Better Trans 101
I don’t know what all my readers know, but I tend to assume that many of the cis readers here have a basic familiarity with Trans 101 concepts. Perhaps like me, some of the cis readers — and maybe even some trans folks — have gotten the sort of standard 101 version, and found from interacting with actual trans folks that it is really inadequate: so oversimplified as to be wrong. The right thing to do in those circumstances is to do our own homework, and instead of spouting what we think we know, shut up and listen when people’s experiences don’t match the official text. I don’t have a right to demand that anyone rewrite the 101 so it’s easier for me to educate myself.
But it sure makes things easier when somebody takes it on himself to do that without being asked! Asher Bauer, who wrote for Carnal Nation until its untimely and perhaps temporary end, has his own blog now, and has gone ahead and written the new, not wildly oversimplified Trans 101. It is, in fact, Not Your Mom’s Trans 101. Here’s a few samples:
A baby is born. The doctor says “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl” based on the appearance of the child’s genitals. If the genitalia cannot be easily categorized according to binary standards– that is, if the child is intersex– the doctor makes a decision. Surgery is then generally performed on the unconsenting infant to render its body more socially acceptable.
Whether the baby is intersex or not, the child is then raised as whatever arbitrary gender the doctor saw fit to assign.
“Cisgender” is the term for people who have no issue with the gender that they were assigned at birth. For whatever reason, they are able to live somewhat comfortably within the gender role in which they have been cast. No one really knows why so many people are capable of fitting into such arbitrary categories.
Transgender people cannot accept our assigned genders. We know ourselves to be something different than what we were told to be.
I am a man who was assigned to live as a woman, therefore I am a trans man. My father is a man who was assigned to live as a man, therefore he is a cis man. Both of us are binary identified, both men, even though he is cis and I am trans.
It is a mystery why so many people are comfortable being categorized in just one of two ways. Just as nobody knows why there are so many cis people, nobody knows why there are so many binary identified folks.
But there are many trans people who are neither male nor female.
Cis people seem to think that self-identification is only for trans folks. They don’t have to “identify” as men and women– they just ARE! Their gender isn’t “self-identified,” it’s “self-evident!”
What they fail to understand is that self identification is the only meaningful way to determine gender. Any other method is wholly dependent upon what that doctor said way back when we were still red, wrinkly, writhing, screaming newborn messes, completely unformed as individuals and without any identity at all to speak of, too bloody and scrunchy-faced to even be called cute. The fact is that cis people self-identify too– they just happen to agree with what the doctor said all those years ago.
Almost every Trans 101 will contain the truism “Sex is between your legs, gender is between your ears.”
Or they may say “Sex is physical, gender is socially constructed.”
This simply isn’t true.
If that doesn’t convince you to read the whole thing, nothing else I say will.