Featured image of post Transgender in 2023

Transgender in 2023

Reading time: 9 minutes (2000 words)
  • Image Note: The above image was generated by midjourney with the prompt: “transgender in 2023”

On being trans in 2023

  • Preface: I am transgender. Having just labeled myself, I can say that I’m not a fan of labels. Disclaimer: Every other transgender person I’ve met is beautifully unique. In fact, so is every person I’ve met. As such, I have learned I can only write about myself and my experiences.
  • Request: I would love to hear from each of you. If you’re feeling brave, please share your experiences. If you’re afraid of me, or of people like me, or of your child having access to information that may help them live a happier life, or if you’re afraid information and freedom might condemn your child to unhappiness and regret. Or if you don’t have children and don’t plan to, but this seems important to you, please share, and make it personal. Tell me as directly as you can about yourself and how you feel.

How do you know you’re transgender?

Some people have asked how I know. I feel like that’s a funny question sometimes, but I totally get it. What I often hear in that question is them asking, how do I know that I’m not. The short answer is that I don’t think there is a single answer. It probably differs from person to person, like eye color, or facial structure. I know that lots of you want a simple answer, a simple test, but in my experience simple rarely aligns with the human experience.

In my case, I started questioning and thinking about my gender around age 6. I didn’t really understand much about anything at that point. I remember a book of fairy tales with a pencil drawing of Hansel and Gretel. Neither of their clothing options made sense to me or were particularly gendered in my mind and I started wondering why I couldn’t be either one of them.

Even at age six, I understood that it would be dangerous to talk about that though, so I kept it to myself in what would become the first, deepest, and longest held secret of my life. By the time I was 11, I still didn’t understand sex, sexuality, or gender, but I knew that I would have preferred to have been turning into a woman instead of a man, and the frequency of that thought and thoughts about my gender started to increase in my mind daily, until it was an almost constant background conversation with myself. That situation continued for the next 33 years until I came out widely at age 44 in 2018.

When I was 22 and finally had my own insurance, I tried to see a therapist. I needed my own insurance because in 1996 I wasn’t ready to possibly lose my parents yet. When I asked for a referral to a therapist, and I told him why, the doctor became visibly upset and told me to never talk to him about that again. I became further embarrassed, and felt so much more shame. Suicide was never on the table for me. Yes, ideation occurred, but I always quashed it when I thought about my cousin who killed himself at age 16. Seeing the pain it caused so many people led to a massive internal struggle that ended with a few nights of lost sleep. Enter insomnia. This insomnia became a quarterly pattern also until I came out at age 44. That’s all I’m going to share about my history for now. If you know me or want to know more, please reach out. I actually love to talk about this.

Current Events

Let’s fast forward to today. My brother sent me a news article about fights that had broken out at a demonstration in the Glendale school district (here in LA) where my kids go to school. I was saddened to read that. I knew that was happening in Florida, but was surprised to hear that we’re experiencing that here in Los Angeles.

My brother asked why I don’t attend these events, and I don’t know if I have a great reason. I feel like that was a set of two angry mobs trying to convince themselves? the other “side”? everyone? that they’re right and the other “side” is wrong. I think it’s counterproductive to communication and understanding to think in “sides”. I used that word so that I could share my thoughts on it.

Vivian Ekchian, the superintendent of Glendale schools is pro-inclusion and pro-education. Those both resonate with me and I feel I understand them. I struggled to understand the perspectives of the protesters. At least at first.

Trying to be more understanding, I thought, these are parents. Or at least, I assume some of them are. I also assume they’re probably cisgender and that they’re assuming their kids are too. Is that important though? If their kids are female, or gay, or BIPOC, or disabled, or diabetic, or overweight, or underweight, or short, or tall, or have autism, or practice a non-majority religion, or any of countless ways in which they might be unique, they are likely to experience some form of discrimination. Wouldn’t they like their kids to know more about the beauty of diversity? And to know more about the ways in which they are or might be unique? Or to paraphrase “Todd Parr”, to learn that all of these are ok?

It seems like they’re afraid of something. Are they afraid that knowledge and information will harm their child?

Admittedly, I have not had a conversation with one, so I am just going from the sound bites, which are notoriously crafted, edited, and spun to create the most compelling narrative. I have learned that divisiveness and simplicity always help to sell a narrative as well. As such, I have a bias against sound bites and quotes.

A sound bite / quote

Since that’s all I have for now though, one quote I saw was “They are not ready for such choices. It confuses them and ultimately these are things that parents should decide.”

There’s a lot packed into these two short sentences. First is the word “choice”. Speaking from my experience, I am assuming the choice this person referred to is whether or not to “come out” and share how they’re feeling. It’s true that I didn’t feel I had a choice. I avoided all alcohol and drugs until I was in my 20s because I was deathly afraid that I might let something slip. Like it or not though, I still had to make a choice. I kept to keep something beautiful and unique to myself. I chose to live in fear and shame and silently propagate the belief that there was something wrong and bad about a fundamental aspect of me. I don’t know if I was ready for that choice, but I don’t think it’s possible for people like us to avoid an extremely personal choice that will have enormous consequences, sometimes at a very young age.

In their next sentence, the person said “it confuses them”. Sadly, or happily (depending if you’re a glass half-full type, like me), this was confusing for me. It wasn’t until 1996, when I started to explore the world wide web, that I started to learn anything factual about being transgender. It seemed like most of the world was pretty confused back then, as we still had terms like transexual floating around. Doctors and therapists didn’t know what to do for the most part. Many of them tried to have their patients dress in their “target gender” for a year in something like a real life test, before they would prescribe medicines for gender-affirming care. Quick reminder, that not all of us assigned male at birth necessarily want to wear dresses. If people assigned female at birth can be tomboys, you have to assume some of us will be too.

I carried such an intense conflict between wanting to come out and wanting to stay hidden. I wanted to talk to people, but it seemed like nobody had a clue and plenty of people seemed happy to make stuff up. So many assumptions were baked in, like if you’re trans, you must be attracted to men. I wanted to shout how stupid that was, but I didn’t know who to tell, or how to do so without outing myself.

The more I learned, the more I read deeply personal stories about loss. Loss of family, loss of friends, loss of education, loss of jobs, and loss of life, through suicide and by being victims of violence, fear, misunderstanding, and rage. I also learned that medically, we are still in the stone ages in many ways. I also eventually learned that in many cultures around the world, people like us had been treated as special, sometimes almost as gods.

It was confusing. It is confusing. Maybe managing confusing experiences and thoughts is unavoidable. When I was in elementary school, I didn’t understand why my parents smoked cigarettes even though they knew it caused cancer. I didn’t understand why my friend Joe and his mom were always bruised and avoided Joe’s dad. I didn’t understand why some kids liked me and some kids didn’t.

Going forward

As for how I will proceed. I love to write and I love to talk. I love 1:1 conversations. I feel that it’s easiest for us both to check our egos and listen in a 1:1. A public display seems like a desperate act. Emotions and fears are already peaking. As such, maybe it’s not too surprising to hear about the fights.

It’s unfortunate that these public events and fights can become simple sound bites that politicians can take public stances for or against. Instead, I would love to hear a politician reply with a detailed account of how they can empathize with everyone at the event, or if they can’t yet understand everyone, then a detailed account of what they will do to ensure they eventually can. Once they have done their part, how they will help everyone else to understand each other as well. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? I think it’s possible (again, glass half-full).

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Last updated on Jun 07, 2023 19:05 PST
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