GLAAD, an advocacy group that seeks to educate the media about the LGBT community, includes both identity and behavior in its definition:
Transgender: An umbrella term (adj.) for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people.
Such a broad definition could also be problematic. According to Logan Casey, a political science student at the University of Michigan, it could lead to transgender identities being dismissed as “just a choice.” Casey, who publicly identifies as a trans man, believes that could undermine support for transgender rights.
so, what’s wrong with choice?
you might have seen videos of smug gay rights activists asking generally open minded straight people when they “chose to be straight.” and the straight person chuckles in agreement, that yes, it is a ridiculous proposition.
i chose to be straight when i asked my grade school crush if she wanted to go out. i chose to be straight when i kissed the assistant stage manager of a play i was in freshman year of high school between act 2 and act 3 of the final performance. i chose to be straight when i accepted my first girlfriend’s invitation to the mall, and i chose to be straight when i first made out with my future wife on the floor of her parents’ living room nearly ten years ago. i did a lot of choosing.
dismissing choice as trivial was one of the most hurtful things to my recognition of my identity. for the longest time i couldn’t resolve it. i didn’t hate being male. i didn’t look at my body in the mirror and feel revulsion. i didn’t feel like i was one gender or the other. it was never where i was standing, it was the direction the wind was blowing.
i felt like being transgender meant i had to clear some sort of bar, that i had to ‘identify’ as female. but that’s not right. i don’t ‘identify’ as male either. i like to live my life transgender. minimizing the importance of choice in identity dehumanizes and can lead to a whole bunch of denial and self-doubt. my gender identity is a collection of the things i want to do, the ways i want to be perceived, but every practical concern is about not discriminating against me for making those choices and accepting those choices as normal and healthy, even therapeutic and positive. if i want to make a decision in a “girls only” or “boys only” space, my gender nonconformity should not be a hurdle. choosing is the action verb here.
what’s the difference between longing to put on makeup and craving a piece of pizza? shit, nothing. and working on my eyeliner and getting a slice at beggar’s have about the same cosmic impact on the universe. and should i do each every day, i might have unique healthcare needs down the road – bypass surgery and hormones, in no particular order. but we take care of people when they make the choice to clog their arteries – why not take care of people when they make the choice to transition?
saying that transgender isn’t a choice, it’s how you were born, talks about being transgender like it’s a condition or a disease. it asks for pity – we have no control over it, we’re subjected to this horror. but being transgender is actually awesome. no, it’s not awesome to be a member of a group that has a 40% suicide attempt rate. but it’s awesome to be able to make my choices, my beautiful transgender choices, that make me happy. i deserve to be happy on my own terms.