“A sense of becoming”

24 Oct

I’ve heard it, and maybe you have, too: that transgender folks feel “trapped” in the bodies into which they’re born. Here’s gender and culture writer Thomas McBee speaking out critically about that popular and problematic perspective on transgender identity:

Here’s the story you may have heard about my body: I was tragically trapped in my female form, desperate to be a regular guy, and now that I’m a real man, I no longer want to die.

Pretty compelling stuff — and no doubt for some folks, an accurate depiction. But in the two years since I began injecting testosterone, I’ve grown increasingly suspect of the fascination with the “trapped” narrative. From talk shows to The New York Times, trans children to celebrities, the idea that trans folks are tragic or even heroic saddens me, because within the pity and pithy hope they generate lies a darker reality: The sensational portrayals dehumanize trans folks by making us strange. If I’ve learned anything by living in this body, it’s that when anyone’s dehumanized, we all are.

We’re more alike than not. Here’s my story: I saw myself, like a sculptor sees a face in the stone, become clearer and clearer with each passing day. I got to work on the business of being, constructing an approximation out of Ace bandages, then swagger, then surgery, then testosterone. I grew, over time, to be the man I am; and though I’ve felt the panic of dysphoria, I mostly had the sense of evolving. I didn’t feel trapped, exactly — only a sense of becoming (http://www.buzzfeed.com/thomaspagemcbee/not-all-trans-people-feel-trapped-in-the-wrong-body).

Indeed. That sense of becoming resonated with me as a universally human experience. As someone who was born female and identifies as female, I can say that it’s been and continues to be a journey of being for me. And while that journey is undoubtedly different for someone who doesn’t identify with the body they’re born with, it’s still a journey. Our roads, our provisions and our challenges aren’t equal. But we share the need to grow and evolve.

I appreciate McBee’s inclusive framing–not because I need his story to be all about me, but because it’s true. If anything, respecting and striving to understand transgender journeys helps us recognize the diversity of the human struggle to see our faces in the stone, to become who we are and to recognize each other’s unique and common humanity.

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