Wish vs Reality: A Trans Perspective
Note: This article is about personal reflections, and developing an attitude that is good for mental health. It does not excuse anti-trans discrimination.
This is the first part of a mini series talking about my experience of living life as a trans person, what I’ve learned, and what I wish the trans community could come to terms with. Today, I want to talk about the gap between wish and reality in trans lives, and how we can deal with it in a healthy way.
Having a gap, a big difference, between wish and reality, is a constant feature of life for many people. This is especially true for people who suffer from gender dysphoria. While the goal of transition is to alleviate gender dysphoria, the key word here is ‘alleviate’. In many cases, it doesn’t make the dysphoria disappear completely, but it makes it easier to deal with, so we can go on with our lives. In other words, there is still a big difference between wish and reality in many areas, both physical and social. The reality is that, trans women can’t become exactly the same as genetic women, and trans men can’t become exactly the same as genetic men. Eventually, to achieve long term stability, we just need to deal with this fact. Many trans people who have transitioned for at least several years would agree that, at some point, you just need to accept this wish vs reality gap, and deal with it. Trust me, it is needed for our long term psychological health.
Which brings me onto the next issue: the difference between how people perceive us, vs how we perceive ourselves. The fact is, we can’t control how others perceive us. It’s another fact of life that we need to get used to. Of course, as trans people suffering from gender dysphoria, it is totally reasonable that we don’t want to have our dysphoria exacerbated. Therefore, we might not want to hang out with people who constantly try to find opportunities to invalidate our gender identity, for example. We certainly have the freedom to do so, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so for the sake of our wellbeing.
However, more broadly speaking, we can’t realistically expect everyone out there to perceive us the way we perceive ourselves. As I often like to say, the goal of trans rights should be reasonable accommodation, so that we can have an equal opportunity at life. The goal shouldn’t be to demand validation from society, because nobody can demand validation from another person. Recently, I read a comment saying that the problem with trans activists is that they sometimes demand agreement with their epistemology of transness. The fact is, we can’t even agree on the epistemology of transness within our own community. It’s been a point of argument for as long as I can remember. How can you expect non-trans people to agree, and to which part of the trans community should they agree with? As the history of philosophical debates shows, seeking agreement on epistemology is a dead-end.
We can have trans acceptance without epistemological agreement. Who cares whether this or that person really thinks that ‘trans women are women’, as long as they are accepting of us and kind to us?
I guess having a philosophy that respects each of us as individuals with the right to our own moral consciences can help us navigate the way we relate with other people. After all, it was in the year that I first came out as trans that I solidified a lot of my philosophy in this area. As a Moral Libertarian, I believe that every individual should have equal moral agency. Therefore, you don’t have the right to invalidate or intimidate me, and I don’t have the right to invalidate or intimidate you. I have the right to identify and present the way I want to. You have the right to think or say anything about it, but it wouldn’t take away my right to do what I believe is best for myself. This attitude has served me well for 15 years. I think this is the healthiest attitude for trans people to take, in a world that is not always accepting.