“You’re only trans if you wanna be,” says the helpful, pro-LGBTQ person on Twitter.
They’re trying to reassure a terf – a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” (that is, someone who hates trans people but tries to legitimise their fear by packaging it as concern for non-trans women) – that the Sinister Trans Agenda® doesn’t involve the enforced negation of ‘cis’ women’s identity.
The idea that acknowledging us means removing rights and recognition from born women is just another manifestation of the pathological zero-sum concept of the world’s right-wingers: the hopelessly flawed and frankly immature belief that there are only so many rights to go around, and that, consequently, working to boost rights for one group must necessarily mean reducing rights for others.
This fear is at the heart of most right-wing politics. They’re afraid to give more to others in case they lose something themselves. They don’t want to lift the disadvantaged in society – be that women, minority ethnic communities, the disabled, LGBTQ people, the poor, those living with mental illnesses, or any other comparably affected group – because they believe that lifting those groups means pushing their own down.
Of course it doesn’t. This isn’t Newtonian physics. But this is the fear that makes these inequities so hard to address.
But the nature of the terf isn’t what prompted this post. It was the quote I opened with:
“You’re only trans if you wanna be.”– Helpful Twitter Person
And I do get what the person was going for. They were trying to say, in effect, that nobody was forced to call themselves trans or identify as trans unless that’s what they choose for themselves. Which is perfectly reasonable. But it’s not the bit that jabbed my soul a little bit.
Because not everybody who is trans wanted to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with who I am now. Much happier than I was before I realised I could be The Real Me this openly. And before I dared imagine that people in my real world – that is, the world outside of the relentless hate-geyser that is Twitter – would accept me as who I really am.
But. Still. I didn’t want to be trans.
I still don’t.
And I know someone is going to say that that is a “slur against trans people”, or some such. “It’s no shame to be trans!” No, it isn’t. Of course it isn’t. It’s just a state of being, another example of wonderful human diversity. So, I should be proud of who I am, right? Well, in a way I am proud. Not of who I am, because I had no say in that; but I’m proud that I’ve addressed it. Eventually. I’m proud that I faced up to the fear that so long stopped me acknowledging this even to myself. I’m proud of that, even if my journey through this thing has been abnormally, ludicrously easy in comparison to the fight some of my trans siblings have had to face and still face. Still, I’m proud that, in my own little way, and with the precious support of family, friends and colleagues alike, I’ve remade myself to better reflect who I really am.
It’s not perfect. It was never going to be. I suspect I’ll always feel too masculine. I’ll certainly always sound too masculine. I’ll never have the body shape I want, and my face will never look feminine enough. I hurt. Not badly – sometimes hardly noticeably – but constantly. I’ll never feel like I can get away with clothes that are too “traditionally feminine”. I mean generally I’d dress like Rosa Diaz most of the time anyway; but every now and then I feel like I’d like to put a dress on, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel very confident doing so. I’ll never feel confident in saying “I am a woman”, no matter how many of the non-trans women that I know assure me that that’s how they see me. “I am a trans woman” I can do.
I’ll never comfortably go into women’s spaces – not because I don’t think I’m a woman but because I remember too well the body I used to be in.
On the other hand (head? No, only one head), I do quite like my hair. That’s definitely a plus point. I hope I get to keep it.
But, in the end, had I been given the choice at birth, I don’t think I’d have chosen to be trans. I’ve never felt trans. I feel like a woman (yeah, you heard her singing that phrase too, didn’t you?). And, if I’m entirely honest, had I been born with a body that everyone recognised as that of a girl right from the start, I don’t think I’d have had any complaints.
This is dangerous ground. In the trans community there’s a whole vitriolic debate about what are charitably referred to as “transmedicalists”, and rather less charitably “truscum”. These are trans people who believe that being trans is a medical condition – something that needs to be diagnosed and medically corrected. Transmedicalists are widely seen as exclusionary in themselves, maintaining the need for, and gatekeeping access to, the current medical pathway for transgender recognition (see a GP, get a referral to a gender clinic, be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, take drugs, undergo tests, eventually progress to surgery, and you’re cured).
This is largely the pathway I took. It was right for me, individually. It might not be right for every other trans person. The traditional medical pathway isn’t well adapted to handle non-binary trans people, for example – those whose sense of their own gender isn’t entirely male or female. I’m a binary transwoman. I felt myself to be, and feel myself to have been (and as dated and imprecise as the phrase is now considered to be) a “woman born in a man’s body”.
And I’d rather not have been. Honestly, I’d rather just have been born one or the other. This is, of course, a personal perspective. More broadly, I am delighted for those trans people who see being trans as a positive thing. Who are proud not only of what they’ve done but of being who they are. I do not begrudge them any of that. Nor I am a transmedicalist. I do not believe that medical-tran is only-tran. The experiences and identity of non-binary trans people, and binary trans people who have not pursued the traditional medical pathway, are no less valid than mine.
But my experience is that of a woman who, quite honestly, would rather have just been born in the right body in the first place.
I just hope that if I had, I wouldn’t have ended up as a fucking terf.