Trans* Enough or Just Me Enough?
Trans* Enough. What does it mean to be trans* enough and why is it that so many of us (myself included) feel we have to justify our personal inclination towards this word? The linguistic prowess required to express, and in a way, prove our trans* identities is impossible for most of us mere mortals to achieve, and the fact that we police one another seems cruel and self-hating. In a world that makes every attempt to say we do not exist and are mentally disturbed, our community begins to mirror these ugly societal patterns. For if we hold to what we say, that gender is in large societally created and individually performed, we must admit to the fact that these labels are linguistic tools to express a sense of self (not to minimize that sense of self). In no way meaningless tools, labels are used to express a life experience, find desired social environments, and advocate for community rights, just to name a few. So what is really going on when we say Trans* Enough?
We all internalize the patterns of our society, no matter how much we fight them later on. These internalizations happen around concepts of class, sexuality, religion, race, nationality, and oh ya gender. It is no surprise when these patterns reappear in alternative and radical communities. There are multiple ways the Trans* identity is policed. It has been guarded against those who do not wish to physically transition or only partially do so (for example having top surgery but nothing else). It has been guarded against those who identity neither as male nor female but something in between or fluctuating. It has been guarded against those with particular sexual orientations or gender expressions. It has been guarded against those who make one (supposedly unusual) choice like keeping their birth name, using a gender-neutral pronoun, not binding, keeping your facial hair, etc. Although I understand where these dynamics originate from, they are no less self-defeating. Why do we care how another person self identifies except when concerned for their health (which should be done by close friends), and therefore must we really understand this person to respect them? And to respect them must we expect this person to maintain attachment and be committed to this label? I feel our anger and energy could be more productively placed than policing and strictly defining a word and ultimately ourselves.
Ideally, I think we are trying to get to a point where our gender identities and expressions, no matter where they fall on the spectrum, are respected. This means that we feel able and safe to ask people to use our preferred pronouns no matter what we look like, and they are able to fulfill this request. This means we may enter our preferred bathroom no matter what we look like, as well as, significantly increased access to gender neutral bathrooms. This means we can talk about our life experiences without fear that it will undermine another’s present understanding of our person. This means I can wear a skirt with my female body and still identity as male, and expect to be treated as such. This means a child (in any body) can play with a doll and not have gender (or transgender and gay) expectations placed on them. For me, these (and many others) are the ultimate goals of gender and transgender liberation.
Asking am I Trans* Enough, may also be asking am I woman enough? Am I genderqueer enough? Am I androgynous enough? Or is it ok if I’m just not gendered enough? For me, the question is always: Am I man enough? And in order to be man enough, I have to be trans* enough. I can only fully be accepted as male if I am one who is trans* because I was not born with a body that is physically male. This says more about the policing of the male than trans* identity. The truth is, I have been and will continue to be man enough and therefore trans* enough and I dare say even woman enough. I was when the doctor pronounced me female at birth. I was/am when people use female pronouns for me and I do not object. I was/am when I wear skimpy clothes to attract attention. I was/am when I try to enjoy vaginal sex. I was/am without injected testosterone. I was/am with breasts I enjoy touching at times. If these expressions and physical body parts change I am still man enough and trans* enough and woman enough. I am no more or less these labels than when I was born, and therefore deserve the same respect for my body, preferences, and expressions. My exploration will never end and I do not want to fear the day (as I have before) when this process will lead me again beyond the typical gender identities. I do not want my desire to move forward on physical transition to be undermined by my fear that my future self may enjoy vaginal sex. What label’s boundaries will I be fighting against tomorrow?
I am saying this, because even when I was/am exploring, I have always deserved and should be able to expect the same amount of respect. People should always ask consent before penetrating one’s anus or vagina, and care whether or not you enjoy it. People should be allowed to engage in any sport fully, whether it is ballet or wrestling. People should not be reduced to labels and tokenized by them. People should be able to wear whatever clothes make them feel comfortable. People should not be expected to answer the question male or female without thinking. I fought hard to be respected as a woman only to realize that I was not only woman, but man and trans*. Why do I have to give up a label to gain a new one? This is when I remind myself that they are linguistic tools, road signs, but unfortunately most people do not see them in that way and I have to give up a piece of myself to be reduced in their eyes to whatever label I take on that day.
In the end, I have always been me enough and I have learned that the best me I can be is Ollie. This is/was/will be enough.
What are your thoughts and experience of labels, sometimes paired with personal exploration?