A few people around FtB have linked to this article by Julia Serano about the BS that happens when transgender children are discussed in media. It’s very long and thoughtful. This paragraph jumped out at me (the bolding is mine):
“Because cisgender people cannot relate to gender dysphoria (having not experienced it personally), and often refuse to take trans people’s gendered experiences seriously (because they view us as illegitimate and suspect as a result of transphobia), they will sometimes invent ulterior motives or condescending theories to explain our desire to transition — e.g., that we transition to try to “fit in” (as straight, as gender-normative), or to obtain male privilege, or because we’re sexual deviants, or because we are confused/clueless/gullible and thus easily swayed by nefarious ideologies (e.g., patriarchy, medical institutions, transgender agendas). I’ve heard many other concocted reasons (and I debunk many of them in Whipping Girl), but what they all share in common is that they 1) dismiss the legitimacy of our gender identities and experiences with dysphoria, and 2) discount the severity of the transphobia we face (which allows them to depict us as making frivolous/reckless/thoughtless life choices rather than serious well-considered ones).”
I describe myself some places as “mostly cis,” because I have no problem with conducting most of my life as a cisgender person. I don’t have gender dysphoria at all. Sometimes I am bothered by people reinforcing cisheteronomativity – consciously or otherwise, but that’s a moral objection and emotional only insofar as I care about the harm it can cause to the disadvantaged binary gender (women) and people with dysphoria. I don’t feel like I’m personally boxed in or wounded by perceptions and expectations of my presentation, any more than the average cis person.
So as a mostly cis person, no, I do not relate to gender dysphoria. I am way more educated on the topic than the average person, through the necessity of helping a transgender person I care about deal with their difficulties. But no amount of education is the same as actual experience of a situation. I can see the pain and learn what to do to avoid causing it, and try to coach others to avoid causing it. But I can’t understand it.
I can learn a lot about gender dysphoria, but fundamentally, I cannot imagine it at all. There are a lot of metaphors floating around to try and help cisgender people understand it, but none have ever worked for me. One question asked: How would you feel if people did not recognize your gender, or expected things of you based on a wrong perception of it? My answer? I’ve been misgendered, back when I was a skinny long-haired youth, and it didn’t bother me at all. If everyone around me perceived me as a woman forever, I can’t imagine being bothered by anything about that other than the misogyny.
So some specific thoughts this calls to mind, things I have considered in the past that Serano’s article reminded me of:
- This lack of gender dysphoria is actually something that makes me queer, in a sense, because I don’t identify with any gender personally – my assigned one or otherwise.
- Which makes me wonder how many raving transphobes are actually inviso-queers like myself: people who don’t actually identify with a gender. If you can’t imagine dysphoria for this reason, and you’ve got the right fundie asshole background, it might make sense to bargle at the trans people about it.
- I’m also reminded of when I was less sensitive to the transgender people in my life because I couldn’t understand / relate to gender dysphoria and hadn’t been educated yet, and I am saddened with regret.
- Much like the way men are largely immune to noticing the pervasive misogyny of our society, cis (and mostly cis) people are immune to noticing all but the most egregious forms of transphobia and gender policing. Since I started tying to look out for and defend the trans people I know, I notice this shit constantly, and I never did before.
- I mention gender policing because it is a ridiculously common way our society harms trans people without even noticing they exist. You have to be aware of trans people to be properly transphobic, but you don’t have to be aware of them to cause them harm. All you have to do is tell people shitty truisms about guys do this, girls do that. Oh of course the guy did this, girl did that because that is the way it is. Biology, I tell ya. Adam and Eve. Vervet monkeys with pink berries. Choose your toxic horseshit, and insist on telling the people around you the reasons they are forever doomed to live it.
Anyhow, the point: Don’t try to over-apply your own experience, trust people about their own. What you’ve known of the world, what you’ve lived, is not all universal human truth.