I Believe Standard Trans-Narratives and Question Outlier Trans-Narratives

I believe transsexual and transgender people were “born that way.”

No  bad mommy holding us too close, no weak father providing a poor male image.

No Satanic possession.

No autogynephilia/androphilia bullshit.

No bee stings or baldness pills suddenly causing some one who wasn’t transsexual or transgender to become TS or TG.

When I hear those stories I sort of go “Hummm…”  And think, “Take that story some where else and peddle it.”

There is a reason why transsexual and transgender stories all sound more or less the same.

As a writing teacher once said during a class I was taking on writing gay and lesbian memoirs, “All coming out stories are the same story.  Only the details are different.  This is because all coming to awareness stories told by narrators share a common structure.”

For those unfamiliar with this idea I suggest Joseph Campbell’s, “Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

Those of us born different all have that early epiphany, that single moment when we become aware of not being like other kids.

We may not immediately know what makes us different.

We may try to make that thing that makes us different go away.

Some people spend years trying to escape from that thing which they realized at that point of sudden awareness.

When they come to the realization that being transsexual or transgender isn’t going to go away the first thing most people search for is when they started feeling this way.  It isn’t so much a matter of looking for an acceptable narrative as it is looking for an understanding of self.

I read a piece by Zach McCallum

Transgender Narratives: Why We Lie

But as the cultural narrative expands to include ‘transgender person’ as a stock character, it does so in a way that’s, well, just a stock character. The trans* person in the public eye is almost always some variant on the woman who was born with a penis and just “always knew” she was female, or the boy born with a vagina who refused to wear a single dress and never touched a Barbie Doll.

It’s a nice, easily packaged, easily understood story, and sometimes it’s even true. Some of us do know (and as those recent news articles reported, some are even lucky enough to begin transition) before puberty. But others live entire lifetimes as one sex, and then at the age of seventy or eighty or ninety, make the change. Many, like me, transition in early-to-mid adulthood after months or years of soul-searching and introspection. And there are people who identify as something other than male or female, who don’t jump across the line from boy to girl or girl to boy, but take up residence in the broad middle plain known as genderqueer.

Before we transitioned, some of us were butch lesbians or femmy drag queens whose transitions were unsurprising to our friends and families, but others of us looked nothing like a Lifetime TV protagonist. I know a transwoman who is captain of a marine rescue company. Until she was in her late thirties anyone would have taken her for a typical manly sailor; now she’s an atypical, manicured sailor. I know a transman who describes himself in childhood as “a classic girly-girl.”

Even though I never felt particularly successful at femininity, I spent years wearing my hair long and dressing in dangly earrings and flowy fabrics before I decided to transition to male. I played with stuffed toys and dolls as a kid, even Barbie (although I did cut her hair short and send her rappelling down the stairwell tied to a jump rope.)

This is kind of missing the forest for all those damn trees.

It’s weird for someone like me who came out many years ago and who was a feminine transkid who was attracted to men.

Weird because the standard narrative one hears on the Internet is one of having been a heterosexual guy married to a woman and a father, often times with military service and a career.

While Zack tries to make as though my sort of narrative is the standard the one I mentioned actually seems far more common these days.

Never mind that neither my girlfriends, who went through SRS around the same time I did, nor I had the same narrative even though we all came out young and mostly were involved with men.

What our narratives had was a common structure with different details.

What I took me a while to figure out because I kept missing it for all those different details was that the life story of almost every transsexual or transgender person has pretty much the exact same narrative structure.

Early awareness of being trans, even though one may not have those words yet.

A period of asking why.

A period of trying to hid being trans, to cope with shame.

A period of looking for answers.

Coming out.

The only real necessary component is having that early self knowledge.


Because transsexual and transgender are something people are born, not something people become.

You don’t suddenly become TS/TG because of baldness treatments or bee stings.

You may have been trans all along and looking for a way to justify coming out, but being trans isn’t something people wake up one morning and say, “Wow gee, what a beautiful day. I think I’ll change my sex or live as the gender not commonly associated with my genitals.”

No…  This is why people describe years of feeling trapped in the wrong body or gender.  It’s why people who have made the changes they need to make physically or to their presentation of gender describe themselves as finally feeling at one with themselves.

The form of the narrative of journey to self is like the fucking 12 bar blues.  It has a structure and even a rhyme scheme but the words one puts in that structure can be unique.


One Response to “I Believe Standard Trans-Narratives and Question Outlier Trans-Narratives”

  1. Laura Avant Says:

    This makes the struggle my friend and my husband’s brother had to make much more real. it is all about being who you know yourself to be, despite the hatred, vitriole, and blaming you have to endure from the ignorant. How can those of us in the proper bodies for our identities claim to have it hard?

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