Trans identities and trans lives are often presented as a set of issues to be encountered and somehow solved.
Often the two; encounter and solve are separated by vast amounts of panic.
Often trans lives are seen as needing to be owned; paternally, and resolved by the non-trans world (cis).
Meetings are planned and vast amounts of oxygen are wasted as the non-trans people, say in a workplace like a school, decide what needs to be done, who needs to be told, what toilets need to be used/adapted. How the curriculum should change, for how long it should change, how much time do parents, carers, governors, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all need to digest and come to terms with this trans presence. What will it mean for standards? What effect will it have on the children?
The meetings often spiral downwards, tumbling into offensive rhetoric; when will you look like a woman, a man? When will you pass, wear more makeup, less makeup? When will you dress like a man/woman? When will you have surgery? Have you had surgery? Are you gay/straight/lesbian? Do you have sex? Have you had sex? I bet you can’t wait to have sex?
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex……………………………………………………………
It goes on and on. A long line of drivel driven by panic, ignorance and privilege.
On the other side of this barrage is a person, a human being who has pushed through darkness, often depression and fragility to a place of utter bravery, pure bravery. Often but not always they are alone and may have lost connections, loved ones, friends and intimate family to get to this point. Yet at this point they are dehumanised, interrogated and rationalised.
They must fit in, they must blend. In trans terms they must pass. Passing at this point is owned wholly by the non-trans collective, it is economically theirs, and despite trans-belief, passing is always ‘theirs’ and never ‘ours’.
It is this point that our economic worth becomes almost completely linked with our ability to please ’them’.
This transaction of power has been the status quo of transitioning since transitioning became a marginal part of society. It places us trans folk in a weakened position where we are pitied, ‘liked’ in that way that minorities sometimes are, legislated for and offered protection by some from the storm that is acceptance.
Our lives are fetishized but prescribed no or very little value.
Look at the number of trans women and now some trans men pushed out of jobs and into sex work, look at the numbers of them who are abused, hurt and in extreme cases killed. I say extreme but in some countries trans women are killed in disproportionate numbers even when compared to cis-sex workers. Sometimes though we buy into our own reported fetishism, often I hear data reeled off at conferences, remembrance services and various meetings about the numbers of trans people attempting suicide and self-harming. I do not dispute there being some validity here as its entirely depressing to be assigned the wrong gender at birth but I dispute the cavalier way in which we buy into the approval seeking route.
“Look at us, feel sorry for us, we’re sad, we’re struggling, we’re fragile.”
We feed the paternalistic notion that we need looking after as ‘freaks of nature’ who are innately unstable and will never develop fully as adults despite often being very grown up indeed.
Still the average age for a person to transition is 35-45.
We again though feed into this by our constant need to recapture and define ourselves as ‘girls’ not ‘women’ and ‘girly’ not ‘womanly’.
I am a trans woman so will not comment on the cultural norms of trans men. I do not though buy into the notion that trans men instantly have male privilege. By societies own lack of integrity and thought processes this cannot possibly be true. All the same notions of economic loss, I imagine, must still apply.
We trans people are seen as a problem, like Maria, to solve. Often because of the economic transferral of power we are not actually seen as our problem is apparently solved. We have for many years lived our lives at the margins of society, losing jobs, intimacy, money and dignity as the NHS probes and prods us; are you really that gender they insinuate?
Are you really authentic, are you really real?
This is still the narrative for many trans people, a narrative based on hope, lack of power and an unhealthy reliance on charitable thinking. Will they believe me, will they give me surgery, will they still like me at work, and will they let me use the right toilet.
The list goes on.
The dynamic withers, our bargaining shamefully has allowed them to ‘other’ us out of the game.
We need a new dynamic, we need a new stance.
I am proposing that we get society to understand that we as trans folk are inspirational, aspirational and that when we transition and own our true selves we enrich society in a way that only people utterly seeking truth can.
We should be celebrated, and held up on high as examples of what can be achieved when one is brave enough to absolutely believe you can make something right. Trans people seek authenticity, not exclusively in society but few other groups have to seek authenticity through such radical methods.
Trans people are superheroes and should have a place at the high table of society alongside, yes, everyone else.
Trans lives enrich workplaces; schools, hospitals, law firms, supermarkets, forcing communities to accept gender fluidity, forcing gender norms to wobble, shift and then remake.
That’s if said communities can open their minds to the idea that ‘all is not right in the inn’. The inn and its occupants are suffering; girls do better at school and higher education but are still paid much worse, in some countries female education is outlawed. The number one killer of young men in the Western world is suicide; boys trying to be men, men trying to be men.
The inn is rotten, the inn is full of lies which feed untruths which spit out regrets. Gender stereotypes still rule and hold fast on a society which aches for truth and authenticity.
Trans lives, trans people can show the way.
Trans people let go of binaries to migrate across, sometimes not all the way; the epic truth inherent in the non-binary world is surely the only healthy way forward.
None of us are just one thing or one dimension. There is no such thing as a manly man, or a feminine woman, just notions we ascribe to democratise value.
Tall = expensive, fat = costly
Trans people are not at ‘their’ tipping point, they/we are marking the tipping point of cis society which is almost rotten to the core and failing miserably to mend its own fences and boundaries far too often scent marked with outdated piss.
Non-trans (cis) society can grow up; it desperately needs to, and it can use the purity of the trans experience as a start point, not the destination but a start point.
Firstly by truly embracing the notion that nothing is fixed and that wrongs can be made more right and that a perfect life is a wasted life and that a near perfect life is a pretty splendid thing.
Secondly society can stopping wanting to be in control of others and stop wanting to order others. Even trans people do this sometimes but a vast section of trans folk don’t. If we, for a minute look at some very successful (by your definitions) trans people, say Laverne and Paris then we see two people who support and don’t judge, whom forgive but ask that others learn, whom strive for a better existence for many whilst they could very easily think only of themselves.
They are truly role models.
They are not religious or iconic or emblematic, they are ordinary folk who sought authenticity and did that so brilliantly that they rose up to the top of their professions. Yet they are still fixed firmly to the ground by their own will. They are decent.
Learn from them, I know that daily the trans community does.
So embrace and yet allow the hug to not be controlling.
Thirdly let gender go, it really doesn’t help a single soul to become a better, bigger or more decent person. It loads us up with baggage from the minute we are born. If there was no gender would I still have wanted a vagina, yes I imagine I would but would it have been easier to be a girl and then a young woman with a penis yes most definitely.
Gender doesn’t help anyone trans or cis. Children suffer terribly as they struggle to fit. And if you, we, I are honest the fit is pretty dam slim. So let it go, or at least in stages stop ‘genderising’ everything; colours, toys, places, actions, behaviours.
Try it now, switch stuff in your mind, imagine what it’s like growing up as boy when boys are expected to be able to fight, imagine what it’s like growing up as a girl when girls are expected to be caring.
Can’t fight, sissy
Doesn’t care, butch
It’s such a tough environment that we have accepted; let’s change it.
So there are three points that you, they, we can do to change things.
But mainly I would ask one thing, if someone tells you they think they are going to transition throw your hands in the air, scream and then dance. Hug them and arrange a party.
Celebrate them and their journey. Give them a card (card designers get working).