I read about this on the excellent en|Gender blog – an article written by a transwoman called Ashley Altadonna about things she has learnt while transitioning.
Now, obviously, she’s transitioning and I’m not, nor do I have any plans or intention to do so, but there are still some things she said which resonated with me (especially No.1) but there was one, which was highlighted on en|Gender and which I really agree with. It’s something that has never occurred to me and also links in somewhat with the discussion. I will include that one here, but the whole thing is really worth reading.
#20 TRANSGENDER PEOPLE DON’T REINFORCE THE GENDER BINARY
I have read that some individuals take issue with trans folks because we supposedly “reinforce the idea of a gender binary”. Their view is that through our transitions trans individuals are somehow trying to fashion themselves into an idealized image of what a “real” man or woman should be, and therefore supporting the notion that men and women should look and act a certain way. This is notion is flat out ridiculous.
While it is true that for many trans folks attempting to gain access to hormone therapies and surgeries, portraying themselves as overly feminine or masculine is a means of dealing with gatekeepers. This does not mean that we are reinforcing the gender binary. Instead, this is an unfair burden placed upon trans folks to work within the restrictions imposed by the Standards of Care.
What really debunks this concept is that it holds trans people to a higher standard than cisgender individuals. If a transwoman is reinforcing the gender binary by wearing make-up and a dress then by the same thinking ANY woman wearing make-up and feminine attire would be reinforcing the gender binary. Any man who chooses to sport a tie would be reinforcing the gender binary as well. In other words, if trans people are reinforcing the binary, then we all are.