By Bruce Christian, Sept. 11, 2014.
Our conversation drifted, again, to two people our little happy hour gathering has known for four or five years. When we all first met, the two appeared to be a lesbian couple. But, as they began their transition, that’s changed.
“I don’t get it,” one who sits with us every afternoon says constantly. “It doesn’t make any sense.” Another admits she is used to the duo being called “the boys,” but she adds, “I don’t get it. Why do they want to this?”
When she sees the couple, she remembers to call them by their new names, but as her conversation continues, she slips into using the wrong pronouns, still referring to each of them as “she” and “her.”
I know people who got upset when one trans individual decided to use the men’s room after his transition was complete. Customers of the bar were “uncomfortable,” and more “I don’t get it” conversations began.
Another female-to-male trans person I know actually went to his human resources department and volunteered to leave the office complex whenever he had to go to the bathroom, because he knew some of his work colleagues felt uneasy.
People, this is 2014. The history of gender reassignment dates back to the 1930s — when Lili Elbe underwent male-to-female surgery — that’s eight decades ago.
You’ve all probably heard the names of Christine Jorgensen, who had surgery in 1952, and of the tennis player Renee Richards, who transitioned in the mid-’70s.
Gender reassignment is nothing new, so why in today’s world do we still have so many people who get puzzled looks on their faces when they confront a transgendered individual and say behind their backs, “I don’t get it.”
The “T” in LGBT stands for transgender. There is no way around it by pretending to be dumb to it. Decades of research have resulted in countless articles, publications, documentaries, etc., so there is no excuse not to “get it.”
The humans who never identified with the gender markings they’ve grown up with are as much a part of God’s ambiguous handiwork as the man who desires a man and the woman who wants to be with another woman.
So many of us in the LGBT community insist that we are “normal,” and many of us do what we can to educate our heterosexual brothers and sisters that our orientation is natural for us is because that’s just the way were born — it isn’t a learned behavior — putting the nature versus nurture argument to rest.
Yet, so many of us are blind to the same kind of sound reasoning when confronted by a trans individual. Instead, it’s “Why would he want to become a woman? I don’t get it.”
Many of us are as just as closed-minded to the plight of trans individuals as members of the religious right are to opening their minds to our sexual orientation.
We should always be better than that. We have to be.
We need to be more understanding of those who fall under the “T” in our community. None of us should abandon them because we don’t understand what they go through. Instead, we should learn what we can about their plight and find ways to appreciate the turmoil through which they’ve lived since birth.
A trans person knows something isn’t right. If the individual knows the only way to happiness is take the necessary steps toward gender reassignment, he or she has to make a choice, have the money to support that choice and be willing to go through surgery and a long period of therapy.
But it doesn’t end there. The individual will continue to battle what could be decades of bureaucracy to change miles and miles of files on which the name doesn’t match the gender, such as birth certificates and driver licenses. It requires months, fees and (in some cases) humiliating moments in front of judges or others just to get their records updated.
So, before you look with exasperation at a person who has gone through gender re-assignment or who is going through it, instead of mumbling “I don’t get it,” try on that person’s gender and see how well you do. –E
Bruce Christian is a former managing editor of Echo Magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]