I'm married to a gender fluid person, and have several transgender people in my life, and while I see them and acknowledge them, love and support them, I don't presume to speak for them (though I have had long talks about gender fluidity with my spouse).

I also have a cis-het friend who debates with me about the labels 'trans man' or 'trans woman', if someone has completed their top and bottom surgeries. He argued that it's reasonable to label oneself 'trans' when literally in transition, even if they choose never to surgically or hormonally alter their bodies. But if a person has completed transition...wouldn't they prefer to drop the 'trans' prefix?

My belief is that the label also associates folks with a group, and that even post transition, they may want to remain affiliated with that group. Especially because even post transition they have unique medical issues, and still may face discrimination.

Your thoughts?

Miranda

Evey's Response

Your friend is arguing from a place that I find really demeaning to me as a trans woman but also just to.. everyone?

Hear me out here. Let’s accept your friend’s premise for just a moment. For that logic to hold then it also follows that a woman is not truly a woman without a vagina, nor is a man truly a man without a penis. Imagine, with such confidence, reducing the entirety of a person’s gender experience down to their genitalia. What your friend is really saying is that he believes true women have vaginas and true men have penises. That’s the deconstruction here. Because naturally once I have “finished” my transition I am now a complete woman, right?

Yikes.

I think it helps if we define our terms so we can speak on an even field yeah? Transgender literally means that I am not the gender/sex pairing I was assigned at birth. My experience as a transgender person is that I grew up tortured by and acutely aware of this discrepancy between my body and socialization and what I intuitively expected to be true. I was transgender from the moment I had self-aware thought and I will be transgender for the remainder of my life. There is no amount of surgery or medicine that will eliminate that truth.

And why would I want to drop that label? The adjective “transgender” is no more offensive or undesirable than “blue eyed” or “tall.” It will always be a true fact for me that I am not the gender I was assigned at birth. I will always share a bond with other folks who are also not the gender that they were assigned at birth.

There are lots of women who were assigned male at birth and will never undergo hormone treatments or surgeries of any kind — sometimes because they don’t want to or need to, and sometimes because they can’t or don’t have access. Their trans-ness and their gender are not dependent on what medical technology they’ve got access to or their desire to use it.

Also for the sake of this argument your friend has conveniently forgotten our non-binary friends. What of our intersex friends?

This idea of “a person was one thing before, and then they transitioned and became this other thing” is an inaccurate and oversimplified telling to the transgender experience. So I guess to your friend I would say that medical transition is not intended to make me into a woman. It’s intended to make me, a woman, comfortable in my body.

Your friend would do well to take an interest in the complexities of gender and sex because what I’m really hearing is they don’t understand the words, and they don’t understand gender and sex. For someone who likes to debate that’s a very weak starting position — although I’d also ask your friend to stop debating my existence as though I were some theoretical concept in a textbook.

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