Hi. My name’s Marcus. You might have seen me around. I’m that random person who wears a flower crown around university. I wanted to write about my experiences as a transgender person. It is important to note that my experiences as a trans person are not universal, and that in the wealth of trans identities and experiences, mine is but one and should not be used to stand for all experiences.
That being said, I’m going to use some of my experiences, and my body, to help explore some of the complexities of the transgender experience.
I was assigned male at birth (AMAB). Simply put, when I got plonked out into the world the doctors held me up and said ‘it’s a boy.’ Turns out they were wrong. I’m still struggling to grapple with my gender identity. This is not in the sense that I’m confused necessarily, but that unlike many others, I do not have access to a ready-made gender that I am comfortable with, nor the gendered scripts of being a man or a woman. There aren’t specific enough terms to describe my identity so the ones I use tend to use are quite broad descriptors such as non-binary, femme and of course, trans.
Regardless of my identity, I am still often interpreted as a man. This perplexes me to no end, I’m not sure how someone interacts with me and still thinks I’m a dude, but hey, the world’s a weird place.
Perhaps you’ve come across the term ‘passing’. The idea of passing as a trans person means that you are accepted and interpreted as the gender you identify with. For me, there is no real way to be seen as non-binary, partly because there is no constructed image of what a non-binary person should be, but also due to the fact that even when I present in an arguably neutral way, I am still read as a man because of my body. I do not ‘pass’.
Yet there is particular emphasis on valuing trans people for their ability to ‘pass’, and while I’m happy for trans people who ‘pass’, holding them up as shining beacons of what a trans person should be creates issues for those of us who cannot. I, as someone who does not ‘pass’, have to expect that people will misgender me, which can be quite frustrating, amongst other things. There is an interesting dichotomy then between ‘passing’ politics and visibility. Where many who ‘pass’ might not be visibly trans, and can settle comfortably into their own gender on a societal level, I find that I have to try to make myself more visibly trans.
Transgender people are often expected to follow a fairly specific narrative; about how we always knew we were ‘trapped in the wrong body’, then undergo medical transition and then settle into a very traditional form of our gender. This detracts from the diversity we see in trans experiences. It’s ridiculous because if we don’t follow this narrative our identities come under even further scrutiny, not to mention that the very idea of this suggests that there is an unacceptable way to be trans, which is fucked.
Things cannot change until you start actively changing how you think. So much of trans discourse and education begins with unlearning what you already know. Ultimately what I’m trying to say is: please don’t be shit. Accept trans people, whether or not we pass. Accept us for who we are, not how you see us. There’ll be mistakes you make along the way but we, as trans people deserve to live in a world that understands us, and to understand us, you need to re-educate yourself.