Many of have the same dream, the magical ability to pull out an expert on demand, someone who has the standing to discredit our opponents and validate our beliefs. ShamanGal has even asked for the ability to pull me out of thin air to tackle her battles, but knows that she has to learn to fight for herself.
As transpeople we have our own hearts telling us a truth, but “because I feel it!” isn’t enough to confront and change the world. Someone recently found my blog with the question “How do i know that I’m supposed to be a shemale?” revealing the struggle we all face in understanding and explaining the difference between a healthy, holy inner call and a twisted, destructive illusion.
To help clear our own understanding and to explain & justify our choices to others, we look for experts. Who can help clarify and defend our own transgender desire and the choices that we make based on it, to us and to those around us?
In a world where the scientific is venerated as the pinnacle of sensible, informed thinking many look to scientists, doctors to help elucidate the phenomenon of transgender. We look and what comes back is very little. Transpeople are thin on the ground and there just haven’t been that many studies that offer much comparative analysis of transgender.
Because transgender is a phenomenon of desire, the only real thing to study is the strength and shape of that desire. All we know that we struggle to fit into the compulsory gender roles assigned us by dint of our reproductive biology, that we need to transcend them. What does that mean?
I remember a young gal in Toronto who had to deal with the infamous Clarke Institute, home of Ray Blanchard. She was worried that she screwed up her life too much to get permission for medical support in changing her gender and her body. It was, however, exactly those screw ups that got her the intervention that she wanted, the intervention she needed.
The criteria simply came down to this question: Is there any way that they can continue without intervention? Are they capable of mustering the willpower to function in their assigned gender role? If so, then that’s what they should do. If they are not capable, if they are at risk, then yes, medical support is indicated.
The question was never about thriving, about integrity and authenticity, about empowerment and release, rather the question was all about surviving. If you had the willpower to survive, no matter what the inner cost to you, no matter how much you would have blossomed with support, then you stayed put.
How else could they measure the breadth and force of the transgender desire inside of someone? The only tool they had was measuring it against the coping skills to stay in place, then using that balance to decide if you were really trans or just a fetishist.
So many people who studied transpeople found that we were broken, impaired, dysfunctional. Usually, that behaviour was linked to transgender desire, creating a thesis that the transgender urge was linked to other mental problems.
The harder question was rarely asked, at least until people started looking at intervening with trans children at an early age. Was the brokenness of transpeople more associated with the transgender desire or was it more associated with the costs of having that urge, the price of social pressure and denial? Did transpeople start out broken, or were we broken by a system that deliberately set out to break our spirit in order to keep us in socially approved sex/gender boxes?
As a transperson, you can guess my view on that question. For many researchers, though, that brokenness was seen as justification for attempting to destroy the transgender call, because clearly it was associated with sickness and perversion. Pushing people to remain normative kept them from the worst, so that was the preferred treatment.
I have met many transpeople who see their genital reconstruction as a kind of official medical authorization to make gender choices that suit their heart.
“See, I went through the medical guidelines and a doctor agreed that I was sick, that I had ‘gender dysphoria,’ and went on to correct that birth defect. He made me a woman with that operation and now you have to respect me as a woman, not like those transgender perverts who aren’t real transsexuals without a doctor carving authorization into their body His slices confirm my gender!”
These people were looking for experts to justify and defend the choices of their trans heart, separating themselves from fake, dilettante, perverted trangenders who only are in it for the erotic gratification, for the jollies.
It is so hard to look at someone who is struggling with trans, expressing it in a way we consider an ugly or vulgar and understand that the difference between us and them is not that they are bad and we are good but rather that the difference is that we have done the work to sort bad from good, smoothing and cleaning our own choices and they still struggle.
I understand the desire to find experts to rationalize and justify our own transgender choices in the world. In the end, though, barring some astounding breakthrough in brain mapping that does not appear close at hand, the only thing any expert can do is look at the narratives and choices of transpeople, finding patterns in them.
As long as transgender is a phenomenon of the heart, based in the deep and unyielding knowledge that inside we are who we are, it can only be observed by looking at the choices that trans hearts have their owners make. We then have to sift out those choices, understanding what is a response to brutal social pressures, what is just normal human family challenges, and what comes from a transgender nature.
The expertise in explaining transgender in the world comes from the lives of transgender people as captured in their choices and their narratives. That means that we will always own that expertise even if non trans researchers are the ones who look for those patterns. The clearer and more connected we get with our own story, identifying commonalities and connections, differences and divergences between us and other transpeople, the more we are able to contribute understanding to the world.
This is a frustrating truth to those who crave scientific explanation and justification of their own trans choices, wanting a perfect differential diagnosis that allows them to assert their own true transness against the false trans of people who we think express trans in an ugly and vulgar way.
The new age movement has given us a host of pseudo-scientific claptrap, from people who read DNA to tell you past lives to others who use quantum theory to prove that the brain is capable of telekinetic change. The language of science is reassuring because it seems authoritative, even when the thoughts behind it are far from strong, well reviewed science. Couching our creation myths in scientific sounding terms does not make them less myth and more science, no matter how much we wish it so.
I wish I had an expert to pull out at will. My own understanding comes from a time two decades ago when we had even less discussion about transgender, comes from a struggle between now and then to gain a context that I share today. There were no experts then and really no experts now.
Our expertise comes from the lives, the stories, the choices of transpeople in the world. We are are own experts, crowdsourcing an understanding of what the a transgender nature means. We are the subjects and we are the observers, because, in the end, they are our transgender hearts.