“I’ve known I was a girl since I was five years old.”
“I used to dress up in my mom’s clothes.”
“I feel like I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body.”
“I’ve always related better to girls.”
But a lot of the time, they’re completely wrong.
This ‘Traditional Trans* Narrative’ is a group of self-reinforcing stereotypes of people who are trans* that serves to both hinder our ability to receive proper treatment and silence anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Pretty nasty stuff, really.
Personal story time!
It’s been a year since I came out to my parents and they still tell me every time I see them how ‘nobody saw this coming’ and then try to convince me that my desire to transition is just a phase. No matter how much I tell them that transitioning has vastly improved my quality of life, the fact that I never once cross-dressed as a kid still holds more weight in their mind. They are so held down by the idea that being trans* is some sort of disease with a set list of symptoms that they can’t see how it actually affects me.
The first therapist I saw for my ‘gender issues’ held a similar view towards the validity of my narrative. We spent at least five appointments discussing my life history before she told me that I probably wasn’t transsexual. This came as soul-crushing news to both me and my pocketbook, so I decided to do what any rational person would do and lie. I made up stories of gender variance in my childhood that appeased her enough to get a letter for hormones.
Now I’m in the position of potentially coming out as non-binary to my endocrinologist (the doctor in charge of my hormone prescription). I’m terrified that he’ll cut me off because I don’t meet his definition of transsexual, but I also want to make sure that other people in a similar position can be treated appropriately. Trying to figure out the balance between activism and self-preservation is something unfortunately innate to people who are trans*.
So what should we do about this traditional narrative?
Demolish it - absolutely and completely! :D
Mainstream media and the cis population at large need to know that there’s no formulaic narrative for being trans*. There is simply no way to boil ‘trans*-ness’ down to a few scandalous quotes for a tabloid headline.
How do we go about demolishing something so well established?
 As an aside, there’s no representation here of people on the trans-masculine spectrum. You can thank the media and their obsession with oppositional and traditional sexism for that. This makes it all the more important for people on that side of the spectrum to share their stories.
Edit: This footnote wasn’t worded well and possibly conveyed the wrong idea. I was trying to say that people on the trans-masculine side of the spectrum are fortunate to have less bad media attention on them due to the fact that they’re transitioning to a majority group instead of a minority group. People on the trans-feminine side of the spectrum have both types of sexism intersecting and creating an environment where they are ridiculed, parodied, and have their bodies appropriated by the ever-lovely kyriarchy. This article was written by someone who identifies as trans-feminine & non-binary and acknowledges the privileges and lack of privileges that come along with that.
Author’s note: I’ve been experimenting with people-first language and apologize if it makes some paragraphs awkward.