The LGBTQ movement has come very far very quickly. LGB is about who and how we love. T is about who we are. The advances in medical technology that undergirded the sexual revolution — along with the civil rights, the antiwar movement, and the women’s movement — are part of what created the perfect storm.
To be sure people have been transitioning throughout recorded and unrecorded history. People have been LGB since forever and societies have alternately exalted and executed people for it.
I knew I was a girl before I was three years old, though my parents tried to tell me otherwise. It was impossible for me to be a girl, but shortly after that Christine Jorgensen created a sensation by having a “sex conversion surgery,” as the newspapers called it, and as a pre-schooler I had a hero. I am going to do that. That will answer all the objections of my parents. Little did that six-year-old understand that my parents were the unofficial representatives of society.
The recently-ended Second World War had been a giant societal cement mixer of American society that set off all that was to follow.
When Syntex perfected and mass-produced the birth control pill in the early 1960s, the sexual revolution started in earnest. Cishet people were liberated, especially women who began to take control their bodies. The daughters of Rosie the Riveter became sexually liberated coeds who went to college for more than an M.R.S. degree. Free of perpetual pregnancy, these daughters had choices that were unimaginable one or two generations before.
Until then people assigned a gender that they did not believe themselves to be had little alternative but to hide in women’s skirts or in men’s trousers — odd duck outcasts living in the shadows. But that little Syntex pill was used by some to do more than prevent pregnancy of cishet women. As a college grad in the late 1960s, this pill changed everything and at the cellular level for my body that did not produce enough E- and too much T-.
Hari Nef gave a Ted talk, FreetheFemme, and did that Syntex pill ever free me and countless other like me. And yes, I read up in medical books — we had a med school on campus with a massive library — and I knew I might never have children after ingesting the little yellow pill, but who cares! I knew I could never give birth, anyway, so it was a moot point — a cishet world view.
Then came Stonewall and Women’s Liberation and the perfect storm turned into calm smooth waters and some of us sailed toward womanhood, or manhood as the case may be, from there. A former Army MASH surgeon perfected modern affordable MTF surgery while working as a surgeon in a small town in southern Colorado. In the same year as Stonewall a social worker had asked the surgeon if he could help her — she was transsexual and needed the surgery — and he figured out the mechanics of it. Word got out and the trans youth flocked to the mining town to emerge the way that society demanded women to be physically.
Up until then only a social transition had been possible, but now changing the whole smash became possible and cishet society became all schiz about it. Cishet society dismissed trans people as dreaming an impossible dream and cited all the reasons people of transition weren’t the gender they affirmed. And, yet, when the transitioners went out to fulfill the “job description,” cishet society tried to stop them. “You can’t be a woman, because . . .” Then the person fixes that and then gets a new reason, which she fixes . . . on and on.
The women’s movement, Feminism 101 said, “Biology is not destiny” and once the movement got rolling I became a passing dyke right under the noses and in the living rooms of people who later became known a TERFs. It’s amazing how accepted you can be if you look and act like what they want to see, though in my defense I would not sign their petitions and I mostly did not want to be round bigots who did believe in their cores that biology was destiny. But hey, in the meantime the radfems got to sleep with some groovy women — each other.
World-class eye surgeon, tennis player, and woman of transition, Renee Richards was outed and unfortunately took a lot of heat during that era and we knew that even though we were doing what society demanded of us, we’d better not tell or they would make sure we were going to be very, very, sorry.
The rest is history. By the 1980s the demand for surgery grew fast and society was unaware of the extent of the cottage industry as surgical centers struggled to keep up with the demand. Some older transitioners who had missed the chance in their late teens and twenties, now came forward into society as openly trans. Everybody knew somebody, or had at least read about somebody, who was transitioning. And most of us know the story from there.
Cishet people are used to keeping the goodies for themselves. Free love. Birth control. Facelifts and boobjobs for those who can afford it. Even abortions to terminate a pregnancy. These things are NOT for people who aren’t like them.
But the gender genie can’t be stuffed back into the bottle or shoved into a closet.
Society wants it two ways. It says “don’t transition, it’s impossible,” but once you start it demands that the transitioner go all out. As Nef put it, they said “you must soften your face, get rid of all your body hair, get breasts, reduce your waist, get a vagina.” In my experience, you do that and they leave you alone.
Trans people are the rorschach test of cishet society’s own view of what gender is and they are still arguing over which is what, and who is whom, while in the meantime all the gender variant people move on by, up, and out of the way.
Trans people are smart and they are largely doing what they need to do to stay out of the way of the cishet juggernaut and what it demands of us. We know that as long as we do what you want, not what you say, we’ll be fine.