For quite some time there have been discussions and even arguments in our community about just who is transgender and who is not. It seems that, as some people progress through the process of transition, they tend to leave behind those folks that have either chosen not to proceed with transition or are proceeding at a slower rate. These folks seem to think that the people who have not followed along with them in their journey of transition are not as transgender as they are.
Of course, it doesn’t happen to everyone. But there are people who seem to put themselves on a higher pedestal just because they have elected to do something that someone else has not. Maybe it’s the fact they are now getting HRT or electrolysis but usually it’s because they have chosen to have one of the more invasive surgical procedures such as top or bottom surgery. Or, once a person elects to present themselves “full time” in their preferred gender, they may see other people as being less trans they are. They now see themselves as being truly transgender.
I’ve often wondered why this occurs. One of the buzz phrases of our community is that we all need to be our “genuine selves”. What is right for one person may not be right for another. Why do some people lose track of this? How they see themselves is their own business but none of us have the right to label someone else. This is especially true with the labels used in the transgender community. A label is just a shortcut or an abbreviation of a longer definition.
Terminology in the trans community is so unstructured and unorganized that people quite often interpret terms and terminology to suit themselves. What they interpret as transgender one year may change the next year. Of course, this is usually counter-productive and quite often disparaging because they apply these terms (labels) to other people.
This would not occur if there was a national organization., either in the trans community or medical profession, that would compile an up to date and accepted standard for terminology. But, until that time, let’s take a step back and review a couple of definitions that are generally accepted by everyone.
A transgender person is an individual whose sexual assignment DOES NOT match their gender identity. PERIOD. It has nothing to do with surgery, gender expression, what clothes you wear, how often you wear them or anything else.
A non-transgender (cis-gender) person is an individual whose sexual assignment DOES match their gender identity and has nothing to do with their appearance.
Moreover, the only person to know this information is the person them self. (and possibly their therapist) Therefore, nobody can label you. Only YOU can label you. And that is just what a label is for. They are used by you to help you make sense of your situation.
Labels have been extremely important to me through the years as I struggled to make sense of what I felt. I wanted to know where I fit in. As I changed, the labels that I assigned
to myself changed along with me until I found my niche. As I learned more, I applied that knowledge and, quite often, relabeled myself. Nobody has the right to tell me who or what I am. They don’t know me. Only I know me and the same goes for you.
If someone attempts to label you, ignore them. If they persist, remove them from your circle of friends.
And if you are one of the labelers, stop it. This is not a game or a contest. Nobody gets more points just because they are considered to be transgender. No one is better than anyone else just because their personal situation may have changed. We are all in the same boat. If we row that boat together, we will get farther than we will if some people are thrown overboard.
Amanda Porter is Vice President of Lehigh Valley 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.
Note: The opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Lehigh Valley Renaissance or the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center