Every human on earth is a unique individual, each made of the same fundamental stuff but with their own essential character.
To be trans in this culture is to walk away from the gender expectations assigned on you by dint of your reproductive biology. Transpeople say that they aren’t defined by their genitals, rather they are defined by their heart and the choices that they make.
Every transperson knows that they are trans. The experience of being stigmatized into hiding your own nature, being shamed in an attempt to force you to make normative choices or pay by being ostracized is carved into our understanding of the world. We know that many want to define birth sex as definitive, as a real way to separate people.
To express transgender in the world is to be willing to be your own unique self in the face of massive social pressure. We know that we are standing as an individual, standing queer.
What we don’t want, though, what nobody wants, is to feel isolated, disconnected and unsafe because we are seen as falling into the no-man’s/no-woman’s land between the genders.
We know we are trans, sure. But we also know that on some deep and true level, we are one of the gang, just another human.
For feminine hearted people who were born with a male body, who went through puberty as a male, maybe the most profound experience of our childhood is never being able to just be one of the girls. It’s awful difficult to be confident and gracious walking as a woman in the world if you were forcibly denied your own girlhood.
Women teach other women how to be women. That’s how gender always works, a collective and shared experience passed from mother to daughter, from girlfriend to girlfriend. We learn the power of our expression by expressing it, learn how to master that power by sharing our experiences with other women, seeing ourselves through their eyes, passing techniques back and forth, getting feedback on how we can be seen more potently in the world.
TBB knows how to be an appropriate transperson in the workplace. She even has the delight of having a trans elder, another transperson who had the same rank in the same organization, now retired, to share dinner with.
She knows how to play safe, to not assume that people see her as one gender or the other, just that they see her as a professional.
This week, though, she went to dinner at a married friend’s house, and another woman, a lesbian,came by to talk about appropriate clothing for her corporate assignment. All of a sudden, they were talking clothes and presentation and being seen as a mature woman in the world, sharing tips, and all of a sudden, TBB knew she was included as one of the gals. She was inside the giggle.
The story was so powerful, so rare, so delightful, that she wanted to share it with me, wanted to relive that moment, wanted to hold that light once again.
ShamanGal and a workmate were waiting for one of the guys to deliver some data when they started talking clothes. Her co-worker’s blouse was great, but how did she wear a bra with it? When a demonstration was offered, the guy turned to look, but her co-worker said “Hay! Girls only!”
The guy, though, feels the need to keep ShamanGal in the guy category, needing to make sure that other co-workers who treat SG as a woman know that she is trans. The problem for him, though, is that they know, but they still see her as a woman. They value her choices and expression over whatever shape her birth genitals happened to be. He, well, he can’t do that yet, maybe because he needs to remind himself not to be attracted to SG’s long, slim legs in high heels.
More and more, ShamanGal is trusting that women see her as one of the girls. Being young and fine boned, that’s easier for her than for some of us, but she still struggles with it, knowing that experience of seeing her gender shift in someone’s eyes and feeling them go cold and scary.
We know the deal. Being trans means being beyond gender, being hung out by ourselves, being at risk. This has been well explained to each of us, many, many, many times.
I’m cool just being Callan. I know that I will always be trans, whatever my expression.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t need, need to be one of the gang, need to get the affirmation and acknowledgement that can only come from others who share our hearts and share our world.
It doesn’t mean I don’t both crave and need the kind of validation and feedback that helps me be more confident and powerful in the world, helps me be a more polished and graceful feminine hearted person in the world.
There is connection and joy in being seen and valued for who we are inside, beyond convention and social demands. There is growth and beauty being inside the shared giggle, the one women raised as girls take for granted. It’s very hard to let go of the old without being assured that the new can be more authentic and kindred.
We each need a shared identity, an affirming space, a community. Some get that through the device of identity politics, defining a group by political beliefs, by knowing who they are in opposition to; knowing their oppressors and enemies. This never worked for me, as I am a bit too damn queer.
That moment, though, when you feel like you are seen, respected and valued, understood and affirmed, when you are safe, though, that feels great.
I know that I need it.