Thursday, 4 June 2015

Transgender Etc

So, apparently the internet is on fire this morning because some celebrities (including some I hadn't actually heard of, so celebrity is obviously relative) are saying insensitive things about Caitlyn Jenner.

I was very brave, on your behalf, and read some of the comments on some of the right-wing media sites. It was interesting. I tend not to mix with people who think like that normally, so I wanted to see just what their problem was.

I hope these are just the usual trolls and do not represent a large portion of the public, but I suspect that some of them are simply saying what others are thinking, but don't want to say out loud.

OK. Not everyone understands transgender people. As I pointed out yesterday, you don't always have to understand things to be tolerant and kind. They are not harming you, so there is no reason for you to harm them, even by your words. That would be spiteful.

I'm going to say something that may surprise you. I don't understand transgender people either. But my reason may be a little different.

I really have no concept of my own gender. I never have. It's only recently as the topic has become talked about more that I realise I am unusual in that. I didn't really think about it before. There is more than one possible reason for this. But let's look at what we're talking about here when we talk about male and female.

First of all there's clothing. Being a woman I do have the option to dress pretty much however I want. Being an extrovert I also have the confidence to do so. So I certainly don't feel forced into any particular sartorial style. Fashion being as it is, I am most often dressed identically to my sons, in fact. T-shirt, jeans, Converse. Done. I hate bras and I don't do lingerie. But I love painting my nails, long dangly earrings, and I love colourful, beaded, embroidered, flowing ethnic clothing too, if it's the right day for it. I just wear whatever I like.

It's all about image, isn't it? How we present ourselves to the world. Well, I present myself in various ways. Depends on many things, the weather, the occasion, and whether I can be bothered. But the point is, I can. Men can't. This is one of the few ways women get the better deal.

Being me, if I had been forced to wear only certain items of clothing deemed to be "Ladies Only" I would have rebelled. At the same time I wouldn't want to exclusively wear unisex clothing, I like having the freedom to choose whatever floats my boat.

But, what does any of this have to do with gender? All I'm saying is, I've never had to really think about that aspect of it. I've never really associated clothing with gender, on my part. That is to say I've never said "Oh, I love this, it feels so feminine."

In fact some years ago I had a huge argument with a man who liked to cross-dress. His gender identity was never in question, it was just the clothing he liked. Transvestite, not transgender. Very important distinction. He wasn't presenting any sort of image to the world, it was done in private. Apparently it's much more common than we think. So, he was saying about how it makes him feel feminine, and I objected. I said "No, it makes you feel how you think feminine feels, and that's just a media/society thing, it's not real". My angle was that as I was a woman, if anyone would know what feminine FEELS like, then I would. And I didn't. He insisted he knew what he meant, and I insisted it was bogus. Clothing is just clothing. It's just fashion. I'm sure 17th century men didn't feel feminine in all their velvet and lace finery. Anyway, he got angry, I felt like he wasn't listening, and we never spoke again.

And yet, the first thing a transgender person does is change clothes.

Does it help them feel right, or is it for looks? I DON'T KNOW.

If I wear girl clothes do I feel feminine? No.
If I wear boy clothes do I feel masculine? No.

I just feel Melanie.

Forget the clothes, what else is there?

Well, that's the tricky part, isn't it? Apparently there is some deep feeling of gender. Female energy, male energy. Lots of people seem to have some sense of what that is. Finding terms that are not about appearance is really quite difficult.

I see stereotypes, some negative, some positive. I see "female" being thought of as submissive, emotional, quiet, weak, flirty, giggly, silly, nurturing, creative, helpful, multi-tasking, intuitive, and kind.

I see "male" being thought of as dominant, strong, aggressive, logical, loud, warriors, leaders, sensible, messy, clumsy, lusty, confident, competitive, and practical.

It's all bollocks. These are all traits that could apply to anyone, and most of us could pick a few from both lists.

So, what exactly defines male and female? The answer seems to be, you know one when you see one. Perhaps that's why we put so much emphasis on looks? But perhaps far more important is that you know who you are.

Transgender people tell us that they feel it on the inside, and it conflicts with what's on the outside. I have to be honest, if it were not for the fact that I can see I'm a girl in the mirror, I don't know how I'd know. I don't feel a gender. I just feel Melanie.

So, either I am 100% in tune on the inside and outside, and it's never been an issue, so I haven't had to think about it, and yay me, OR my internal gender is androgynous. Either way, it makes no difference. What it does mean is that I haven't suffered the agony of my gender being at odds with my body.

It also means I don't understand transgender people. You see? At the same time it means I'm extremely sympathetic towards them, because if you stuck a label on me and insisted that I look like this and behave like this, I'd be mightily pissed off. On the occasions in my life when I was told I couldn't do X because I was a girl, I did it anyway. Fuck that.

I'm all girl. I knit, I sew, I had babies with ease, I don't even have hairy legs. But I don't like feeling confined by expectations of others, and I don't see why anyone else should be.

See, it's not your body, it's not your life, and your opinion of transgender people is invalid.

My suggestion is to get over yourself.


  1. I pretty much never wear "girl" clothes except for underwear. I like yard work and grilling food outdoors and I liked using a backhoe and digging water lines and lateral lines for septic systems. The manly kind of work where I feel like I accomplished something at the end of the day. I don't like knitting or sewing or anything "girl" stuff. But I am definitely a girl. I never felt like a boy. So I don't have any clue about transgender either. But mostly I just don't think it is any of my business. I mean with Jenner she put herself on the cover of a magazine and the media took hold like a dog with a bone. I applaud her for being brave enough to do it all publicly. But I still don't think it is anyone's business.

  2. Well said, Melanie--Maybe the English/American mindset considers less about promoting gender awareness, since our very language overlooks the issue? Step outside the 'borders' into other places (German, French, Spanish) and the very words used have a particular gender applied to them. The terminology we use is not shaded by gender (male, female, neutral), and while we might imagine that may open us to the spectrum of it all, it has served to narrow our thinking, I think, into relying on what we "see." Language, being more emotive, digs a little deeper into the heart/emotion/energy behind the descriptive labels and words we use. I used to think it a bit of a hurdle trying to remember gender in how to write or express a particular word. This very paradox is what is now on display for us all to consider...and being compassionate toward those of us who are actively seeking to identify themselves is the least we can do; no matter where we ourselves feel we stand on the issue or our own identity.