I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I wish we would stop pushing the “wrong body” narrative* of what it means to be trans.
I know it’s how some people view their situation- and that’s fine. Use the words to describe your experiences that feel right for you.
But it bothers me that a lot of education and information pushes “wrong body”. I’ve been reading things by cis parents of non-cis kids- and they always use those terms “wrong body”. “Gender they were born as [referring to assigned sex]”. Reminding these kids that they were “born “. And these kids hate their bodies.
I know very well what physical dysphoria is- no amount of nicer terms will make it go away. If your brain is wired for you not to have a body part that you do, or to have a body part that you don’t, no amount of “Well, you don’t have to call it a penis/vagina” or “It doesn’t make you a man/woman- plenty of women/men/non-binary folk have those parts!” in the world will make it comfortable.
But I also know what social dysphoria is. I know that some trans people wouldn’t mind their bodies if people could just see who they were. I know that some trans people actually love their bodies- yes, even the “offending parts” that “mark them as the wrong gender” or whatever. This love doesn’t always come naturally, though. It takes time to detangle the negative messages of “penis=man, vulva=woman” and figure out if your feelings towards your own body parts are something innate that can’t be changed, or if they’re the result of toxic and false messages.
I’ve seen a lot more trans men who had no problem with their bodies until puberty. Many assumed from a very young age that they would grow a penis at puberty (if they were able to start T and go through a typically-male puberty first, not actually an inaccurate idea). Most of the time that I hear a child having such hatred towards their body, it’s a little girl. I’ve heard of 3 year olds trying to take scissors to their own genitals, they hate their body that much at that young.
As I said- some of these kids will see their body as “wrong” no matter what their parents or anyone else does, but I wonder how many have even been given the option. I’m not saying that we should lie about the reality of our world- but we’re already transgressing boundaries. Allowing a child with a penis to say “I’m a girl” and live as a girl is already breaking gender norms. She knows that people think her body makes her a boy- why can’t she know that she’s allowed to see her body as just that: hers. As a girl’s body because she is a girl and it is her body. She is allowed to use whatever words make her comfortable when referring to her own body parts.
I know that people have written about this- about how a trans woman’s body is not “a man’s body”, it is her body, the body of a woman, just not the body of a cis woman. And a trans man’s body is not “a woman’s body‘, but the body of a man. And a non-binary person’s body is not the body of a binary-gender person. I can’t find most of the links, in part because lately I’ve found that quite a few of the trans blogs I held most dear have been taken down or made private, but you can at least read the one I linked to.
Milk Junkies has raised concerns about trans kids and reproductive choices– and this ties into what I’m talking about. I don’t think we should push kids away from transitioning, from doing hormone blockers and the right puberty instead of going through Hell. I also don’t think we should push kids to transition. Teaching them that they have “the wrong body”, pushing cisnormative definitions of bodies, telling them that they have “a boy body” or “a girl body” and that the only way to fix this is with hormones and surgery- this is pushing them to transition. This is limiting their options. In the future they may be able to detangle the negative messages they were told even by their supportive, well-meaning loved ones, but by then they’ll already have made choices based on being told how to view their own bodies.
Trans people who need to transition will need to transition no matter what anyone calls their body. Even if we lived in a world that openly accepted trans folk, treated them with respect, where people are never misgendered- there are trans people who will need to transition. Because we don’t live in that world, there are more trans people who will need to transition to be able to socially be accepted as their gender- and no amount of “You don’t have to see your genitals as a “penis” or “vagina”.” or “It’s your body so it’s a [correct gender] body.” will change that. But being allowed to see their body as their own, to define the gender of their body as they define their own gender, might help cut some of the sting of waiting to be able to fix it.
There are also transgender people who don’t transition and are perfectly happy with their lives. Some live openly as transgender despite not transitioning. Lucas Silveira chose not to take T for years (he has) because he was concerned about its effects on his voice, yet he still lived both openly and publicly as a man. This is more of an option for men and genderqueer folk than women- but the times are changing. Some are only out to trusted few, and that support network is enough for them. Part of being able to live like this, for many of them, is being able to realize that their body is their own and that societal views of gender don’t need to effect their body any more than it effects their identity. I, again, do notthink we should push kids to this. I just think it should be an option that they’re aware of, and that this choice should not be colored by “But I don’t want a “man’s body”.” instead of “This is the choice that will make me happiest and most comfortable in my own skin”.
This isn’t the same as “expecting your child to turn out to be a gay man” based on outdated, poorly understood research or expecting your child to change their mind. This should not be pushed over the child’s own voice- just presented as a valid option. If the child still feels most comfortable with the “wrong body” narrative, that’s the right narrative for that child. It’s possible that the child may spend time mulling it over and weeks, months, even years later change to the “I’m a boy, my body is a boy’s body” narrative- but still need to go on hormone blockers and transition early. And that’s just fine. Because this isn’t about forcing them to change their minds or pushing a life path that’s wrong for them. It’s showing more options than even mainstream trans narratives allow so that as many options as possible are open to them and also about, just maybe, making the time waiting to be able to fully transition just a bit more comfortable.
*Edit– I have been informed that some call referring to “wrong body” as a “narrative” is disempowering. I do not have the same understanding of the word ‘narrative’- there are many narratives that are very empowering. I know that words are far more than just their dictionary definitions to many people and I am now aware that for some people, it has connotations of being a disempowering and possibly even delegitimizing word. I’m sure that people have used it as such, and I apologize for not being aware of the connotation. I regret having come off as dismissive of the way some people express their own experiences, and also that I do not know a better term to use. I have not been able to think of what word to use instead, so it remains, but please feel free to offer suggestions.