Is the best thing that can happen to a transwoman to become so invisible that we cannot be distinguished from a woman born female? Is passing the pinnacle of our dreams?
I do know that it was always my dream to be simply female bodied. Like so many trans youngsters, I went to bed praying for a miraculous change.
The real change, though, was far from miraculous. It took very hard work to reweave my life, pulling it apart thread by thread and then knitting it back together again, more authentic, more actualized, more healed.
My trek, my struggle, my transformation, my stories are uniquely and distinctly mine. They carry the wisdom of a lifetime, carry my pain and my transcendence. To appear simply normative means not only does my birth biology disappear, so does my valiant history and my hard-won narrative.
On a trans list, I was asked about a hypothetical transwoman who had spent twenty five years living as a woman, raising adopted children, having a husband, a job, girlfriends and respect in the community. Would I take her womanhood away from her to paste a trans label on her, diminishing her real, lived life?
My answer was simple. Her life proves that your biology doesn’t define your life, that being a woman isn’t about making the choices of a woman. She is richly and fully woman, no matter that she is a woman with a trans-history. I would love her to come out, to tell the world her story, to serve as a model for others who are identified as male at birth and want to own their own womanhood, but she has no obligation to do so.
If the only people who identify as trans in the world are people who choose not to assimilate into a gender role, that’s a problem. We end up losing the narratives that tell of a whole range of possibilities. In “Who Are You?” Grayson Perry did a sculpture of a transman named Jazz, but in the year it took to produce the bronze Jazz had become Alex, standing more as a normative man. We change.
The trans dream is simple. We want to be visible to people who will respect, understand and affirm our narrative while being invisible to people who will disrespect, misunderstand and fetish our lives. We don’t want our trans nature to be more important than our work, than what we have to offer in the world, but we don’t want to have to struggle to erase our trans biology and history to have people value what we offer.
We don’t want trans to get in the way of our gendered choices but we do want to be seen and affirmed for our true lives, not just for us but also to support those who follow us in claiming the possibilities and truth of their own hearts.
In my experience, few people in this world know how to be an ally to transpeople, supporting them rather than quibbling their existence. I have learned not to expect people to stand up for me, to see who I am and acknowledge the enormous amount that has gone into claiming myself. It is so easy to see where other people have done it wrong in your eyes, so hard to see where they have done right, courageous and bold, moving beyond shaming and errors to be their best self.
My childhood dreams still lies strong in me, a magical transformation into someone pretty, female, and adored, living an easy life of my fantasy.
My adult work, though, is probably stronger. Who I am today reflects not just my pretty dream it also reflects my co-creation of my own life, my journey, my burning away the false and claiming my own life through a very personal and solitary quest.
Being valued for who I am and for what I have done is a tough ask in a world that loves attractive surfaces and comfortable desire.
Making my life invisible, though, just to get a normative dream, one that no one gets anyway, seems to me to be chasing a hollow prize.
Do I want to be invisible? No. Do I want to live in a world where there is more understanding and respect for transgender lives? Yes.
The only way to make that world, as I have learned over the last 40 years, is to make transgender lives more visible, more exposed, more understood, more valued.
So, I do my part to tell the story.
And sometimes, just sometimes, someone smiles and says “Yes!”