwell recounts how: “[s]he [Earl] had been immensely happy when, in a restaurant (in male attire of terrible taste) she had been referred to, or addressed as ‘Sir’” (43).

Although Cauldwell would probably assume that it is typical for trans individuals to strive for this type of misgendering, the following tumblr demonstrates how every reaction to being misgendered varies from case to case:


The notion that transpeople instinctively celebrate this type of public misgendering is challenged in Dean Spade’s “Resisting Medicine, Re/Modeling Gender.” Spade recounts: “I’m supposed to be wholly joyous when I get called ‘sir’ or ‘boy.’ How could I ever have such an uncomplicated relationship to that moment?” (Spade, 22). Spade raises what should be an apparent question, and recognizes how in reality there is no universal trans reaction to being misgendered.

-Bianca Hasten


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