Picture a transgender person in your head. Think of whatever you want, but just picture them, and keep that image in your mind. As you read the following questions, be sure to keep the image the same.
- Do they look like “a man in a dress?”
- Does the person have visible stubble?
- When they talk, do you hear them as having a deep voice?
- Are they “balding” and trying to hide it, or just wearing a wig?
Answer “yes” to any of those? Were you thinking of a trans man (born female, identifies as male)? Doubtful, unless you’re in the LGBT community, or just happen to have some transgender friends. Granted, the questions I put in there are based on the current stereotypes of trans women—you know, that they’re just men in dresses. Now, unless you put cross-dressers (people who dress in the opposite clothing for numerous potential reasons) under the transgender umbrella, that doesn’t fit.
One thing with words is that they change meanings over the years, transgender at least used to be an umbrella term that covered transgender people as they’re viewed today (used to be “transsexuals”), drag queens/kings, cross-dressers, intersex, and a few others that honestly I don’t recall. Younger generations, and just use in these recent years, seem to have made transgender not an umbrella term, rather a description for only trans men and trans women. In fact, some transgender people get angry if you say it used to be an umbrella term! Likewise, there is no consistency or belief as to whether it’s “transman” or “trans man” or even “transwoman” or “trans woman”—as some find the trans to be the adjective describing man/woman, and others just consider it a noun, or adjective. Some get into heated debates on it, others just honestly don’t care as long as people are being treated as humans.
Transgender people are diverse
Really, transgender people are quite diverse. They can be democrat or republican—even though most wonder how a transgender person could belong to a party that hates them and wants to criminalize their existence. Some transgender people hate transgender people, and refuse to be friends with or even talk to them. Some refuse to date them, because they don’t want to “be with a trans person” in a sexual way. Some may want kids, some may not, some may have kids, while others may not. They can be married, be single, hold jobs, be homeless. They could be on welfare, or could be in the small percentage of transgender people who are “rich” or just otherwise as well off or better well off than even cis people (cis being born as gender and identified as gender match). They may have dropped out of school, or they may have a doctorate! They could be straight, gay, lesbian, bi, pansexual, or any other sexual identity. The only common trait of transgender people is they’re human.
Here’s a few things about transgender people:
- Not all transgender people seek hormone replacement therapy.
- Not all transgender people seek surgery (genital, facial feminization, vocal, Adams apple)
- Not all transgender people wear stereotypical clothing of their gender identity
- Transgender people aren’t all alike!
Especially clothing, trans women may wear pants, shorts, and t-shirts. The only difference that you see may be a design on the pockets, or colors of shirts, or possibly styles of shirt cuts. Just because a person is a trans woman, doesn’t mean she’s going to toss on heels, skirt, hose, and a blouse to go everywhere. Generally speaking, trans people are similar in a few ways: they just want to blend in, be left alone, and not killed for being trans. They’re in a body that if given a choice in the womb, may have been different.
Many people these days may have wondered why there’s “so many trans people” all over the place. Fairly simple reason really: society is less likely to kill transgender people these days than even 10 years ago, and the internet has created a huge visibility where they don’t feel as alone. It’s also one reason why there are so many “older people” transitioning. The world wasn’t as welcoming in the past as it is now, and it’s not even that welcoming now. However, people have realized that it’s safer to transition now, when protections are starting to happen, and people are just learning about transgender people’s existence. Some transgender people even wanted kids (reproduction is a human desire overall), and for many they couldn’t transition then and still have kids.
Transgender people are human, they’re just as diverse as all other humans.
Transgender people don’t want special rights
This is important, transgender people don’t want special rights, they just want the same rights as their fellow humans. This also applies to the other people in the LGBT group. Currently, in many places, there are no specific protections saying that someone in the LGBT community can’t be fired, denied housing, etc based on their LGBT status. While it can come up with the LGB people, it frequently affects the transgender people on a much higher basis. Now others may say that having protections for LGBT people is adding special rights, but it’s not, it just makes it so a business has to say “sorry we’re booked that day” instead of “we don’t cater to gay parties”. Really, it makes it so people have to treat others as human, not as a group that’s hated. Last point on this before returning to the main topic: protecting LGBT people also protects non-LGBT people, because unlike other groups that are protected, it’s people’s beliefs that you belong to the LGBT group, not you actually belonging to it, that can lead to discrimination.
Back to point, transgender people contain trans men, and trans women. Everyone has a gender identity. Some identify as the gender of their body’s genitals and how they were identified at birth, others don’t. Many potential reasons for this (hormone levels when brain developed in womb, genetics, or possibly even merging of twins at a stage, so the person is really “two people” in one but just doesn’t realize it). Even the XX/XY doesn’t apply, as the body’s own ability to process hormones can alter things. So, it just amounts to trans people can’t help it. It’s how they’re wired. The catch becomes, that depending on when a person realizes it, or can potentially transition without their life being threatened, the body’s hormones may give them some “other gender characteristics”. To put it simply, a trans woman, who may know pre-puberty that she’s trans, might have her voice change due to testosterone—and then may have to learn to speak “like a woman” again to “pass” if she couldn’t transition before the effects of testosterone. Similar for trans men, they may know young, but if they can’t seek transition, they may end up with breasts.
There are so many ways a person can transition. For some just saying “yeah, I’m a woman, but I’m comfortable with myself, I just needed to be honest” is enough, others need to have surgeries, and otherwise do “everything” that can be done. It’s normally just based on the level of dysphoria the person feels. This, however, is where the issues can come up. A trans person could look like a woman, something in between (“unknown”), or a male. Look like meaning just how people identify them as, when they use pronouns. Most people are given names that correspond to a gender, and aren’t gender neutral. Legal names are harder to change in places, and really, changing a gender marker can be difficult.
So here’s a situation… a trans person goes to rent a place, has an interview, something that requires ID & legal name. Which do you think would cause the most problems?
- Max’s legal name is Maxine, and his ID all says female because he can’t get it changed—he may have facial hair and a deeper voice, even though appears somewhat feminine.
- Max’s legal name is Maxine, all ID says male—he may have facial hair and a deeper voice, even though appears somewhat feminine.
- Max’s legal name is Max, all ID says male—he may have facial hair and a deeper voice, even though appears somewhat feminine.
- Max’s legal name is Max, all ID says male—he may have facial hair and a deeper voice, and appears like a “man’s man”
Which set do you think would draw attention, or possibly lead to them not being hired/offered a rental contract? Now while it’s happened that some women (who have given birth) had “male” on their birth certificate by accident, and probably vice versa, all of the above could be for a trans man. However, #3 and #4 also applies to any male, straight or gay even. What transgender people want is that regardless of the items above, or any other reason, they aren’t denied housing, jobs, etc just because of being transgender.
Truth of anti-discrimination laws in use
It’s a big one: they don’t stop discrimination. Nope, just like all other laws, they don’t stop anything, they just provide punishment if you break it. It’s even hard to prove it if it happens. What they do provide, is a greater chance that a company will just hire or rent, just so they don’t have to deal with a potential lawsuit. However, this doesn’t mean they have to go against what they believe or anything else. A person can discriminate against an African American, Jewish, or LGBT person just as easy before the laws or after—they just have to lie or intentionally change things. For example, bakery doesn’t want to bake a cake for someone (for any reason)? “Sorry, we’re booked that day”. They don’t have to say “We don’t bake for gay people”, just like they don’t have to say “We don’t bake for *racial or ethnic slur*”. It might be the real reason, but they just don’t have to say it.
So why is it good to have an anti-discrimination law? Because it makes the people in the group at least feel welcome. It lets them know that if they go somewhere, and they face discrimination beyond all doubt, they can have something done about it. The best part? It can even shield children from being called slurs by adults if they seek services. Everyone wants to protect the children right? Can you imagine having your child going to a store, and having the store keeper say “we don’t sell to gays” to your child, just because the child “looks gay/trans?” Kids are big in social media; they may even record it. No law against it, and you can’t do anything—you may have to just get support from the media or online. Then everyone will know your kid “looks gay/trans” and people will judge them. Or, you could file a complaint, and have it taken care of in a way that the child doesn’t have to be put up for public ridicule.
Yet here’s another difference within the transgender community: some trans people would hear a slur, and just tell their friends, and warn all the transgender people they know to avoid the place. Others may put it up online for all to see. Transgender people react differently to discrimination even.