Tag Archives: Transgender

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?

[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.

Going beyond my experience

After a long silence, I’ve decided that it’s time to start blogging again.  I’m actually excited about an upcoming post I’m planning to publish, as it involves doing something a bit new for me.  I’m not exactly sure when I’ll be posting it, as I’m waiting for it to finish undergoing editorial review.

Normally, I don’t submit my blog posts to anyone for editorial review.  Most of the time, I don’t review them myself.  I just put something together, do a few last minutes tweaks, and then hit the button to publish the darn thing.  The process of asking others to review my writing before sharing it with the world is entirely new to me.  But then, this kind of post is entirely new to me, and therefore demands to be treated differently.

The post I’m referring to is a review of a panel discussion on transgender issues that I attended yesterday evening.  The discussion was delightful and interesting, and I decided that I wanted to find a way to share it on my blog.

The thing is, I’m relatively uneducated and clueless when it comes to transgender issues, which means that posting on the topic is a bit troubling and tricky to me.  As such, I have asked the organizers and speakers from last night’s event to review and offer feedback on my post.  I wish to do my best job to accurately represent their words, their experiences, and their concerns as accurately as possible, and that means inviting them to check my work.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand transgender issues.  Not being transgendered, I think that it’s simply something that is beyond my experience in ways that prevent me from fully understanding.  There are a lot of things out there that are like that.  (I often feel the same way when trying to understand my friends who have or had multiple personalities.)  I think everyone comes into contact with things that are beyond their experience and therefore difficult and even possibly to truly understand.

The question becomes one of what we do when we are faced with something beyond our own experience.  Do we try to force that new information, those foreign ideas, or the experiences of others to fit into our own mold?  Do we try to dismiss these things, insisting that our own experience can’t possibly be incomplete and that our inability to fully understand can only mean that something must be wrong with whatever we don’t understand?

Or do we simply acknowledge that our own experiences are limited and our own understanding incomplete is at best as a result?  Do we set aside our own preconceived notions and try our best to listen and understand, even if incompletely?  Do we try to connect and attain partial understanding by finding analogous experiences in our own life, taking care to remember that such analogues are imperfect and still only provide us partial understanding?  Do we accept that even in our imperfect understanding, there can be perfect acceptance?

It is with these latter goals in mind that I went to last night’s discussion and wrote my soon-to-be-published blog post.  It is with those goals in mind that I asked others to review my work and dialogue with me to help me understand and further share those things that are beyond my own experience.  I think there is nothing nobler than a desire to offer perfect acceptance while gaining imperfect (though improving) understanding.