I wouldn’t tell her, “you think you’re a boy, but you grow up to be a woman.”
It’s one of the last retreats and first rejoinders of people whose support of the transgender community isn’t rock-solid. It’s the base of operations of people who don’t oppose our existence but nevertheless find us grotesque and confusing. It’s tiresome, it’s exhausting, and it makes more of us more likely to date each other than our shared experiences and social spaces already did. We have to warn each other that our relationships might end if we transition, partly because of this specter.
The argument from “genital preference” simply will not go away, and that’s because its framing is tangled and often dishonest.
As a trans lesbian who herself finds one genital configuration more aesthetically and sexually desirable than the other, I come at this topic from a distinct perspective. And the most important thing I have to offer here is this point:
It is not the preference that is a problem, it’s how that leads a person to treat their prospective partners.
When I told my family and my oldest friends that I had recognized myself as a transgender woman and would be pursuing transition, I was 27. Every one of them told me it was far too sudden and that I needed to spend a lot longer thinking about my life before committing to it. Some of them accused people close to me of somehow coercing or corrupting me into my new gender. Most of them tried to convince me that I was actually a dyed-in-the-wool ultra-masculine man’s man, bizarre and tragicomic against my small-framed bookish nerdiness and the facts of what was actually happening. They saw a “sudden” decision and an equally sudden dive into dresses, makeup, long hair, and pretty shoes, because they didn’t see who I had been and what I had been doing and thinking privately for the previous 27 years.
So when I heard that a “researcher” named Lisa Littman had published a widely-criticized “scientific study” proposing that some trans children aren’t “really” trans, and instead coerced by “social contagion” into imagining that they’re trans in a phenomena she deceitfully called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” I saw her angle immediately.
I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with exercise. Truth be told, exercise verged on self-harm for me for a long time, and it took some major personal revelations for me to see it. Continue reading “Exercising While Trans, Or How I Learned To Stop Lifting and Love Myself”
“Thank you,” I told them. “Thank you for being so much better than an occasional phone call asking if I’ve given up yet.”
Zoë Michelle Knox and Amanda Jetté Knox were already famous in Canada for the improbable beauty of their journey when I met them. They were the family that had gone from the picture of white suburban normalcy to a beacon of queer hope, as father and son rediscovered themselves as wife and daughter, made public by Amanda’s blog and Internet presence, and they had been all over Canada’s magazines and web sites. The fact that they were local meant that my friends and extended circles were particularly aware of these lovely people, and made sure I heard when their speaking tour brought them to an auditorium within not-too-forbidding walking distance of my home. They spoke about Amanda’s then-nascent book, Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family, about trans issues in general, about how society fails us and how people can make sure the transgender family members among them feel loved, supported, and cared for despite widespread social disapproval and even violence.
Transformation and exchange are two of the most thematically interesting ways to explore gender and relationships in fiction. This isn’t a new idea, with the story of Tiresias providing an example from Greek antiquity. Such stories can range from ignorant and banal to nuanced and powerful. As a trans woman, I have long held a fascination with them, and they ultimately helped me come to understand what I wanted from my body and my life. “Striking Vipers,” the first episode of season 5 of Black Mirror, is neither of these, instead being a tragic, wasteful misfire that perhaps handles some of its other themes better than this one.
There are a lot of good things to be said about the body positivity movement. Encouraging people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities to feel beautiful and valuable despite not fitting into their society’s narrow mold is a transparently good idea. People deserve to not feel insecure or ashamed of their bodies, especially when the source of that insecurity isn’t much bigger than marketing. There is a darker side to constantly proclaiming that people should accept themselves “just as they are,” however. Some people’s problems with how their bodies are shaped aren’t a matter of trying to live up to an unreachable beauty standard, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Transgender people face continuous, intense opposition to everything we are and everything we do in much of the world. One of the forms that this aggression takes is proclaiming that trans people shouldn’t want to reshape our bodies to fit with their genders, and should accept our deviant shapes “just as they are,” all couched in the language of body positivity. To undertake aesthetic, medical, or surgical interventions to change appearance is, in this view, to succumb to social pressures that we should instead be resisting. By their logic, a trans man should strive to be content with growing breasts he never wanted, and a trans woman should embrace the androgenic baldness that awaits her if she doesn’t take hormone replacement therapy, because to do otherwise would be insufficiently “positive.”
CN clothing ads, including lingerie
I really like this ad.
I arranged a question-and-answer session on my Facebook profile on this year’s Trans Day of Visibility. My friends and other visitors brought up some amusing, interesting, and valuable questions. For posterity’s sake, that’s all here now.
- Isn’t having the superpower of invisibility the other 364 days of the year awesome?
It’s kind of disappointing, really. It makes it so much harder to get appreciation for all of these selfies.