I wasn’t always ok with being trans. I’m certainly not ok with where my body is at, and where my life and financial security are at, or what impact that has on my ability to complete the work I want done. But the actual being trans part is something I have come to love about my life.
I would not trade being trans for being cis.
There, I said it. I said the thing no one wants us to say. I mean, we’re “supposed” to not just wish to be male, or female, but to wish we were born that way. Right? It solves all the problems, doesn’t it? We’re expected to want to be cis so that we never had to mess around with any of this trans stuff.
Because who would want to be trans?
I didn’t start out that way. Just as recently as two years ago this was an idea that would have horrified me. That alone should tell you how much damage our society can do to a person. Though I don’t think I need to tell any of my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings this, cis people might be surprised to learn that the jokes you make can actually harm trans people.
By laughing, you teach us that we are hated. By laughing, you teach us to hate ourselves. By laughing, you teach us that the proper thing to do is to laugh at people like us. By laughing, you teach us that we are the joke. By laughing, you teach us to never want to be someone like us.
It is little wonder that in a world that has taught us to hate ourselves and everyone like us that the most hurtful things ever said directly to me came from other trans people. I can forgive that. I can forgive that because the hateful words they are spewing aren’t words they learned in a vacuum. I learned those words too. And I didn’t learn them from trans people.
But I also learned not to use those words because they do harm. And the way I learned that was that I experienced the harm. I have done the harm to myself because of those words, and the ideas those words represent.
I considered myself a feminist prior to my transition. I considered myself a radical gender abolitionist. As an atheist and a skeptic of religion in general, I didn’t have to reconcile my transition with any deity beliefs. But I did have to reconcile it with my feminist ideals.
Being trans with that history in feminist thought means being able to look at this wave of anti-trans radical feminists and (even though they will not believe me) tell them that I understand why they fight the way they do: women who eschew femininity are the women most harmed by the rigid binary. I understand because men who eschew masculinity are the men most harmed by the rigid gender binary. It is unfortunate that that is such a taboo thing to say because the bullying is real. The trauma is real. And the privileging of masculinity—not synonymous or inseparably linked with maleness—means that much vaunted “male privilege” can be revoked in an instant the moment you are not seen as a man. That is a perspective too many refuse to accept.
I accept it because I experienced it. I experienced it again when I transitioned. When I turned in my man card, I didn’t get to keep the male privilege. Or the masculine privilege. In many ways, I never had the male socialization that is so often held up as “why” trans women somehow retain male privilege. [I wrote about that here] For the first time I experienced the full weight of misogyny. I experienced the full weight of transmisogyny.
Most importantly, though, I have been on both sides. I have experienced what it is like to have both testosterone and estrogen flowing through my veins and I know how potent their effect on emotion and thought can be. I no longer have the luxury of presuming biology has nothing to do with socialized behavior as a means of condemning behavior I disapprove of.
The biology is inseparable. Hormones matter. Ask any woman who has been on the “wrong” birth control how much control hormones can have over a person’s state of mind. And those who have experienced it know exactly what I mean by “wrong”.
This is not an excuse for misogyny. This is not an excuse for violence. As moral agents with a cerebral cortex built to overrule base urges, it is not acceptable to allow “it’s my biology” to excuse behavior. But we cannot close our eyes to the matter of the biology and expect it to go away if we ever hope to solve the problems of gender oppression.
I love being trans because it means I have first hand experience with altered hormone levels that I can directly relate to a change in emotional state and thought processes.
I love being trans because in experiencing a loss of privilege, I understand what it is like to have it, what it is like to be blind to having it, what it means to lose it, and what it means to be without it.
I love being trans because it is a first hand experience with every reason why we must work together to make things better.
Experiences matter. I don’t have a choice about whether or not I get to understand what it feels like to experience injustice, dehumanization, violence, sexualization, trauma, self-loathing, self-harm, fear, hopelessness. I’ve experienced it.
It is the cruelest form of gift, but while there are others out there who still suffer these same things, I would not sacrifice the understanding I have gained for the comfort of having been cis.
I choose to love being trans. I refuse to pity myself for not being cis.
It is not a choice I made one time. It is a choice I make daily. Like forgiveness, it is work. It is empowering.
It means I can look a woman who just got talked down to like a child in the eye and say, “I understand your anger.”
It means I can look a survivor in the eye and say, “I understand why you can’t confront them.”
It means I can look someone with triggers in the eye and say, “I understand why you walked out on that movie.”
It means I can look someone with scars in the eye and say, “I understand what it means to have so little control over your environment that controlling your body is all you have left.”
It means I can look someone who doesn’t understand in the eye and say, “It’s not right that you try speaking to my experience just because you think you can imagine it. And now I know why, when I’ve done that in the past, I was wrong to do so.”
It means I can look my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings in the eye and say, “It’s time we stopped taking this shit with a smile.”