Lately I’ve noticed more and more cisgender (non-trans) people and businesses putting up Trans Pride flags and being very vocal about trans rights. And maybe that’s my bubble because I’m in Seattle but it seems like the national dialogue has really turned to focusing on trans people. Which is great, but it also feels dangerous to me because I feel like we’re “in vogue” right now and being treated like we’re a fad. And honestly that makes me suspicious of people because I never know when I’m going to fall out of fashion and I don’t necessarily trust people in it for the novelty to actually show up for the hard work of defending us.
So let me put something to rest – there is no “gender revolution.” And trans/nonbinary people are not a new phenomenon that suddenly started popping up in the last couple decades. I’m not trans because I want to rebel against gender; I was simply born this way. The same way that gender diverse people have existed across cultures for millennia.
Our language may have evolved and trans-ness in the US and Western society naturally looks very different than in other cultures. But people like us have existed for as long as we have had a concept of gender. It is only because of modern religious puritanical ideas and colonialism that we have lost sense of that. Western culture has literally erased gender diversity from our memories across the globe. Even in the early 20th Century there was a wealth of medical research and trans culture in Europe that was all burned by the Nazis prior to WWII.
Yes, the age of the internet has changed what that looks like. Trans people can now share culture around the world in a way that allows us to quickly evolve new language to describe our experiences together. And we can find the support we need to come out even if our families and geographic communities are hostile. But this gender diversity has always been here and we have a long history of transcestors to prove it.
So you can believe our experiences or deny them but it doesn’t change reality. Take advantage of this period of cultural awareness to get a glimpse into our lives when we invite you to. But please don’t treat us as new or different. We may be relatively rare but so are redheads and left-handed people. And we don’t like being put in a fish bowl any more than they do.
And if you’re going to put Trans Pride Flags on your profile or house, please realize that you can’t substitute that the real work. If you want to make the world better for us, start looking at your workplace dress codes, bathroom policies, insurance plans, and hiring practices. Fight against gender-essentialist and binary gendered language. Advocate for trans inclusive communities and ostracize the “feminists” in wolves clothing that seek to exclude us or deny our authenticity. Donate money to help us navigate the bureaucratic systems that are still in place that prevent us from accessing accurate government IDs and gender affirming healthcare. And lift up the voices of trans people of color.
And whether you are trans or cis, remember that our language is still evolving and what is correct today or for one person may not be true for everyone or for all time. Don’t police gender non-conforming people who use terms to describe their own experience that you may find disturbing or “problematic.” I’ve seen too many marginalized people be ostracized from trans community because they don’t know the right things to say to fit in. In particular, support the straight trans women and the HIV positive trans folks around you because they face the most discrimination, both in and out of LGBTQ+ community.
We are not a fad but we are marginalized people living in a cis-centric society. The modern world is not built for us but together we can change that if you are in this for the long-haul.