I am far enough into my public transition to start making notes of patterns. (It’s going well, as far as I can tell, thanks for asking.)
One of them is this. Someone is talking to me for the first time after they have become aware that I am trans, and they say, “I certainly support you in making this choice for yourself. It’s not something I would do, but …”
So far, I have always replied by smiling and saying, “Well, of course not. You’re cisgender.” And so far, in every case, that response seems to give them pause. They stop talking for a moment and look thoughtful.
I am coming to suspect that “It’s not something I would do” is highly correlated with the notion, probably unconscious, that transition is a bizarre thing which I chose to do for some incomprehensible reason that they can’t quite wrap their minds around, like moving to Antarctica to start a guava farm, or knitting a barbed-wire fence out of strips of soda cans.
In their minds, transition is entirely voluntary. And my re-casting of transition, however mildly, as a response to a stimulus, and specifically a response to a specific inborn characteristic, gives them pause.
Up to that point, there was an unspoken clause in that sentence: “It’s not something I would do if I were you but…”
Well, you know, it’s easy to look at someone doing the funky chicken after someone else drops an ice cube down the back of their shirt and think, “I would never do that. My response would be much cooler.” Yeah, okay. And I know people who meet that particular situation by calmly reaching under their shirt and evicting the errant ice cube, or by looking at the ice cube prankster calmly and saying, “Really?”
Fair enough. So, cool person. Let’s see you pull off that insouciance when it’s not a surprise ice cube, but a surprise wasp. Or a surprise gaggle of spiders. Not so full of ennui now, eh?
From my perspective, it’s as though someone said, “I totally support you in taking that analgesic. It’s not something I would do, but I totally support your right to do it.”
Yes, quite so. You don’t have a migraine. If you did, sooner or later you’d be reaching for this prescription bottle, old chap.
“I totally support you in turning on the heat in your house. It’s not something I would do, but…”
Okay. But you live in a well-insulated house in San Diego, and I live in northern New England. Let’s bring you up here in February and see how long it takes you to fire up the wood stove.
Trans people have a problem. They didn’t create it, but they solve it. You may not be able to see the problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. It just means that you’re not in a position to see it. And if you assert that it doesn’t exist because you can’t see it, you’re standing in exactly the same ethical position as someone who tells a person with chronic pain that it’s all in their head. Consider that for a moment… still feeling comfy about what you would do if you were trans?
Transition: It’s not a lifestyle choice. It’s a rational response to an affliction.
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