You know, I always feel the best writing is inspired by people. Clearly, as human beings we act and interact with the world and we are social people. Stimuli for writing is not always found from within the writer’s conscience or self, but can result from and occur because of their interactions with others too. Such is the case with this next entry.
This morning I had a good chat with my friend Aeryn Parsons about the previous blog entries, regarding a different modus operandi for the trans community. To give a bit of background for readers, Aeryn is a young, funky, funny trans lady with a real zest for life.
On the subject of a different modus operandi, for the trans community, here are her thoughts.
“It’s a world away. I doubt many gay people burst into tears when they see an old picture of themselves before they came out, or used to spend hours staring heartbroken into the mirror. A different sexual preference is one thing being at odds with your own body is something else entirely.”
A very powerful, emotional, heartfelt, honest and profound quote I am sure you will agree. Such candidness is surely to be applauded so massive props to Aeryn for sharing that. Permission was sought from her to include it.
But aside from being moved by the quote , massively so in my case, what are its implications for the trans community and its identity, in terms of where we fit in to the world and the LGBT continuum?
Well firstly, to say that the trans community is a world away from its counterparts in the continuum is a very strong, bold claim by Aeryn, but it is one I support.
The struggle for identity in the trans community is profound. It is twofold really. There is a struggle for the world’s acceptance, plus more profoundly in a way, your own internal struggle for congruence and assimilation, which really begins at birth.
One of my friend Tina Livingstone’s articles is called “Not As We Expected”.
A truthful title indeed because nothing about gender dysphoria is imprinted into social constructs, norms and values. It is indeed the very antithesis of them and blows them clean apart.
Now you see, I am lucky in one sense. I am used to being different. I was born different due to cerebral palsy.
But for the ordinary, able bodied person with gender dysphoria, you are asking them to do something quite seismic and difficult. You are asking them to surrender a life of sameness and automatic assimilation, and to take up a yoke of difference and othering. But it can also be liberating.
My overriding message – transition is hard, but an immense relief and release too.
But why is this a world away from being gay, lesbian or bi? The latter is about what you are more than who. Yes you may feel a rush of celebration and confidence when you come out, however your family and friends will still see the same individual in front of them, pre and post closet.
This is not the case for trans men and women, who may go through a cycle of acceptance, coupled with periods of rejection before people realise that the person standing in front of them is the same one they knew from birth.
The next key plank of Aeryn’s argument is one of visual aesthetics. She doubts that gay people spend hours crying over pictures from before they came out, or spent hours crying into the mirror.
I agree with Aeryn again. For balance, this is not to say people do not experience anguish, turmoil and bullying before and after they come out, they do, without a shadow of a doubt.
However, they will not experience looking completely different to how they looked before, nor the often used but vile “bloke in a dress” taunt. You have to accept the implications of transition for yourself too. You have to do some things differently, the way you act, the way you dress and even the way you walk!! However, what you end up with is a matching inside and out. A great relief for anyone who is trans.
You also have to accept that people may reject you, having accepted you in your pre transition life. One thing I was told to be prepared for was a loss of power as a woman and I think that this is good advice.
Whilst as well there are style choices for lesbian and gay people, they are just that. Choices of fashion and style, in hair, clothing and overall look for example. Some people may face discrimination based on this for example.
However, for the trans person, and the genderqueer person too, these choices run deeper than how do I have my hair done, or what shall I wear today?
In society, people place a great deal of importance, so after failing to find themselves due to biology’s shortcomings, they must learn to re-find themselves all over again. If you want an analogy, it is a bit like developing a Sim, i.e what sort of woman, man or genderqueer person do I want to be? After having had the wrong gender thrust upon them at birth, this choice can be confusing and heartwarming all in the same breath. It is also about knowing that it is ok to find your true self, and that there is no wrong, only right in doing so.
The last part of Aeryn’s argument deals with sexual preference and being at odds with your own body.
Like Aeryn, I believe the two things are a world away.
People of course are born with sexuality, but they do not really have to do much to indulge it. However, for the transsexual there is a whole mountain of bodily angst to climb before they are even allowed that “luxury”
Preference means you have a choice, but for the transsexual that choice is not inherently there at birth, the choice of sexuality
At odds is a powerful phrase, but a truism. Pre transition, it almost feels like you are living somebody else’s life, ergo, a life that was not meant for you. It is only after you make the choice to other yourself, and take up the yoke of difference that you can make these changes.
I feel like I am a world away from my LGB counterparts sometimes, and I do not think I am alone in this. Our struggles are similar, yet so unique. Furthermore they are biologically and sociologically, and culturally unique. I felt it important to make this point and stance for the trans community today.