So, I wrote this post in an effort to get out some bubbling thoughts overtaking my brain about gender across time and culture. And now that I’ve had time to process, I’ve figured out exactly what my issue is.
Namely, I am just really, really over cis/newly out trans people/books in the Trans Canon dragging out the Dine, Zuni, other Indigenous peoples and India to be all like “You/We’re valid cuz see! You/We’ve always been here!” or “But how can you say transness is a white colonial idea?? Look at X, Y, and Z people! They had trans people!” or “If you/I had been born into X, Y, Z societies, you/I would have been X gender!”
Okay, look, I get the drive to connect to something greater than yourself, especially if you are a white American trans gentile with pitifully little culture and ethnic history surrounding identity (yay colonialism and assimilation culture), especially where your gender is concerned–or if you’re a trans, especially non-binary person constantly being invalidated by the cis, dismissing your gender as a fad, when in reality, plenty of societies had/have more than two genders. I do. It sucks. I struggle with it too. But, leaving aside the question of if you live in a society that doesn’t assign gender at birth and/or legally, socially recognizes your gender, how can you be trans, I’m gonna talk about why these assertions are particularly annoying to me.
No, if I were born into one of those societies, I wouldn’t have been whatever the supposed equivalent of a modern afab* trans person is in those cultures. For as long as I’ve been able to express gender, I have always been feminine of center. I adopted Femme for myself when I came out as queer. And yet, despite fitting into my assigned gender exceptionally well, despite having little to no gender dysphoria, I still knew something was off. It wasn’t until I started medically transitioning and getting more involved with various pockets of my queer community that I was able to understand what my body needed in order to inhabit my gender to the fullest extent; to become both the lesbian and the gay man I knew myself to be.
I look at these other gender systems, and nowhere do I see myself represented. There is no past equivalent of a transsexual femme. There’s no way there could be. I was only able to innovate and understand my gender because of the medical technology available to me; because of American gay, lesbian, and bisexual cultures; and because of the texts and analyses of gender written and spoken by trans people who came before me as well as my contemporaries. The fact that I have a vagina and am trans does not an equivalent past, cross-cultural gender make.
In other words, my gender–like yours, like theirs–is strictly a product of the culture I live in.
*I have plenty of feelings about afab/amab, and none of them are good. Suffice it to say, don’t ever call me this. Don’t assume anything about my trans experience because of this. Kthxbi.