Trans of Thought: Trans people aren’t debates

By : Maia Monet
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One of the more mentally and physically exhausting aspects of being transgender is, in fact, not the transition, but the aftermath of living in a world with—and I am being generous here—an imperfect understanding of why we exist.

Ignorance of the reams of scientific data to date that support transgender identities means we are constantly called upon to defend our validity to those without the motivation to self-educate. More exhausting is that there is no safe haven for us even within the LGBTQ+ community, as there appears to be an expectation that trans people must be ready to provide this defense to all cisgender people on command. Of course, engaging in these debates is a losing proposition because it inherently starts from a position of doubt. One where we must entertain that “no” is a possible legitimate answer to the question of “are trans people REALLY who they say they are?” I was reminded of this over the holidays as a video of a trans woman at a GameStop spread like wildfire across social media. Having been misgendered repeatedly by the staff, she had an epic tantrum that was a cringe-inducing example of what not to do in an age when everyone has a video camera at the ready. As I watched her yell about her displeasure and knock over store merchandise in a video repeatedly posted across my feeds, I braced for the inevitable fallout. Predictably, the first platforms to push the video to viral status were conservative outlets, ever at the ready to capitalize on any opportunity to cast doubt on the validity of transgender people. However, that simply stoked a fire that was already burning. The true measure of how far we have to go for understanding came in the debates that raged on LGBTQ+ forums.

Not surprisingly, the reactions in my social media to the video were overwhelmingly negative. Truth be told, I wasn’t much of a fan of how this particular trans woman handled the situation either. Such an extreme reaction put the focus on the histrionics and removed the possibility of sympathy for the injustice of the situation. The trans woman in question admitted to as much on her personal Facebook, stating that she should have been more cognizant of the optics, while also asserting her right to defend herself. She also admitted to anxiety at how the video could be used to discredit the trans community. She was right to be anxious, as that is exactly what happened. However, what was particularly galling were the subtle disparaging comments used by some members of the queer community to diminish her claim to womanhood.

In what I can describe only as verbal side-eye, the most common criticism I saw on LGBTQ+-themed groups was that her behavior was not ladylike. I found this quite disheartening given that the comment most often came from cisgender lesbians who, it can be argued, are living embodiments of the rejection of “ladylike” behavior. What is more unladylike than refusing to conform to the traditional societal man-and-woman, baby-producing relationship model? It also didn’t escape my attention that similar behavior by a cisgender woman, caught on video recently in a Ft. Lauderdale airport losing her composure entirely with a JetBlue agent, didn’t meet the same scrutiny in regards to her femininity. Clearly, ladylike used in the context of this trans woman meant more than her behavior, but was instead commentary on the legitimacy of her identity itself. She wasn’t a woman failing to live up to constructed notions of femininity, like our JetBlue provocateur. The implication was she was failing entirely at being a woman.

As someone who has had many a conversation with queer people about what it means to be transgender, I can’t say I found the reaction unexpected. I’ve been asked many times by gay people why I transitioned if my attraction remained toward women. My own identity as a woman was being cast into doubt based on the fact that I’m a lesbian. That they were applying the same heteronormative argument towards me that had historically been applied to them by the straight community escaped them. Arguments such as “If you are going to date a woman that looks like a man, why not just date a man?” Endlessly pointing out the irony is exasperating because, frankly, they should know better. As queer people we need to remember that, just because something falls outside our realm of personal understanding, doesn’t mean it isn’t valid or worthy of respect. Isn’t that exactly what we are asking for ourselves from the non-queer community?

I am often asked when I will drop “transgender” and simply identify as a woman. The subtext of the question itself holds part of the answer of why I haven’t because it carries with it the implication that being transgender diminishes my femininity. After all, nobody ever asks me when I will drop “lesbian” or “Latina” as modifiers to my womanhood. The real answer of course is when people no longer even think to debate the validity of my identity based on the fact I am transgender. However, as the GameStop video demonstrates, I fear that day is still a long way in the future.

Melody Maia Monet is the co-founder of MadSkillsConsulting.com and owns a YouTube channel on lesbian and transgender topics. You can view her videos at YouTube.com/MelodyMaia.

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