So, a friend asked me today why I identify as a trans woman instead of as just a woman, because it seems like I am separating/sub-categorizing myself. I could have just commented, but instead, I decided to write it out thoughtfully. There are many reasons, and it is a choice I made, and make on a daily basis to continue.
Preface: This is only my experience and opinion. I do not speak for every trans person that identifies this way, simply for myself.
That being said, here goes:
Trans is an adjective, like tall or smelly. It is a descriptor of the kind of woman I am. I use Trans Woman as my descriptor/identity for a multitude of reasons. They are many and varied. I will attempt to list them all out in the best way that I can.
First, because I don’t have the same experiences as an AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) Woman, it feels like I am taking something away from myself and my identity if I drop the Trans. Also, because I didn’t have those experiences, I feel more like I am an awkward 13-16 year old girl in a 34 year old’s body.
I didn’t get to experiment with makeup, dish and giggle with the girls about the stupid things the boys did that day, grow into my body in the way that they did, etc. I also didn’t have to worry about someone assaulting me, following me home, having my keys in my hand walking across the parking lot, not going certain places after dark, having a code word with friends when going out, etc. These are all things that separate my experience from an AFAB women’s.
I also don’t feel that I am fully worth of the “title,” of just woman. Most of the strongest people (and most of my heroes) are women who have been through uninimaginable horrors and trauma that were inflicted upon them by people that have bodies that are like mine (at least until I started on HRT [Hormone Replacement Therapy]).
Even though I never did those things, or ever even related to Men’s ways of thinking or acting, I have the same body, and got the same treatment that they did for my entire life up until not that long ago. It feels like I am taking something away from their experiences and struggles if I claim the identity of Woman.
In addition, I had to work so hard and do so much soul searching, deal with the pain that I did, make myself a limited version of myself, and finally get to a point of breaking out of my cute boy shaped costume in order to get to this moment.
That is not the experience that a cisgender woman had or ever will have. That separates us in a way that I cannot ever traverse (no matter how much I wish I could sometimes). I am a woman forged in fire, pain, loss, struggles, and rebirth in a way that a non-trans woman will ever experience. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s just the fact of the matter.
Also, because I am strong enough. I don’t say that out of ego, I have had a rough life, and a lot of people would not have survived to get to this point. I put myself in a lot of dangerous situations that should have killed me because of the pain I was in. Most people have 1 or 2 situations that they could or should have died…I can’t even count them. They probably number in the hundreds. I beat my body up for years in a multitude of ways, actively had a death wish for about 5 years, acted without thinking because I just didn’t care whenther I lived or died, told people to shoot me or stab me (they didn’t), spent time with severely unhinged people that had done serious time for intense violent crimes that they had no remorse over, and many other dangerous situations that your average person wouldn’t have ever thought about putting themself in, let alone actievely sought them out. I was also actively suicidal for significant periods of time. I never did anything about it, because I couldn’t force myself to do it, but there were months where I thought about killing myself every day.
So, I am strong enough to take it. Anything that bigots and transphobes care to throw at me is nothing to compare to what I put myself through.
I do this, and am as visible as I am for many reasons.
First, for every person that doesn’t know a trans person and judges them, makes fun of them, laughs at them, etc. Maybe if they see me or talk to me, I can change their mind.
Secondly, for the trans people that have to deal with bigots and transphobes in every aspect of their life. If they can see me living my life 100% authentically, maybe it gives them the strength to hold on long enough to live their lives without fear and get out of the oppressive situations that they are in currently.
Thirdly, because of white privilege. Trans people as a whole are one of the most victimized, brutalized, and oppressed people in the world, second only to Trans People of color. Because of the color of my skin, I can say things, do things, and be safe in situations that my siblings cannot. If I were to ignore that, I would be willfully ignorant, and I don’t know if I could ever forgive myself for doing that.
Lastly, for trans kids. I do what I do so that they will live long enough to become beautiful, strong, and vibrant Trans adults. Full fucking stop.
I have no bones about knowing that me being as visible, outspoken, proud, and happy as I am angers some people, and some of them may wish me harm, pain, and death. That’s fine. I don’t like it, don’t accept it, and will not let it stop me from living my most authentic life.
If one trans person lives to die of old age, and not murder or suicide, because of my actions and visibilty, then it is 1,000,000,000% worth it.
I am also, not blind to the fact that I may be the victim of a transphobic hate crime because of my visibility, outspokeness, authenticity, words, and actions. I may be killed or brutalized at some point. I have made my peace with that.
One of my (blood) siblings said that they (not their pronouns, but to protect their anonymity, I am using gender neutral pronouns) were worried I would die within 5 years. Honestly, when I read that message, I thought to myself, 5 years of finally living as myself and being happy? Instead of the 30+ years of pain and suffering that I had prior?
There is no comparison to my life today to what it was even 5 years ago, and I would die peacefully knowing who I am.
So, to my friend, and anyone who read this far, those are the reasons that I identify as a trans woman instead of a woman.
– Justice Faye Dazzle