So… I don’t think I can ever let my family know who I really am. There’s just no way that they would ever be able to see that I’m actually a girl. It’s not a possibility in their tiny God-fearing universe. I’m sorry if that seems condescending to you in some way, but that’s just a fact about faith I have to deal with whenever I live at “home”. As an atheist, I can acknowledge anything that happens to me, anything I see or hear or feel. All the good things, bad things, everyday occurrences and freak accidents, all the experiences that both agree and clash strongly with mine. I don’t need to deny anything I see or claim knowledge when I’m as ignorant as anyone else. But my family live only in a world where things exist in reference to their Western-centric, old-timey, American-values God. They don’t need to know the answers because only God knows, and they can trust what they assume beforehand is his judgment. So it’s impossible to explain to them that my transgendered identity isn’t the result of some mental illness, or sexual perversion, or some desperate attempt at getting attention. I’m quite sincere when I say I’m a girl, but they’ll just see their son being bizarre no matter how much sense I could try to talk into them. And there’s a lot I’ve got to say.
First of all there’s the idea that GID is a mental disorder, specifically that it indicates an irrational detachment from reality. I saw this argument hashed and rehashed onto an irrelevant gamespot forum post where some of the posters were determined to display their rights to the title of Deductive Logic Incarnate by insisting that transgendered identities are a delusion. Basically what this is saying is that the state of your genitalia, hormone levels, body structure, and a thousand other minute gendering details on your body as identified at birth will forever determine if you are a man or woman. The problem here is that it assumes the reality of your sex and gender are entirely determined by any and all of these biological factors. Since these trolling asshats have the same understanding of human biology as that kid from Kindergarten Cop, I can’t expect them to explain the existence of people with non-normative genitalia, or those with sex hormone deficiencies, or those with sex chromosome types other than XX or XY. That’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gendered people who don’t fit within such a rigid standard of sex assignment. We’re not even talking about transsexuals or genderqueers here, or hell it’s not even a matter of being intersex. Not all hetero-normative men and women meet all these arbitrary biological requirements for being designated a man or woman. I’m not saying that notions of male and female have no place in biology or in out understanding of ourselves as sexual beings, but the point is that cisgendered peeps don’t have to jump through all these hoops to prove their identities are true, so why do we?
I think the biggest problem with this simplistic body-centric philosophy that transphobic peeps throw in our face is that it places the apparent state of the body over that of our minds in terms of gender identity. It completely (and, I would suggest, deliberately) ignores the straightforward fact about all gendered identities, both cis and trans: that we have intrinsic understandings of our gendered selves beyond just looking in the mirror and going with the flow based on what we see. We can actually feel what sort of sex and gender we identify with as people, what our bodies should be like, and how we would act upon acknowledging that identity ourselves. It’s just that sometimes the body we happen to be in and the gender roles we’re expected to take on clash directly with how we know ourselves to be. It would be easier to say that GID is more like a medical disorder that primarily causes psychological distress, because it’s our bodies that require treatment and not our minds themselves.
I can see why a cisgendered peep with no idea what this is like would consider it a mental disorder for a “guy” like me to express a burning desire to be acknowledged as female, and I can even see a hypothesis that our bodies developed “normally” yet our brains went eschew and wound up with a healthy albeit misplaced gender identity. But the point is that on a personal level, it doesn’t matter if a biologist would deem our personalities as the most divergent aspect of our sex. You can’t “correct” an identity in the same way that you can mend a broken mind. Psychologists and their forerunners have tried for a hundred some odd years to find ways to “cure” transsexual personalities, only to discover that being trans isn’t a disease and the only way to treat our gender dysphoria is to help us transition from our assigned identities to our experienced ones. Our subconscious sex, our basic understanding of our gendered selves, is engraved into who we are, and you can’t alter that without destroying the mind and creating an entirely different person in its place. We’re perfectly ordinary men and women (and genderqueers, and third-gendered and bi-gendered and non-gendered peeps) who may or may not be comfortable with our bodies, and we have a right to say that our bodies don’t determine who we are as people, and we have the right to try to change our bodies as we see fit to better reflect our identity. Don’t tell me how I should act, or how I should refer to myself, just because you can’t stop yourself from obsessing over what’s between my legs. Maybe it would be easier to get across if these idiots could stop thinking about people in terms of whether they would be willing or able to fuck said people in their preferred method.
That reminds me of another supposed reason for why we are trans: that it’s our kink, a mark of sexual deviance. This is possibly one of the most demeaning, as well as the most common ideas I’ve heard put forward by people who don’t know what they’re talking about (on the internet of course, because I would never listen to this stuff irl). The idea is that dressing in drag and altering our bodies is just a way to live out our fantasies in some kind of real-life gender-bending porno. So trans women who date women (Yo!) are just guys living out a lesbian fantasy; trans women who date men are gay guys trying to “trap” straight men; trans men who date women are just really butch lesbians; and I don’t know what trans men who date men are supposed to be in this fucked up thought process.
You may have noticed for this one overly simplistic idea to explain the existence of transgendered peeps, there has to be multiple unrelated causes in order to explain all the sexual diversity that exists in the trans community. Once again this isn’t even counting the trans peeps who identify as neither men nor women, or those who identify as both. And again it ignores the unifying concept of subconscious sex and gender, because to acknowledge it would undermine the belief that what’s most wrong with society is sexual deviants trying to lure God-fearing folk into hell.
I wouldn’t deny that being transgendered has an impact on our sexualities, whether it’s because of what sort of sex you’d want to have if you had the proper genitalia or if there’s some other aspect of transitioning that opens new opportunities in your sex life. And if cross-dressing or transitioning happen to have that sort of allure for you, then power to ya. What does bother me, however, is the belief that the whole reason any of us transition at all is because we’re all voyeurs who can’t help but display our fetishes in public, to the point where there are peeps who want to “protect” children from being taught by us. There aren’t enough gallbladders in the world to match the amount of bile that’s spewed against us each and every day, simply because we want to be addressed and treated by the same standard as cisgender peeps. It needs to be made more than clear that our identified sex and gender does not make us perverts. We also need to get over the idea that everyone’s sex and gender presentation is somehow defined by who we’re willing to have sex with. As if the only reason I have to wish I had a vagina is so I could be penetrated, presumably by a man. I’m not doing this transitioning thing for anyone else’s benefit. It’s something that I can’t do without.
That brings me to another notion about why we present ourselves in our preferred gender: because we’re selfish, that we’re egotistical, that we want to feel attractive and we don’t care what anyone else thinks about our appearance. First off: yes, we transition entirely for ourselves, nobody else. And? Problem? Would it be better if we transitioned because someone else told us to? In a sense that’s what happens when we’re identified at birth as either male or female and instructed throughout our entire life to act accordingly. How exactly is this fair to us? We never exactly chose to be unhappy with our gender, it just came about on its own. And how is it any less right to try to correct this problem later in life through transitioning?
Second: if we weren’t considering what others thought, why is “passing” such a big deal? Why do some of us postpone transitioning indefinitely to prevent others from sensing that something is wrong? Why is coming out to people as trans such a risky and usually dangerous process? It’s because we’re constantly living in fear of what others will do or say to us should they find out that we’re not cisgendered, or “normal” or “real” to use the more common and hurtful terms. We could risk losing the trust and respect of our friends, our families, our partners, and coworkers; we could risk losing our jobs, our housing, and our public standing; we could risk getting harassed and attacked by complete strangers who would go out of their way to target us in particular. We don’t just transition because we want to. If that were the case then nobody would transition because nobody wants to put up with the shit trans peeps put up with all the time. Transitioning is a matter of need, much more so than want. We must transition, because if we don’t we probably wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves. We would be living a lie, and I don’t see how that’s preferable just because you don’t want to be in the same universe as a woman with a penis or a man with a vag.
Thirdly, the idea that we transition to feel attractive: who doesn’t want to feel attractive? Isn’t that why so much time and money is spent on weight loss programs and bodybuilding? Not that I’m particularly fond of either of those aspects of our culture, but whatever floats your boat. Pretty much everyone would like to feel good about themselves, at least every once in a while. It’s just that I’d rather not be thought of as the handsome young man my family makes me out to be, but rather as a cute geeky tomboy, preferably by someone I also find attractive. If your follow-up question is why we don’t just learn to live with ourselves and be content with the bodies that we have, then you obviously haven’t read the past few paragraphs. We can’t just be happy with the way our bodies are if we can’t help but feel uncomfortable in them. For me, having a beard and lots of body hair just feels wrong, it’s not simply that they’re unattractive to me. It’s the same with trans men who bind their breasts every day until they can hopefully get them reduced. If there’s something in the back (or the forefront) of your mind bothering you constantly like that, why is it egotistical to try to deal with it in an appropriate manner? Why are we expected to cope with this crap rather than trying to be rid of it? I’d wager it’s once again because there are those who think that inconveniencing us and making our lives difficult is all perfectly alright, as long as “normal” people like them don’t have to be made uncomfortable by something we weren’t trying to bother them with in the first place.
Of course all of this is very generally applied to pretty much all discussions of gender identities and only marginally applies to my case in particular. Because you see, my parents and my close family… they don’t really care about what science says is true about transsexuals as people or what the correct course of treatment is or even what local laws say is appropriate behavior towards us. For them what’s important is what God says. Their God, that is, not your God(s). And it doesn’t matter that I think that this phantom man my parents treasure more than me doesn’t exist, because I’m still their son as long as I live on their allowance and my opinion doesn’t count anyway. I don’t even plan on using any of their money for my transitioning procedures, but they most certainly won’t see it that way. In their mind I’ll just be leeching off their God-given generosity to fuel my selfish pursuit into sin. I suspect they’d think even worse of the fact that I’m transgendered than when I came out as an atheist. As bad as being shouted down into a crying heap was over being “cold” to my mother by telling her why I thought differently from her, it would most likely be many times worse if they were to know that I plan to alter my body to better match my vision of myself and not God’s. And I’m sure they’d think their pain over losing their son would be worse than what I’d have to deal with from them and everyone else once I start transitioning. It’s bad enough for women out there, and lesbians especially, that to be thought of as “not even a man or woman” should be enough of a test to determine if I’m really serious about this, because I am. I’m serious enough to risk my parents finding out by seeking ways to transition before I graduate from college. I’m just trying my best to be the tomboy that I am without having to endure their judgment. But they won’t see it that way. Because they can’t.
Two more years, tops. Then I won’t have to hide anymore.