Who's Gender is it any way?
My recently released a podcast "a letter from gender dysphoria" is a small glimpse of one persons
experience of living with the ever present noise of GD between their ears. It's pervasive and it insidiously works its way into every facet of life. But when you think about it, thats no surprise really is it? Consider the phrase Gender Identity. Or perhaps simply "Gender" and "identity" Both of them are so deeply ingrained into the human experience, whether that be internally or externally, that if something is off balance with either, then it stands to reason people may struggle.
I did. and yes, still do, every now and then. Perhaps an analogy might help here. Imagine the recovered alcoholic, addict, former solider, or survivor of a major illness. Quite often even though they are recovered, the experiences they went through will colour the rest of their lives. And in the case of the alcoholic they will always "be an alcoholic", just a sober one. So it is with trans people. We may have "transitioned", with varying degrees of what ever success looks like to the individual, but in some sense we are always "transitioning" and remain a trans gender person, with thoughts feelings and emotions that are uniquely ours, and different from a cis gender experience.
The recovered alcoholic will always be hyper aware of the alcohol in their surroundings, and may modify their behaviour accordingly. So, to borrow a phrase thats been used in a very different context recently, trans people may become somewhat "gender critical: or perhaps "analytical". Hyper aware of occurrences and customs that just pass beneath the notice of cis gender people, since these facets of the human experience are so unconsciously ingrained within us that the vast majority of people (i.e. cis) are no longer aware of them. Note that non of the above is in any way a comment on the ethical validity of any argument, rather it is simply an observation of what has occurred and evolved on this question of gender, as part of the ongoing & ever present evolution of human interaction. Ideas of "right and wrong" and "transition is not natural" - ala the St Thomas Aquinas stuff we shall leave for another blog entry. I merely highlight these points to give readers a glimpse of what "a day in the shadow of Gender dysphoria" might look like. Remember, "different to" does not intrinsically mean "less than" So where am I going with this blog? As the title suggests, it's a continuation of the question I posed at the end of the podcast. "Who's gender is it any way?" There are differing models of gender, and of identity, the former is perhaps created and affirmed extrinsically just a little more than the later, yet both are intertwined almost as tightly as the double helix of our DNA. Our gender expression is an expression of our identity, not just our gender. How we do what we do is just as important as the doing of it. I'm sure you'll be aware of the work of Butler, and Goffman, both looking at performative models of human social interaction. Goffmans book "the presentation of self in everyday life" was first written in the 1950's and Butlers work was in the 90's. Today a new generation of scholars are looking at these questions and the younger generation are having a subtly different conversation around the issue of "transgenderness" Have a read of this particular blog, Coming out as trans isn't a teenage fad in the New York times, which highlights things quiet neatly.
In particular the paragraph:
"I’ve noticed something fascinating since my child came out, and it reflects the difference between generations over what being trans means. When I began to share my truth, almost 20 years ago, I spent a couple of years going around to people apologizing, begging for understanding, begging, at times, for forgiveness.
But my daughter’s generation is different. She has never apologized for who she is. Since she came out, her friends have reacted with joy and happiness for her, even — dare I say it? — indifference. Their sense is that being trans is just one more way of being human, and surely no source of shame." Generational society itself is getting a handle on gender and changing its collective viewpoint, despite detractors. Those that would point to theological laws, or ethical conundrums that come with the change and suggest a slippery slope argument of "Its bad for society" or similar. But "they" miss the point. Society, isn't a "single" thing. It's a collective. A slow moving behemoth of epic complexity that will shift direction painfully slowly, like a huge container ship. (Did you know that massive oil tankers cut their engines 15 miles out to sea, so they can stop at the berth? - nope me neither!)
Perhaps I muse, the older people like me (I'm 44 - transitioned at 36) are carrying the baggage of the past? But those that come after us are now steering the ship. Those who transition or know someone who does will have a differing experience to mine, just as my own has been influenced by those who came before. Collective views are changing.
Jay Shetty - a great influence on me, and someone who "wants to make wisdom go viral" (a brilliant mission and tag line ) has been quoted as saying "you can't be what you can't see" Well it seems gender is "being seen" much more clearly these days, and people are "being" what they see. This can only be a good thing, since, to revisit my recovering alcoholic analogy, their problems may be diminished in the long term. why so? Because they managed to avoid getting drunk in the first place.