Thoughts on “Transgender Basics”

After the trans* panel discussion on Thursday night, I talked to Kelly, one of the allies who had spoken.  She suggested I watch and blog about a video as a way to promote ongoing discussion.  The video that she suggested I blog about is called “Transgender Basics,” produced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City as part of the Gender Identity Project.  I’m embedding the video here:

There’s a lot that I could and would like to say about this video, and I suspect I may do multiple blog posts about it due to the vast range of thoughts I had and my limited time today.  Part of me is tempted to hold off on this post for a few days so I can work more on it, as this topic deserves a great deal of thought and consideration.  However, my desire to keep my commitment to talking about this today is going to take precedent.  I think it would be way too easy for me to use “working on a better, more considerate post” as an excuse to procrastinate.

I think one of the things that interested me is how the Authentic Gender Model breaks down and separates physical sex, gender roles, and gender identity.[1]  Having done some reading[2] on gender essentialism and the growing body of evidence that most of the traits and roles that we tend to consider inherently gendered is a matter of social conditioning, I’m well aware that physical sex and gender roles can be quite distinct.  The idea of gender identity being a distinct paradigm separate from gender roles, however, is somewhat new to me.  It’s quite possibly the one take-away from this video that I need to think more about.[3]  I hope to get a better understanding of what it means from a trans* person’s perspective when zie says their gender identity is as a man, a woman, or neither.

The other part that I found interesting about the AGM was the fact that it presents even physical sex as a spectrum.  Before this video, I had never considered that there’s more to physiological sex than which genitals someone has.  The video rightfully points out that even in terms physiology, sex is much more complex than the simple binary we tend to make it out to be.  To me, this strengthens the already strong argument that our understanding of gender needs to be even more complex when we start to move beyond physiology and think about roles and identity.

My first take-away from this video is an even bigger understanding of just how nuanced and complex gender actually is, and that being trans* is first and foremost about recognizing that complexity and rejecting society’s attempt to force one to fit into the simplest and most inaccurate model in favor of embracing the far more complex and unique reality for oneself.

One of the things that I noticed about both the panelists from Thursday night and the trans* people who spoke in this video is that they are unique, authentic, and compelling people who are seeking to live authentic lives.  As one of the speakers in the video says, she desires people to avoid reducing her to a transwoman and see the incredible person[4] that she is overall.  I hope and trust that by allowing her and other trans* people the freedom to express their gender identity authentically, we enable them to show what incredibly unique and and complex individuals they are in other ways as well.

What are some of your thoughts on the video?

Notes:
[1] I’m intentionally leaving out the fourth component of the model, sexual orientation, for this initial post to focus on the first three.  There will be time enough to talk about sexual orientaten and how it relates to gender later.

[2]  Thank you for guiding me down that path, feminists.

[3]  I’m also hoping that the resources at the Gender Identity Project site will provide me with deeper insight.

[4]  I’m hesitant about saying “person” here rather than “woman.”  On the one hand, I want to stress that her identity includes far more than her gender identity and that she’s incredible for more reasons than just her gender identity.  On the other hand, I don’t want to deny or ignore that identity either.  Her gender identity may not define all of who she is, but it is an integral part of who she is, and I don’t want to deny or invisibilize that part of her, either.

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