Another Narrative

Increasing people are aware of transgender people. More parents are aware that one day their son may turn around and say “Actually, I’m a girl”. And that’s great. Most people are familiar with this narrative:

Susan finally gets up the courage to tell ‘her’ parents that ‘she’ actually identifies as male. From now on, he wants male pronouns used, to be called Adam, and wants to begin transitioning. At first, it may be confusing and even painful. As Adam progresses through transition and his outside begins matching his inside and you get to know your child again, it becomes easier to accept him for himself.

I want to talk about a different narrative. One that isn’t really acknowledged. One that can be much harder to handle.

Susan finally gets up the courage to tell ‘her’ parents that ‘she’ actually identifies as male. But she doesn’t intend to transition. There could be any number of reasons for it, but at least right now he doesn’t feel it’s worth it. He doesn’t intend to come out to everyone, but he needs people who know him for who he truly is and spaces that he’s completely accepted as himself.

It’s so hard to get information about statistics when it comes to transgender people. I can’t tell you how often this actually happens. However, from my experience running a support site for non-op trans people, I think that we are far more common than most would think. And given how more people are aware of transgender people and more transgender people are coming out younger, I imagine that this scenario will begin to come up more often.

Right now, I doubt many parents will ever actually know this about their children. Most people hide it even from their parents- cultivating safe spaces with friends, partners, and chosen family. But parents being able to provide that safe space and being able to accept their child for who they are, despite their outer appearance, can be invaluable. It’s also very difficult. It’s still hard for many people to accept that a trans woman who begins to “look like” a woman actually is one, it’s much harder to accept someone who “looks like” a man is actually a woman. I hope this is something more people can work on being able to do, though.

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6 Responses to Another Narrative

  1. S. says:

    Please, please could you not conflate ‘non-op’ with non-transitioning? The two are nothing to do with each other.

    I fully transitioned fifteen years ago and I’m non-op. Only my close friends even know that I’m trans; unless I’m taking off my knickers in front of you, being trans is pretty irrelevant to my life. It’s really upsetting to me for people to constantly conflate transition with surgery, as if everyone needs to be cut and rearranged in a place no one sees before they can be seen as valid women or men.

    • MySapling says:

      First: This post is not about “non-transitioning”. I disagree with the idea that being selective with who you come out to is inherently “non-transitioning”. There’s still a large personal transition, it’s a social transition, etc. Some will even take low-does hormones or get some surgeries or change their name to address dysphoria without pushing them all the way to the other side.

      as if everyone needs to be cut and rearranged in a place no one sees before they can be seen as valid women or men.

      I’m really glad you’ve managed to live a life where that isn’t necessary. In my experience, you’re very much the exception. That’s changing now- but, overall, very VERY few people are able to get accepted as their gender without that. For one thing- very few places, and nowhere before recently, would let you change your legal gender without surgery. Which is a very Big Deal for a lot of trans people. While it’s increasing in possibility, right now there are WAY more people who aren’t able to be accepted as their gender without surgery than there are people who, like you, are able to live fully as their gender without surgery.

      Plenty of people would argue you ARE non-transitioning, because “proper” medical transition includes surgery. (and if you haven’t taken hormones- then not only are you insanely lucky, but you’re also entirely non-transitioning medically speaking) Does that mean you’re going to start altering your identity? I doubt it.

      The simple fact is that there is no stable language in the transgender community. There is absolutely nothing I could say that wouldn’t piss someone off. I’m sorry that you’re the person who’s gotten pissed off this time. Hopefully as the community gets more awareness and becomes a bit more cohesive, we’ll figure out some solid language. I don’t really expect it, but it’d be nice.

      I’ve changed the title of this post. But I’m not going to stop talking just because our community is so nebulous that there are no universally acceptable words. And that’s essentially what you have to do. We can’t talk about reproductive-related health, sexism, gender norms, or ANYTHING without either twisting ourselves into pretzels to get the words right or upsetting people. Transphobia is so entrenched in every aspect of our society that we’re pretty much screwed. We can either stop talking until things change, or we can accept that we’re going to have to use messed up language but at least we’re pushing in the right direction.

      Is it right? There’s not a hell of a lot in this world that IS right. Especially not when it comes to trans people.

      • S. says:

        I don’t think it’s nearly as complicated as you’re making it sound. There’s a great consensus in the trans community that transition means social transition – you tell people about your new gender and you start living it, taking whatever steps, medical or otherwise, that you need to feel comfortable.

        No one asked you to stop talking, I don’t know where you got that. I only asked you not to conflate ‘op’ status with social transition when they have nothing to do with each other and getting the public to see those things as separate is a major challenge for trans people both individually and as a community.

        Just because language is complicated and ever-changing doesn’t mean that all ways of talking and thinking about trans people are equally good. Some ways are beneficial and some ways are harmful. Changing the way the public thinks about trans people from harmful ways to beneficial ways is important to all of us.

      • MySapling says:

        “Consensus”? Where? I’ve almost always seen transition mean medical transition. Discussion of “transition” 90% of the time includes talking about HRT and plans for surgery, therapy and getting letters. Social transition is a gradual process that parallels and relies on medical transition- social transition is only complete when you’ve gotten GRS and can change all of your documents to match your gender (a requirement that is, fortunately, starting to become outdated). And, again, this isn’t my perspective- this is what I’ve seen from 90% of the trans people I’ve spoken to over the years.

        Non-medical social transitioning is a radical idea for most trans folk. I can count on one hand the number of trans people I’ve met who’ve managed to do it, versus the thousands who went the medical route. Most people don’t even realize that non-medical social transitioning is possible (and for most people- IT’S NOT), which is part of the point of this post.

        We travel in different circles- you’ve seen one way, I’ve seen another. You’re suggesting that your circles are more valid than mine. They’re not.

        Edit– I asked someone else, “If you say transition with no other clarification, people would assume you meant full, 100% medical/physical/social”. So, no, there is no “consensus” that transition means social. If anything, I’d say it’s the opposite in most sectors.

  2. S. says:

    I think you’re still confused. I’m talking about non-surgical transition, which is possible for virtually everyone, since no one looks in anyone’s pants to decide their gender. That is what ‘op’ refers to and the whole topic of this discussion I started. I’ve never said anything about non-medical transition and I don’t know why you’re getting angry about whether that’s possible or not.

    I’m glad you’ve found a friend who agrees with you – I guess that means you ‘win’, if that’s what you’re looking for here. I have to say you respond to constructive criticism very badly.

    • MySapling says:

      You specifically said “There’s a great consensus in the trans community that transition means social transition”- this is patently, 100% UNTRUE. I already acknowledged that this is true in the parts of the trans community you run in, and have pointed out that my experience has been the exact opposite. I did this in a way fully acknowledging we can agree to disagree.

      Social transition without medical transition, quite simply, is not easy for the vast majority of trans people. You act as if looking in someone’s pants is the only way gender is biologically coded. Facial shape, fat distribution, height, muscle mass, body/facial hair, voice, etc are all utterly irrelevant and changed as easily as switching on a light.

      I have never in my life seen “transition” used to refer to social-only, non-medical transitioning outside of a very small few non-op people making a radical stand.

      We go in different circles of the transgender community and have different experiences, neither of which is more valid than the others’. Now, I admit, I’m saying that with the slight miffling thought of “90% of the trans people I’ve met couldn’t dream of passing without hormones or surgery, some trans people I’ve known couldn’t pass even after fully transitioning, yet you’re acting as if it’s a walk in the park and refuse to see the incredible fortune you’ve been given”.

      I don’t have one friend who agrees with me- I base this on my experience. I asked someone else to double check what I already knew, and felt that the way they put it was quite eloquent so I shared it. And I’m not going to get into some pathetic pissing contest about who has seen the “REAL” trans community. That’s bullshit. We’ve both seen the REAL trans community- different parts of it.

      You’re responding to constructive criticism just as badly, and I have absolutely no interest in continuing this conversation. I once again end with this:

      I have almost always seen ‘transition’ to mean medical transition. There is no consensus.

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