The media is full of references to “trans”. Everywhere you look one sees the term used in a variety of contexts. As justification, as explanation, as identification, as motivation…..
When we talk about “trans rights” we rarely give thought to just what exactly it means to be “trans”.
For this blog post I’d like to share my thoughts with you on the subject.
This is a widely used image in circulation. Pay note to the text at the bottom of the image. Transgender apparently “encompasses any individual who crosses over or challenges their society’s traditional gender roles and/or expressions”. Well now, isn’t that a broad definition! So someone who is transgender is simply someone who challenges traditional roles and expressions.
There are obviously a number of inherent problems with such a statement. In particular there is no conclusive definition of what a traditional expression is; indeed geographical and cultural considerations mean that such a definition would be impossible. In some cultures for example any woman who wears trousers would, by that definition, be transgender. The second issue is the question of how far someone needs to go in challenging gender roles? For some simply declaring a rejection of gender roles with no obvious indication has proved sufficient to invoke legal protections.
In reality the answer to the question “Who can identify as trans?”, is simply “Anyone who wants to”.
This leads us then onto another important question. Many people are gender non conforming but most don’t identify as transgender. What makes people identify as “transgender”?
My own experiences have identified several main reasons (there are some others that are less common):
It saddens me to say that there are those for whom a transgender identity is seen as an opportunity. Some may indeed be gender non conforming, others may not but the fact remains the primary motivation for many is opportunistic. This can be for a number of reasons, the most revolting of these being sexual opportunities to gain access to women. Other opportunities include commercial, financial, academic and competitive to name but a few. Let’s not forget of course plain old attention seeking! When you give rights to a specific group but fail to define the membership criteria it doesn’t take a genius to know this will be exploited.
Without question there are those for whom a transgender identity is a sexual orientation. There are a wide range of motivations within this section but I have personally encountered plenty who gained sexual satisfaction at being able to call themselves a woman. For millenia there have been documented instances of transvestism / cross dressing for sexual pleasure but the modern transgender label now encapsulates such behaviours. Culture plays a significant role in the acceptance of transvestism. In Victorian and Puritan history these behaviours were deemed sexual deviance whereas in countries likes India, China and South America such behaviours were historically often celebrated.
As a lifestyle choice is perhaps the most interesting one. With the modern agenda permeating schools, universities etc.. spreading its narrative, we are seeing increasing numbers of people buying into the notion that in order to be gender non conforming one MUST adopt a transgender identity and declare a change of sex or one of the new non binary gender identities. Ridiculous as it is, but increasing numbers are buying into the pseudo scientific babble that human beings can actually change sex. Its as simple as the view that if you don’t want to be a man, be a woman. Or indeed be agender, bigender and a number of other identities. If we look at the significant detransition rates amongst the younger generation a significant majority resolve their identity as gay but in the interim a transgender identity is a choice made in response to a flawed ideology.
When we look at the younger generation and talk to the detransitioners, many will tell you that being “trans” was the latest trend. Every generation has a “fad” ideology that promises the world. For example for some a trans identity is a way of expressing individuality.
Past generations have seen goth, emo, punk, mod and a plethora of other labels that invariably pass.
The final reason I reserve for those who are transsexual. These are those for whom Gender Dysphoria is a very real psychological condition that impacts many aspects of daily living. Transition is seen as a resolution to the dysphoria. I speak extensively in my blog about what it means to be transsexual such as here, here and here.
What is clear is that any notion of a single set of “trans rights” is both impossible and indeed pointless. I will discuss the question of trans rights further in a subsequent post.
With such a broad umbrella many people draw the line at some of the identities falling under the transgender umbrella. Sadly the transphobe and TERF labels are levelled at anoyone who doesn’t accept the entire umbrella. It is seldom as black and white as a blanket rejection or acceptance.