Is transgender education partly responsible for transgender discrimination? Unfortunately the answer to that question is yes. It is time for us to message the message. What does it mean to be transgender? Who are we? What do we need you to see about us?
The single most significant barrier to transgender equality is the idea that transgender women are not really women. So, why do we continue to teach it?
We, which is inclusive of me, have repeatedly taught the very same ideas that stand in the way of seeing us for who we really are. The teachings are embedded in the message we share. Perhaps we should learn to teach the ideas that open up the doors of understanding.
In our own writings; in the words that are found in articles, on blogs, and in our own minds; we unintentionally reinforce the message we most need to confront. We do this when we talk about becoming a woman or becoming a man. We do this when we use the word, “transition”?
The understanding I have of my own transition has developed over the years. What I once believed to be a dramatic change that led to becoming a woman, I now see as uncovering of the woman who was always there. I did not actually transition at all. I simply stopped pretending to be a man. The uncovering of the woman exposed my soul to the sunlight.
The transgender story is about the horrifying distress that comes from living as a gender that does not belong to you. Our stories describe the incorrectness and the pain of living a lie. Our transitions are not transitions of gender. Gender is the only constant in the journey. We have transitions from mere existence to fully living. Our changes are changes of freedom, and truth, and correctness. Our changes are about being honest and revealing the hidden human being.
As my presentation of what it’s like to be transgender evolves, I realize that many of the things I used to say, add to the problem, rather than the solution. These things include the failure to differentiate between sex (which is about genitalia) and gender (which is about identity).
When I talk about seeing a therapist, I no longer talk about seeing a therapist for my gender identity issues. I never had gender identity issues. I only have gender identity, just like everyone else. My gender identity is not how I experience my gender. It is my gender. I see myself as a woman because I am a woman.
I needed to see a therapist because I spent nearly 50 year trying to be someone who was never me. I needed to see a therapist to help process why so many people hated people like me. I needed a therapist to be able to function in a world that would not allow me to be myself.
What I have written so far in based on a non-existent gender binary. I have chosen to write it that way for the sake of illustration. That said, we need to teach about the gender spectrum, not the gender binary. We shouldn’t talk about the opposite gender. It affirms the binary. We have to get rid of the boxes. The idea that we have boxes is part of the significant barrier.
My definition of transgender is when a person identifies with (because they are) a gender that is not entirely associated with their biological birth sex. If that identification is strong enough that a person needs to express it, they are transgender.
Finally, we need to identify the barriers to transgender understanding and equality. Once we have identified the barriers, we need to have community-wide discussions about how to create a message the chips away at the barriers. And most of all, we need to stop talking about becoming a woman or becoming a man. We are who we are. Telling people that doesn’t change who we are. It does change the heights we are capable of reaching when we stop living in the darkness and step into the light.
The only thing you need to know about my journey; to know if it is right or wrong; is that for 48 years I lived inwardly, depressed, and in the darkness; and for the last almost eight years I have lived outwardly, joyfully, and in the light. I did not become a woman. I stopped pretending to be a man.
Stephanie Mott is a transsexual woman from Topeka, Kansas and a nationally known speaker on transgender issues. In addition, Stephanie is the executive director of Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project and a commissioner on the City of Topeka Human Relations Commission. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org