“I wanted to be a girl.”
Despite her protests, her parents cut her hair short and dressed her in boy’s clothes. She was excluded from the play of other girls her age because they thought she was a boy, and boys didn’t want to play with her because she insisted she was a girl. It left her feeling lonely and isolated, filled with longing to express the girl she was inside. She was allowed only to watch the other girls braiding each other’s long hair, forever being excluded.
This situation may sound familiar to you, if you have ever listened to a trans woman speak of her girlhood. But this story has a twist.
This was not a trans woman who told me this.
This statement was made to me by a cis woman whose parents had raised her “gender neutral.” Unfortunately for her, gender neutral meant she was raised as a boy (due to what she stated was her parents’ unvoiced, unconscious belief that “feminine” was lesser), right alongside her brother. They were “good feminists” and wanted to raise their two children — a boy and a girl — exactly the same. Except they did not see the harm they were causing their daughter by forcing her to basically be a boy.
In her words, she said “I realize as an adult that what my parents did was deny my true gender, which just happened to also be my biological one.” She says the experience left her with scars and baggage, especially now that she is about to become a mother to a daughter.
This is a really important lesson to learn about gender (we’ll ignore for now the idea of “biological gender”).
We hear all the time how trans people’s true gender is denied them all through childhood and often into adulthood, and how much pain we carry because of it. TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) and politicians deny that any such harm is being done, and that we should be thinking instead of the harm being done to cis children being “forced” to accept a trans child. They claim that trans children are being “forced” into being trans.
But here we have a cis child, facing the exact same pain and harm that all trans people experience. Ironically, she was forced into being “trans” but not in the way TERFs believe.
So do we listen to the cis child but not the trans one?
Is her experience as a child any different than a trans child’s? Of course, it was much easier for her to finally live as her true gender once she was away from her parents and was old enough to assert herself.
But is her experience any more valid than that of a trans person?
Of course not. This cis woman was forced as a child to live as a gender that did not fit her. All trans people experience the same. The harm is the same, except that for a trans person, the harm does not stop. We are consistently denied the medical care, protection under the law, and support that this cis woman received merely because she was cis. It was perfectly fine for her to grow up out of her “boy phase” and wear makeup and skirts (this woman, who I know well through Facebook, is quite stereotypically feminine — “girly” — in my opinion), but our society does not allow trans women to do the same.
It is harmful to all people — trans or cis — to be denied their true gender expression. Nothing illustrates this more than the harm that was caused to this cis woman by being forced to live as the gender she was not. We shouldn’t have to resort to showcasing a cis woman’s pain to get the point across, but I felt this was a strong argument towards allowing trans people to live as their true gender.
If you can be upset about this cis woman being denied her gender expression, than you can be upset about a trans person being denied the same. The only difference is that, to the rest of the world, allowing a trans person to express their true gender is “harm,” when we know it’s the exact opposite.