Something was brought to my attention the other day that had that little light bulb in my large head *ding* with excitement: the social controversy of being transgender.
Many people think they know what it means to be transgender, but do they? With the help of two transgender individuals, we present to you: “Being Transgender” with a hope to educate the world.
The term “transgender” is defined as “the state of one’s gender identity or gender expression not matching one’s assigned sex.” Transgender people are often stereotyped as gay, crossdressers, or drag queens. Whereas some of these stereotypes might hold true for some trans people, they are typically placed on them by unknowing and unaware cisgender* people. *Please note the term cisgender. Many people are unfamiliar with this term which simply means that a person’s gender identity matches the one that they were born with.
Another common misconception associated with transgender people is the fact that they “choose” to identify with the opposite sex. Whereas there is some choosing involved in being transgender like choosing to have a sex change or choosing to dress in the way that they feel comfortable, one does not choose the gender that they identify with. I suppose it’s hard for us cisgender people to understand in retrospect, but the fact that some males do not identify as male and some females do not identify as female, should be treated just as natural as a female choosing to wear dresses, makeup, and like the color pink.
Shane Hicks opened up to me over email about his experience of transitioning. Transitioning, a common term used to describe the process of changing from one gender to another, is the process of taking hormones and/or having surgeries in order to feel more comfortable in one’s body and identity. Common abbreviations used when transitioning are “mtf” (male to female) and “ftm” (female to male) in order to describe their changing process. Transitioning takes years.
Shane, who has been physically transitioning from ftm since April 28th of 2013, described his experience with his gender identity: “I am not going to say that I was also super masculine as a child. I liked playing in the mud, but I also liked cooking, I like dancing, sappy movies, and shooting people with Nerf blasters during Human Versus Zombies. I am me. I feel as though it is a common misconception that all transgender men have to be macho, but that is not the truth.”
Growing up as–what some would call–a “normal” child, he came out as transgender as a senior in high school and described the reactions of his teachers upon asking to be called “Shane” and the request for them to use male pronouns. He stated that, whereas some teachers took it well, others avoided calling on him for the remainder of the year. He said that, although he wasn’t bullied much due to his popularity among the other students, he did face ignorance which he has used to help educate people about the transgender world.
“We are all who we are, our genders are not dependent on whether or not we played with Barbie Dolls when we were five. It is about how I feel on the inside.”
Girly boys aren’t necessarily gay and tomboy girls aren’t necessarily lesbian, and the same goes for being transgender. Stereotypes need to be shunned.
Stereotypes are one of the reasons behind the prejudice seen among the transgender community. I also had a chance to talk to an old friend of mine, Kayah Newsom. Spending time together at music festivals as kids (me around twelve, Kayah around seventeen), we bonded quickly simply because we were the two oldest kids out of our pow-wow of families camping together. As far as I know, at the time, Kayah with waist-length hair and skirts covering her legs, was still identifying as male, though she now identifies as female.
Kayah touched on the debate over bathroom restrictions for trans people. Many are familiar with this debate: trans women want to use the women’s restroom and trans men want to use the men’s restroom, simply because that is how they feel comfortable. Kayah stated that she would rather not use a male’s restroom out of fear of being assaulted due to her gender identity. She continued, saying that no politician should have the right to tell her (or anyone else) which bathroom she should use, because she knows which one she feels more comfortable using.
“What I guess it comes down to,” Kayah told me, “is, as a trans woman, I am a woman.
“Just because I’ve got a dick and I can’t afford the insanely expensive surgery . . . to meet your [their] ‘requirements’ to be a woman doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be safe.”
The violence associated with transgender people is too real. I recently watched a documentary called “The Brandon Teena Story” (available on Netflix) about the rape, assault, and murder of a trans man (ftm) in Nebraska in 1993. Though it is over twenty years later, violence and prejudice are still prevalent among the trans and gay communities of America and this documentary is both terrifying and eye opening.
The matter of the fact is that, as a society, we need to become more open to accepting those who are different from us, or don’t rest within our “normal” spectrum. To me, if someone feels more comfortable being a chick, then they should be allowed to do what makes them feel happy. Happiness is always the answer.
To watch the experience of transitioning, I also suggest the documentary on Netflix “Becoming Chaz” that documents Chaz Bono’s transition from female to male. Not only is it interesting, but Cher is interviewed so it’s obviously a must-watch.