I always tell people (cis, trans and everyone else), to just let their friends or family know “they look good”, if they really think so. As good, harmless and innocent one’s intention might be, I hate when someone says “Oh! You look like a real woman”. Or, “I can’t believe you look like a dude now”. If you were one of those who said such a thing to me, smack yourself on your head once. That’s enough punishment. We are friends , how worse can it get?
In my earlier days of exploring myself, I took it as a compliment. But over the years, and once the superficiality faded, I figured how harmful it is to my psyche. Most trans folks believe in their right to assert their own gender identity. I think it would be safe to say, almost the whole of humankind believes in self-determination of any identity. That brings me to a question I have been pondering for a very long time now, “What does it mean to be a woman (or a man)?” Or to be very specific, “a real woman” or “a real man” or whatever other identity it might be.
I am sure we all have our theories about gender. We all have our own views of what it is and what it is not. There will be people who disagree and agree on several fronts. Eventually, we will all call it a day by saying something cheesy and walking away. And if our views were to be represented in a Venn diagram, it would be all over the place with very few in the intersection. The point here is there is no one way to define identity.
From my own experience, I can say I fought an uphill battle to come out to myself. My internalization of transphobia was so intense that I refused to believe what my mind said. I had been conditioned to think of Gender in a certain you-are-what-you-are-recognised-at-birth way, it took me years to recognize I was beyond that black-or-white image of the world. It took me a few more more years to reconcile with my body. Honestly, I can say, its a work in progress but it was worth it. But we all have issues with body-image. Don’t we?
Is a petite-fair skinned person any more of a woman than a larger-dark skinned person? Is the tall-lanky-size zero woman a better woman than a short-plus sized woman? Is a married-mom any more real than a career-focused-single woman? As much as media, consumerism and the society we live in wants us to believe so, we know all of them are false. If that is the case, then why should a self-identifying not-assigned-woman-at-birth woman be any less of a woman than a woman who was assigned so at birth and raised as a woman? As whacky it might sound, if babies were able to talk, I am sure almost all trans folks would have protested the mis-assigning of genders at birth. Trans folks have been questioned morally, legally, politically about our need to self-identify every step of our way before, during and after transition (both physical and mental transition), it is such a harassing experience.
If we have realized that, then why do we bother and make it tough for ourselves with the issue of “passing”? And place an emphasis that somehow “looking like a stereotypical woman” or ” a man” is somehow superior.
Anyways, this is a fun and educative article to read. I love the way the author draws parallels with similar identity struggle. It has kept me thinking …