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‘The bravest people on the planet’: A cis reflection on trans challenges

Until a few years ago, I didn’t know anyone who was openly trans.

Growing up, what I knew about the subject came from popular culture: Christine Jorgensen and Renée Richards famously underwent male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.

The idea that there were also female-to-male trans people didn’t really occur to me until the movie Boys Don’t Cry was released in 1999.

Through that, I learned about Brandon Teena, who wore a binder to flatten his chest and romance women as a man.

An old friend

The first trans person I knew started out as Katie, who I met online when I was serving as an unofficial mentor to queer youth in 2000.

Katie was a girl-crazy butch dyke, just 15 years old and living in Texas.

Katie drifted away over the years until I found her old phone number one day and called on a whim.

“Hello?” came a masculine voice on the other end of the line.

Assuming that the phone number now belonged to someone else, I hesitantly said I was looking for Katie.

After a long pause, the same voice answered, “Yeah, that’s me.”

Katie was now Kaden.

When we met in San Francisco’s Dolores Park a few months later at the Dyke March, he was no longer a dyke, he was a trans man.

And that girl-crazy teenager who couldn’t stand the idea of being touched by a guy was now dating both women and men.

I had a lot to learn.

A great privilege

Thanks to the internet, I now have close to a dozen trans friends all over the world (for some reason, there seem to be a lot in Australia!), and getting to know them has been a great privilege.

They are really beautiful souls.

Going through the long process of coming to terms with being trans is transforming in many ways, both physical and emotional.

In learning to become whole, they really flower as human beings.

And talk about courageous!

It was a long, hard process accepting myself as a gay man in this homophobic world, but there was never any doubt on my part about the fact that I was male.

Imagine gradually recognising that your gender is different from the one assigned to you at birth.

Think about the many ways your gender defines you and how society views you.

Suppose you had a body that didn’t seem to fit who you really were.

Then imagine coming out as trans to your family and friends.

Imagine changing your appearance, taking hormones or undergoing surgery to achieve a body you finally felt comfortable in.

Then try to picture the stares you might get from strangers, the angry glances from those who are threatened by anyone who doesn’t neatly fit into society’s gender roles, who challenge what it means to be male or female.

Liberation from gender roles

Trans people are some of the bravest people on the planet.

Nobody can tell that I’m gay just by looking at me, but gender ambiguity usually is noticed.

Every time they step outside, most trans people know they might face hostility in this transphobic world.

That hostility can include violence; Brandon Teena was murdered for his gender transgression.

Just by being themselves, by declaring themselves to the world, trans people are also helping liberate everybody from the stifling gender roles that have been forced on us for so long. We owe them our gratitude just for that!

So I love and support my trans friends, and I will stand and fight with them so they can have a safe place in this world.

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