As a member of the transgender community, I hear the phrase “not trans enough” tossed around by transgender and cisgender (people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth) alike.
Whether it has to do with someone’s age, wardrobe or medical transition status, there seems to be an unspoken guidebook of what qualifies someone as being “actually transgender.”
The definition of transgender is a simple one: someone whose gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth. This includes people that identify both within and outside of the gender binary of male and female.
The statement I just made, however, is often denied when it comes to gatekeeping. That’s right; as a non-binary person who experiences gender dysphoria (distress at the lack of alignment between my body and gender identity as well as disregard of my preferred pronouns), I am apparently not trans.
The idea of the term transgender applying only to those born male who identify as female and vice versa is often perpetuated by the media. Transgender celebrities such as Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono are the faces of the transgender community, and are often the standards by which someone is judged as being “actually trans.”
These celebs also perpetuate transgender rulebook lesson number two: if someone hasn’t medically transitioned, they’re obviously faking it.
Although many transgender people do decide to medically transition, whether through hormone replacement treatment and/or gender reassignment surgery, there’s another portion of the transgender community who either can’t or don’t want to transition. Whether due to financial difficulties, medical complications, age, inability to come out or simply lack of desire to change their body, lack of medical transition offen bars transgender individuals from receiving the validation and acceptance they deserve.
This emphasis on passing (the ability to be seen by strangers as a cisgender member of the gender one identifies with) is yet another issue, both within and outside of the trans community. Often, one’s ability to pass is based on their body type and wardrobe. I am biologically female, meaning I have curves that don’t lend themselves to clothing from the men’s section. It also means that I don’t always look androgynous. It doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly cisgender or “faking it.”
There are also many instances in which passing can be unsafe, as according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 55 percent of all reported LGBT homicide victims were transgender women, and predominantly transgender women of color.
Younger members of the transgender community also experience increased violence and discrimination from peers, with 78 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming students from kindergarten to grade 12 experiencing harassment. In addition to mistreatment from other students, young transgender people are often invalidated by adults, including those who are also trans. Just as younger members of the LGBT community are told that it’s “just a phase,” transgender kids are often labeled as confused and attention-seeking. Yes, gender and sexuality can be fluid-- but that doesn’t make the identity and associated emotions of young transgender people any less real or valid than those of adults.
There is no such thing as being “trans enough,” and insinuating otherwise can be incredibly damaging.
Transgender people already have a suicide rate that is 25 times higher than that of the general population; do we really want to further contribute to that statistic?
All members of the transgender community deserve respect, regardless of the specific aspects and status of their identity. Accepting transgender individuals as who they are (that is, as actual transgender individuals) regardless of whether they meet a set of made-up, irrelevant standards is crucial, especially in the current political climate.
You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer that their disease isn’t legitimate enough to be taken seriously; telling someone that they aren’t “trans enough” is a sickness in and of itself.
And unfortunately, that sickness can be just as deadly.