|"San Fransico Pride 2011" ©2011, Marilyn Roxie, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en|
With all the growth I had experienced, my view on the Trans community had not changed. I held tight to the belief that the Trans community as a whole was in someway on the same page, despite barrages from the LGB parts of our supposed larger community that seemed to criticize us for being ourselves. I heard people clamor at the notions that we were not our identified sex and genders, I heard people attack Trans people for making LGB people look bad, and I heard people claim that Lesbians and Gay people were more ‘normal’ than Trans people.
This notion of ‘normal’ came from a separation of binaries that suggested that Gay People were essentially just men or women who happened to like the same sex and thus created four available categories of sexuality instead of the traditional two. Breaking those barriers, which many Gay and Lesbian People can’t understand because they have never been Trans is perceived as an ailment in much the same way that homosexuality was/is considered a disease by many. I had no disillusions that the wider LGBT community held us in a negative regard, often holding us down in a way that straight people had done to them in the past. However, I expected better from our community; I believed in my heart that for some reason Trans People, in all their talk about self expression, couldn’t possibly fall into the same traps.
My heart has sunk as of late, we’ve fallen into the trap. I have discovered that members of our community are policing each other and attempting to create a hierarchy of who is truly Trans or not. Many people are playing the same games of ‘normality’ that Gays and Lesbians have often pulled in an attempt to normalize themselves by othering people who are considered less normal. These situations really need to stop if we are going to strive for our goals. This shouldn’t be about picking each other apart, but pushing each other forward. It’s an easy temptation, I suppose, to sell out people who are not like you in order to advance yourself, but it won’t make change, and we will still be stuck always at the bottom of the barrel looking for a way to thrive in a world where we will never quite be accepted.
The primary belief I have seen is from people who insist that Transsexuality is more ‘normal’ than being Transgender. Often this is accompanied by acceptance that Transsexuality is an acceptable medical condition and occasionally with the belief that being Transgender is a choice and therefore not real. The Serpent received a comment and had one of Nina Ember Nova’s articles picked apart by JustJennifer who put forth a similar mindset. The biggest mistake that JustJennifer made is assuming that Nina, when writing her list of Cisgender privileges, was Transgender. For the record she is not Trans, she is Cis and wrote the list out of solidarity to the privileges she acknowledges she has.
Ignoring that however, JustJennifer’s arguments were inherently wrapped around the notion that if a person truly needed to transition from male to female they would dress and act like a ‘normal’ woman like she apparently does. She also claims that its wrong for someone to look like a ‘man in a dress’ and also claims that some people “invite abuse” because of their gender expression. She also seems to take it upon herself to become a gatekeeper for transitioning by essentially claiming that if others do not match up to her experience, then these other people are just performing “Transgender idiocy” and are essentially fake. Her arguments are also classist and ableist in the belief that people require SRS to have safe spaces while many can not afford or medically receive care for numerous reasons. The point is, her arguments cater to the mainstream audience of society and ask people to cave under the pressure of social expectation instead of understanding that she, despite her self described medical condition, is just as much of a gender rebel to the world around her. Also, Nina and myself will be working to respond to her more in depth soon enough.
She is not the only person The Serpent has interacted with that has made the claim of a medical condition. Two commenters (one on Tumblr and one on The Serpent) to Robert Baldr’s article, “An Ode to the Trans Experience” offered a similar medically based argument. Elliot from Tumblr claimed, “being trans has nothing to do with gender roles and society, but everything to do with an individual’s sex characteristics which make them uncomfortable.” Meanwhile, Tom from The Serpent’s comments claimed, “Yeah, but I'm not 'gender-confusing' or 'normative-challenging'. I'm a man born with an unfortunate and debilitating medical condition which ruins my life in a lot of ways. I have no particular interest in confusing anyone's ideas of gender or challenging any particular norms.” The truth is, these comments give a small window into the normalization of Trans as a medical condition and more importantly, the desire to be seen as normal that I think we all experience from time to time.
The minute we, as Trans people, cross the gender/sex boundary, we are not considered normal any longer. We can go stealth and I certainly don’t take that away from any individual, but the mere act of having the courage to say, “Hey, I don’t belong to the group I’m assigned,” automatically introduces gender roles and the thoughts and opinions of society into the mix. It takes a certain level of internal thought and analysis to accept and understand something that much of society isn’t willing to accept as real. It is true that for some people there is a medical fix through hormones and surgery and the problem is more or less solved. Yet for others the acceptance and fight against a broken history and the narratives that are created for us as Trans People are problematic.
I am not asking any individual to fight for the cause, but you have already taken your part in the fight the moment you come out to someone because like it or not, being Trans is not considered normal. For many people, hiding behind an increasingly normalized medical condition is an easy way out that can allow for a sense of normalcy. All of a sudden, it isn’t your expression you are seeking, but a cure. It brings up nightmarish visions of a time when being gay was considered a medical condition. The problem is, medical conditions are also charged with stigmas and those who control that information would be happy to see you accepting that your sense of identity (which can be helped with simple medical treatment) is merely a medical problem and not about your desires as an individual. We all experience the desire to be perceived as normal every now and then, but we can’t do that by accepting what we are told and taking other people down, only by moving forward in our lives and fighting when we can.
Although I have not come across it personally, I have also heard stories of genderqueer and gender non-conforming people coming down on Transsexuals for being too much in the binary system of oppression. There are people who attack Drag Artists for mocking gender expressions and identities and being fake. There are those, from across the spectrum, who hate on people for not passing enough. Further, I seen people attack men and women for “cross-dressing” and have explicitly witnessed people tell women they should not wear pants because fabric has gender attached to it. Overall, I’m sick of the denial of identity and self. We all have a stake in this and we are all trying to achieve the same thing, a sense of personal exploration and freedom. These attacks need to stop because we don’t share the exact same story and that is okay.
I really do understand the appeal to being considered normal. However, there are two ways to go about it. One is to start tearing down the people around you and make sure you stand at the top of a group of people who are just trying to struggle to be themselves; the other is to fight side by side for all people to be recognized as having the right to be themselves and gain normalcy together. The choice belongs to individuals, but I choose the latter. I can’t see myself trampling over other people for being different. Being Transgender, Genderqueer, Drag, Gender Non-Conforming, or Transsexual is not a crime and does not make someone in one group less than another. We all have our unique experiences that change, grow, and develop. We do not need identity police in a movement designed around personal expression and growth. Those who do so are just the new overseers of normalcy and will support the privilege class because people seem to like to protect the possibility of normalization for themselves rather than be seen with the other rabble.