Trans Day of Visibility
Hey, so it's apparently this day; I figured I should do my part, and also give interested folx a chance to learn a bit more about me.
I do indeed identify as a Transgender individual for several reasons, which may be surprising to some who know me. I'd like to go into a bit of depth over what that means for me, but also for the wider community. So here are a bunch of meaningful words!
If you already know a decent amount about LGBT+ language, feel free to skip straight to About Me .
As we continue to nudge society toward a fairer, more inclusive and less awful place, we develop the need for new language. Getting to grips with LGBT+ realities is no exception, and we need language sufficiently powerful to articulate what is going on. Here are some definitions that are particularly important to the LGBT+ and Transgender experience:
- AMAB - Assigned Male At Birth: This one is quite self explanatory.
Most people called 'Boys' or 'Men' in my English-speaking culture, are AMAB individuals. This assignment is typically based on the presence of external genitalia.
- AFAB - Assigned Female At Birth: Same as above, but the assignment is typically based on the absence of external genitalia.
- Man/Male - An individual who identifies as such.
Traditionally associated with certain behaviors, societal roles, clothing, colors and more. All, some or none of these things may apply to any particular man. For our purposes, mutually exclusive with 'Woman'.
- Woman/Female - An individual who identifies as such.
Traditionally associated with certain behaviors, societal roles, clothing, colors and more. All, some or none of these things may apply to any particular woman. For our purposes, mutually exclusive with 'Man'.
- Non-binary - Typically someone who identifies as neither strictly a 'Man' nor 'Woman'.
- Cisgender - From Latin 'cis-', meaning 'on this side of'.
Someone whose Assigned Gender at Birth, 'matches' their gender identity.
Eg: An AMAB individual who identifies as a 'man' can typically be referred to as a 'Cisgender man', or commonly 'Cis man'.
Cisgender individuals make up the majority of the population, and as a group are well represented in various contexts.
- Transgender - From Latin 'trans-', meaning 'across, beyond'.
Someone whose Assigned Gender at Birth does not 'match' their gender identity.
Some individuals here may feel most comfortable and authentic presenting differently to ways that 'match' their Assigned Gender at Birth.
Some may identify with some specific gender, while others do not.
Some may benefit from any of a wide variety of medical procedures to better align their body with what makes sense for them, while others do not.
Some may feel that they were "born in the wrong body", while others do not consider this to be true.
Eg: An AMAB individual who identifies as a 'woman' can typically be referred to as a 'Transgender woman', or commonly 'Trans woman'.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) - Also known as 'Gender Affirming Hormone Therapy', represents a family of medical treatments intended to modify the levels of an individual's sex hormones (primarily testosterone and estrogen, but also others). This can have a broad range of desirable physical and psychological effects, and there are a multiple possible goals for such an endeavour. It is highly individualized, and usually involves experiencing a 'second puberty'.
- Transsexual - Arcane term for what we now typically refer to as a Transgender individual. Best for most people to avoid using this to refer to human beings, though within the LGBT+ community there is some nuance here.
This is the language I use - none of this is 'final'; words are ultimately 'made up' noises and squiggles for referring to things, tangible and otherwise, that we need to communicate about. Definitions may differ between points of view, and do just change over time.
After all that, it should make sense that some labels I use for myself are AMAB, Transgender, Non-binary and Gender-fluid. Breaking it down:
- I was assigned 'male' at birth (thanks to my external genitalia), but I do not identify as male.
- 'Woman' is also inaccurate, making me 'non-binary'.
- Gender-fluid describes how some of my behaviors, presentation and internal workings, when viewed through a gendered lens, tend to shift around from day to day.
Something I haven't spoken to many people about previously is that I do indeed employ feminizing HRT - moving my body from the testosterone-dominant regime I have had for most of my life, to an estrogen-dominant one. This has brought a slew of benefits which are, at this time, still difficult to convert into language - you're just going to have to trust me on this ;) .
It has been challenging to talk about for a number of reasons, including:
- By sharing such a fact, people may think I am looking for their approval, which is a burdensome misunderstanding for all involved. At this point however, things have been going on for long enough that it should be clear I'm not asking for permission.
- Many people are simply weirded out by this stuff. It's unusual and makes people uncomfortable to think about. I don't like making people uncomfortable and speaking frankly, I expect this will lose me the support of some friends who find it hard to tolerate.
- I don't want this to change how people treat me; alas, things are becoming more difficult to...conceal - I might as well take the opportunity and do my part to help normalize all this.
- I don't want to be labelled a 'woman'. For many people, this kind of disclosure will put me into the 'woman' box, or indeed the less-nice 'trying to be a woman' box. Neither of these are good for me. What I am going through can reasonably be called 'feminization', but 'transition' is misleading. Something that becomes painfully, wonderfully obvious, is that everyone seems to be doing this stuff for different and personalized reasons. The transgender community isn't one big monolith - it's a diverse bunch of people with some stuff in common. Kinda. Since getting acquainted with this reality, I actually feel less connected to a solid community, but I feel much more connected to myself; perhaps that makes sense to someone!
How can you support me?
- Basically don't do anything different.
- Don't make disrespectful/invasive questions/comments about my body. I do enjoy talking about myself in general, but there is also a big issue with folks feeling entitled to inspect/judge transgender bodies - perhaps asking quite clinical/medicalized questions which would normally demand a good deal of familiarity, or at least a little "asking to ask". It's annoying and weird, and particularly if it's 'out of concern', please just don't.
- Continue to address me as the non-binary individual I am. Avoid gendered language. Use they/them pronouns (I definitely don't want to hear nonsense about singular they/them being grammatically illegitimate - it's not; get over it).
Diversity within the community
As i've labored previously in this post, there is a great deal of diversity within the group of people called 'Transgender'. To not appreciate this will undoubtedly lead to confusion, so here are some dimensions which can vary between Transgender individuals:
- Identity - eg: Man, Woman, Non-binary, Genderfluid, etc... (many of these)
- Presentation - eg: clothing, behavior, third-person pronouns.
- Presence/degree of Gender Dysphoria - this is a medical diagnosis centered around discomfort with one's body, along gendered lines; a Transgender individual may or may not experience it.
- Self concept - eg: "Born in the wrong body" vs personal evolution, vs something else?
- Medical procedures undertaken - eg: none, hair removal, facial surgery, breast augmentation/reduction, genital surgeries, many more.
- Presence/degree of HRT undertaken - eg: none, microdosing, feminizing, masculinizing, transitional.
- History - eg: Some single moment they "found out they were transgender" vs some incremental change, vs something else? Presence of Childhood 'signs' vs not?
- Desire to 'pass' - particularly for Trans men and Trans women, it may or may not be desirable to appear visibly transgender.
This is not exhaustive or even extensive; hopefully it illustrates some of the great diversity within this group.
Some social challenges particularly related to the Transgender population include:
- Underrepresentation and lack of visibility in media, workplace and other contexts.
- Social/moral taboo - Many individuals simply take moral issue with some or all aspects of Transgender individuals; this may be for religious reasons, and/or cultural beliefs around narrow, very specific definitions of man/woman-hood.
- Trivialization - Often a massively oversimplified view of this group is the only one considered. Eg: a popular trope is the AMAB individual who spends their childhood secretly dressing in female clothes, eventually 'fully transitioning' to become a Transgender woman, taking full advantage of all medical procedures available to present as closely to an idealized Cisgender woman as possible, with a goal of becoming indistinguishable from one. Though completely valid, it should be clear that this is very far from a universal story.
- Fetishization - Sigh
- Misinformation and even organized hate - Unfortunately, there exist influential and well-resourced groups of individuals, many of whom are so-called Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), casting Transgender individuals as some combination of mentally disturbed, untrustworthy, hostile to feminism, hostile to womens' rights, or even predatory. This is a large problem in the UK for example, where such views could be called practically mainstream. It represents a sizeable risk to Transgender equality/safety.
There is so, so much more to say on all of this, and I have not tried to cover everything. This is a snapshot into my world, and here I try to show how I place myself within it.