I recognised quite a while back that I have probably become something of a trans snob. This became most evident during my trip to Eastbourne when Ruth, Andrea and I were going about our business in as “blend-in” a way as possible, trying and hopefully sometimes succeeding to be seen as just three women, while others were parading round the town in bright yellow leggings, pink tutus, hairy arms and five o’clock shadows. And as I have said before, if that’s what makes those people happy, good for them. But it wouldn’t do it for me and more pertinently, I don’t want to be seen with someone presenting that type of image to the world lest I be thought of as being of the same ilk. So, this is what I mean by trans snob.
There is another sort of trans snobbery, which I have seen a little of in a few online forums (fora?); the phenomenon of post-op, fully transitioned trans women looking down upon those of us who still have a male life, no matter how presentable we might be or how we might identify internally. One particular person on a forum used the metaphor that she had climbed Everest while we part timers are just playing round at base camp. I don’t really agree with the metaphor, after all many of those at “base camp” are happy there and would probably be miserable at the so-called summit. I do think that this type of attitude stems from a mistaken belief that a TV is a TS without the courage of her convictions. But having said that, I do identify as TS and I am here at base camp feeling increasingly frustrated at my lack of progress up the mountain.
So what is the point of all this? Well, the fact is that my mind has been wandering towards a new object of snobbery – myself. I’m looking all round me at real life and online friends who are contemplating GIC, HRT, going full time, surgery or have even done some or all of these things. Meanwhile there I am still at base camp and asking myself if I really am one of these people. Now I should stress that nobody has overtly done anything to make me feel this way, it’s all in my own head. But as I look round at these women moving on in various ways I can’t help but look at myself and wonder if I’m just playing at this. Am I really just a tourist hanging round with transsexuals in order to give myself a sense of identity and belonging that is missing from other parts of my life? I don’t think so, but I have my doubts.
I try to look at myself from the perspective of an outside observer and I wonder how that person would categorise me, and my answer is “TV”. In fact, I have very recently been called a “very successful crossdresser” – don’t worry Julia you haven’t offended me, it’s fair comment. And even though I don’t feel that’s a correct description, I can’t help but wonder if that the reason I feel like that is because I have somehow bought into the whole trans snobbery thing and want to be the “higher level” trans* person because I don’t want to be looked down upon? I look at other trans women changing their lives and risking all to be who they really are, and I look at myself and I think “who am I kidding?”. No matter how I might feel inside, I suppose that somewhere within me I feel inadequate, like I’m not worthy to bracket myself with trans women who are actually doing something about it. And so the primary object of my snobbery is myself. If I don’t want to spend time with the lime-green leggings brigade, why would a full-time transitioning woman want to spend time with me?
This is all of course another way of framing the age-old labels debate, which is always a a guarantee of endless hours of
fun and enjoyment bitterness and discord on any trans* forum you might care to mention. It’s a little over six months since I attached the “TS” label to myself, and I still cling to it, but ultimately is it really up to me to just make that pronouncement? Maybe, maybe not. So to help me decide, I looked up the word “transsexual” at dictionary.com. The definition?
1. a person having a strong desire to assume the physical characteristics and gender role of the opposite sex.
Well that definitely sounds like me. But there’s another definition:
2. a person who has undergone hormone treatment and surgery to attain the physical characteristics of the opposite sex.
Now that is definitely not me. However, every person who meets the second definition will have previously met the first definition. They didn’t suddenly become TS when they stuck on the first hormone patch, or when they went under the surgeon’s knife.
Why does any of this matter? Can’t I just be happy being who I am in whatever way feels most comfortable to me? You might think so. Maybe snobbery was the wrong word all along, maybe what I’m fighting are feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem. I don’t want to be in a one-sided friendship where I’m clinging on to the coat tails of others, grateful to be allowed to be present. I need to feel like I’m an equal. And that’s a battle. Because I’m a snob, and I don’t come up to my own exacting standards.
What an idiot!