Transness is the state of awareness or condition in society of someone who does not conform in a majority of aspects to the way their society or culture sees them as behaving and living in relation to their physiological sex, usually due to a variance between their physical sex and one or both of their social sex identity and/or internal sex identity.
It exists at the same level as awareness of self, and it is, itself, an awareness.
It is not wrong, not bad, not crazy. It is not delusion. It does not mean that a man is becoming a woman, or a woman is becoming a man. It is not a temporary state, nor one that can be changed.
It can be seen as all those things or none of them by others, because it is not part of the normative experience, it is not part of the majority of culture or society, it is still uncommon and still unusual. As it is an experience outside the mainstream, it is not one that is typically incorporated into the ways in which we bring people into a culture — through education, through interaction, through the expectations and the ways that we anticipate people to exist and behave and act.
However, when you peel back the layers of socialization, and you start from the understanding of what Transness is, you start to see some things that are a bit different.
First off, there is no being born in the wrong body or being trapped in the wrong body. Both of those are emotionally stated comparatives used for the ease and safety of the individuality expressing them to a world that is designed, built, and managed by, for, and about Cis people.
The argument that trans women are men also fails — as does it’s complement that trans men are women. It fails because Man and Woman are ciscentric concepts, in and of themselves, that are intentionally created for, by, and about Cis people. Even those don’t fully apply to Trans people.
I am fully aware that a lot of people will not fully grasp this. This is markedly different from the thinking and ways of approaching things that most people are engaged in. This isn’t theoretical, however. It is abstract, but it has practical implications and applications that matter on a day to day basis.
Some people are not capable of grasping this. That doesn’t make them better or worse, it doesn’t make them good or terrible — it just means they do not have the capability to fully understand this.
They are, then, merely different in a very subtle way. Just as Trans people are simply different, in a very subtle way. And because it is subtle, when one considers the massive number of daily interactions that a single person has in which their social sex — their gender — is displayed or presumed, as opposed to their physical sex, you start to realize that ultimately the physical sex isn’t the challenge, it is the social sex that is.
Nearly every major attack on trans people comes from a failure to have deeply analyzed the major elements that go into Transness, and then relies on a failure to completely grasp the fundamental fact that Trans people are not Cis people.
Part of this sort of approach is always going to surround the idea of not acknowledging that Trans people are different. It is going to fundamentally assume that they are basically still Cis people, who are “broken” in some way.
This is, for example, the approach that some well respected people in the fields of science have taken — Dr. Ray Blanchard, chiefly. His study is focused on the notion that Transness is not a condition or state of self awareness but rather a creation of social systems intruding on self concept.
It is interesting that all the oppositional arguments can be led into that very same corral, as well, and that even Blanchard says that surgeries are the only reasonable recourse.
Because when you put thought and time into the “problem” of Trans people in a society built and made for Cis people, you realize that the only decent solution is to make a square peg fit a round hole, and the process of doing that is going to involve shaving some corners off or…
… making the round hole bigger.
Transcentrism seeks to make the round hole larger. To make that hole large enough for pretty much anyone.
Some folks approach the challenge by getting rid of the holes all together. Others want to create holes for everyone, instead of just two.
Still others work very hard to keep only two holes, and if you break the peg trying to get it in, then it is your fault.
Except these pegs are people, not inanimate blocks.
Trying to shove the peg through the hole when it isn’t large enough can also damage the thing containing the hole. In this case, society at large. You may have heard that form of argument before as well.
Here is the problem with that: cultures and society are flexible, amorphous, and subject to change.
If they weren’t, then we’d still be living agrarian systems without the benefit of the Industrial Age, atomic age, or computers.
Which thrills some people until you realize that all of those things spurred and were in turn spurred on by the very forces those people have consistently opposed.
Transcentrism is not feminism, although feminism informs it. It is not capitalist or socialist, it is not conservative or progressive or libertarian — and yet, it is informed by all of those things, as well. It is Liberalist, in the same way that the US was founded on ideals which are based in Liberalism. It is equally based in the needs of men and women, influenced by them, but also by the needs of those who are not men or women and those who are both men and women.
To that end, it behooves me, at this point, to note that I am just as subject to Ciscentric ideas, thoughts, and reactions as anyone else in my culture is. It is something that crosses many different lines, many different fields, many different areas of skill and expertise.
Transcentrism, as a result, must also mean that we have to accept and be aware of our own ignorance and work to become aware of our own blind spots.
But it also means we have to avoid making the mistakes of those efforts before us. We have to be inclusive, we must be able to recognize and center many different intersections. It is, fundamentally, a very radical concept, but one that seeks to make and found change in existing systems, bringing them forward to a greater potential, rather than erasing them and seeking to start from scratch.
This puts it at odds with not merely Ciscentric modes of thought, but also with radical models that seek to destroy and topple the current system, which, by their nature, are going to be movements that flow along the fringe, and exist outside the mainstream.
Which is not a bad thing, mind you — such radicalism is important. Transcentrism is decidedly not about ignoring the power of the carrot and the stick. Radical Feminism, for all the ill that some who follow it have done trans people (and trans women, in particular and pointedly so), contributes much to Trans women’s lives as well as all women’s lives, because it changed the rules for women themselves, much as Transcentrism seeks to do.
And all of this is still talking about the basics of square pegs and round holes, of people who are fundamentally different from the mainstream, people who are oppressed and pushed down by ways of thinking, of selling, of feeling, of living that are, at their core, intended not for trans people.
These systems cause harm to Trans people. Not because that is the goal of these systems, but because these systems and institutions and ways of thinking and ways of living were never conceived with Trans people as a central and equitable part of them.
That is a boon to us. That is a benefit to us. That is the key that allows us to see that these systems can be changed.
Having the ability to change them does not mean it will be easy.
We will have to deal with people who will use arguments against us — arguments which may superficially sound very good, and which will rely on the ignorance, superstition, fear, anxiety, aversion, and general hostility to that which is different.
We are already in the revolution. It started a long time ago. Before any of us was born.
It started in middle America and in Germany, before the world was engulfed in Wars. It started in private spaces and secret clubs, which were, in all practical matters, no different from support groups today in terms of what went on, but filled with terror at discovery.
It has been growing for decades. It has sought individuality, and commonality., both in equal parts, and it has been cast aside and turned away and yet it has still continued, still moved forward, and we are merely the present incarnation, building on the successes of those who came before.
How many trans women do you know that transitioned before 1995?
How many trans men?
Find them. Most will have little to do with you, but find them. They are a link to a past and what they went through is far, far worse than what you are going through — especially if they match your social class and ethnicity
Make no mistake — the media and the culture we live in has made it seem as if the normal path a trans woman (because it is only lately that trans men get attention) takes is to be a white guy who starts transition between 30 and 50. For most trans women, that’s the mental image that comes to mind — but more so, that’s the image that pops in the mind of people who are Cis.
And yet, within the communities of color, it is far more likely that a trans woman will start transitioning before her 18th year. Not universal, but still more likely — and that increases as you get poorer.
Yet look at the narrative we are being shown for kids today. Trans youth, pale of skin of darling as all get out, but when was the last time you saw an adorable young trans girl with neat rows and dark skin and sparkling eyes?
If when you go to your trans support meeting or your event for trans people you do not see people of different ages, people of different backgrounds, with skin tones from palest ivory to darkest ebony and all the shades that float around those two, then your group is missing people in your community that need to know they are welcomed.
Because they aren’t merely square pegs. They are multifaceted pegs — more corners to shave off, more flesh to peel away, more self to lose.
Transcentrism is not about losing parts of who you are, no matter what the latest greatest idiot in the long, long line of them decides to screech about mutilation and “really men”.
It is about freeing the parts of you that never found a home, that never had a way to be free, that were bound in a dark place and that on seeing the light will, yes, sometimes prance inappropriately and the brightness of it.
They can deal. We get to celebrate what they take for granted. And celebrate it — good , bad, and indifferent — we shall. We earn it, we fight for it, we struggle and suffer for it, and who do they think that they are to tell us how to live our lives?
Our lives are trans lives, and they belong to us, not to them.
So we shall make that hole larger — large enough even to encompass those who shall have to come behind us, for there will always be someone.
And when we are done, we will have changed the world.
Within our lifetimes.