Ask yourself this, why do you feel the gender that you know you are? Why are you male, female, or some shade of non-binary? Is it that you have put a lot of thought and contemplation into discovering this about yourself, or is it that you have never really thought about it and just know you are. Do you see yourself as normal, as in a normal part of the society you live in? What about trans and non-binary folk? Are they normal?
This is a loaded question, as while I would argue that the central issue of trans folk and the “transgender question” is the burden society places on it, the usual response is that anyone who does not identify as cis and live within the cis city on the hill is deviant. Not normal. They are perceived as abhorrent to the cis gender majority simply for having an innate understanding of self that is at odds with the way society has structured sex and gender. It is the trans person whose own understanding that must be pathologized and medicalised.
In some narratives trans identities are formed within a few years of birth, a rooted understanding of self asserting that the inner self is at odds with the chromosomal body. In other narratives the gendered self evolved over a lifetime, evolving into an idea of personhood removed from the younger days. Yet others arrive at a sense of gendered self in a moment of crisis. Still others wander the gender hinterland in exploration of all the genders and none. Each asks questions of themselves, interrogates this sense of self, and arrives as an understanding that is as unique as they are. No gender journey is the same as others; yes, the narratives may tread a similar path, but ultimately it is unique and of the person.
Is this self-understanding abnormal or abhorrent? Is it deviant? I argue no. It is a normal part of understanding one self regardless of the age that this self understanding happens. It is only deviant because society at large deems it to be so. The gendered self is an artefact of the society we live in, the notion of feminine or masculine or something else comes with the interactions and interrelations we have on a daily basis. To say you are male, female, or non-binary is to speak English, a semantic exercise in layers of history, culture, religion, and subtext. Other languages root their understanding of gender in different ways, some more rigid, others more fluid. We understand ourselves as a gender because of our innate feelings and sense of identity. This is a normal part of the human experience. It is normal to understand one self, and in turn to acknowledge our gendered self, cis, trans or non-binary.
The hardship, the deviance, is the semantics of society, the words and actions thrust upon anyone who deviates from the cis city. Those who wander the hinterland beyond are treated as second class citizens, made to jump through fire just for their own personal truth. Normative is defined by the majority, defined by those who never need to explore their sense of self. Yet, the radical idea that actually gender exploration and self-understanding is a normative experience is an undiscovered country to them. The peace in knowing who you are is shattered not by this knowledge, but by the slings and arrows thrust upon us by those who say that we are deviant and weird.
Being trans should be normalised, should be normative. It should not be treated as a cross to bear or a scourge with which they beat us with. Trans folk are accused of being traps, of being facsimiles, pastiches of the gender who innately understand ourselves to be. We are too much, or too little. We are never enough, just on the outside, we can be assimilated, but we are never normalised. We are the spent spoke in the wheel, ready to trip up the unsuspecting. The medicalisation of gender dysphoria turns us into objects to be cured, to be pathologized, never allowed to simply exist as a normal part of the world.
Why does this even matter? Why should trans folk even be allowed to treated as normal? It matters because even with protections and laws admonishing against harm, trans folk are still the assimilated few allowed to reside without the full panoply of rights afforded cis folk. A hedge is placed around us, a preserve that marks us with the red letter of the law, allowing those in power who wish us ill swift access to denying us further rights. Normal, normative, burns this hedge down, gives us full rights, and allows the fullness of life without any red letters.
To know yourself as intimately and fully as a trans person is a daunting experience for many, scary as it leads off into the vast hinterland beyond the cis city with no clear map to guide. In a normative world the city walls would not exist, gender would be the vast exploration of self that is should always be. Trans narratives and life paths should be normal, must be normative, for otherwise all that remains the continued segregation and othering of trans folk with all its attendant pain and suffering. Trans lives are full of joy, but only in spite of the hedges placed around us by the law and society at large. In asking yourself why you are the gender you are you start to normalise the gendered self as part of society, not a deviance to be trodden on.