So, one of the more wearying things about being trans is having the same arguments over and over and over. The same tropes recur again and again. And again.
I’m going to start with the biggie – that trans people are“really” a [whatever gender you were assigned at birth.]
This is the belief that however we identify, whatever we do to our bodies, we will always really be the gender we were born as. It is irrelevant how trans people feel about ourselves, or how we look, or how we are received by the people in our lives.
You are, supposedly, one gender once and forever. It’s immutable, and whilst you can change the outside shell, you cannot change the inside.
This is, as those familiar with feminist and queer theories, an extremely essentialist viewpoint. Our genders are lies, falsity, deception. What matters is essence, which is apparently carried on chromosomes. Or something. It’s unclear, because it slips from biology to the social (the rad-fem argument about “shared girlhoods”), but it is, always, ultimately an ontological argument about gendered being.
It’s nevertheless tremendously effective, because it appeals to a cis-sexist biology (one that ignores the tremendous gender variation across nature … see Joan Roughgarden’s Evolution’s Rainbow for more on this) as a way of legitimating denying trans experience.
It denies us the capacity to grow, change, to self-define, to have agency of our bodies and our lives. It denies our identities.
More than that (as if that wasn’t enough), it is this notion, that we are “really” a different gender, that puts trans lives at risk.
For example, this case in Sydney in 2006, where a stealth trans woman was outed to her boyfriend by police.
“After being released from custody, he broke into Ms Fell’s unit, yelling: ‘You didn’t tell me you were actually a man – I’m going to smash you.’”
Because it “makes sense,” see, to an awful lot of cis people that transness is deception, that underneath is the “real” other gender.
This is why, when trans people are featured in the media, our “real” names and pre-transition photos are inevitably used at some point, as if to say, oh no, you are not the person you say you are.
Well, I am a woman, because I say I am. Because that’s how I feel. Because I live my life as a woman. Because I am seen, by those who aren’t blinded by the “really” a man argument, as a woman. There might be a biological basis to my transness, but it’s ultimately irrelevant to me.
I am really a woman, because I am really a woman.