Transgender people are like butterflies. We spend a good deal of our lives crawling around eating, drinking, existing, feeling like there is something wrong. We know that this form we are in is not who we were meant to be. We are not being the creatures that we want or were meant to be.
We retreat into our cocoons and then suddenly one day we have an epiphany and we emerge into the world as the butterflies we always knew we were. We feel fantastic and we feel at peace with ourselves and the world. This is when we realise that we are transgender people, that we are valid and that we have a role to play.
Unfortunately, it is just at this point when we have accepted our own validity and the reality of our own being that other people, family, friends and society in general start questioning our validity. We get challenged with a number of questions, some the result of ignorance, some the result of prejudice. Are you really transgender? What does it mean to be transgender? Are you sure you aren’t just delusional? When will you grow out of this phase? When are you getting surgery? What do you have between your legs? Are you gay? Et cetera, et cetera…
Sadly, this can result in us questioning ourselves all over again. It is hard to refute all these questions with certainty when we are only just finding our true selves and coming to terms with this new reality. We start asking some of these questions of ourselves, we start questioning what we believe to be true about ourselves. Are we really transgender? What does it mean to be transgender? Am I just a man in a dress? Do I want to medicate myself? Am I sick? Do I need to be cured? Do I want hormones? Do I want surgery? Can I afford any of these interventions (assuming I want them)? Should I want these interventions? What does it say about me if I do want these interventions? What does it say about me if I do not want these interventions? Can I even call myself transgender if I am not on hormones/considering surgery? Et cetera, et cetera…
Some of the prevailing attitudes within certain sectors of the transgender community do not help either. There are those who compete to be the transiest transperson in transtown by saying that only those on hormones, who have started getting surgery, have had bottom surgery etc are transgender and that anyone else is ‘only’ a crossdresser, tomboy, whatever… Then there are those who for whatever reasons feel threatened by those transgender people who are comfortable in their sexuality, or who have a different sexuality to the norm and these people are then portrayed as mere fetishists (even when they are patently not). This does not help the transgender person on their journey.
Of course, not all transgender people are like this. Of course, not all cisgender people are like this There are many supportive, accepting, helpful and empathetic transgender and cisgender people and they are amazing. But there are those who are so passionate about their own point of view (whether they are so strongly feminist that they become transphobic, or so passionately pro-trans that they end up excluding transgender people who do not meet their narrow definitions) that they end up confusing or hurting those that they have ‘othered’ and excluded.
Accepting that you are a transgender person is much like getting stung by a bee. Some people are allergic to bee stings. Others are not. Regardless of whether you are allergic or not, getting stung by a bee is a less than pleasant experience. It is a bit shocking, somewhat sore and probably not what you were hoping to have happen that day. If you are one of those people who are allergic to bee stings, getting stung could well be a medical emergency. You will need medical attention. Failure to seek treatment could be life threatening. If you are not allergic to bee stings you will want to act. You will want to look after yourself and take whatever remedial action is appropriate. The sting however, in both instances, is almost certainly survivable. You will feel better again. Soon. You will be able to carry on with life. You will be happy and fulfilled. Sure, some of us may need to take additional care moving forward, others will not.
Crucially, no matter whether you are allergic to bee stings or not, nobody can deny that you were stung. Nobody can say that their sting is stingier than yours. Nobody can say that their sting somehow makes them a better person than you. Being allergic to bee stings says no more about a person than the fact that they are left or right handed. It is what it is. No more, no less.
Similarly, transgender people are a diverse group. Some of us experience significant degrees of gender dysphoria. This can result in life threatening situations. Others experience very mild to (perhaps) non-existent gender dysphoria. This is inconvenient but not life threatening. Those of us who experience severe gender dysphoria should (and must) seek medical help. There are effective interventions that can be made. There is no shame in this. Those of us who do not experience this debilitating gender dysphoria do not need medical intervention. There is no shame in this.
Whether or not you, as a transgender person, experience dysphoria in this way says nothing about you as a transgender person. It is as random and significant as being allergic to bees, having diabetes or almost any other medical condition.
All transgender people, no matter where they are on the spectrum, no matter their degree of dysphoria, no matter whether they are seeking medical treatment or not and certainly no matter whether they are living ‘full time’ or not are equally valid people. We are all equally valid as transgender people. Nobody is more or less transgender than anyone else. We all make decisions for different reasons. The person who is prepared to risk their job, their family and their friendships in order to transition is doing so because the need to transition is greater to them than the need to hold on to those people and things. The person who is prepared to risk their psychological wellbeing (or who is able to manage their psychological wellbeing) at the expense of transitioning and fully actualising who they are (in at least this regard) does so because they value friendships, familial relations and their jobs more than they value being able to fully express their gender identity. Neither person is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other. They are all equally valid. Society (including the transgender community) should treat them equally.