Tag Archives: language

To Parents Revisited

6 years ago now, I wrote an open letter to parents of gender diverse kids.  It generated some response, including a few people pointing out that I wasn’t a parent. Well, I am a parent now. I’ve been a parent for 4 years. I’m the parent of a vocally non-cisgender child as well. And I’ve read over that post a few times with my evolving viewpoint.

I smile sadly and shake my head, knowing that my self from 6 years ago would be rolling their eyes at me.

I’m glad that I wrote it before having kids, I don’t think I would have been as harsh now. That would have been a disservice. It needs to be harsh. It needs to make you think. It needs to make your stomach squirm.

I now have far more sympathy for how complicated and difficult parenting can be, yes. I also believe even more strongly that parents can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to gender creative, gender variant, gender diverse, transgender kids.

We have to question ourselves, we have to face our discomfort and fear.
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“Wrong Body”

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.

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Privilege 101 ish

(I’m not entirely sure I’m qualified to talk about this, but I’ll give it a go.)

Privilege doesn’t often come up around people who have it, and when it does it’s generally knocked down with privilege denying and people not bothering to find out what the terms mean before getting offended by it. If you start looking into people who talk about privilege, then you’ll probably see words like “supremacist” and “oppressed” that push quite a few buttons and make people want to deny. But most of the words aren’t quite as harsh as the kyriarchy wants you to believe. So, what is privilege?

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To Parents

The point of this post is to make people think, so, please, only read it if you’re willing to think about it long and hard. This is a post that will upset some cis people. Maybe most. Maybe all. I suggest you read the advice on how not to be defensive when called out on transphobia before you go on if you haven’t already. Actually, just read it, it’s good advice. If you don’t think you have privilege for being cis, don’t think you could POSSIBLY be transphobic, feel that cis is offensive, or are simply unwilling to read this with an open mind- just don’t bother reading it. It’ll be a waste of your time.
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Trans 101

  1. You are a person. You are worthy of respect. You deserve to be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. There is nothing inherently wrong with your gender. You are not broken, you are not disgusting, you do not deserve to be hurt.
  2. You’ve been brought up and live in a world that’s designed to erase and demonize your existence, you’ve probably internalized a lot of that- and that’s not your fault. But it can be hard to deal with. But you aren’t alone in dealing with it. And sometimes you have to buy into it to be able to handle it (trigger warning: transphobic violence). And that’s okay.
  3. Your gender is no more or less than anyone else’s. Your history doesn’t make you “not really” or “less” your gender than someone with a cis history, it just makes you a person of your gender with a different history.
  4. You do not deserve to be held to higher standards than cis people. You do not have to “prove” your gender by forcing yourself into societal roles that may not fit. You are not “failing” anyone by fitting into societal roles that are comfortable. It is not your job to break down the binary/patriarchy/or anything else. If you want to, go for it, but you have no obligation to do anything for cis people just because you are trans.
  5. Being yourself does not hurt trans rights (so long as you aren’t trying to do so while stopping others from being who they are) and is not a reason why people don’t have to treat you with respect. There is nothing wrong with being a feminine man or masculine woman, or being a person who’s comfortable in their body, or being a person who doesn’t transition all the way, or being out about having a non-binary or genderqueer gender. You have not “failed” anyone by doing this, you are not “less” of your gender than someone else. Being who you are is not a valid argument for why people can’t treat you as who you truly are.
  6. No one else has the right to say your body needs to be changed. It only does if you need to change it. Or if you want to change it, that’s valid, too. Your body does not make you “less” your gender. It doesn’t make you “not really” your gender. It doesn’t mean you’re trapped in someone else’s body. You do not have to fix your body to “become” your gender- you already are your gender. All you need to do is what you need to do to be comfortable in your body. And if that includes reclaiming your right to label your own body, you are allowed to do that.
  7. You have just as much of a right to privacy as anyone else. You do not need to tell anyone about your body, your medical history, or anything else. Whether or not your body needs to be changed for you to be comfortable, you do not have to change it to deserve to be treated as who you are. You do not owe anyone intimate details about your personal life before you can be treated as who you are.
  8. You have no obligation to educate anyone. This includes trans people, but is most important with cis people. You are not a walking encyclopedia of transgender and/or transsexual information, you are a person. You do not have to answer every question any cis person comes up with, you do not have to represent trans people as a whole, (see 7) you do not have to bare the most personal and vulnerable parts of your soul to other people on demand.
  9. Not educating people does not “hurt” trans rights. NEVER let anyone try to guilt you into educating people or doing something you don’t want to do by insisting that doing otherwise will “destroy trans rights/acceptance/whatever”. Trying to force trans people to become walking information desks or to put themselves in dangerous situations regardless of whether or not you’re even up for dealing with this destroys trans rights and shows a great deal of intolerance. Asserting that you don’t have to tell anyone anything you don’t want to? That really doesn’t.
  10. If you do want to educate people, you are allowed to set limits and boundaries. You are allowed to say that you won’t talk about certain issues, or that you will only talk about them on your terms. You are allowed to decide which people you will talk to about which issues. You are allowed to change these boundaries if you become uncomfortable educating people you were previously willing to educate. You are not obligated to educate anyone just because you educated someone else.
  11. You deserve to take care of yourself- whatever that means. You deserve to be comfortable and safe. You deserve not to be in dangerous situations. If you can’t handle something alone, you deserve to ask for- and get- help or, if you can, take a break from it until you can handle it. Or just stop doing it all together, that’s okay. Taking care of yourself does not make you weak, it does not make you an attention-grabber or overdramatic, it does not make you “less” your gender, it does not mean you betray other trans people by not being a full-time (or even part-time) activist. You’re human, you have limits, and that’s okay.
  12. You deserve to have your boundaries respected. Any boundaries- how and where people can touch you, what information you give to who and when, what places you feel comfortable going or who you feel comfortable going with, what people can tell others about you.
  13. You deserve to have the words you are and aren’t comfortable being referred to as respected. You deserve to have the proper pronouns used (and, if there are times when it’s unsafe for that to happen, you deserve to have your safety maintained by those around you), you deserve to be called the proper name, you deserve to have the words you want used to describe your body used, you deserve not to be called by any label, pronoun, word, or name that you don’t want to be called.
  14. If you’re asking for something that you need to feel respected, comfortable, and safe- you are not asking for too much. Your identity is not “too complicated”. Your needs are not less important than anyone elses’.
  15. You are a person. You are worthy of respect. You deserve to be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. There is nothing inherently wrong with your gender. You are not broken, you are not disgusting, you do not deserve to be hurt.

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