In this article I will be explaining transgender issues; what being trans-gender is, the struggle people have coming to terms with it and understanding it, and what it means to determine your own identity.
Let me step back a bit, and take you through my journey coming to terms with being gay. In the nineties, when I came to terms with that, I was surrounded with great friends, awesome positive people who truly thought they were good. Until it came to me being gay. Then it was their religious opposition to my ‘chosen life style’. I didn’t choose it. At four years old I liked boys, at five I liked them. At seven, at ten. Long before I even knew what sex was, when I thought kissing was gross and I sat with girls and talked about who the cutest boys in the class were. I tried at 12 and 13 when puberty was in full swing to try and force myself to like girls, and I couldn’t. It was impossible to make myself want something I didn’t want.
What does my personal growth experience, coming to terms with being gay, have to do with transgender issues? In my opinion, it is a similar experience. It is a journey of personal discovery often fraught with self hatred as you feel socially unacceptable and a desperate desire to be accepted socially. There are different levels of social acceptance, though. There’s tolerance and participation.
Tolerance is someone that accepts I am gay and does not have a problem with me living a gay life; privately. That if I want to be gay that’s fine but I shouldn’t force my life style on others because it was my choice and someone else’s kids shouldn’t have to see me kiss my boyfriend or that marriage is something between men and women and I can choose to be gay but a religious doctrine will determine whether or not my choice is valid. Conservative world views are generally about forcing a world view on someone else’s private decisions. I.E: Forcing an anti-gay world view on a gay person or an anti-transgender world view on a transgendered person.
Participation, however, is far more difficult. It is the complete cultural acceptance of something. It’s a gay person being able to walk down the street holding hands with their lover or to get married and it’s a transgendered person that can use the bathroom they are most comfortable with, or be referred to by the pronouns they prefer. Tolerance doesn’t require understanding, but participation does.
Understanding transgender issues is complicated and I don’t expect many people to understand but generally it’s not for lack of ability to it’s for lack of wanting to. What need do you or anyone else have to abide by someone else’s choice to be addressed in the feminine when they were born with a penis? If they want to dress as a woman that’s their business, but you’re under no obligation to comply with it and you feel you want to address them by the gender assigned to them at birth. Correct, more or less?
Here are some flaws with that logic. Firstly, is just understanding what it means to be transgender. It means understanding that perceptions of gender have 10 percent to do with your body parts and 90 percent to do with how you are treated and perceived socially. We just generally assume men will have shorter hair and women longer. In the West, blue is boyish and pink is feminine. Dresses are generally worn by women, pants by men, and so on. But it also has to do with one’s attitude and behavior, certain behaviors are feminine and some are masculine. So changing one’s gender is not necessarily about changing one’s biological sex but how they wish to be perceived and treated socially, and since 90 percent of our concept of gender is wrapped up in hair styles, behavioral patterns, clothing and only that 10 percent hidden between your legs determining the rest, then I honestly think one’s gender identity has very little to do with their anatomy.
What we also don’t seem to understand is that participation in personally chosen identity is something we do every do already. The transgendered issue seems to boil down to the opposition that your identity is what you’re born with; but many aspects of identity are entirely elected and we choose to participate with them. I’ll provide an example.
Hypothetically speaking let’s say I’m an atheist, which I’m not. If I were, I’d say that there is no objective evidence of the existence of the divine and a grown person claiming to believe in a supernatural divine force is the same as believing in the Easter bunny and of course if a grown person claimed the Easter bunny was real you’d think there was something mentally off about them. So as an atheist I’d say I see a Christian the same way any sane adult would see a grown person that believes in the Easter bunny as a thing that truly, really exists. I would feel I shouldn’t be obligated to participate in this deranged idea by referring to Christians as religious but as mentally disturbed. I could say you aren’t born Christian, you are born into an objective universe composed of energy and matter and just because you can’t accept that and need to believe in the existence of the divine doesn’t mean I have to play along. If I were to refer to Christians, then, by this example, as deranged, I’d be seen as extremely rude. Offensive, actually, undermining someone’s private identity choice as a Christian. The same way imposing an anti-trans gendered world view on a transgendered person is rude, and is just about you forcing your world view on someone else when who and what they are doesn’t affect you at all.
A person’s identity is probably the most sacred thing about them, and their private choices have nothing to do with anyone else until someone is being hurt. So if Timothy, born with a penis, never experienced interest in the socially accepted perception of masculine behavior but identifies entirely with feminine behavior and wants to be called Tina and referred to with feminine pronouns then it isn’t for me or anyone else to contradict that. The only person that needs to know Tina’s anatomical sex would be a Doctor or the person Tina is having sex with. Socially and culturally, Tina can create whatever identity she desires, and by respecting her identity we are hoping she will respect ours. Things such as bathroom laws are about safe spaces for transgendered individuals to do something as simple as use the bathroom without getting second looks or threats. A girl who looks more like a boy than a girl and identifies more in the masculine, stepping into a women’s restroom because she was born with a vagina, could be seen as a man going into the women’s restroom and harassed or even forced to prove she’s female. Going into the men’s room no one will second guess it or bother her.
I’ve struggled for some time to write an article on transgender issues that I felt properly respected the issue because to me it is very personal. The struggle the transgendered community is going through now is not only very familiar to my own struggle, as I described, but it’s very important. Deconstructing forced cultural identity is a good thing – many people grow up feeling forced into certain identity roles. Transgender behavior isn’t just about changing how society perceives your gender, in the grander scheme, it’s about destroying the idea that your society gets to create your identity. That your personal identity is not defined by the sex organs between your legs. That masculine and feminine, make up and clothing, are fictional elements we created.
Self determination is at the heart of this issue. Hopefully this helped to enlighten some about this issue.