Questioning Trans Legitimacy

“Legitimacy” always seems like such an important thing. In this case, it’s a question of who is “really” trans, as if there’s somehow an illegitimate form of trans identity that is separate from the “true” trans folk.

The legitimacy of my trans identity is a big insecurity for me, given that I’ve started questioning my gender at a rather late stage in my life (relatively speaking) and that I don’t have a sense of binary gender, which is the only type of gender that is generally recognized.

When theorizing, I am quick to defend the legitimacy of non-binary gender; I wax almost poetic about how transgender can be able transgressing and even transcending gender, not only about transitioning from one to another. My undergraduate thesis is about the need to dismantle the binary gender system. When it comes to intellectualizing the issue, when the question is academic, I am unhesitating in my arguments about the validity of non-binary genders and their inclusion within the concept of transgender.

Yet when the question turns personal, my certainty begins to waver. When I am faced with other transgender people–particularly transmen and transwomen who have known who they are for a very long time–my adamant insistence that my trans identity is just as legitimate as anyone else’s tends to fade. I started explicitly questioning my own gender just under a year ago, when I was twenty-one and already a junior in college. I have only claimed a trans identity for about half that time. I acknowledge, when pressed, that I am female, but I don’t feel that I am a woman. However, I know that I am not a man, either.

Oftentimes, I’m not really even sure what I mean when I say I identify as neither woman, nor man. For me, gender–both in terms of identity and expression–is frequently fraught with confusion. At times, though, I certain beyond a doubt that neither binary gender category suits me.

My own insecurities aside, I truly believe that questions of legitimacy have little place in trans identity. If someone identifies as trans, whatever that may mean to them, no one should have the right to question the legitimacy of that identity or to tell them that they are not trans “enough.”

Within this blog, I hope to explore trans issues of identity and expression and just generally what it means to be trans, genderqueer, gender-variant, and otherwise gender-nonconforming in society today.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Questioning Trans Legitimacy

  1. Tip

    HA. I literally just wrote almost exactly this post.

    I think, first, that “transexual” or “transgendered” is, itself, a misleading word, though it’s gained such currency that I don’t think it’ll go away anytime soon if ever. At least when I was smaller and more naive I was pretty sure the “trans-” stood for “transitioning” (and it clearly means this in some instances–“transman”, “transwoman”). But in a lot of other instances (“transsexual”, “transgender”, to a lesser extent “transperson”) it appears to mean “transcending”. (You aren’t “transcending your manhood” if you’re a transman!)

    Secondly, I think that a lot of this “illegitimacy” mindset that you (and I!) have comes from the fact that transpeople, like most minorities out there, are circling the wagons against mainstream oppression, which means a move toward a perceived ideal and a suspicion of those who, for whatever reason, don’t line up. If being a transperson were culturally okay, I don’t think we’d worry so much about if we’re being Good Transpeople. (Compare “oreo” in the Black community.)

    I know I’m sick of it. But it’s not going away, not in my head or anybody else’s.

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