The dominant narrative in society is that to be trans+ is to be somehow wrong or broken. I hope that by the end of this blog, you feel, as I do, that this is unfair to trans+ people and causes more stigma than it solves.
As a society, we used to tell the story of trans+ people being intrinsically broken, and the only way to ‘fix’ them was to pump them with hormones, surgically alter their bodies, tell them never to speak of being anything other than what they are right now and insist that they have to be perfectly feminine (because only trans women existed back then) in their twin set and pearls.
They were ‘born in the wrong body’ and if we can ‘fix’ that, then they can be productive members of society. Whose expletiving body were they born into then?!
I am exaggerating, of course. Just not as much as I wish that depiction was exaggerated.
Of course, for some trans+ people, that narrative works. For some it allows them to feel valid and gives them a way of explaining themselves to people. I do not want to take that away from anyone. I would, however, like to help ease the need to explain themselves.
A better way?
I would like to introduce you to the way I look at transness in a person. It is a part of the person, not a hole in them. There is nothing missing, nothing broken, but society often tells them to hate everything they are, instead of just adjusting what is uncomfortable.
One of the things that I often see at Beyond Reflections is that when we accept people, despite them not being on hormones, not having surgery, maybe also not wanting those things, they flourish.
Out of the medical model and into the social model.
If we can look at the person first, before we look at the shape of their body, the levels of their hormones, the contents of their underwear, then we can go some way toward relieving their discomfort in their body. When people are seen and accepted for who they are, they can also accept and start to like themselves. Trans+ people might have a few more things to accept, but the principle still holds true. I have seen this hold true for many people around me – both in my social life and in my work with Beyond Reflections.
Be that person who just accepts them. The person who never brings up their transness unless they want to speak about it. The person who gets their pronouns and name correct, and if they slip up, just say “sorry”, the correct name/pronoun, then carries on as though nothing happened.
By doing these things you are showing that you see them as valid, your error as important enough to apologise for, and the fact of their transness as nothing out of the ordinary.
You are treating them how they want to be treated – as a person you respect. Not as a trans person – just as a person. The person they are, not the person society expected them to be.
Being trans+ is only a small part of a person when it’s not made bigger by other people.
This works for anyone
When people see us for who we are, we are free to be who we are, with nothing to prove. That’s comfort. That’s a safe existence.
The need to be accepted doesn’t only apply to trans+ people.
If you want to help us in supporting trans+ people to feel accepted, you can apply to volunteer here.