Era of the gender crosser: Here and now, after a lot of progress and a long road.

Buoyed by the success of the gay and lesbian liberation movement, freed from enforced isolation by changes in the medical and psychiatric establishment, and brought together by the Internet, the transgender community has emerged in the last five years as a new voice in social activism.

This voice suggests that, although gender is an identity we are born with, an identity that no amount of social influence can sway, it is too great and varied a force to shoehorn into those ubiquitous boxes marked F and M. While human desires — for love, passion, work, respect, friends, family — remain constant, the way those desires are felt and expressed cannot always be categorized at the moment of birth. Anatomy, as feminists have long argued, is not destiny.

“This is the last phase of the sexual identity movement,” says Vern Bullough, a USC adjunct professor of nursing who has written extensively on sexuality in America. “The community is much more organized than it was five years ago. It’s learning to live with its own differences, and becoming more mainstream. The long-term effect will be interesting. Certainly, it will blur gender lines even further.” …

“Many mixed-race people are saying that race, as a means of categorizing people, no longer works,” says Robert Dawidoff, a history professor at Claremont Graduate University. “Transgender people are showing us that gender, as a similar construct, has no meaning either. Which is, of course, very frightening to many people.”

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