Trans expression demands walking beyond the conventions and assumptions socially imposed on your biology. It means walking outside of the standards set for men or women, going beyond the normative.
It doesn’t, though, mean you have to stay outside of conventional gender roles forever, though. Walking into no-man’s/no-woman’s land doesn’t have to be a trip to life in a bubble, to ostracism and isolation. You can make it through.
The first steps in claiming trans in the world is knowing what you want to run from. We feel inauthentic and pounded at having to keep up a facade that we know doesn’t really fit us well. We are sure that we are not what other people assume that we are, not simply the box we have been assigned, the role we have tried to fill.
The longer term requirement in claiming trans, though, is figuring out what we want to run towards. Who do we want to be in the world? What choices, identity and roles are we going to claim for ourselves? How can we walk back into community, into a set of conventions and assumptions that fit and empower us?
Rebellion is a key force to fuel the deconstruction of our old, standard issue identity. Rebellion alone, though, can never be the basis of creating a new, better identity, one that lets us take our place as one of the group, one of the team, one of the community.
To become powerful, we have to walk back into expectations, assimilating and playing a useful and valued role in society.
For many people who are hooked on the bomb-throwing, rebellion, side of trans, this desire to fit in, to participate in a normative role can be dismissed as selling out, giving into the monster that is gender, being not queer enough to be a true trans warrior.
These people dismiss dreams of assimilation as crap, as sickness and brokenness, of not having a real, conscious understanding of oppression.
Of course, there is a bit of truth in their assessment. For those who never really cast off into the liminal space, letting go of assumptions to find a new way of seeing, the path can be blocked and rocky. All they see will be the ways that they can never be normative, never really fit in, no matter how much they spend to try and conceal their difference under a mask.
The challenge of trans expression is the challenge of every lifetime: becoming who you are, aware and connected, wild and tame, individual and assimilated. Try and shortcut the process and you will miss the balance, leaving yourself unable to be centred, present in the moment, compassionate and affirming to others who have the same damn struggle.
When we get that we can be both honest & open and be one of the gang, we start to find our own feet, our own power in the world.
The only way that happens is when we own our own role in the world, becoming comfortable in our skin, moving beyond the reactionary to the assimilated.
For many of us, we felt assimilation was impossible. We don’t have a body that could pass as having gone through puberty in the sex assumed for our gender presentation, we lived in a time when trans wasn’t accepted as just another way people can express gender in the world.
Today, though, that may not be true. Younger people don’t carry the same kind of sexual essentialism that was drummed into previous generations. They get the notion that you are defined more by your heart, by what your choices reveal, than by some gender binary.
Once you understand that possibility, you can do the ultimate trans surgery and pull the stick out of your own ass, freeing yourself to make desired and appropriate choices rather than defended and deprecating choices. Feeling free to do this, others around you will start to assume you are who you present yourself to be.
Letting their assumptions of normativity fill in their version of your story can be scary — what happens when they find your history & biology isn’t what they expected it to be? — but it can let you assimilate, operating in society as your claimed gender. The power in breaking the rules is always based in first owning the rules, knowing how to play it straight so you have a sharp sense about what battles to pick, what lines to cross, what rules to transgress.
The transpeople I feel closest to are the ones who grew up dreaming of being who they knew themselves to be inside rather than having to play the role people dumped onto their biology. They didn’t dream of being trans, they dreamed of being powerfully and beautifully themselves.
For me, people who support those dreams of manifestation are our true allies. Demanding too much political correctness or too much hiding our stories is the mark of people who haven’t yet found their own empowering centre.
Opening the space for transformation beyond expectation, supporting the dreams of transpeople to become one of the gals or one of the guys, crossing into new gender roles is the most empowering and affirming thing people can do. Anyone who tries to keep people trapped because of their history or biology, who sprays their own fear over others, is an enemy to growth and healing.
I love being authentic and queer. I just don’t think being your own wild self means not also being able to be a well assimilated member of the group. You can be who you claim to be as long as your mindset and your choices gracefully support those claims.
The privilege of a lifetime is becoming who you are. That doesn’t mean just walking away from conventional expectations, it also means coming back into them in a powerful new way. Death without rebirth is not very life affirming.
I know why we have been taught to believe that transformation is impossible, but in my understanding, pure transformation is the real gift that transpeople embody in the world.
There is joy in coming back into society in a new, personal and authentic way, even if that means submitting ourselves to assumptions of normatvity. We can both be who people expect those like us to be and be boldly ourselves at the same time.
It is a joy to break free and it is a joy to come back again, assimilating in a way that we were told would be denied to us by dint of our biology. Supporting those who struggle to find that balance is supporting powerful trans expression in the world, not just queer but also assimilated.
Transformation is possible, but only if we are willing to let go of our fears and tropes to become new in a joyful and grateful way.