Am I Transgender?
OK. I will admit it, sometimes I am a “lurker” on Facebook. You know, one of those people who observes friends’ feeds but does not participate in or comment on their posts. You have to love people like me!
Recently, in my role as lurker I have observed a number of debates on the general topic of “Are you trans enough…” Often, they result in spirited debates around “are crossdressers really trans”; “is genderqueer really a thing” or “trans people who are stealth are the problem not the solution.”
I am always amazed at how – as members of a frequently oppressed minority - some trans people are more than willing to be exclusionary.
In my personal case, it took me years to come to the conclusion that I was really transgender. At first I thought I was broken, then a deviant, then that I had a sexual fetish. At one point, I thought I might be gay or a drag queen. I have used the terms “transvestite,” “crossdresser,” “gender-fluid,” “FtM,” and “trans-woman” to describe myself.
The Intimidation Factor
This type of searching for a way to describe our identities is not unusual for trans folk. Plenty of trans people – including members of our Lehigh Valley Transgender Support Group – have described similar experiences. As they journey along their paths to reconciling their feelings about being transgender many trans people struggle with both personal acceptance and whether they belong to “the club.”
I remember my first experience visiting a transgender support group many years ago. I was welcomed to the room by a trans woman who asked if I was ready to transition. I told her that I was unsure and was there to simply meet people like me and to learn. She then proceeded to lecture me for thirty minutes on “how to be transgender.” The result is that I never returned to that group and went back in the closet for many years... Becoming a lurker again.
The recent debates I saw on Facebook – as people weighed-in on one side or the other made me think of that experience and how excluded and intimidated it made me feel.
Am I Really Transgender?
First – There is no hard and fast rule around “what is trans”- Trans people come in all shapes, sizes, types and expressions. Some live part-time as women or men. Some express themselves androgynously. Some choose medical options like HRT or surgery – others do not. Some initially see themselves as crossdressers and later realize they need to transition – others are able to cope with a partial solution. The bottom line is that only you can decide how you should identify.
Second – There is no “misery test.” The media – and many trans people – like to focus on the narrative that trans people are miserable, suicidal and prone to depression. While that is the case for some trans folk, many (maybe even most) trans people function quite well. There is no requirement around having to have the symptoms gender dysphoria or depression in order to be transgender.
Third – There is no checklist and there is no timeline. Do you like being a girly-girl? Are you butch? Or maybe you are more androgynous. Do you want to go stealth or be open? Do you want HRT or not? Do you want to move quickly or take things step-by-step over a period of years. You get to decide these things and no one else.
Fourth – If you are asking yourself the question "Am I Trans?" you probably are. Just remember that you get to decide where you fit on the gender-spectrum and it is a BIG spectrum. Explore what being trans might mean for you and enlist the help of a trained professional and or a transgender support group as you do so.
More Thoughts On Being Transgender
In a recent Huffington Post article, Mia Violet gave a great list of things she felt trans people should know. It is something that has inspired me on my journey so I thought I would share an abbreviated version of it with you:
You can transition without “needing” to - Transition doesn’t have to be a desperate last resort. You can transition simply because you want to.
Identity is fluid - You can try different labels for your gender. You don’t have to denounce your gender and take up another one immediately. It is OK to experiment.
Gender isn’t binary – History is replete with cultures that honor non-binary people. Being non-binary doesn’t make you any more or less trans.
There is no transition pathway – Transition does follow a straight line starting with a therapist, going through HRT and ending in genital surgery. Transition is your own unique journey.
You know more about your gender than anyone else - This includes family, doctors, friends, strangers and other trans people. You are the ultimate authority on your gender identity.
Clothes only mean what you want them to mean - Gender is in your head, not in your clothes. Dress in a manner that is comfortable for you.
It’s not selfish to come out as transgender – Many trans people worry that they’re being selfish by exploring their gender identity. That is untrue. You will be a better friend and family member by recognizing your true self.
It’s okay to disagree with other trans people - As long as what you’re saying is respectful, healthy debate is a good thing. Just don’t be a jerk about it.
Where Should Trans Inclusion Start?
Finally, I will add my own thought to the list. And that is that “We are stronger together.” Instead of debating whether someone should be let into the circle, why not make the circle bigger? Trans people want to be accepted by society as a whole. So shouldn’t we do the same in our community? Shouldn't we start with ourselves?
Corinne is the webmaster of Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance
More About Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance
The leading organization for transgender support and education in Eastern PA and Western NJ, our focus is on helping transgender individuals as they work through their journey to become their authentic selves while helping the community at large learn more about what it means to be transgender.
Would you like to learn more about our support group for Lehigh Valley transgender people? If so, please contact Lehigh Valley Renaissance or better yet join us at one of our monthly meetings!
Note: The opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily that of Lehigh Valley Renaissance or the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.