“You’re not trans. You’re just a transtrender!”
If non-binary people had a nickel every time we heard this, we’d be rich enough to hop a rocket and start our own space colony on Mars. But alas, we’re stuck here on Earth, constantly explaining to everyone what it’s like to not identify within the gender binary.
The “transtrender” argument is rooted in the belief that since non-binary people aren’t transitioning to the opposite biological sex, we must not experience gender dysphoria (defined as “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify”). Therefore, we’re just co-opting trans language to be hip and cool.
This is, in a word, bullshit — and while I expect it from those who are cis, it especially hurts coming from trans people.
Certainly, I understand the need to keep the “this isn’t just a feeling” narrative alive. Transphobes, after all, love to say things like, “Well I feel like a tree, so does that make me a tree?” — despite the number of studies that suggest a scientific basis for gender identity. But why can’t binary trans people understand that, just as they don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, some people don’t identify with “man” or “woman”?
Interestingly enough, the DSM-V describes gender dysphoria in a way that includes non-binary people. Under the list of symptoms, the DSM-V lists strongly identifying as, wanting to be treated as, and having the same feelings as either the opposite sex “or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender.”
Well, that pretty much describes me. I’m not just an androgynous man; my entire sense of self and my experiences do not align with my assigned gender. When I was a child and socialized with girls, I felt like I was one of them. As far as my body goes, it’s complicated. I’m fine with my chest and genitals, but my body hair feels like a foreign object that’s infesting my body.
After talking to several of my non-binary friends, I found they experience similar forms of dysphoria where they are comfortable with some parts of their body, but not others. Could it be that this is the case for many, if not all, non-binary people? There was only one way to find out: the scientific method!
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