1. You can’t transition at all
Well… This is obviously untrue. I – and many others like me – are living proof.
But let’s unpack it for a moment.
For me, being transgender is simply having a gender that does not match the one you were assigned at birth (which is most probably, always only, male or female, based on external genitals). The importance of this definitions lies in its ample leeway to identify outside of the binary, while honoring the shared experience of the internal transgression of gender. Once I realized that I did not have to “want to be a man” in order to be trans, I felt huge relief, and immediately settled down and got cozy with the label. Because for me, consciously identifying as transgender provided not just the gateway to invaluable resources, it also gifted me a community: a group of people I could see myself – my experiences, past, present, and possible futures – reflected in.
The second assumption behind this myth is trapping the concept of transition within a binary. As with the first, I at some point had to make this leap of knowledge. And to be honest, I’ve had to figure a lot of this out on my own, because non-binary transition is riddled with unanswered questions that are ultimately up to the individual to decide. Sometimes, the best answer I can give is “it depends” or “it’s really up to you” or even “it sucks, you gotta deal with it.” But at least we’re thinking about it, swapping stories, and figuring it out together.
I see the rise in visibility of genderqueer identities as a potential turning point that’s just around the corner in the oh-so-near future. In some cases, it’s only a matter of awareness; if people know where to look, they will more likely find.
2. You cannot medically transition
Untrue. (Of course all of these will be false, because they are myths, so I’ll just stop saying it.)
WPATH released the 7th version of their Standards of Care in late 2011, and for the first time ever people with a non-binary gender were included. Sort of. The new guidelines are purposefully vague, mentioning “target gender” as opposed to “opposite gender,” emphasizing individual needs over following a set of rules, thus setting up an extremely friendly framework for those people whose gender is not male or female and wish to pursue medical transition. So officially, you’re covered.
Yet we all know something about having to go against the grain to be happy. Standards or guidelines should not stop you from seeking (and finding) what you need. For instance, I had top surgery before these updated WPATH Standards of Care were released, when hormones and “opposite gender” and “12 months of real life experience” were the “official” norm. I had surgery without a letter from a mental health professional (which by the way is still a requirement, even under the newest SOC). I had surgery without intentions of transitioning further. It’s what I felt I had to do at that moment, so I pushed forth.
Often what makes us hesitate from taking steps towards transitioning are not external regulations. Does “not trans enough” sound familiar? Whether it comes from outside peer pressure or from internal overeager analysis, we carry a kind of guilt that we are accessing services we don’t “really need” because we’re not “really trans” or whatever other “scare quote phrases” we mentally try to convince ourselves of.
There is nothing more I can say to convince you this is totally, utterly untrue and invalid, other than reassure you that, no matter what others (or your mind) say, it’s simply not true. I can also leave you with this story.
A few days after my surgery, I found myself emotionally vulnerable; I was freaking out about my mangled bloody chest, and frantically questioning my decision. I remember what my father said to me when I asked him “what if this was a mistake, if this is all just some radical idea I bought into?” He responded, “well, why should you buy into that idea?”
3. You cannot socially transition
False again (ok, last time I promise)! You can, in a way.
Social transition in any scenario takes a lot of work, though more so if your gender falls outside the binary. Changing your name and your pronouns will require a lot of explaining, a lot of reminding, a lot of pushing against the current, and an embarrassing fear of sounding ridiculous and not being taken seriously. Sometimes, this fear might even turn into reality.
As long as you are willing to put in the work, there is a chance you can get close to your ideal. Especially if you just focus on the few dozen people you encounter every day – those that account for upwards of 90% of your social interactions, those who are also willing to put in the work with you – it’s possible to get to a place where you feel pretty darn good about yourself.
It’ll probably never be perfect, but nothing ever is. As much as I’d love it if random strangers stopped calling me ma’am, I’d like it a lot more if random strangers just said good morning, if they didn’t give me the stink eye or push me around on the bus, and if they were just a little kinder overall. A big part of transitioning – as with everything in life – is learning to accept what is possible and what is not, coming to terms with the fact that we are all imperfect humans living imperfect lives. This is not to say that, if we push hard enough, the line between the impossible and reality can’t shift, ever so slightly, ever so slowly, forward.
4. You cannot legally transition
This one really depends; legal territory is as complex as the gender spectrum, so I won’t get too much into it.
With less than a handful of exceptions worldwide, it is impossible at the present moment to change your legal gender to something other than M or F. However, it is possible to go from one to the other, even if you do not identify as either.
Remember that “legal gender” is a social construct: it is only as good as the document it’s on. Each document has its own rules for how to change the legal gender on it, often requiring at least a generic medical letter (DMV or US Passport), or some sort of surgery (Birth Certificates), or a specific set of surgeries (many countries), to possibly long and costly trial involving doctors and lawyers and judges (hello Mexico). One thing is for sure: you’ll end up doing lots of paperwork.
In the end, you simply have to ask yourself if it’s a step worth taking when the outcome is still not ideal, and don’t be afraid to answer “yes.”
5. Nobody will love you
Look, our bodies are all different. I am short, really really short. This means I was pretty bad at most competitive sports, given that my competitors had a foot or two advantage over me, literally. This also seriously hurt my chances at finding love, because imagine dating someone more than a foot taller than me? Awk-werd!
Seriously though. Genders – and gendered bodies – are considered to be a “legitimate” reason for liking or not liking someone by most. I mean, people usually eliminate half of the population just by declaring a preference towards one gender, popularly known as a sexual orientation. (Admittedly this is hard for me to understand.) Instead of gender, I can more easily relate to the myriad other criteria for why someone would or would not want to date/cuddle/bonk you, whether we’re talking about your body (too short), your mind (too analytical), your emotions (too stoic), your personality (too bossy), where you live (on the other side of the world), what music you like (jazzercise), or even stuff like whether you’re a cat person or a dog person (cute puppies only please). And given that delicate web of requirements, it’s clear that you are not going to find that magical connection with just anyone. So forget about gender and people’s preoccupation with it, and concentrate on finding people who like everything else about you. Above all, concentrate on loving yourself too.
Lastly, take a moment to consider that you – yet another ordinary person – have been able to come to these enlightening conclusions about the gender binary. Who’s to say some other random dude/dudette/dudelydoo won’t as well?