This is what I hope will be a three part series specifically about whether or not being trans is a choice. Apparently, there is still a lot of confusion about whether people choose to be trans or not among the general population.
It is not a choice, and personally, it seems inconceivable to me that it would be.
Granted, there are gender-fluid individuals, people who may feel one gender one day, and another on a different day. I’m educated well enough on these issues to know how much choice is involved in this, so I am not speaking about this particular gender minority. Nothing against gender-fluidity, I just don’t feel competent to speak to it. I hope someone out there will comment and educate me.
Over the course of three articles, I plan on discussing choice from three different perspectives: common sense, science, and my own personal experiences. Today, I will argue that we do not choose from good, old common sense.
It’s a tough world out there for trans folk. Even before the current, hateful administration, things were bad.
- 41% of the trans population attempts suicide, as opposed to 1.6% of the general population
- Trans people, especially trans women of color, have four times the likelihood of earning $10,000 or less.
- One-fifth of trans people experience discrimination and harassment at the hands of police or other government officials.
- 57% of us experience significant rejection by their own families
- 20% of homeless youth are lgbtqia+ adolescents who were kicked out of their home before the age of minority, simply for coming out.
- Trans people are routinely treated as jokes, insane or criminal by popular tv, radio, and other media.
- National politicians and religious leaders frequently refer to us as child molesters, and use the fear of this to keep us from public facilities, despite the fact that there has never been an incident of trans people harassing others, despite the fact that trans people are almost always the victims in these situations.
- Trans people are routinely denied employment solely on the basis of their gender identity. We are routinely fired when we come out. In most states, this is completely legal. In states with anti-discrimination laws, trans folk often report being fired through ‘death by one thousand cuts,’ where they are constantly harassed by employers for behaviors which other employees are not similarly criticized.
- Average life expectancy of Trans Women of Color is 35.
- The average age of trans people worldwide isn’t much better.
Despite all this, we keep continuing to exist. We keep coming out. We keep insisting, no, really, I know you think I’m this, but really I’m that.
Honestly, given that list – and most of us have a pretty good idea what we’re heading for when we transition – how can anyone claim we choose to be trans? Because it’s cool and trendy? Seriously? We’re literally the most disparaged group of people worldwide.
Some have opined that we keep existing because we ‘recruit’ minors into our evil society and ‘brainwash’ them into wanting to be the opposite sex. I’ve been to several groups of trans people over my life. The closest you will get is an over-exited trans person saying, “Oh, you have to go on hormones,” or perhaps pushing someone to move forward with transition more quickly than they are ready. It’s advice, albeit poor advice, to someone who is already out as trans. The vast majority of the time, from the vast majority of trans people I have known, they shrug and tell you that you have to figure it out for yourself. “Hey, we’re here for you whenever you need us, but your journey is your own. Enjoy it, embrace it, but where you are may or may not be where I am, so all I can do is lend a sympathetic shoulder when your parents reject you, but that I will certainly do.”
People making the assertion of ‘recruiting’ miss one critical fact about our community: our incredible diversity. We have individuals who express their gender in a multitude of ways, who experience gender in a multitude of ways. If you join the military, you get a uniform like everyone else’s. If you join a church, you are most likely expressing a certain set of values in common with others who attend the same church. When you’re trans, you’re on your own.
Coming into our own as trans often entails discovering where on the spectrum of gender we reside. No one gives us any simple, straightforward answers about our gender identity, simply because no-one can. We may be able to ask a few questions to spur further thinking, but we cannot impart answers. We can’t ‘recruit’ because we have to discover for ourselves how our gender identity plays out. There is no one right way, no single right path, no moment, even, when you’re ‘there’ other than you’ve reached your level of comfort.
For some, this is a binary presentation. I, for example, was assigned male at birth due to anatomy. I now live comfortably (for the first time in my life!) as a woman. Since I have the ability, and desire to fit in with other women, this is what I do. It works for me. It doesn’t work for everybody. Some people are non-binary, feeling either as both genders or neither gender. Some people are not looking to assimilate – they feel more comfortable living in a space outside the strictly male/female binary. How could I advise them to be like me if that isn’t what they are? It would be wrong, and harmful. I can’t make any assumptions about anyone’s trans-ness, any more than anyone can make any assumptions about me.
This necessary process of self-discovery, in and of itself, makes ‘recruiting’ impossible. It is, simultaneously, the most wonderful gift and the most frustrating conundrum.
And, no, trans people didn’t just pop up in the US as a response to patriarchy. It didn’t begin when we started dumping tons of chemicals in the water systems. Trans people exist in every culture, religion and country on earth, and we have been a normal variant of human expression for as long as there have been humans, and likely longer. Some individual animals have been witnessed exhibiting cross-gender behaviors.
Never once did I choose to be trans. Why would anyone? I only chose to accept it, and accept the consequences which would come of my transitioning. The consequences have been challenging, but never once did they make me feel less that I was meant to be a woman. They only made me feel more that people can be cruel. Self-acceptance and pride are choices, and they are very good choices. Being who you are never is, or was, a choice. And we should never have to choose to repress our inner, beautiful selves.