“You’re not really trans.” “Yeah, but not all trans people experience dysphoria.” “Some trans people really need surgery.” “Trans means going from one sex to another.” I’ve heard these things from people I know who know I’m trans and who seem to think they know better than me. They seem to think they have some sort of expertise I lack, that they know some sort of secret I don’t about being trans. What sparked me to talk about this is the fact that this has come up in my life recently, and I essentially sat there in anger and stunned silence as I had someone mansplain trans issues to me. If I have not made it abundantly clear, I am trans. I identify as non-binary and am dysphoric. Yet, there are some cisgender people who think they know more about being trans than I do. Of course, they do not.
I do not profess to being an expert on all trans people, but if there is a trans person in your presence, you should not explain trans issues to them. We are not a homogenous community, so you may see different perspectives from different trans people. Some trans people don’t think that non-binary people exist, some think that you have to have dysphoria to be trans and some think that it is a mental disorder to be trans. All of the above are ideas I disagree with and think are harmful. I think that we should do our research and come to our own conclusions and be able to disagree with people. But, I think that when talking to a trans person as a cis person, you should listen and try to learn. Don’t try to school them on issues such as surgery or the trans community.
When you tell me how I am supposed to think or feel about issues in my life, it invalidates my experiences. One trans friend who has one experience does not inform my own opinions and thoughts as a different trans person. Your own trans friend who went through something does not make you the expert who can then school me on it. If my own opinions are marginalizing non-binary people or other gender non-conforming individuals, then it would make sense to question that and to maybe push back on it. However, you should never come at it with the urge to school the person on any part of “the trans experience,” because then it is assuming that somehow you have some higher level of learning that you can impart on them. The patronizing tone of such wisdom will make any trans person want to scream. One thing we do have in common as a community is that we often get told that we do not know what we are doing, we do not know what we are saying, we are confused and we need the benevolent cis people to come and set us straight.
Do I think you do not get to have an opinion on trans issues? No. Do you get to patronize me and pretend that you must teach me something about the trans community? Absolutely not. At the end of the day, you could do as much research as you want and read every single book written by and about trans people, but it will never erase experience as the ultimate teacher. I have lived with all the emotional scars of feeling out of place and foreign, have had to learn about the different views in the trans community, seen and experienced passing privilege and know what it’s like to be dysphoric. All of these things have made me an expert on my own experience, and you can trust that I know enough to have an informed opinion. At the end of the day, you should not be telling me how to do or express or talk about anything. Ask me questions, disagree with me, do whatever you want, but never pretend that you have anything to teach me about being trans.