Understanding, Part 4
So then, having established the broad parameters of the distinction between the Transexual and the Crossdresser (which are NOT the only two transgender categories, just the ones most relevant to this site), as we move into the second half of of this series I will take each of those in turn and look just a bit deeper into how the uninitiated may come to understand just what it means to be a “______”.
As I’ve discussed, a transsexual in the strictest sense is a person who is dealing with a birth condition. While biological science and medicine is never a settled matter, and our understanding is always growing, there are a few pretty reasonable hypotheses about how this can happen. I won’t burden you with a technical scientific treatise which, frankly, I’m ill-equipped to provide without cribbing from others who are smarter than myself anyway. However, for your own edification and to give you the tools to discuss this with others in your life who might express concern, let me give you some common sense logic which illustrates that the condition is not only possible, but almost inevitable in a small minority of the population.
The first principle is that we know for a fact that birth “defects” do in fact occur; the second is that said defects sometimes manifest in non-standard sex characteristics manifesting in the child (this ranges from atypical chromosome patterns, to “mismatched” genital constructs); thirdly we know that defects can sometimes affect the brain (e.g. autism and others); and fourthly we know that the male brain and female brain are physically different in structure.
These four facts are in no dispute either scientifically or morally. That being the case, logic and common sense demand that it is predictable that some defects will occur which affect the sex- specific characteristics of the brain. In short, a female brain matched with an otherwise physical male, or vice versa. Now, one of the most prominent counter-arguments against the acceptance of transsexuals as legitimate is the claim that implies or openly declares that the only true definition of one’s sex lies with the visible physical body. Obviously, this contention doesn’t stand logical scrutiny. No such person would declare a man who’d been deformed in a horrible accident and lost his genitals to now be a genderless being, nor would that man think himself to be.
A person’s “sense of self” cannot, by any reasoning, be said to arise based on their view in the mirror. There are some real life examples which prove this but I’ll refrain from such long tangents in respect of this format.
The implication, then, of this is that your transsexual acquaintance or loved one has NO CONTROL over their sense of self, or of the psychological pain caused by living in a world which denies the truth they know of themselves. Think of the innocent man convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. 30 years later it’s proven he was, in fact, innocent and he is freed. For that man it’s not just, or maybe even mainly, the physical freedom – but it’s the freedom of having his own sense of self realized. For 30 years people thought he was something he was not – a murderer. And even though he cannot now get those 30 years back, he can at least have people look him in the eye ad see him as he sees himself.
In the same sense, your transsexual friend is freeing themselves from the physical prison which has isolated their true self from the world Just as that ex-prisoner would not want you to consider to call him a murderer, would be crushed if you did, even so your trans friend is heartbroken each time you insist on identifying her as a man. Consider this: it’s true that you do not understand how a woman could possibly feel she is really a man, or a man feel he is a woman. But would you really say that you have the right to deny the reality of any condition you can’t relate to? Any condition which is not visibly apparent?
What, then, can you do? First, acknowledge your friend or loved ones expressed identity. It doesn’t matter how convincing their presentation is, or what others think, what matters is that you do the honorable thing, even if it’s in the face of a disapproving crowd. Us e the right names, pronouns, and so forth, include her in any activity you’d include a female friend or relative in (baby showers, for instance), and doing whatever you can to make her feel like “one of the girls.” The truth is, she’s constantly torturing herself mentally wondering whether those around her take her seriously, or just take pity on her.
The second thing you can do is become a trans-ally. DON’T let snarky or disrespectful comments go unanswered, defend her, challenge others to think about their words and feelings; DO let your support and acceptance be known and be ready to explain why if challenged.
Next time, I’ll look at the specific implications for the transsexual, in terms of what she’s facing in order to complete a successful transition, and contrast that with the situation for a crossdresser. After thar, I’ll dedicate an entire post to what you need to know if your friend or loved one turns out to be a crossdresser.
Photo by: Vandy CFT