The one constant of a trans life, the one thing that carries through all of our choices, is simple.
Someone else always wants to tell us that we are doing it wrong. And no one can agree on how to do it right.
Following the rules, the norms, the traditions, the conventions means that it is possible to do it right. This has always been the theme of human life, the pressure to fit in and do it the right way. In high schools, for example, we let kids gender each other by allowing them to taunt and marginalize deviants. Social pressure is just the way we know how to help kids do it the right way.
There are no fixed conventions, though, about the right way to be trans.
Just being trans, claiming your own expression and identity beyond the role that was assigned to you by dint of your reproductive biology, is seen by many to be wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. According to them, any choice you make is, by definition, sick and fraudulent.
But it doesn’t stop there. Transsexual separatists will tell what you need to do to be a real transsexual, crossdressers will tell you what you need to do to be a real crossdresser, transfeminists will tell you what you need to do to be a real transfeminist and on and on and on. They want to control the words we use, the ideas we offer, the viewpoints we take so their identity constructions are not challenged. The clout of identity politics isn’t focused against those not like us, rather it is always turned against those who are kind of like us but who are doing it wrong, those who have not surrendered to groupthink.
How do I tell a grown-up transperson? When they can say “I would never wear what you are wearing, but it looks great on you!” When they can be positive and support others in what they are doing right, not just be negative and tell people what they are doing wrong.
The most important thing you have to do as a transperson in this world is to really consider your choices, really be aware of them, be sure they are the best choices you can make at this moment, be sure that they are right for you, and then make them boldly and with confidence, being absolutely sure that someone is going to tell you that you are doing it wrong.
You have to do this because you can be sure that almost everyone is going to tell you that whatever you do, you are doing it wrong.
No transperson has the luxury of just following the crowd, just fitting in and becoming one of the pack.
The truth is that no human really has that luxury, either, but most people haven’t had to face it. Each one of us has to both be part of the group, upholding tradition and convention, and be uniquely ourselves, offering our own special gifts and making our own individual choices. We are all in this alone, as Jane Wagner said.
But for transpeople, that truth is stark and brilliant. We need to face a world that wants to tell us that we are doing it wrong and still claim our own heart, still make choices that don’t just go along, but stand out as being based in our own truth.
And that means we have to know what the hell our own truth is. We need to be centred in our own self-knowledge, be comfortable in our own skin.
And doing that when it seems like everyone is telling us that we are doing it wrong, and is willing to punish us for our violation of their expectations & rules, well, that’s wicked hard.
Most people have never taken the time to consider the received rules, the common understanding. They just follow out of habit and reflex.
As transpeople, we don’t have that choice. We need to understand the twists so we can defend our own choices, if not to others who may not understand anyway, at least defend them to our own inner voices. We need to be able to face not just the fear of others that leads them to scream when they believe someone else is doing it wrong, we need to be able to face the fear inside of us and hold onto choices based in love and understanding.
As transpeople, enlightenment is required. Any human may have the need for enlightenment, especially when they feel shackled by common convention or fear, but we cannot live our lives without it.
“I may be doing it wrong, but I am doing it.” A powerful mantra for transpeople.
If you need to march to your own different drummer, you can be sure that others are going to tell you that you are doing it wrong. If you challenge the conventions and beliefs others use to defend their choices, you can be sure that others are going to tell you that you are doing it wrong. If you touch a fear that others have not engaged, you can be sure that others are going to tell you that you are doing it wrong.
It’s your job to know what’s right, what’s right for you, what’s right with your creator, what’s right for the world, and then act from that knowledge, getting better and more clear as you go.
And that’s never wrong.