We didn’t choose this, plus four other things I wish the world understood about being a transgender person
I have been transitioning for two years, and it still amazes me that more than eight out of ten times, I am the first transgender person people I meet have talked to. A lot of the times they have questions, and I am happy to answer them. I am probably not going to see a lot of these people again but there is a good chance they will see another transgender person sometime, and I hope that my answers will help them have a more productive and kind conversation with the next one. Here are five things I wish more people knew about the trans existence
We didn’t choose this
We didn’t one day decide to become the other gender. It wasn’t a choice in the same way you pick out the grad school you want to go to, or you pick a profession. We are born this way, and we all realize at different points in our lives that we are transgender. The only thing we choose is to transition. We choose to transition because we are tired of being suffering in our birth gender. And, because we don’t want to reach a point where we throw in the towel and take our lives. Suicide rates in transgender population can be as high as 40%. It is only fair that we are given a real chance to transition and re-integrate in this world as our preferred gender. We are not doing it for the thrill of it.
It isn’t about our genitals
Unfortunately, most people are obsessed with our genitals. It’s often the second or third question I get asked. About the surgery. It’s incredible how little the world knows about transgender people, but they all know about the surgery. And, somehow it’s ok to ask people you have just met about their genitals or about how they fuck. It isn’t. It’s not ok to ask us how who fucks who in our relationships. Much like it’s not ok if I ask you, a stranger who fucks who in your relationship. We didn’t choose to be transgender, and we didn’t decide to give up our right to privacy when we decided to come out.
Countries like India need to stop forcing people to have surgery to change their legal identities. It encourages everyone to focus on our genitals and gives them a license to ask us these questions and mistreat us. Not everyone wants or can afford to have surgery.
We are not half man/half woman
Some transgender people are gender queer, but most of us identify as one gender or the other. We are not a mix of two genders. You may not see us like that, but we are just like you — some of us are men, and some of us are women. We are not mythical gods from the Hindu mythology that are half man and half woman. All of us have masculine and feminine traits, but that’s not what we are talking about here. I am merely requesting you to get to know a person before you tell them who you think they are. Misgendering hurts.
I understand that many minorities have to go through this and if there is a silver lining to this experience, it’s this understanding and empathy. Please don’t call us he/she or worse, it. If you are unsure, please use the gender-neutral pronoun them or even better, ask us. I use she/her by the way.
Trans women were always women, and trans men were always men
Sometimes people will tell me they knew another trans woman and he got surgery back in the day. He didn’t. She did. The reason she is transitioning is that she was always a woman. She didn’t one day choose to be a woman. Please refer to people as the gender they identify with. Not as their sex at birth.
I sometimes walk and will ask people walking their pet what he is called. I am immediately corrected that her name is Poo. If you find it strange to have your pet misgendered, please imagine what it must feel like for us to be misgendered. We are here to stay, and you will see more and more of us around. It would benefit everyone if you spent some time learning the basics of interacting with transgender people.
Transitioning is a luxury most people cannot afford
A lot of transgender people don’t transition. Some don’t want to, some cannot afford to and some cannot transition for medical reasons. Not everyone can or would want to get surgery. None of this has any bearing on how we want to be gendered or treated. Some fundamental rights don’t depend on our access to expensive procedures or lawyers. The right to legal documentation that matches our gender identity, the right to safe and non-discriminatory workspaces and the right to a peaceful and nonviolent existence. Let us not create a world that is only kind to trans people that pass, that is blend in with the rest of the world and disappear.
I often have friends talk about other transgender women and tell me I look so much better than them. How they look like a man. Please don’t do this. It is not a contest. If anything, it’s more like a lottery. You could be born privileged enough to transition early, privileged enough to afford transition, privileged enough to live in a country where you can transition. No woman wants to hear that she looks like a man. We are no different. When you ridicule one of us, you are ridiculing all of us.
These biases and misunderstandings need to go away. They lead to discrimination and mistreatment of transgender people. If we have to educate one person at a time, it is still worth it. Please take the time to learn a little more and correct others you know when they act from a place of misinformation or prejudice. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.