Envision awakening one day, to realize that you look like nobody within your sight. It's just an idea – an experiment, so don't be terrified at this point. Feel your protruding chest and the space between your legs. Investigate your attractive back in the long mirror you frequently invest hours looking at prior to going out, admiring your familiar body. Now, leave your room and make your way towards the master bed where your parents lay, with level chests and clothing types that take after neither the male your father is, nor the feminine power that you know your mom as. Walk more steps still, to the room that houses your infant brother or baby sister to find that they too are genderless. Just you are the one with an entire set of dangling sex organs that you should take care of now since it isn't ordinary; every other person is different!
The point of the exercise above is to take a leaf out of the book of a person who is “transgender.” These are individuals just like us; with human souls and flesh. To avoid confusion, let me begin with definitions. The Merriam-Webster defines transgender as, denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. Cis-gender refers to denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex. Are you cis-gender? Congrats. But let this be the enlightening moment when you discard any notions of “normalcy” and call yourself as you are.
“But that is not natural,” said a friend at the dinner table once, referring to the phenomena of being born in the wrong body. With my mouth full of food, I couldn’t help but mutter indistinguishable profanities that came from a deep understanding of the trans movement. “It is not natural to you, but please understand that you don’t get to dictate the standard for natural at all, with your own experiences only.”
Those who say things like these are equivalent of the homophobe crowd, at least in my eyes. Just because a great majority of the population is a certain way and have the capacity to continue their generations, any differences in biology and orientation cannot be viewed as misaligned.
Individuals who are trans are born that way and realize their difference in gender from a very early age, although many can and do suppress it to fit in. There are distinctions between thinking, feeling and BEING. A transsexual person does not “think” they should follow the other gender. They really are the other gender. Research has demonstrated that the section of the brain where the gender orientation originates is developed in the reverse gender in a trans person. This is a real, physical, quantifiable, distinction. It is neither imaginary nor a tell-tale. Hence, being transgender is “natural” and in fact a natural variation, as identified by some studies.
All one is attempting to do is legitimize their sincere beliefs of good and bad by grouping things as natural or unnatural. A few things on Earth are unprecedented, yet that doesn't make them unnatural, bad or awful.
Individuals who are trans are born that way and realize their difference in gender from a very early age, although many can and do suppress it to fit in
On the flip side of the argument with the friend I was talking about earlier, the conclusion of the conversation was that murder, cannibalism, rape and bestiality are all 'natural'. But whether they are to be condoned is an answer that should not rely on the “naturalness” of it. Similarly, the debate should be on the grounds of acceptance, attitudes and policies and not on opinions of those who don’t live the same aggregate experiences as the trans community.
This nicely paves the way into the gender reassignment surgery controversies that I will talk about next. While any body alteration is linked to self-perception, standards of beauty set by society or professional requirements, gender reassignment is much more than simply “appearing pretty to the self and others.” It is the ultimate form of self-actualization for a transgender. Although excruciatingly painful and super expensive, this is the only way a person with gender dysphoria can live their desired lifestyle.
Not every transgender person decides to get surgery or hormones. Some transgender people are most comfortable keeping their physical anatomy intact but dressing as the opposite gender. Some aren't sure what they want yet. The question that needs an answer immediately is, how can we make life easier for a transgender person?
Trans-people are most likely to be unemployed or under-employed. Therefore, the trans community suffers from extreme poverty with very limited access to housing. Many are evicted or refused proper housing even when they can afford to do so, in the rare circumstances that they had access to education as a child. But even in school, they are victims of bullying and violence. Many suffer manhandling at the hands of the law enforcement officers as adults while trying to fend for themselves in the streets.
But what about violent behaviour and harassment perpetrated by transgenders?
My answer to this is quite simple. Any group or people that live within the realms of systemic discrimination is likely to resort to non-law-abiding behaviour. When a burglar breaks into your house, or a thief steals your rear-view mirror, it is for the same reason: to ensure sustenance.
Although Bangladesh’s government has taken many progressive steps, such as identification of the third gender in national documents, it is important to simultaneously ensure integration of the trans people into the mainstream economy. Affirmative action such as employment, housing, healthcare and education quotas can help to develop transgender communities who are currently cut off from accessing these.
Any group or people that live within the realms of systemic discrimination is likely to resort to non-law-abiding behaviour
It is only when transgender teens face situations of harassment that they feel the need to be hostile or provocative. Sustained feeling of depression, isolation and alienation by the greater majority has led a proportion of transgenders to participate in petty crimes. A general lack of empathy towards them have stripped many of them from a sense of morality. It is then clear, that we breed the criminals that we are afraid of. Remember that they were born as trans, but not evil. In a world where racial, ethnic and sexual differences are being bridged by the unified call for humanity, our next fight should be the one that stops prejudices against the trans community.
Bizarre explanations for the trans phenomena are out there. “It is when two people engage in intercourse while the girl is on her period that produces trans babies” to “it is a sickness, an illness of the mind”- are not claims that are unheard of in our culture. The way forward should be disengage from fruitless conversations and participating in the real discourse, with facts and a position of minimum bias. Just like the rest of us, transgender people want to feel accepted, understood, and supported.
Further definitions from the dictionary for dummies:
Male to female (MTF) transsexual
—a person born with a male body, who feels she is a woman (totally or partially)
Female to male (FTM) transsexual
—a person born with a female body, who feels he is a man (totally or partially)
—a person born with a body that isn't clearly male or female
—a person or animal having both male and female sex organs or other sexual characteristics, either abnormally or (in the case of some organisms) as the natural condition
—a man who has been castrated, especially (in the past) one employed to guard the women's living areas at an oriental court.
—a man that dresses in women's clothes, but doesn't want to permanently change his sex (women can cross-dress in men's clothes, but they have a lot more freedom to dress as they want anyway)
—a less respectful term for a cross-dresser