Don’t Define Me

I recently received a free 3 month trial of Amazon Prime’s Kindle Unlimited when I purchase a new Kindle. Since, then (mid-September) I have read a number of transgender and gender diverse books.1 The quality and substance fell into a range of very good to horrendous. But, that is not the point of this post. In practically every book there were either definitions or descriptions of being a transgender person. This is needed, but also problematic. Especially, the ones that present these things as “the” answer—what all transgender individuals are like. Most, I suppose are not written to offend anyone, but that is what can happen when being too exclusive that would rule many that identify as being a transgender person out.

This has led once more to think about how these definitions see me. I say once again because I have thought about this before. It is those that are written as the end all and be all authoritative definition that dictates what is a transgender person that bothers me the most. In this post I want to defend the notion that each of us (trans or cis) are individuals, and should always be treated as such. It is us that are the authority on who we are and what it means to us to be that way. In particular I am focusing on my own situation as a transgender woman, but what I have to say can be expanded to a wider group of people.

One can often hear the phrase “being trans enough”† or something similar. Many speak out that this is a wrong and harmful thing to ask of any transgender person. I wholeheartedly agree. A major problem with this notion is that there are different characteristics you must have to be trans enough varying depending on who is giving those characteristics.

The first limitation given that I encountered first was you had to be in the process of transitioning, or strongly desiring to be so. That leaves out those who are unclear whether transitioning is right for them. I know transgender woman who are in the closet and believe they will always be in the closet, like my best online gurlfriend,‡ who cannot see herself ever being able to come out of the closet, but still feels intensely like she is a woman. I myself was unsure of transitioning when I first identified as a woman. So, there is no necessity to have this requirement to being trans enough.

Some will differentiate between the use of “transgender” and “transsexual.” Most that do this type of differentiation keep the previous paragraphs requirement. To these people being transsexual means having “the” surgery. They have to have changed their primary or secondary sexual characteristics to match the gender they identify as. This can include doing cross hormone treatment. What this tells someone is your not really a woman if you don’t medically transition, and for some fully do so with hormones and surgery. This I find even more demeaning. I am a woman now, and fully so, even if I do not now have a vagina. Some would exclude those that weren’t born with a vagina as not being a woman, however problematic that maybe for some ciswoman.

Another way that transgender people have been told they must be is to be a heterosexual. So in the case of a transgender woman, that she only desires to have sex with men. Of course, this leaves out lesbians, gays, bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals, self-sexuals (not often said to be a sexual attraction), or of any other sexual orientation. This also used to be a requirement for obtaining a vaginoplasty. Now I am a translesbian, which excludes any heterosexual desires, and includes mainly other transwoman, but a small possibility of some physical closeness with a ciswoman, like my girlfriend. I am also polyamorous, which means sexually I do not desire any exclusivity and am open about it to other sex partners or potential ones, and of course my girlfriend. So this one would exclude me too, but if you hold this view, you are acting in a way that can end with me feeling like I have been demeaned. Your not a real woman unless you have been fucked by a men.

One final way of defining a transgender [warning: this may be shocking or offensive to some of my readers] of the feminine end of the spectrum^ is to be subservient to men and/or dominate women. Some terms used for this type of transfemme people are “sissy,” “gurl,” and “femboy/femboi.” I absolutely cannot be define in such a way. I am an assertive, and sometimes a uppity woman. I can also be a bitch at rare times.

Okay, first and foremost I am Stephie. Stephie is who I am. By this I mean this is the only label I accept. Unlike other identifiers. Like writer, yes I write, and I even call myself a writer, but that is only part of me. The same is true of my transgender status, being a transgender woman. Yes the transgender part is a big part of my life (, but does not encompasses the whole of it. Other parts of my life are baker, cook, friend, gurlfriend, daughter, cat lover, and hopefully an advocate for the transgender community. But, none of these things alone make me Stephie. Stephie is every thing I am—those things I have mentioned and more.

So, do not define me as just these things. Define me as a whole. Define me as Stephie.

And please do not make the assumptions in the four defining modes for transgender persons that I wrote about above or any other assumption for that matter.

Once again, if you must define me, define me as Stephie.

† I was told in my telephone intake for gender affirmation surgery (vaginoplasty) that it wasn’t about being trans enough, yet they still had their requirements. The biggest is gender dysphoria. If you don’t have it, than you are not trans enough to get surgery. Sorry, but I found that beginning phrase to be bullshit. To be fair I think the intake person wanted to put me at ease, but it ending up backfiring.

‡ I am using this word because to me “gurl” indicates that the person is on the transfeminine side of the spectrum (see note below). I mean no offense to anyone by using this term. I myself use it as an identifier for myself as the title of my blog shows. I use it because I think the spelling is cute, and decided to own the term like some own the identifier “queer.” If it bothers you, I am sorry, but feel free to substitute girlfriend, as that is also the case. She identifies as a woman so she is a girlfriend.

^ I am using spectrum here because I am only using binary concepts in this context. But, generally I prefer to use something along the lines of gender umbrella that does not privilege any particular gender option. The one small problem is it doesn’t seem to include agender persons, although they are welcomed to come under mine if they wish. [I would appreciate any suggestions on a completely inclusive term.]

1 I am hoping to list the transgender and gender diverse books I have read with 1 to 5 star ratings and links to the book reviews I have written. A few have been posted here as individual posts.

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