When I was first transitioning, I told my mom I had two options: Transition, or kill myself.
There was no inbetween.
Luckily I had the chance to take the first option, but in taking this first option I was only given the option to transition in the way that society wanted. I was forced to wear pretty dresses and makeup. Act submissive and polite to men. My mom would call me “unladylike” if I refused to conform to certain standards.
Whether or not I liked these standards did not matter; if I wanted to be accepted as a woman, I had to conform to the standards given to me to make up for my lack of vagina.
But of course, no matter how hard I tried I was still misgendered, harassed, and abused by the cis society that I live in. The only way this society would accept me was if I conformed to their standards, but even then they would only accept me as a “trans woman,” not as a “woman.”
With the existence of trans people there comes a problem. It’s like throwing a wrench at a cog in an intricate (but pointless) machine. Suddenly the centuries put into building this contraption are questioned. Why must we follow these rules? Why conform to any standard given to us?
Unfortunately, when you question the status quo you’re bound to experience some… pushback. This pushback can show itself in a variety of different ways. One of the ways I’ve found most impactful has been through the forced assimilation of trans people into cis society
You see, when an outgroup is completely shunned by the ingroup, the outgroup has a habit of gaining ideas, ideas that can directly harm the ingroup’s agenda.
Stonewall is a perfect example of this. Stonewall occured because of the inaction of cisgender and straight society. They left queer people alone, barely acknowledged their existence, and by extension left them to rot in the gutter–that is, until Stonewall. With Stonewall (and places like it) queer people were given a chance to be accepted, even if only within a small community.
Then the Stonewall Riot occurred, sending a message to the world that queer people’s needs shouldn’t be ignored. After Stonewall, the cis, straight world did queer folks the favor of acknowledging their existence, but with this acknowledgement came hatred. Eventually that hatred faded to tolerance, and then that tolerance turned into a sick, twisted sort of acceptance. An acceptance that, as long as you behave straight and cis, you’ll be accepted into the ingroup. Make no mistake though, the ingroup will only accept you if you act the way they wish you to.
This idea–of ingroups only accepting outgroups if they are deemed acceptable by the ingroup–Is explored by the philosopher Hegel in his Master and Slave dialectic. In this dialectic he observes two types of people. Master and Slave. Both, being conscious beings, want to be acknowledged by the other, but this is impossible because the master will always view the slave as lesser no matter what the slave does. This can easily be seen within queer people, though I believe it fits quite well onto binary trans people in particular.
We as trans people (though it should be said I’ll be focusing more on trans women because that is what I’m more familiar with) are in a constant state of judgment by wider society. We have to walk on this incredibly thin line of “presenting as the stereotypical form of the gender we are” and “not presenting too hard because if we do we look like try-hards who don’t deserve cis people’s respect.”
This balancing act is exhausting to say the least. It produces trans people who are paranoid of cis people’s approval. “Do they accept me or am I some man in a dress to them?” personally played on repeat in my head when first transitioning, though on the surface, a lot of the in-group people seemed to accept me. They called me my name and used my real pronouns, but when they thought I was out of earshot, oh buddy oh boy did they say some things, always referring to me as confused, or weird. When I first overheard my dad he was constantly talking about how this is all just a weird phase.
No matter how hard I tried, they never accepted me as a woman. I was, and still am, a man in a dress, a deviant so abhorrent that he deserves to be shunned.
But I’m not a man am I? No, I’ve proven that a million times over and over again. I’m a woman, because I say so.
No matter what I wear or what I do my womanhood status can’t be taken away from me by anyone, so why even bother to enter into the hellhole that is trans beauty standards?
Well it’s simple, approval.
Lots of trans people I know, early in transition, are desperate for approval from cis people. But as much as I love them, this is an incredibly unhealthy mindset, and like I said before, gaining the ingroup’s approval is basically impossible.
We, as trans people, must dress, act and live for ourselves. That is the purpose of queer liberation. To live as ourselves without cis people breathing down our necks.
Colly is a current college student.