The Stories They Tell

A woman in a man’s body. A man in a woman’s body. By now, we’re slightly familiar with this version of the transgender narrative. The problem is that this is not the only way that people exist as trans. The very basic definition of trans is not identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth. This includes a whole slew of gender identifications other than male or female, but we don’t seem to talk about it with any nuance. If we do, the existing conversation is very narrow.

While it may be difficult for some to digest, there are and have always been different gender identifications in human societies around the world. When it is talked about, being trans is talked about like it popped out from nonexistence all of a sudden in the age of the internet and “special snowflakes.” However, versions of other gender variants have existed for as long as humans have. We have finally started to more openly discuss and accept being transgender, but the stories we tell about being trans are limited to my opening examples. The reason we limit them and the reason we need to stop go hand in hand. For one, we feel threatened by those outside of the binary. Our slow and small bit of acceptance of trans people has come partially from the fact that we feel comfortable with the narrative of female or male souls trapped in the wrong body. It affirms the idea that there are essential categories of men and women. 

But where can I fit if I do not feel kinship with the either/or model? I consider myself neither a man nor a woman and we find that threatening. It is why my identity is mocked in regular media, and it is why I will probably be called a “special snowflake” a few times. I personally feel chest dysphoria but not everyone who is trans will feel any at all. Some trans people have no need to change their body and some will identify with it perfectly well. We need to see these trans and gender non-conforming people, the ones who feel no need to put themselves into the man or woman box. The people who we’d assign male who wear dresses and skirts and bright colors. The people who we’d assign female who wear suits and ties. The people we’d assign female who wear makeup but still don’t identify as female. All of these are their own people and deserve to be a part of the conversation. Unfortunately, however, in the times we do include these people, we tend to focus on a singular person that represents their identity.

This person is typically skinny, beautiful, white, assigned female at birth and androgynous. Once again we are happy with this portrayal because this is a fashion model. This person is non-threatening because we have seen them before in fashion magazines and give them a pass for their quirky ways. Don’t get me wrong, all of these people are important to support and talk to and about. But at the end of the day, we have to start doing more to make sure everyone in the community is safe and supported and portrayed as human. Because though we come in many forms, to be trans is to be human.