Typically transgender

Gale Chan wants a broader narrative

Gale Chan wants a broader narrative

The typical trans narrative presented in the mass media goes something like this: as a young child you always had something in the back of your mind, always knew that something felt wrong about you, about your body. You struggled through puberty and hated every physical change that happened. Come your mid-twenties or beyond you suddenly have a crisis and one day break down as you realise that you are transgender and have been “born in the wrong body”. After this realisation you begin transitioning, you change your name, your pronouns and eventually have “the op”. Now and only now are you are truly a fully functioning person in the gender you identify as, but you must never tell anyone of your history because it is a horrible thing and no one will ever like you anymore if you do.

While this typical narrative is a valid one, it erases a lot of others, especially those of non-binary trans people

Trans narratives that differ from this path are considered illegitimate and invalid. Those who choose different forms of transition are made to feel illegitimate, and as a result many non-binary people feel they aren’t trans ‘enough’ to call themselves transgender. In Western societies only cis-normative “passing” trans people are celebrated and those who don’t are subject to ridicule and additional interrogation. Popular media representations of transgender people  embody white, slim, able-bodied, cis-normative versions of transness, and conform radically to binary gender norms. Think Aydian Dowling and Caitlyn Jenner. Even famed transgender people with more diverse backgrounds like Janet Mock and Carmen Carrera still possess appearances that are typical of Western gender beauty standards. There is almost no representation of people outside the gender binary, nor of those who appear more androgynous (except as ‘art’ pieces).

It is easy to make stereotypical assumptions and generalisations about trans people and to lump them all together as desiring the same thing, but there is no typical trans life. There is no ‘normal’ transition. A diverse representation of transgender people is important. Room should be made for non-binary people. Room should be made to celebrate people who don’t ‘pass’. Room should be made for a large range of body types. Room should be made for people who don’t fit the typical narrative.