written by C.A. Keith
Transgender. It’s a word we are all getting familiar with lately. From famous people like Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner who all are transgender. There are many misunderstandings about transgender. How can we walk amongst transgender people without discrimination? Should we bring more attention/awareness? How does one bring the topic up? When is it the right time? Or should we just butt out!
Transgender is a person who feels different from their assigned gender from birth. Transwoman is a woman who was assigned male from birth. Likewise, Transman is a man who was assigned female from birth.
Gender identity is a person’s subjective feelings or sense of what his/her gender is which is often different from the assigned gender from birth.
Transition is the process of adopting this new perceived identity and living in that gender. That person may or may not have had medical intervention including hormone replacement therapy and/or sex reassignment surgery.
Some trans people adopt the new gender through the way they dress and live their everyday lives without anyone questioning their identity. Others may have top and/or bottom surgery (not the only transgender surgeries) which defines the upper and lower sex reassignment changes. Some people feel comfortable to be called their felt gender and others are most content once their identification clearly states their truly felt gender.
Many trans people struggle with gender dysphoria which is stress caused by the uncertainty of their gender identity. Counselling is very important for those going through transition to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Trans people struggle with mental health issues as they battle their bodies for their felt identity.
Another big issue is the fear of discrimination and transphobia. They struggle with finally coming out to tell their loved ones. Intervention through great programs such as CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) in Toronto assist trans people with their decision and questions regarding transition.
The Bathroom Question?
Where should the trans person go? Recently, a transman was in a well-known large gym chain in Toronto. He hadn’t been to that gym before, whereas, the gyms that he usually works out in, know that he is transitioning and is making accommodations. He was taking testosterone for over 6 months so started to grow some facial hair but still had large breasts. He was feeling stared at. He didn’t feel comfortable changing in the men’s change room and didn’t feel comfortable in the ladies change room either. He decided to go in the ladies change room with his girlfriend. They are both deaf and continued signing to each other. When the time came to change, he changed in a bathroom but came back in the room to put on his shoes and fill up his protein water bottle and so forth. A lady started to yell at them but since they were both deaf her screams fell on “deaf ears” literally! She ran to get a manager. Through communication he tried to explain that he was born a female and still had breasts. The manager didn’t believe him and had to show ID. He was still escorted out of the change room and sent to a bathroom on the other side of the building away from both the men and women change rooms. Both the transman and girlfriend were feeling very uncomfortable. Especially as they were stared down and pointed at in the gym. They eventually left the gym. They told their parents and his mom called head office. They apologized for their staff but made no apology by email to the deaf people and would not accommodate the couple mostly because they didn’t know what to do. People were uncomfortable and that was it. This is an example of transphobia. This is my son. These are his struggles.
So where should he go? There are many malls, buildings and so forth that have male/female bathrooms; so whats the big deal at all places? Having a few male/female bathrooms shouldn’t be a big deal. The trans person can get changed and do what he/she needs to do and no one is uncomfortable. Most trans people are not trying to attract attention nor do they want unnecessary attention. They only want to live peacefully in their own skin and within the boundaries of society without shame, hate or embarrassment.
Transgenderism may seem like an all new fandagled fad but it’s not. There are many that people used to call transvestite or cross dressers. There may still be cross-dressers, which is different from transgender. Those are people who dress different to their gender but may or may not struggle with issues of gender dysphoria.
Transgender is not a relatively new concept. In 200 AD, Roman Emperor Elagabalus reportedly offered a huge reward to any doctor who would reassign his genitalia. In 1503 BC an Egyptian Queen named Hatshepsut wore male clothing and a fake beard to show her intention to rule as a pharaoh. Her famous bust statute is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Around 1777, Chevalier d-Eon was a diplomat and French spy. He was born a man and lived most of his political life as a woman. Whatever the reasons for these transitions may be, one thing remains fact; transgender is not a newly founded ideal and concept.
So Butt Out! Does it really matter in the long run? Most trans people really just want to get on with life and live comfortably in their own skin. They don’t want recognition nor do they want to be pointed at, stared at, laughed at and so on.
For sure a woman dressing up as a man is so much easier in day-to-day activities. In University I wrote a paper on Transgender persons in the workforce. A man dressed to their felt gender in a male dominated work force will likely struggle. As much as the Human Rights code ensures that one should not be treated unjustly, it will happen. Not as likely if that person has always adapted to his identity in that job compared to someone who suddenly changes their persona. People will have a difficult time with transition at first.
There are haters everywhere. One can imagine the struggle, mentally and physically that a trans person goes through. If everyone was nicer and more accepting the struggle would be easier. The struggle is hard enough in their own head let alone have to deal with family, friends, and people in general.
The Struggle is Real The trans persons family is the hardest to come out to. According to my son, many of the people who he’s gotten to know, their families have turned their noses and walked away. “Don’t come to this house dressed like that! It confuses your siblings (cousins/niece/Grandma etc). Don’t come back if you’re going to dress like that around here. Don’t!” Imagine the struggles. They are real.
My son told me years ago when he was very young that “she” wanted to be a boy. I laughed it off in my ignorance. I didn’t know anything about transgender at that time. I thought he wanted to dress up and pretend to be a boy. I wanted to be a boy when I was little but that was because my brothers got to do things that I wanted to and couldn’t because I was a girl. I didn’t have a clue. Much later as a young teen, I started to get it. “She” really wanted to be a boy. For years, “she” dressed and acted the felt gender. Finally, after a long lengthy waiting list, “she” finally got “her” wish. He started on hormones and finally could be a man. He had a double mastectomy at a top transgender clinic in Montreal and is finally healing. Now he is a man.
He is still struggling with where he should go. We went to the casino to celebrate his 25th birthday. I paid for the dinner and we waited for our seat. We were stopped by staff to check ID with the Players Card. At first I thought they were questioning his age. I said, “How would he get in here if he wasn’t 19? They checked ID at the gate.” I then understood. They saw the name, it was a girl’s name on the card, (which matched his driver’s license) and he looked like a man. They thought he was using someone else’s card. No apologies were given, just a shrug and follow us. The struggles are real.
She To He: What do I miss? So what do I miss about my little girl who is now a wonderful young man?
There is nothing to miss. Of course I dressed him up in cute little dresses for a long time when he was little. We played dolls and girly things but so did his younger brother. His younger brother played with cars and dolls and loved to dress up in girly things too. So what do I miss? Nothing! He is still my sweet child. Both are still my kids. They both still have the same personality as they grew up with. He is still him.
He didn’t change his heart, he didn’t change his laughter, his humour, his drive, his anger, his happiness, his loving and caring nature; the putting others in front of himself, his willingness to support others; no matter what, his determination.
Not just his determination to be “he” but “he” and he as a deaf person who struggles enough in this hearing world trying to help others understand his needs. Deafness carries enough of a struggle. He was a very successful chef in a top fancy restaurant in a place where deaf people often remain in prep roles. He works part-time in a manufacturing plant where health and safety had to learn how to support a deaf person in a place full of horns and beeps and so on. He learned to do many things as a deaf person and teach others how to work with him so he could remain independent. Maybe this determination made his journey a bit easier. His journey is also made easier as not one person in his circle of friends and family, have shunned his decision.
You know what most of his friends and family miss about “Her” being a “Him” … absolutely nothing.
Because “he” is still the same person that he grew up to be, the same person he always was and the same person he will be.. Just Mel!