I had just finished a workshop preparing for the Trans* World Cafe. I walked outside the building and was about to start walking to my car when I stopped in a panic.
It was 5pm in the city and my car was parked in a small alleyway. I was scared. Would anything happen when I got to my car? Would I be followed? Would I be talked to by a stranger and say something they "disapproved" of and then be attacked by them?
These thoughts and feelings would never have occurred before my public expression of femininity. I, like the majority of feminine people, have become a potential target for gender-based violence.
I never thought about male privilege before. Now, I am reminded day by day how much feminine people have to face and think about just to keep themselves safe.
(Originally posted by myself here).
As trans people, we often feel like we need to come up with reasons to justify our gender expression - whether it be what we are called (names, pronouns), how we look (clothing, hormones, surgery), or how we act.
We are not “allowed” to just be who we are; we have to give some kind of long detailed reasoning with an extensive pro/con list to explain why we want to express a certain way. We have no agency into our own lives.
Currently, the seemingly only “good enough” reason for people (including doctors) to accept us expressing a certain way, is for us to have intense gender dysphoria. This covers a broad range of feelings including depression, anxiety, and self-loathing, all stemming from the fact that our actual gender is different to that assigned to us at birth and that we are being forced to express in a given way. It is only after feeling like this for multiple years that we are “allowed” to change our outward appearance to better align with our identity. Even then, this reason is not enough for some and they will refuse to acknowledge what we need.
Yes, some of us do not experience gender dysphoria to that intensity, or even at all. Instead, we experience something referred to as gender euphoria when we present in the way that best suits us. Although we might not explicitly hate our birth name or body, we are undeniably happier when presenting in a way different from that expected of our assigned gender.
This issue is present for both binary trans people (identifying as male if assigned as female, and vice versa) and non-binary trans people (those who identify outside of the male-female binary). For non-binary people, this can be extremely frustrating, as the people we face might be accepting of trans people, they however will only accept two stereotypical gender expressions: masculine male and feminine female. Someone could identity as agender (i.e. no gender) but still have a very masculine or feminine expression. The cry against them - “You are outside the binary, why do you want something so binary?” Or they could be genderfluid (i.e. identifying as different genders at different times) and want an expression that matches the gender at that given time. “Why can’t you just make up your mind?” the ill-informed wail.
The crux of all this is the fact that cis people can change their names, clothes and interests with next to no resistance from peers and general society. They don’t need to have detailed psychological examinations to have their gender marker “validated”. They don’t need to justify to their family that what they are doing is right and that they are not “sick in the head”.
Why them? And not us?