“Mom! I passed!” “Your test?” “No! As a boy!”
I apologize in advance for the scattered chaos that will be this post…
first off, having Alex and Ryan as speakers in our class was an absolutely amazing and eyeopening experience for me. I know I wasn’t the only one who had questions, though it seemed like I asked most of them– its definitely easy to second guess everything that comes out of your mouth when confronted with a “topic like this”.
the reason “topic like this” is in quotes is because I have already second guessed myself in saying it. The fact that it is such a rare opportunity (within AND outside of the bi-co) to be able to hear about the experience of trans individuals firsthand and in person is in it of itself evidence of the effect of gender norms present and pervasive in our society. No trans man or woman should have to walk down the street or into a classroom and get “oohs and aahs”, passing or otherwise. Alex’s story about the issues with top surgery that hes had are beyond belief. Frankly, learning about transgender, genderqueer, intersex, hemaphrodite, and everything-inbetween individuals is new to me… and absolutely intriguiging– but again, should I feel bad for being so interested? Why do we tiptoe so naive around minority? actually, I’ll answer my own question. we do it because the minority is something that “mainstream society” is inherently naive about.
in class today my definition of gender was something like “societal categories individuals are placed into, heavily influenced by one’s biological sex”. Clearly neither Alex nor Ryan were the first trans men to grace this earth… its wild to think that in all of human history the best we can do is two gender options? Look at the progression of race in our society– I would guess that at one point (not even that long ago!) there were no legal forms that even asked for race; anyone filling out such forms would be white. duh. Today we have access to white, black, pacific islander, asian, hispanic, blue, orange, tye-dye and OTHER, is it that difficult to add another box to the gender section?
the topic of passing is mind-boggling, in an amazing psychology-major sort of way. How does one pass.. who decides that they pass.. how many people knowing alex is a boy is enough for him? Must you pass internally 100% before you can begin to be concerned with passing externally? I had a huge AHA moment today in class, on this subject exactly. Someone asked if we were all passing, and where the issue of passing I believe is linked to gender for trans individuals, passing as a female every morning (or any morning for that matter) has not once crossed my mind. I remember in 6th grade having days that I would “dress like a boy”– ironically because I had a crush on a boy– but really this meant “dress like a girl who dresses like a boy”. not like a boy.
Then I considered the issue of race. AHA. there was my moment. that was it. Didya see it?
I’m bi-racial, black and white (err.. transracial? bi-gender? hmm…), but am usually seen as white. Or, people say “I knew you were somethin weird…just didn’t know what”. I’ve never had a problem passing as white, but it usually takes some convincing when I tell people my dad is black. “like… all the way black?” is a common response. yeep, like all the way black. I’ve never in my life passed as “all the way black”, but I can pass as mixed. And on the issue of race in this society, its okay to pass as mixed. Has anyone heard about a woman having a mixed baby and saying “hmm.. yeah I think we’re gonna go ahead with that skin/nose/hair surgery for my baby, maybe I’ll tell her when she’s a little older”. I haven’t. (what happens when this technology does become available..?) It is okay to be in the middle of two races (or am I just biased because I am?). When I go out for dinner with my family, people stare– and I’m sure that there are still people who would look at my family in disgust, adjusting their confederate flag belt buckle. But most of the time, they point, smile, COME UP TO MY PARENTS and say “your daughters are so beautiful and exotic”. no… we’re American, doesn’t seem to exotic to me. (The only time I can think of that someone has come to my family to make a comment that wasn’t about our mixed-ness was in north carolina, when a burger king employee took the effort to come out from behind the desk and tell my dad he looked like OJ simpson. But thats a story for another day.)
The point of all this is that although I can somewhat relate to the issue of passing– a tiny portion of what some trans individuals may be dealing with (or, like ryan, not really concerned with at all)– its nothing comparatively. Being mixed-race and transgender maybe have some (one?) superficial things in common, but clearly they are drastically different. Not to mention, my experience with “passing as mixed” has been for the most part positive. and for the record, it is very clear to me that this is something I take for granted.
My other definition of gender today was, “gender is evolving.” Gender norms have come a long way, but they’ve got a long way to go. C’mon technology– make it a little easier– help us out here.