I've said this to a few folks before, but it's probably worth a quick thread... let's kick it off with a personal confession: I do think being transgender is a really weird experience.
Many times, I've sat up at night being like, "What the heck happened here?" If you are struggling to wrap your head around what it means to be transgender, you might be surprised to learn that a lot of trans people feel that way, too.
I didn't wake up one morning and feel inspired. I didn't whip out some graph paper and create a blueprint for my body. And I can't even say that there was some totally rational explanation for why things unfolded the way they did.
I was uncomfortable with certain things, and when I changed those things... I wasn't uncomfortable anymore. Honestly, I'm probably just as surprised as you are.
The (very basic) analogy I use is when your ears pop on an airplane. There's less pressure, there's relief. And when you realize you can yawn or chew gum and eventually things settle? You don't sit there and rationalize it, because you don't need to. You follow your instincts.
We can theorize a whole bunch about why transgender people exist, and in reality, there's probably many factors at play, and it's not the same for each and every person. I'm also not convinced that it matters. It's cool to think about, but it doesn't change things, really.
We know that there are people for whom, when they make changes to their lives (and sometimes their bodies) in alignment with a gender other than that which is assumed... their lives improve. And in many cases, they drastically improve.
And this probably says a lot about the kind of geek I am, but I look at that and think, "Whoa. That's fascinating and REALLY interesting."
Gender diversity is complicated and mysterious and awesome, which is why I spend so much time talking about it. It's why I studied it and got my degrees in anthropology and gender studies. If you find it weird, guess what? So do I!
As far as clinicians and researchers can tell (and trans people too, obviously), the majority opinion is that the best way to support this population — and ensure a mentally healthy outcome — is to validate and affirm them.
That's why so many of us are activists in these spaces. We want to create affirming environments, and we want to encourage other people to be thoughtful in that way, too. It's actually that simple.
That's also why it's annoying to have the "do trans people exist" debate with you — because we're here, and we're just trying to make the best possible choice with the knowledge that we have. And we're trying to make it safe for us to make those choices.
I have no personal problem with a cis person saying to me, "What is this all about?" Friend, believe me, I've had that thought many, many times. Before I went under for surgery, I remember thinking, "Wow, if I'm wrong about this, how awkward is that going to be?"
And then... I wasn't wrong. I was RELIEVED. I was excited and happy and brighter. If you think that's weird, I get it. Why on earth would surgically removing a part of my body make me happier? Beats me. I couldn't adequately explain it if I tried.
The first time I saw a transgender person on television, I didn't think to myself, "AHA! There I am!" Some trans folks do, and that's amazing for them. But my thought was more like, "How... why... what?"
But the first time your ears pop, or so to speak... you try out another name, or you put on a chest binder, or you cut your hair... you do what feels right, even when it surprises you, and you build your life as best you can to be happy and well.
Surgery isn't super fun and hormones can be annoying at first, but the pay-off has been brilliant. I actually really like myself and who I've become, and at the end of the day, what it took to get here was absolutely worth it — and I'd do it all over again if given the choice.
It's okay if you look at all this and don't "get it." I have degrees in this stuff and I've lived it, and some days, I'm not convinced that I "get it" all that much more than you do.
Life is full of mysteries, yeah? But this one is especially cool because it leads to a really happy outcome for a good number of people, so long as we make the world a safe and supportive place for them to exist.
At the end of the day, that's the "Transgender Agenda." That's it. Kindness and acceptance and safety and dignity.
There are a lot of valid questions around what, exactly, that looks like in the real world — but a good place to start, if you're not sure, is to just ask yourself, "Is someone telling me this is hurtful? And if so, can I hear them out?"
Because life is already... a lot. For any human being. So I think it's worth the effort, when you see a community that has a rough go of it, to take a little extra time to figure out how to be a decent person about it.
And even if trans folks seem super angry and adamant, it's just because we're exhausted, and because very few people actually do take that time to figure out how to be kind to us.
I had to go through puberty TWICE, y'all, and the second time, I was a grownup with adult responsibilities and there weren't homecoming dances or spirit weeks. I'm not always going to be rainbows and sunshine. Consider this a blanket apology for any cranky or snarky reaction.
Anyhow, this is all just to say... this stuff is a little strange and it doesn't always make perfect sense. But kindness goes a long way. Read a couple articles, get a little perspective. Make a mental note of how you can do things differently next time.
Also, send me photos of your cat(s). Not because that's going to eradicate transphobia, but because I love cats, and at least that makes my Twitter feed better, right? 🤷🏻♂️
You can follow @samdylanfinch.
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