Navigating The Gradient
When I was 8 years old, I cut my hair short to keep it from getting in my eyes while I played soccer. One day at recess, I kicked the ball over the goal and the goalie (a cisgender boy) exclaimed, “WHOA! Are you a boy or a girl??” I will never forget that day. This continued through all of 4th grade with another boy, Kevin, proclaiming that I had undergone a “sex change.” Did he even know what that was at that age? Who knows. But I was mortified and completely humiliated. So I grew my hair back out and attempted to fit back into what society had deemed as “normal” for my sex assigned at birth: female.
Until finally, at the ripe age of 34, I came out as transgender. This was my second coming-out, as I had been living my life as a lesbian since 25. Even in those near-10 years, although closer to my “true-self,” I hadn’t related to many of the women I had dated. Something was still off.
I am now 36 and have been undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for 10 months. I’ve never felt more aligned with my true self, and it’s an incredible feeling. So far, my personal journey has been met with an amazing amount of love, support and acceptance. And for that, I am grateful. However, it’s not that easy for most of my trans, gender-nonconforming (GNC) and non-binary brothers and sisters. Just look at the stats:
- 74% of transgender individuals have been harassed or mistreated on the job
- 20% have lost a job due to gender expression
- 17% refused medical care due to gender expression
- 36% attempted suicide, 22 times the1.6% rate for the general population
I know these numbers may be overwhelming and hard to fathom, and may be met with a feeling of grief or pity. But my one ask is this: please don’t pity us. Instead, raise us up with encouragement and excitement for our journey to our true selves. We don’t want to be called out or championed for being trans. We just want to fit in. Yes, it’s a heroic step to be out in the (sometimes) cruel and judgmental world. It can feel very lonely and extremely vulnerable at times.
So what can you, as a cisgendered ally, do? Support us by acting in a way that you would with any cisgendered human in your life.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone what pronouns they prefer. Unbeknownst to many, this is not an offensive question. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and will be received as a sign that you care enough to see them as they truly feel on the inside. Also, call out those that make us feel unaccepted and unequal in a lopsided society filled with “gender normatives.” After all, that is all we strive to achieve -- to be seen as normal. Easy, right?
And finally, do a little self-evaluation. Do you fit into the box that society has deemed “female” or “male?” If so, maybe you too have some likes/dislikes or habits that stretch outside of those strong cultural confines based on physicality. After all, gender identity is a sliding scale and nothing is ever black or white. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, take it from Bill Nye the Science Guy!