Today’s the Transgender Day of Visibility, and it’s always exciting for me to check out my Facebook feed or Tumblr and spot so many supportive messages for me and my trans siblings. It’s a terrifying world for us most of the time, and I’m not someone who’s especially fearful. Spiders? Heights? Darkness? No problem. Being trans in a small town?
But I’ve never been in the closet, really, either about my sexuality or my gender identity. I came out as bisexual to my extremely conservative, fundamentalist, religious (you get the idea) mother at age 16. At the time I didn’t know what trans* was–the only trans* people I knew about were mtf, and it never occurred to me it might work the other way too– so I generally thought of myself as a dyke who happened to fuck men also. When I did find out about ftm transgender identities in my 20s, I gravitated to that. I talked to Jules, the editor of Black Gold, and to Clancy, and I gave myself a few months to figure out how it fit me. Then, unable to bear not living my truth, I told both my mother and father about it. This has been years ago now, and I’ve presented as male since then to the best of my meagre ability.
Still, I’m virtually invisible. People assume I’m a dyke because I haven’t yet been able to go on hormones and my body is definitely not the typically masculine one I wish I were born with. No one asks me if I’m trans, and I think they may not realize trans men exist either, outside of people like Chaz Bono and Thomas Beatie. People do stare. I do get discriminated against. The funny looks never stop. I’m just 90% sure it’s because they assume I’m a very masculine lesbian. I don’t correct them because it’s not their business. My life is not theirs to judge or know.
But I do make sure that I’m never ashamed of the queer status ascribed to me. I’m proud to be this person, even if assumptions are inaccurate. I would be proud to be a dyke, if I were one. I was proud to think of myself as one for all those years before I understood. I love women. I love women’s bodies. I just don’t belong in one.
Visibility as a transgender person can be complicated. There are wide swaths of the world in which someone who clocks me as different is not likely to guess correctly at my identity. In those places, it’s probably not safe for me to trumpet it either. That’s why today matters. The more we talk about transgender identities, the more people from all ranges of the trans* spectrum stand up and demand to be counted, the more we share our images and our truth, the more the world realizes how foolish it is to assume anything about anyone.
That’s my real message for you today. Stop assuming. Does someone look kind of masculine for a woman? Does someone look kind of feminine for a man?
Rearrange your thought pattern.
What is a woman? What is a man? What’s “masculine” or “feminine”? Who defines those terms for you? And do you have a right to define those terms for anyone else?
True freedom in this world happens when we’re all free to be who we are, whether you believe we evolved that way or God/dess made us this way. Free will, the right to self-determination…this is what humanity is striving toward/with/against at all times. Be bold. Be strong. Exercise your free will to change your perception of those around you. Stop ascribing gendered traits and expectations to other human beings. Start seeing others with an open heart and an open mind, and open your introductions with, “Hi, my name’s ___, and my pronouns are (he/him; she/her;they/them), and it’s a pleasure to meet you. How do I call you?”
It’s not necessarily transphobic, in my opinion, to puzzle over what someone else “is” but it’s certainly cissexist. It casts male and female as default and all others shades of gender as freakish or, at best, outside the norm. Let’s fucking crush the idea of normal, shall we? Let’s rewrite the script. Gender is a spectrum, and the sooner we stop trying to define other people, the sooner those people can define themselves–for themselves, and for the world we all share.