IS TRANS A CHOICE?
I was talking with a friend (F) who is not aware of my transness the other day and the conversation turned to all the anti-trans feeling circulating everywhere. She is generally accepting of things, but is having a hard time with the idea of transition. She said, “I would have one question for a Trans person, do you want to have a period? Bleed and have cramps every month? Because, it is not fun.”
I think this is evidence of the belief that being Trans is a choice, not a biological imperative. Just like so many people used (and still do) to believe that being gay was a choice, so now, do people believe that being Trans is a choice.
Of course, acting in accordance with that feeling can be seen as a choice. Like the Catholic Church says, it is not a sin to be gay, but it is a sin to do gay things. There is a similar attitude about Trans people. But, this is a false choice. Not doing gay things is not a viable option. You are asking the person to ignore an inherent element of their person.
It is no different than asking a straight person to act gay, or a cis person to act Trans. The classic response to a straight person saying that being gay is a choice is “when did you choose to be straight?” So, the same applies to cis people, “when did you choose to be a man?”.
The “just don’t do it” concept doesn’t even work with things that are not an internal part of you. Just don’t eat that cheeseburger…no fat people. Just don’t open that beer can…no alcoholics or drunk driving. The concept has finally been officially recognized as useless with the de-criminalization of marijuana in so many US states. Remember how effective Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” was. That’s right, not at all. Think of how many problems we could solve if “just don’t do it” worked. It doesn’t.
What straight and cis people don’t get is that it isn’t a choice. It’s not just a game of dress-up. With very few exceptions throughout history, being gay has been fraught with danger. It has been outlawed; its punishment, in some places, even today, is death. Execution for the way you were born. Why would someone “chose” to expose themselves to that hatred and risk of death?
We’ve seen the results for people who try to hide or deny their essential nature. From depression and anxiety to self-harm to suicide. It is not a matter of saying “just don’t do it”. If it were that simple there wouldn’t have been gay and Trans people throughout every era of history. I know for myself, denying my Transness did not do me any good. I spent my first 50+ years hiding from the world, depressed, anxious, alone, and comforting myself with food. I was living life as a zombie in some ways, just shuffling forward, doing what was expected of me. I went to college and then law school. I worked in a firm in NYC. I got married and had two fantastic kids, but I had no joy. I had no direction, no meaning to my life.
It finally came to a head when I was approaching my 50s. I weighed an astonishing amount and I went through the process to get bariatric surgery. It took almost a year to get the insurance approval. The incredible support of my therapist and GP made it possible. I had the surgery and lost over 100 pounds and was pleased with things. But, treating the weight did not cure the underlying issues. The weight began to creep back on and after 5 years or so I had put 40 or so pounds back on. At that point I just didn’t care. I had hit the bottom. I thought I had hit the bottom 6 years before when I decided to get the surgery, but this was worse. I was ready to just eat until it killed me.
I had no reserves left to suppress my feelings. One Wednesday evening, during a therapy session, the dam gave way and it all came flooding out. I finally admitted to myself and to someone else, who I was. When I say burst, it burst and more emotions flowed out of me at that point than I think had my entire life up to then. It was like the weight of the world was lifted from my back. Like the sun was shining for the first time, all those clichés. But it is true.
The result of that revelation has been more difficulties, but these difficulties have a positive energy. I am overcoming them to improve myself and get where I belong. The process of assembling a medical team, seeing an endocrinologist, getting medical clearance from a cardiologist, dealing with insurance companies, starting on testosterone blocker and estrogen therapy.
There is a positive goal now.
So, to go back to the original question. Yes, I would take the periods, the cramping, and the bleeding to be who I am. While I do want to get bottom surgery, it is only a small way to being who I am. It is cosmetic. It will help dramatically, but if there were an option for a transplant of the whole area, I think a large majority of Trans women would jump at the opportunity. The bleeding and cramps would be an affirmation that we were complete. I have no doubt I would be miserable and complain about the pain and curse the powers that gave this beautiful curse to women, but inside would feel peace, knowing things were right.