It’s Time to Update the Title of the International Journal of ‘Transgenderism’

Kelley Winters, Ph.D.
GID Reform Advocates

The International Journal of Transgenderism (IJT) is a quarterly academic journal on topics of transgender healthcare, policy and education, and it is the official journal of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). WPATH is best known for publication of internationally respected standards of care for trans people who require transition related hormonal and/or surgical treatment. The Journal was founded in 1998 and has been published by the U.K. based Taylor & Francis Group.

The IJT has a good reputation for reliable scholarship on trans issues among a cohort of sexology journals where attitudes and bias toward trans and gender diverse people are not always respectful. However, the term, “transgenderism,” in the title is anachronistic in the 21st Century. It reflects a historic pathological model of gender diversity, lacks focus on the aims of the journal and is widely considered derisive.

I call on the President and Board of Directors of WPATH, as well as the Editor and Editorial Board of the journal, to update the title of the International Journal of Transgenderism to:

The International Journal of Transgender Health.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the noun suffix, “ism,” in terms of acts or practices (such as racism and sexism); states or pathological conditions (such as barbarianism and alcoholism); or doctrines or political orthodoxies (such as Calvinism and conservatism). None of these meanings relate to the experience of being transgender. No other communities in LGBTQ spectra are called, “isms.” We don’t refer to our diverse populations with terms like “homosexualism,” “lesbianism,” or “queerism.”

Moreover, the term, “transgenderism” has a long history of defamatory use by those opposed to human rights and civil justice for trans individuals. Opponents prefer that term, because it conveys  illicitness and inspires fear. The theo-political extremist group, Focus on the Family, has published more than eight anti-trans position papers in recent years with the term, transgenderism, in their titles, including, “‘Transgenderism’ Brings Chaos from Order,” “Desensitizing Society on Transgenderism,” and “Title IX and Transgenderism: The New Threat in Your Child’s School.”

The GLAAD Media Reference Guide refers to “transgenderism” as a problematic term for social and historic reasons:

This is not a term commonly used by transgender people. This is a term used by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to “a condition.” Refer to being transgender instead, or refer to the transgender community. You can also refer to the movement for transgender equality.

Finally, in 2007, the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA) changed its name to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to clarify in its title the mission “to promote evidence based care, education, research, advocacy, public policy, and respect in transgender health.” It is time to align the title of WPATH’s scholarly journal to its mission and its message.


Note:  I am a member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. The opinion given here is solely my own.

About Kelley
Dr. Kelley Winters is a writer and consultant on issues of gender diversity in medical and public policy. She is the author of Gender Madness in American Psychiatry: Essays from the Struggle for Dignity (2008) and a past member of the International Advisory Panel for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care, the Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE) Expert Working Group, and the Advisory Boards for TransYouth Family Allies (TYFA). She was recognized in the 2013 Trans 100 Inaugural List for work supporting the transgender community in the US. Kelley has presented papers and presentations on gender policy issues at annual conventions of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and the Association of Women in Psychology. Kelley wanders the highways of America in an old Mazda, ever in search of comfort food.

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