oftentimes the ignorant believe that trans people, especially trans women, represent a monolith and are all the same. we obviously aren’t, but there are things within our community that cause us to boost this perception, and one of the most toxic is that there is a narrative that all trans people allegedly have in common; the narrative policing is ridiculous and often is obvious, when it ends up policed by transfundamentalists like HBSers and “True Transsexuals” as being the only allowed way to be trans, but sometimes it’s subtle, too, and when it’s subtle, well-intentioned trans people end up alienating those of us who didn’t follow the same path as others. either way, narrative policing hurts real people, and it’s high time we stopped talking about one narrative and considered all narratives valid so that they respect the diversity and difference that exists within actual trans people rather than the basic transfundamentalist ideals allowing only one unchanging narrative to be valid. this post in particular is mostly about trans women because that’s what i have experience being and also because narratives are delicate things and i can speak but for what i am. guys, i’d love to hear your insights, but this isn’t my place to speak…but send me a pingback if you blog about it!
let’s make one thing abundantly clear: because all trans people are valid, all trans narratives are valid. if you’re not on board with the idea that all trans people are valid, ask yourself why that is…i mean, aren’t there cis people who you have a difference of opinion with, or who you find intractably annoying? would you regard their gender as invalid on that basis? i’m suspecting that the answer is no. as a result, i have to wonder why you would do the same to a trans person. it establishes that our gender is, or should be, conditional on something we do or how we act, or on what you think of that person. as recognition of our gender is a basic part of our humanity, what you’re doing is relegating that person to conditional humanity on the basis of what you think of them. that’s pretty barbaric, so why would you do that to a trans person when you wouldn’t do it to a cis person?
…probably because it’s what’s expected of us. we enforce these narratives because we believe we’re not valid without them, because we need to tell the right things to gatekeepers to survive, or because transfundamentalists often control structures within the community and rule them with an iron fist and expect complete narrative compliance. the problem is that these narratives also center only certain experiences, generally which involve social class, culture, religion, and lots of other stuff that ends up normalizing the experiences of middle-class Caucasians with “traditional” family structures. and yeah, those experiences are totally valid…but experiences that don’t match that also need to be considered valid! for example, i don’t have a father, so i don’t have that element to my narrative, and because i don’t blame my being trans on not having a father, i often find myself in an odd place…apparently you’re supposed to demonize a nonexistent father? that’s kind of weird if you ask me. similarly, as i don’t remember much of my childhood, i can’t tell you if i played with dolls. i know my brother did, though…and he’s a cis straight dude who is completely unthreatened by gender or sexuality differences. given that i am terrified of dolls, i’m betting the answer was no.
but isn’t there more to being a girl than how you relate to your father or if you play with dolls. there’s more to being a woman than whether you wear dresses and makeup or not. none of this is an inherent part of being female even if the patriarchy expects it to be. i don’t really care what you think of the feminist movement or its values, but the feminist point that the reality is that patriarchal values being enforced hurts all women is very much true…and rest assured that it might not have been how some feminists meant it, but it hurts all women, no matter what our chromosomes or birth assignment is/was. when someone is saying that you should be wearing makeup, guess what? they’re probably not asking what your birth assignment was before they do so. when someone says that’s not how “ladies” behave (itself a Caucasian-Western construct of femininity), they’re unlikely to be considering if you’re trans or not, they’re policing your gender expression generally. now, guess what? plenty of women wear makeup and if you choose to do so of your own volition because you think it makes you look better, do it! if you wanna behave in a “ladylike” manner, go for it. but don’t say that someone’s value or gender is determinate on meeting those expectations, or you are working to uphold the very patriarchal values that oppress us as women generally.
the expectation of meeting a narrow narrative does not mean that people who meet that narrative are any more or less valid, and furthermore the expectation of such a narrative really shouldn’t be used in seeking validation as a trans person because the very idea that narratives are necessary to be valid is accepting the idea, as discussed above, that someone should have to seek validity as a trans person from other trans people and/or cis people. this fact, and the community’s zealous defense of its precious narrative, plays into validating both institutional and internalized transphobia. if you need a “reason” to be trans it implies that being trans in and of itself is not okay. when i came out as a dyke, it was often considered back then that you needed a “reason” to be gay and frequently very poor assumptions were made as to why, like that being a sexual assault surivor meant i couldn’t trust men, so that lack of trust must mean i’m attracted to women. though some people still traffic in this kind of hokum, it’s largely discredited because we presented a united front and said that it’s alright to be gay. who cares what the hell the reason is…some people say they’ve chosen their sexual orientation, and i personally can tell you it’s always been quite immutable for me, but either way when we ceased providing reasons or justifications people stopped using that as a way to question our sexual orientations.
finally, there’s the perception of monolithicness. you know, all trans women are exactly the same so if you’ve seen one you’ve seen us all. this is horrible, because cis people often use one bad experience with one trans person in a pathetic attempt to justify transphobia, but also bad because it implies that whomever speaks first and loudest speaks for us all…this is why it’s dangerous when institutions are run by transfundamentalists because they end up being the people who speak and often use that platform to advance the narrative as completely universal because gosh everyone they know fits this. of course she knew since she was 3, of course she is white, middle-class, and femme…and nothing changes. of course nobody bothers to point out that transfundamentalists will exclude anyone who doesn’t match their description because of their monomaniacal focus on narrative, and the perception of monolith increases. this is bad to someone who is trying to figure out their gender identity as this kind of behavior often scares them off or tells them they’re invalid, and that’s really not okay. it’s bad for those of us who don’t fit the transfundamentalist monolith because we never get a place at the table and are thus assumed to not exist, and it’s bad for cis people because they’re being fed the lie that all trans women exactly match this one narrative when we don’t and furthers the misconception discussed above that you need a “reason” to be trans. if you’re trans, you’re trans. if you’re not, you’re not, and you don’t need any more “reason” than that.
it’s time to dump the expectation that you have to have a certain narrative to be trans. it’s doing us all a disservice, people openly and readily admit that they lie to fit the narrative so as to avoid being policed by gatekeepers and transfundamentalists, and it also makes us stronger because by accepting all narratives as valid people can’t seize on individual points in your narrative in an attempt to disprove your transness. it also respects our cultural, racial, social, and personal diversity and understands that we don’t all come from the same place but we do share the common thread of being trans people.