I’m a woman and I’m Transgender
This statement sums up my understanding of who/what I am. I don’t operate on the world as a Transgender person who happens to identify as female, but the other way around. Ultimately it’s a question of semantics and labeling and that’s where the trouble starts every time.
There was a time when labels helped me meet others like myself. When I first came out, we were all, cross-dressers, transvestites or transsexuals. None of the labels were super appealing, but it helped me locate others like myself. We could have clubs and meetings and organize under a coherent banner. It coalesced our similarities into a unified group. This helped us gain recognition and eventually find our way to the ‘T’ in LGBT. (This is before the Q+ people were added.) By that time all the more offensive labels were boiled down to being ´Transgender’ It seemed like success, but it was still a label.
And what does this label actually mean? Probably something a little different to each person I imagine. Each of us are a subtle mixture of different physical traits, intelligence and personal preferences. As soon as I put that label on myself however, I’m subject to the scrutiny of others who want to put me in a box or equally keep me out of one. To say I’m a transgender woman immediately assumes I’m both Transgender and a Woman.
Am I a woman like a cisgender woman or is it okay to say that I’m something else? I can say with certainty that I never had a period nor concern myself with becoming pregnant or possibly having to consider child birth or abortion. That’s a burden of responsibility and vulnerability I don’t carry. Cisgender woman don’t have many of the burdens and concerns that I have either. I do however have some physical and behavioral attributes in common with them. So are we the same because of those? I think the truth is that I have much in common with a cisgender woman, but also have traits which are different. In a binary reality however, we are forced into one of two camps. It’s us and them.
That’s where these labels get us into trouble. Some of the cisgender women aren’t happy with us in their camp and certainly the cisgender men don’t want us in theirs. (Unless it’s on their porn app.) So we add this labeling modifier of ‘transgender’ to the noun, ‘woman.’ In some ways like ‘bengal’ tiger, or ‘reticulated’ wood pecker. The label identifies us as a woman, but a different variety or species within that larger super-set.
Now this is all just semantics until you actually go on a date as I have with men that were looking for a more common variety of woman. When I clarified that I had that exotic ‘transgender’ modifier before the label ‘woman,’ I can tell you it made a significant difference to the men. This bothersome label brought the reality of my difference home in a very direct way when men said things like, ‘I’m not into that,’ as if I had just told them I occasionally ate children.
So, as much as I would love to live without the modifying label and believe we are all just women, most of the guys I met felt there was something to the semantic difference. I had a friend who used to say, ‘hearts not parts.’ I wish for a day when that might come true. A future in which we live without labels that only serve to separate us. Now however, in my current reality those labels seem to matter enough to keep us all in our unique enclosures for optimal identification.