I got an email today with a question: Do People that identify as trans or genderqueer but don’t have dysphoria make you angry?
For some background, there’s a growing population of people who identify as trans or genderqueer but don’t experience gender dysphoria, the distressing disconnect between one’s gender identity and physical sex commonly associated with trans identity and experience.
The short answer is, no, they don’t make me angry as a population or as a general identity. Everyday Feminism has a pretty good piece on why gender dysphoria isn’t (or shouldn’t be) needed to identify as trans, and the blog GenderTerror has some additional thoughts. The Everyday Feminism article covers most of what I want to say, so you should go read it. From that article:
It’s weird that some trans people are totally on-board with making a rulebook for transness, instead of encouraging people to self-identify and declare their gender identities for themselves.
When we allow other people to make the rules, we strip away the rights of trans people to self-identify. If we tell trans people that their identities don’t belong to them, we uphold a culture where the naming of gender identities belongs to outsiders instead of ourselves.
That said, there are certainly people who identify as trans and don’t experience gender dysphoria who do make me angry, and I’m open to talking about why
Privilege, Oppression, and Intersectionality
I’m a white, middle-class, college educated, able-bodied, neurotypical, trans woman who is generally perceived by strangers to be cis. Of those components of my identity, some are loci for oppression (trans, woman) and some are areas of privilege (just about everything else on that list). It would be disingenuous, if not outright deceitful, for me to pretend my experiences of privilege and oppression are exactly the same as every other trans person out there. Yes, I’ve been fired from a job for being trans. But I still had stable housing, a supportive family, and it didn’t land me on the street. Yes, I’ve been a victim of harassment. But I haven’t been a victim of physical violence or sexual assault.
Speaking more broadly, we all live complicated and nuanced lives, where we experience privilege in some places and oppression in others. (See: Intersectionality)
Where trans folks who don’t experience dysphoria (TFWDEDs?) often frustrate me is in their refusal to acknowledge how we can all be trans siblings and also experience those different levels of power and privilege. I am keenly aware at how belittling and hurtful it is to be misgendered or called the wrong name. At the same time, TWWDED generally don’t desire the same levels of medical intervention as dysphoric trans people, which is an undeniable privilege on personal, financial, and societal levels.
None of this is to say that every TFWDED is automatically more or less privileged than a trans person who has experienced dysphoria (such as myself). The whole point of examining identity from an intersectional approach is to acknowledge that we are incredible creatures living in a diverse and multifaceted world, and that only using one lens to see things is going to create an inherently simplistic and false view of reality. At the same time, I would wager than as a whole, the trans people who experience dysphoria are going to encounter more oppressive situations than TFWDED. Again, this is not attempting to engage in oppression olympics, any more than it would be to say that as a whole people of color experience more oppression than white people.
I think where trans folks who do experience dysphoria get upset with TFWDED, as a population, is when we perceive TFWDED as either jumping on the trans bandwagon without experiencing “real” transness, or when TFWDED attempt to recenter or refocus existing trans conversations or groups around their experience.
The latter is somewhat easier to deal with than the former. If TFWDED are taking up too much space, call them out on it. Not by saying they aren’t “really” trans, but by reminding them that we need to be in this community together and learn how to not step on each others’ toes.
The former is a little trickier. I imagine there are some people who identify as trans because they see it as interesting or they feel an affinity for the identity without truly belonging. Rather than call them out, though, let time deal with it. If they’re trans, awesome. Even if their experience of trans-ness is different from yours (or mine). And if they’re not trans, so what? As long as they’re not hurting anyone, live and let live.