Professionalism is a funny term. It masquerades as neutral, despite being loaded with immense oppression. For years, professionalism has been my enemy because it requires that my gender identity is constantly and unrepentantly erased. But I finally realized something: As transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people, we deserve better.
Misinformation is the enemy of progressive change and social improvement. And unfortunately, there is a LOT of misinformation about gender confirmation surgery. “They need therapy, not surgery!” “I don’t want to pay for that.” “It’s not like it’s life or death.” These ideas aren’t helping anyone. In fact, they’re harmful to many. So let’s clear up a few misconceptions.
Recently, a beautiful and moving video about a transgender child in California named Ryland Whittington went viral. Sadly, like every other conversation about transgender children, the comments section was often unkind. Scanning the comments, I saw the same poorly thought-out ideas keep popping up. I think it’s time to put these misconceptions to bed.
In the fall of 2013, Sasha Fleischman was set on fire on a public bus because they wore a skirt with a men’s shirt. San Francisco Magazine asked photographer Chloe Aftel to shoot a portrait of individuals who refuse to define themselves as strictly male or female. Aftel explains, “The collection is an exploration of what this movement looks like and what it means.”
I never really used to give much thought to the idea that society needs positive cultural images of minorities until I came to embrace my Hispanic heritage and come out of the closet. When I finally did, it raised the question: Where the hell are the transgender Latinas? Is it true that there really aren’t very many Latina/Hispanic trans women in this country?
Trans folks are people, just like cis folks are. But the way some cis people talk to trans people implies otherwise. Disrespectful questions, trivialization of trans issues, conflation of gender identity and sexual preference all add up to the dehumanization of trans folks. Check out this video compilation of some of the most common transphobic microaggressions!
A lot of people don’t understand what it means to have a non-binary gender identity. That’s understandable. After all, society does a great job enforcing a gender binary. But just because you don’t understand non-binary identities doesn’t mean you get to dehumanize or invade the privacy of non-binary folks! Check out this video for a crash course in what not to say to gender non-conforming people.
It’s the favorite advice of patriarchal misogynists everywhere: “Man up.” (See also: “Grow a pair,” “Be a man,” and “Stop acting like a girl.”) This phrase presents a view of masculinity that is oppressive to not just women and gender non-conforming people, but to men as well. Check out Guante’s kick*ss poem with ten ways to respond to this so-called “advice.”
I always knew I was different from the other boys. As a toddler, I cried when my hair was cut short. I preferred girls for friends, bright colors for clothes, and dolls for toys. When I was 8 years old, I announced that I was a girl. I started to wear dresses to school. Not only was I the first openly trans* youth in my county, I was the first openly trans* person.
In our gender binary world, female masculinity can make lots of people uncomfortable – who then make it uncomfortable and even dangerous for butch folk to just be themselves. In spite this, butch is being proudly reclaimed and expressed. Check out this amazing photo collection by Meg Allen showing the range, fluidity, and subjectivity of female masculinity.