I’d like to start this post with a thought experiment. If you are right-handed (or the opposite if you are left-handed), imagine that you lived in a world where less than 1% of the world was. Your whole life you were scolded every time you used the hand that felt natural to you. People told you that you were wrong and weirding everybody out. So, you forced yourself to use the hand that felt wrong and most things you did just felt wrong. But you kept doing it because you didn’t want people thinking you’re a freak.
Then, one day, you find out there are other people like you. That it’s simply your nature to be left- or right-handed. That you’re not some perverse type who likes to mess with people’s heads. Full of joy, you tell everyone about it. You’re a proud left- or right-handed person. Things will no longer feel so forced and strange.
But your friends and family are less than thrilled about your self-acceptance. Your difference is an inconvenience to them. It’s so weird and gross, they just can’t accept it. And what will people say? Have you even thought about how it will make them look? They demand that you justify yourself for being what you are.
So, you decide to try and make a case. You bring stereotypes about people with your hand preference. Things like how left-handed people are often better at mathematics and you’ve always had great math grades. Or how right-handers are supposed to have superior language skills and you’ve learned several languages. Therefore, it’s obvious why you’re the way you are.
Because most people can’t explain the deep brain-wiring that causes handedness. Or sexual orientation. Or gender identity. So, you rely on stereotypes, hoping that people will accept that you can’t help being who you are because of these shallow, socially constructed ideas.
A result of this is that trans people often have to use sexist stereotypes to justify our existence. Both to family, friends and to medical professionals. When I was forced to justify my need for transitional care to the so-called ‘gender specialists’, I had to lie through my teeth a lot of the time. No, of course not. I never played with dolls. Yes, of course, I love sports. I watch it all the time. Yes, I’m attracted to women. Yes, I watch straight porn. I love titties.
Lies, all of that. They did help me get testosterone, top surgery and – hopefully soon – metoidioplasty. So, I can’t say that I fully regret those lies. But this narrative needs to stop for several reasons.
First, it hurts trans people by making us feel like we need to be walking gender stereotypes to be allowed to exist. Some people who need to transition might put it off for years simply because they don’t feel macho or feminine enough, causing great harm to their mental health.
Secondly, it might make some cis people think that they need to transition. The stories of people who regret their transition (far less people than the media wants you to believe, but they still exist) is almost always someone who transitioned to escape restrictive gender roles and ended up realising that the changes to their bodies made them feel horribly. They ended up with dysphoria they didn’t have to begin with.
(On a side note, I’d like to say that if you are thinking about transition because the expectations society has on you, then please consider the fact that the other side will have plenty of expectations too. Speaking from experience, I can say that both the ridiculous beauty standards of the female side and the toxic macho norms of the male side are pretty shitty and can be hard to bear.)
Thirdly, it actually makes acceptance of trans people harder in the long run. Both trans-hating “radical feminists” and conservatives are using this narrative against us, claiming that we’re out here actively pressuring anyone who breaks gender roles into transition. They don’t realise we’ve had to resort to this narrative to counter their intolerance. It is, after all, conservatives who think boys should like sports and girls should like dolls. They’ve pushed us into a corner, pressured us to use their own worldview to justify our existence and now gone full circle and saying we’re the sexist ones!
Part of the solution to this, as far as I can see, is that we need to stop trying to justify our innate gender identity to cis people. They might not get it, and they don’t need to get it because it’s nobody’s business but ours.
I realise I’ve never mentioned on this blog before that I’m a trans man. Honestly, I just wanted at least one space online where I wouldn’t have to deal with the transphobia that always follows with being openly trans. But there is so much hate right now, with all the sensationalist media spreading bullshit about us and conservative politicians doing all they can to make our lives hell, that I felt I needed to step out and come out here too. Being silent is exactly what our detractors want from us – and I simply refuse to give them that.