Welcome to Amelia’s Trans 101 class! Here, I will be going over some simple transgender related items to help teach a basic understanding of what being transgender really means. This is a free class and it is open to all! Grades will be a simple pass/fail!
For this week’s lesson, I would like to address a question a friend of mine asked me the other day. I think this question and its wording really opens up to a lot of misconceptions and outdated information and views.
If you have a sex change would you still call yourself transgender? I mean, the past never goes away, but is there something current other than post op? Is it still transgender?
Below is my exact answer to her question.
Okay, so there’s kind of a lot going on in your text and I wanted to just clarify a bunch of things…
First, there isn’t actually a such thing as a “sex change.” This term would imply that there is a single surgery or procedure which one would go through in order to live as their true self. It falsely simplifies and greatly erases the actual reality of life for trans people. The term we use is “transition.” This term encompasses the, usually, lengthy journey we take. Everyone’s transition is different and consists of different things. Transition is just as unique as each trans person is. My transition consisted of therapy, laser hair removal, and hormones before then going on to more social aspects, such as actually leaving the house presenting myself as Amelia. Overall, from when I accepted transition into my life until I finally went “full time” (that is, living solely as Amelia), my transition took a year and a half. For other trans people, this time can be way shorter or way longer. It all depends on the individual.
Now, at no point up there did I mention surgery. Surgery is not a required part of transition. And it’s also important to be careful how we talk about surgery. There isn’t just one single surgery, there are all kinds. Most cis (not transgender) people mean surgery to be genital reconstruction surgery (or GRS or SRS, there is much debate on name for the procedures included in this surgery). However, there are many other surgeries that trans people may elect to have. Some may get a tracheal shave to reduce the Adam’s apple or get breast implants. And there are a whole mess of different surgeries that can be done as part of facial feminization. These surgeries can focus on one or more of nose, chin, cheeks/cheekbones, eyelids, under eyes, brow, hairline, etc. Again, all of this is optional and depends on what the individual wants, feels they need, and can afford (surgery isn’t typically covered by insurance). In fact, only one in five trans women has surgery and even fewer trans men have surgery.
Second, the reality is surgery is a very private thing that many people do not wish to talk about. Our genitals are only the business of our lovers and our doctors and should be off limits to being questioned. What’s in our pants should not be used to define our gender. I am woman regardless of whether I have a penis or a vagina.
So to move forward with that, terms like “pre-op” and “post-op” are very problematic. They tie our identities to what surgeries we’ve had instead of to the people we actually are. Because of that, most trans people these days consider these terms outdated and rather offensive. I am one of them. The other issue is that these terms require disclosure of surgery and genital status. As I mentioned, this is private and should stay private. If you wouldn’t ask a cis person about their genitals, then you shouldn’t ask a trans person. And lastly, these terms can also contribute to hierarchies based on “how trans” someone is or how much of a woman (or man) they are.
To move on specifically to your question, which I will treat more as “is one always transgender or do they stop being transgender at any point,” this is complicated. There is no real consensus here on how people feel. I consider myself to be “forever trans.” I will always be transgender, no matter what. To me, being transgender is more about my experience as being someone assigned (at birth) a sex which does not match my gender. I am transgender because I have had this experience, not because of the body I have, had, or will have. Even if I were to ever go stealth, that is to hide my trans status and try to live as though I was a cisgender woman, I would still be trans. Though, I don’t see stealth as being a part of my future. I am openly trans and that’s how I like it. That’s the person I am and I don’t want to hide it. I don’t want to erase my experience as a trans person because it’s shaped who I am and where I am. This is much of the idea behind my mantra of being “trans as fuck.” I want to always be openly myself. To hide being transgender would be to hide me. I would be trading one lie, the one I lived prior to coming out, for another lie, albeit a slightly smaller one.
Because of all that, yes, I feel that I will always be transgender. However, this is how I feel about myself and my life and can only apply to me. I cannot speak for all trans people, nor would I ever attempt to.
There is also the question of “does transition end or is it a lifelong process?” This is complicated too. Personally, I consider most of my physical transition to be complete. I am happy with where I am and don’t have any plans for anything else other than to finish out laser hair removal on my face and chest. However, socially my transition has no end in sight. I don’t feel as though I need it to either. We all continue to grow as people until the day we die, or at least I think we should and it is a healthy way to live. I will always be growing mentally, emotionally, and socially. I will grow with and adapt to the changing world and the people around me. And my growth as a trans person cannot be separated from this. I will always be learning and experiencing new aspects of living as a woman in the world, just like I will always be unlearning things from my past. Transition is part of living (my) life and living is a lifelong process.
I hope this helped! Please let me know if you have other questions, I’d be glad to answer them.