Top Five Most Frequently Asked Trans(*) Questions
Ask Me All Your Questions
I was never good at answering questions, or necessarily explaining things, however, this seems to be something that’s been frequently requested, and I should give you something to go off of. So, here are a list of the most commonly asked questions about trans and non - binary identities.
With that being, I will do my best to answer and unpack these questions with you.
How is Gender different from Sex?
Differences between Gender, Sex, and sexual orientation are various identities that are often confused with each other. In order for us to properly understand and define these terms, we first must also recognize the language in which we use is dynamic, and complex. It is always changing and carries a variety of complex functions. The language we use belong to no one person and take their meaning as per context.
Gender Identity relates to our own internal understanding and knowledge of our gender. Sexual orientation, pertains to whom we are attracted to. Sex refers to your biological and hormonal makeup of your person.
Gender is always fluctuating with knowledge, and understanding. Gender is about perspective and can be manipulated to meet the needs of our identities.
How Do You Define Transgender?
Transgender can be easily defined as transitioning from one gender to another. For many Trans people who were born with the typical male or female anatomies, there is an extreme discomfort and a feeling of being born into the “wrong body”.
In normative Western Society, we have an expectation for babies born with penises to grow up and be men, and babies born with vulvas to turn into women. However, this is not the realities that Trans folks face.
Transgender can be defined as the movement to and from, between, or through genders. There is no singular way to be transgender, it is a personal and social negotiation and such complexities of identities can present and be represented in numerous ways.
What Is The difference Between Trans(*) and Non-Binary/Gender Non-Conforming?
Individuals who do not hold stereotypical and normative ideals, or roles of gender often will are gender non-conforming, or non-binary. These are individuals who plays and lives outside of the normal binaries of gendered male versus female. Presenting and performing non-binary/gender non-conforming can look and sound very different to each individual. Clothing, speech, and hair are often used to test the waters of masculinities, and feminities.
Gender non-conforming people may or may not be transgender. In the same way that Transgender folks may or may not be gender non-conforming. As some people who were raised or identified female at birth may still not identify with said gender roles, or esthetic, however are completely comfortable in their body and may not look to transition to the other gender. Transgender folks may conform to the stereotypes and gendered norms, or they may challenge these realities, and perform their masculinities/feminities completely different.
Pronouns, Why Do We Use They/Them?
Language is a powerful tool that we use everyday to exert power or to diminish power. Using particular language is crucial in understanding the complexities of identities. Language can be used and can molded in dynamic ways. Such is the reason we must be careful with the ways in which we use language, and as well as recognizing where this language comes from in context of dynamics and social constructs.
With this in mind, we can start to unpack ‘Pronouns’! Everyday, we use gendered pronouns. It is important to acknowledge and recognize that the reality that has be socially constructed for us in the West.
Currently, the only available pronouns that we can use are ‘he/him’ and ‘she/her’. This leaves little to no room for individuals who do not conform or identify under these pronouns making it difficult for effective communication, as well as creating toxic assumptions of people’s identities.
For folks who identify outside of the gender binary, using a third pronoun such as ‘they/them’, or ‘ze/zer’, has not been fully recognized nor respected throughout normative society. This can be apparent in many ways, such as the lack of gender marker options/ form greetings, pre-established connotations of gender, as well as just in regular everyday conversations.
So how do you use them? My favourite way is when I introduce myself, I offer my name, and I offer my preferred pronouns. Then when you ask for someone’s name, ask for their preferred pronouns also. In this way, I find we bring to notice to each other’s realities. Often times there is a benefit to particular assumptions and stereotypes, however if we don’t open up our discussions in a way that creates space for learning and knowledge sharing we perpetuate the same harm amongst the people around us. Cis-gender folks get misgendered as well as folks living in or out of the binary. This is a reality, we have set up and it is a reality we must now challenge.
What’s In A Name?
There’s a popular term in the trans and non-binary used to describe the name we no longer identify with when we change our names. ‘Dead names’, worst of all, there’s been an established practice that involving publishing, or asserting someone’s name prior to their transition or change of name. In doing so, many members of the community are forcibly outed, and invalidated.
It is extremely important that we recognize that power that names and identities have on individuals. When asked to be referred by a chosen name, we as members of the trans/non-binary community are asking you to see us, and recognize us as people within the communities. I’m often faced with many people having the urge to ask for my birth-name or my given-name, when at the end of the day, it’s rather not pertinent to conversations. However, I still recognize that there is a privilege in having the option of choosing one’s own name. So for many people who ask, and are willing to listen, I explain it to them, because if I didn’t I would be allowing myself to erase my past and my experiences.
Personally, I don’t use the term ‘dead name’ as my name is not dead, it has been transitioned and formed into another. Within a name, there comes a hystory, and valuable memories.. Our identities have experienced and witnessed so much, and it is crucial to me to pay homage to those realities that have brought me to where I am today. I still will not use or provide my birth or given names, but I know they are there, and they are part of my experiences and journey to becoming me.
I was in fourth grade when my family decided that my name did not suit them. And instead of adding an English name which would have made things much easier, it was decided that my entire name would be different. And while sure, my identity was now matching that of the family I lived with, I didn’t get much choice in what I was being called. For a very long time, and even to this day my legal name is a constant reminder of how invalid my identity is to many people.
It wasn’t until I left home I was finally willing to really come out to the people around me as non-binary. And with that I let go of my birth and given names, and started on a search of a new set of characters to describe me. And though now, my name is half broken, and I only recognize myself through a single first name, I’m one name closer to knowing who I am.
“What is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, and attention. This is called name. The four great things and the form derived from the for great things: This is called form. Thus this name and this form are together called name-&-form.”
This is how I heard it - by Patrick Kearney